by Danny Hazan / @DeeHaze24
The 3rd Annual Brandon Jennings Invitational presented by Under Armour may have been headlined by a handful of high major Division I recruits, but it was a trio of under-the-radar players from the class of 2014 that stole the show in their respective games during the five-game showcase at Brookfield Central in suburban Milwaukee.
Here is a breakdown of all the action and standout performances from the first four games, highlighted by most outstanding players of the game Riley LaChance, Jevon Griffin and Marlon Jones, who each wanted to show they could compete with anyone.
Brookfield Central (WI) 64, Chester (PA) 56: In the biggest upset of the event, the hosts toppled USA Today’s No. 22 team Chester behind an impressive 29-point performance from 6-foot-2 junior guard Riley LaChance—who continues to make his case as a high major recruit.
His offer list already includes Western Michigan, UW-Milwaukee, South Dakota, South Dakota State and North Dakota State, but programs such as Marquette, Creighton, Iowa, Missouri and USC have started to show some interest. Every time LaChance steps on the court against high-caliber competition such as Chester he wants to show he belongs.
“Obviously,” LaChance said about having to prove himself. “I have worked so hard to achieve where I am right now, and I’m never satisfied. I want to play at the highest level I can. I’m really working hard to just improve my game always.”
While Chester was missing its best player and five-star Class of 2013 forward/Arizona-commit Rondae Jefferson to a shoulder injury, the Clippers still dwarfed the Lancers in size and strength. Chester jumped out to a sizeable lead, but couldn’t quite shake Brookfield Central as LaChance had 11 first-half points to keep the Lancers within striking distance.
Chester held a 28-20 halftime lead, but LaChance stayed hot in the second half by knocking down 3-pointers and a variety of jumpers in the lane off the bounce and catch. His Lancers teammates Elijah Goodman (13 points, 20 rebounds), Brad Newman (11 points) and Caleb Mortag (9 points) also came alive to turn the tide in the second half as well.
Goodman, a 6-4 bulldozing lefty plays on the offensive line in football and is being recruited in baseball as a pitcher and first baseman, and Mortag reversed the Lancers’ fortune on the glass which LaChance said was key.
“In the first half, they killed us on the boards and especially (offensive) boards,” LaChance said. “I think in the second half, I’ve never seen Caleb Mortag and Elijah Goodman play that well collectively. They owned the boards in the second half, got a lot of big put backs and that helped us win the game. That was huge.”
Also as huge was LaChance’s turnaround from his last game. Sussex Hamilton handed Brookfield Central its first conference loss Tuesday after his longtime AAU teammate from Ray Allen Select Brady Ellingson burned the Lancers for 24 points. The Lancers scored only 7 second half points, 1 point in the third quarter, and LaChance endured his worst shooting performance of the season. But he said the entire team learned a lot from it and Saturday’s result affirmed that notion.
“We had a 6:00 a.m. practice, and you know those aren’t always the best, but I think it was one our best practices of the year,” said LaChance who was honorable All-Greater Metro Conference as a freshman, and first team all-conference as a sophomore. “I think we used that loss as motivation to play with a chip on our shoulder for the rest of the year.”
Denver East (CO) 61, Minnetonka (MN) 60: Denver East junior Jevon Griffin had every reason to shoot the final shot. He had scored 21 points with relative ease, and had a wide open 9-foot shot with time winding down and his team trailing by one.
Instead, the combo guard found intriguing 6-6 junior Ronnie Harrell (10 points) at the last second and fired a pass that Harrell laid through the hoop as time expired for the win.
“When I got the pass, I saw it open up and I was about to go shoot it but I saw my teammate under there so I just fired it to him,” Griffin said. “It didn’t matter how we got the bucket, pass or shot, as long as we got the bucket and the win that’s all that matters.”
During a fiercely contested battle that went back and forth, Griffin’s heroics staved off an excellent second half performance by Minnetonka’s Wisconsin-bound shooting guard Riley Dearring (22 points). Dearring scored 17 points in the final two quarters, but Griffin showed a coolness and combo guard’s ability that may start to turn some more college coaches heads.
As of now his only offer is from Wyoming, but said UNLV has started to keep tabs.
“Personally I wanted to come out here and show what I have, but I wanted to win too and that’s what pushed me over the top,” Griffin said.
Harrell is a smooth shooting guard, and along with Griffin, kept the Angels in the game with star junior guard Dominque Collier (15 points) saddled foul trouble most of the first half. Collier and 5-8 sophomore Brian Carey typically are the primary ball-handlers, but Griffin said he’s ready whenever his coach needs him to initiate the offense.
“I feel more comfortable with the ball because I play point guard with my AAU team,” Griffin said. “But with this team we have a little point guard, so I’m just working on all my skills. As long as I’m making plays for my team that’s all that matters.”
Minnetonka sophomore shooting guard Justin Moes knocked down 3 consecutive 3-pointers during the second quarter to flip a 24-17 Denver East lead after the first quarter to a 33-30 Minnetonka lead at halftime.
Orr (IL) 50, Shiloh (GA) 45: Shiloh’s 7-foot junior center Trayvon Reed may sport a lengthier scholarship offer list, and a top 50 national ranking by all the scouting services, but Orr’s 6-8 center Marlon Jones walked away with the winning nod and the commemorative Brandon Jennings MVP trophy.
He came in with a chip on his shoulder after some pregame trash talk, and let his play do his talking by limiting Reed—who has offers from most of the SEC, as well as Miami and Georgia Tech—to just 5 points.
“I just came out to play hard,” Jones said. “Yesterday he was disrespecting our team talking a lot of stuff, and what he was going to do to us. So I came out to play defense and lock him up. I didn’t even want to score like that, I just wanted to stop him from scoring.”
Orr led wire-to-wire behind Jones’ game-high 17 points which all came inside. He displayed tenacity in attacking the glass, and great finishing ability with either hand.
“I’ve worked on that,” Jones said. “Usually I take a bounce and they sometimes call a travel, so my coaches just tell me to go straight up and finish. That’s what I do, because they know I’m long enough so I’m already at the basket.”
Jones already claims offers from Providence and Bradley, and said Illinois, DePaul, Missouri, Miami, Nebraska and Stanford are showing some interest. As his recruitment continues to pickup, he said the chip will remain on his shoulder.
“I feel like I’m underrated,” Jones said. “I don’t really think about it that much, I want to let it take care of itself.”
Orr also got boosts from class of 2014 prospects Tyquone Greer and Louis Adams, who each scored 12 apiece. Greer is a 6-6 small forward who has offers from DePaul and Providence while Adams is a late-blooming, bouncy 6-3 shooting guard who should begin to attract mid to high-major programs’ attention.
Shiloh was led in scoring by Nate Mason and Brian Thompson, who each had 11 points.
St. Frances (MD) 60, Bogan (IL) 44: St. Frances’ 6-7 junior forward Dwayne Morgan is ranked among the top 25 players nationally, and holds offers from Indiana, Maryland, Missouri and Seton Hall among others. But with their star going scoreless through the first three quarters, St. Frances still managed to handle the Bengals.
UNC-Greensboro-bound Tevon Saddler (19 points) and Loyola Maryland-bound Maurice White (17 points) carried their team the entire game, and Saddler was awarded most outstanding player.
Morgan scored 6 points in the fourth quarter, including a big dunk in traffic to put a buzz into the crowd during the day’s first game.
Bogan sophomore point guard LuWane Pipkins is on the path to becoming one of the Chicago Public League’s most dangerous players, but had difficulty finding the mark Saturday and finished with 14 points.
photos by Kelly Kline