Bob Gibbons TOC: Top Seniors
Even the new NCAA rule can’t hold Gibbons down.
A fixture of Memorial Day weekend, the 19th annual Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions almost didn’t go down in 2011. The NCAA dropped a ruling effective immediately in late April that banned events from being played on DI college campuses, meaning that no longer would the TOC be able to hold games at Duke, UNC, or NC State. For many AAU coaches, the main selling point of going to a closed event such as this was to give their players the lifelong memory that they’ll be able to pass on to their grandchildren about playing at Cameron or leaving their imprint at the Dean Dome. That is now a thing of the past, thanks to a harsh ruling by the powers to be in Indianapolis.
The TOC lived on, though. Renting out just about every high school gym you could imagine, they still assembled some of the top talent from around the country regardless of shoe affiliation. The field wasn’t as deep as before due to the loss of gyms (32 17-U teams, 16 16-U, 16 15-U), but the quality of each game go up that much more. Here’s a look at some of the top seniors who did their thing:
Fred Thomas, 6-5, SG, Southern Phenoms
If you’re looking for someone to get you buckets, Thomas is the man. He and Devonta Pollard put on a dynamic 2 man show to lead Southern Phenoms to the national championship. Though Pollard was named MVP, it was the electric scoring of the Mississippi State recruit that took the eye of evaluators just as much. The lanky wing could shoot the lights with the best of them and showed a little bit of game off of the bounce, with the ability to make some plays on the defensive end mixed in. With no shortage of swag on the hardwood, Thomas had no reservation about letting you hear about it after hitting a J in your grill. This is definitely a name to remember for fans in Starkville come 2012, when he will make his presence felt immediately.
TJ Warren, 6-7, SF, Garner Road
After setting the Carolina Challenge on fire the last time that we saw him, Warren threw together another unstoppable scoring performance en route to leading Garner Road to the select division championship. Bringing an old school approach to the game, he constantly proves all of his haters wrong by proving that he’s more than “just a shooter” with his crafty scoring attack. Showings like this are a big reason why he’s a member of the latest SLAM Fresh 50 for 2012.
Devonta Pollard, 6-7, SF/PF, Southern Phenoms
There wasn’t a player who changed the game more on both ends of the floor all weekend than Pollard, who has been one of the hottest names on the block this spring. He had a number of emphatic dunks, handled the rock well in the open floor, and caused problems on D with his length. The combo forward definitely bears some similarities to CJ Leslie on the hardwood and has a legit chance to follow his footsteps to the McDonald’s All-America Game.
Grant Jerrett, 6-9, PF, Belmont Shore
The most highly touted senior here lived up to the hype by taking Belmont Shore on his back to the silver division title game. There really wasn’t much that you could to guard Jerrett, who cleaned the glass just as well as he put points on the board. The skilled faceup 4 flat out put a hurting on opposing big men inside and out, leading one respected scout to throw out the Derrick Williams comparison. Already committed to ‘Zona for 2012, there’s a chance that those comparisons may indeed become a reality.
Tyler Lewis, 5-11, PG, Team Loaded
First, cats said he was too small and not athletic enough. Then, people said he couldn’t go high major. Then, they said NC State wouldn’t keep his commitment. Well, Tyler Lewis keeps showing everyone why new Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried immediately made it a priority to secure a commitment from his point guard of the future. At Gibbons, he nearly set the scoring record with his downright amazing 47-point performance against Garner Road. Lewis is the type of guy who has been doubted his entire life while continuing to prove his critics wrong, and don’t expect that to stop any time soon.
Devin Thomas, 6-9, PF/C, Mid-Penn Motion
Going up against a number of guys who were headed to the ACC, Thomas had no problem outplaying his more acclaimed foes to somewhere around the tune of 30 points and 20 rebounds. The crafty lefty put in work with a number of counter moves on the blocks and had no problems finishing with either hand around the cup. Along with Mid-Penn teammate Mike Zangari, he will definitely be a guy who college coaches are eager to take a glance at this summer.
Najeal McMillan, 6-5, SF, Wisconsin Playground Warriors
Though he doesn’t have the ideal height for a power forward or the skill set you envision in a small forward, Najeal McMillan is the type of guy who every coach dreams of. At TOC, the athletic combo forward was all over the place playing whatever role Wisconsin Playground Warriors head man Ritchie Davis needed of him. The lefty defended a number of positions, was a monster on the glass, and scored from either forward position all weekend long. You aren’t going to catch him going to UNC or Duke, but Najeal is exactly the type of player who every mid-major coach needs on their roster if they hope to win games.
Mike Zangari, 6-10, C, Mid-Penn Motion
Playing alongside Thomas, he helped form one of the more formidable frontcourts that you’ll see out of an AAU team. Still rough around the edges, Zangari showed flashes of being able to put the ball on the deck with both hands and a really fluid jumper. Though not a household name now, expect that to change once college coaches lay their eyes on this athletic big man from Lewisberry, PA in the open period.