Say It Loud: I Ball and I’m Proud
Unheralded hoppers show their stuff at Nike Peach Jam.
by DeMarco Williams
Though the late James Brown called Augusta, GA home, the Godfather of Soul was actually born in Barnwell, SC, a small town just up the road from the state line. Most folks don’t know that lil’ bit of info.
Keeping with the theme of little-known facts, there’s a host of hidden talent being showcased this week at North Augusta’s prestigious Nike Peach Jam. Of course, you probably wouldn’t know that, seeing as how so much attention has gone to the big name likes of Brandon Knight, Jared Sullinger and Harrison “Basketball Diary” Barnes playing in the same gym.
SLAM was in the building for some of the action, culminating with tonight’s championship at 8 p.m. Here are a few of the lesser-known guys who got on the good foot down in James Brown’s backyard.
Isaiah Epps (Playaz Basketball Club) — With the likes of Kansas coach Bill Self and Washington’s Lorenzo Romar looking on, Epps (6-2, 165) was steady on the floor. Seeing as how he’s already given his verbal to Pitt, the New Jersey native probably didn’t have the pressure on him like it was for some of the others. And you could tell as the athletic guard (teammate Aishon White was nice at times too) maneuvered with ease. He’s a good shooter with a bright future.
Marcus Thornton (Georgia Stars) — Atlanta’s Westlake High generally springs a few D-1 ballers every few years. Next season will be no different when this 6-7 forward takes his impressive game to Clemson. The Tigers will be getting a tough, James Johnson-like presence who works hard without every really breaking an obvious sweat. During one game we saw, Thornton’s stat line was eight points, 12 boards and four fouls. Expect something similar in the ACC.
Darius Quarles (Team Final) — Slimmer than Washington’s chances at a pennant, Quarles (6-7, 180) still has a wonderful presence on the court. He kinda looks like former UNLV star Stacey Augmon (Google him, kids!) on the drives and from about 12” out. He’s just one of those kids who consistently makes things happen. St. Joe’s can look forward to more starting next year.
Dion Waiters (Team Final) — As Scout’s No. 5 rising senior, Waiters isn’t exactly an under-the-radar candidate. Still, the often-dominating New Jersey devil deserves more support in the “Best Player” conversations. Dion (6-4, 215) regularly made himself at home in the paint and along the perimeter. Loved his footwork too. Same for his heart. There was one time in the action that he crashed to the floor after a mid-air collision. Dude hopped up so fast, the dirt didn’t have time to settle on his jersey. The ‘Cuse is gonna love a presence like that.
Victor Oladipo (Team Takeover) — It’s hard to peg Oladipo’s game exactly. Just know that it’s darn good and only going getting better. Kind of like a sweet-dribbling Troy Polamalu, Vic roams the court until he finds what he’s looking for. (Come to think of it, he’s doing the same thing with his college selection. Indiana, Marquette, Maryland, Providence and UMass are anxiously awaiting his decision.) Still, the fast-maturing Maryland native (6-5, 180) appears poised. When he finds a consistent jumper, we’ll all know how to properly spell his name too.
Others to remember: Reggie Smith (Mac Irvin Fire), Kene Anyigbo (Houston Hoops), Michael Carter Williams (Boston Amateur Basketball Club), Bryton Hobbs (St. Louis Eagles) and Trevor Cooney (Team Final).