One Last Stop
The nation’s top seniors try to impress at the Portsmouth Invitational.
by Cub Buenning / @cubbuenning
For the past 58 years, the top seniors in the college basketball circuit have spent the weekend following the Final Four near the Virginian coast. Portsmouth (VA) is a near-by Norfolk neighbor that has become a springtime convergence point for NBA scouts and front office types. While today’s NBA draft process is largely focused around the 18 and 19-year old freshmen and sophomores, the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament is the best place to make sure no player “slips through the cracks.” 64 players get the invite to the four-day round-robin tournament, a setting akin to a basketball version of the Senior Bowl or East/West Shrine Game. Suffice to say, every NBA team is represented in the high school bleachers with an eye towards setting up future individual workouts with the brightest of the on-court luminaries.
Things kicked off on Wednesday afternoon, with the Portsmouth Partnership (the players are grouped into eight, 8-man teams) taking down the Norfolk Sports Club by an 80-75 margin. The winning team was led by West Virginia’s Casey Mitchell’s 23 points, Jamarr Sanders’ (UAB) 13 and 5 and Mike Davis’ (Illinois) 14 points and 11 rebounds. The NSC had four players in double figures, highlighted by the power forward trio of NC State’s Tracy Smith, Florida’s Alex Tyus and Rhode Island’s Delroy James. Penn State’s Talor Battle was his usual self with a line of 13 p/8 r/ 4 a.
In the night cap, the K&D Rounds Landscaping was far better than Sales Systems LTD. Led by a balanced attack with 6 players getting 8 points or more and Old Dominion’s Frank Hassell’s 15 rebounds, K&D will now meet Mitchell’s PP in the semifinal of the winner’s bracket. The star of the second game was Marquette’s Jimmy Butler, whose 19 points was well supported by dueling 13 point/5 rebound efforts by both Syracuse’s Rick Jackson and Vlad Moldoveanu from American University. The game’s defeated were also led by their frontcourt players, including Kansas State’s Curtis Kelly and Washington’s Matt Bryan-Amaning. In addition, Nicholls State’s Anatoly Bose and George Mason’s Cam Long played well for mid-major players in a losing effort.
The second day of games began with Portsmouth Sports Club’s 20-point drubbing of Mike Duman’s team. PSC’s victory was aided by two relatively unknowns in Duquesne’s Bill Clark and John Holland from Boston U. The 6-5 guards each got to the twenty-point level while Corey Fisher (10 assists) distributed the ball well, setting up Florida’s Vernon Macklin (19/13) and Memphis’ Will Coleman (12/7).
The final first round game wasn’t much closer as Cherry, Baekert & Holland snared 25 offensive rebounds on their way to a 16-point win. Despite 22 points from College of Charleston’s scoring machine Andrew Goudelock, the losing team couldn’t overcome the massive difference on the boards. The victorious side was led by Mississippi State’s Ravern Johnson; who knocked down three 3-pointers en route to 17 points.
In Thursday’s consolation game, Tyus and James were again the stars for NSC, as they stayed alive with a one-point win over Long and Bryan-Amaning’s SSL.
Games continue today and go through tomorrow. Others featured in the tournament are Nova’s Corey Stokes and the San Diego State trio of Billy White, Malcolm Thomas and DJ Gay. Also in attendance will be West Coast Conference rivals (St. Mary’s Mickey McConnell and Steven Gray from Gonzaga), as well as Pittsburgh’s Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown and Gary McGhee. Needless to say, these are all names that have dominated the college landscape for the past four years. Whether they can continue their professional careers here in the States might be largely determined by what goes down this weekend.
Expect some first-hand player accounts here at SLAMonline.com in the not-so distant future. So return for an inside-look at what the week in Virginia means for some of our favorite college stars! And in the meantime, visit www.portsmouthinvitational.com for scores, stats and more about the tournament’s philanthropic purpose.