Players of the Pro-Am
NCAA stars of the past, present and future meet at the NC Pro-Am.
by Mark Carroll
With baseball dominating national headlines this time of year, thousands of hoops fans gathered in Durham, NC to witness some of the hottest competition in summer league basketball as the SJG Greater NC Pro-Am held its annual tournament on August 6-8. Players participating in the eight-team tournament ranged from professional ballers such as New York Knick point guard Raymond Felton all the way to Word of God Christian Academy’s Bishop Daniels, a rising star who formerly ran his high school backcourt with John Wall of the Washington Wizards.
High profile players could be found left and right throughout the weekend, but the peak of the tournament came on championship Sunday, as the final contest featured three NBA standouts and five familiar faces who repped NCAA championship rings. After the weekend was capped off by a high-scoring thriller, many things could be taken away from the three days worth of on-court clashing.
Raymond Felton, New York Knicks
The former North Carolina Tar Heel point guard made his first appearance of the summer in the championship game, but the speedy floor general did not disappoint in his outing with D1 Sports. Felton’s 28 points were crucial in earning his team a “W” by a score of 135-124, but what may have even been more impressive was the way the Latta, SC native got his teammates involved. While demonstrating his ability to kill you with a deadly cross-over dribble, or to sink your team with a long range bomb, much of Felton’s success came from dishing out assists to the big fella, who in this game happened to be Atlanta Hawks center Josh Powell. Throughout the 40-minute game, his versatility, combined with his efficient decision-making, boosted his team over former UNC teammate Jawad Williams and Hendrick of Durham in the final.
Quotable: “It’s a big city, it’s a big market. I’m definitely going to get even more exposure than I have so far. I’m looking forward to that and trying to be up on that big stage out there in that big city and I look forward to trying to bring that team back to the Playoffs.” – Felton on his recent signing with the New York Knicks.
Josh Powell, Atlanta Hawks
Over the past couple years, Powell has become extremely familiar with winning championships. So it was no surprise when the two-time defending NBA Champion averaged 22.3 points per game throughout the tournament, including a jaw-dropping 31-point performance in the championship game. What makes the former NC State post player so dangerous is his capability to dominate opponents in the paint, while also consistently hitting the deep Js. His biggest impact of the weekend came in Saturday night’s semifinals game against Team Jamison. After leading by as much as 17 in the second half, Powell and D1 Sports’ advantage was threatened when the deficit was cut to four. Powell responded to the late-game surge by fighting through a Juilan Gamble foul for a critical bucket and hitting a free throw to convert the old-fashioned three-point play with 2:07 remaining. Powell’s points down the stretch proved to be the difference in that game, and his display of talent carried over to the championship contest where he and Felton teamed up to lead D1 Sports to victory.
Jawad Williams, Cleveland Cavaliers
The 27-year-old Williams made multiple appearances during the regular season summer league in Durham, but his first action of the tourney came on Sunday in the finals. Suiting up for Hendrick of Durham, Williams squared off down low against Powell, his former tobacco road rival. Williams, a 2005 NCAA Champion at UNC, dropped 17 points on the night, but found his buckets in several different ways. The 6-9 forward demonstrated strength as he muscled in buckets down low, and also advertised his range by draining the trey ball. Williams offered a well-rounded offensive game that reminded fans of why he earned a spot with 2010’s top regular season NBA power. His team fell short in the championship game, but Williams left a big-time impression after a remarkable showing.
Quotable: “I think we’re going to have to adjust to Coach [Byron] Scott’s offensive philosophy. He wants to run a lot and I think that fits us. It fits us real well with the team we have so we should be alright.” – Williams on the changes this summer has brought upon the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Seth Curry, Duke University
Over the past few years, fans have recognized Seth as “Stephen Curry’s little brother.” Expect the younger Curry to make a name for himself this season when he laces up his sneakers as a redshirt sophomore for the defending national champion Blue Devils. Seth Curry, a former Liberty transfer, fell short of the championship game as his team was knocked out in the semifinals, but he still turned in a team-high 18 points in Team Jamison’s loss to Josh Powell and D1 Sports. Seth’s range was easily as good as that of any other player in the tournament, and his quick release should make up for any size disadvantage he may find himself in during the upcoming season. The 6-1 guard was also fearless in efforts to take the ball to the rack, something that will be well received by the fans in dark blue. His style of play differed from that of his brother as he did not take over the game from the perimeter, but he did show off versatility in finding multiple ways to score. There is no doubt that he let everyone know he can find a bucket from any spot on the court.
Andre Dawkins, Duke University
The athletic guard out of Virginia Beach averaged 17.7 points in three tournament games over the weekend. Sharing the backcourt with Felton, Dawkins lit up Hendrick of Durham for 18 points in Sunday’s championship game, including four baskets from behind the arc. He was also responsible for one of the major highlights on Saturday, scoring the final points of the game by throwing the ball off the backboard to set himself up for a one-handed jam. As a shooting guard competing for a starting spot on the Blue Devil squad, Dawkins has skills that range from beating defenders off the dribble to pulling up from over three feet behind the perimeter. It was also clear that he has bulked up quite a bit since his freshman year, something that will be to his advantage when penetrating through the lane. After averaging just 4.4 points per game in his freshman season, college basketball fans should expect to see this guy fill a bigger role in ‘10-11, as he will be shooting the rock quite a bit.
Quotable: “Being up-tempo, everybody loves the up-tempo offense. It’s a lot more shots and Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] loves threes so it should be a lot of fun.” – Dawkins on Duke’s transition to a run-and-gun offense.
Akeem Richmond, Rhode Island University
Richmond was possibly the most underrated shooter in the Greater NC Pro-Am tournament. After finishing second in total three-point field goals made in the Atlantic 10 Conference last season, the rising sophomore continued to rain three balls throughout the tourney. Richmond was responsible for 35 points in the quarterfinals and shot down Team Dreamworks with 17 points on Saturday. The Sanford, North Carolina native thrived in hitting contested shots from deep, and was the undisputed go-to guy in clutch situations. With Rhode Island’s Keith Cothran finishing up his senior season last March, expect Richmond to get some more recognition in the ‘10-11 season.
Torian Graham, Durham Hillside High School
In a tournament full of basketball superstars, Graham established himself as a standout high school performer. The Class of 2012 prospect ran with the big boys on Friday and Saturday before winning MVP honors on Sunday in the Greater NC Pro-Am High School Showcase. The 6-3 guard scored 13 points in the high school match-up, and sealed the victory for his team by completing an old-fashioned three-point play with just under 30 seconds remaining in the game. The younger brother of Rutgers guard Tyree Graham, Torian can hit the long range three and can also elevate for monster slams on the fast break. He currently holds offers from NC State and Xavier, and is being looked at by many other schools.