As many of you know, my favorite place on earth is Kokomo's Memorial Gym. I hadn't given a lot of thought about going to last night's All-Star exhibition at the Gym until about 4:30, right around the time Mrs. T-Mill came home with fresh tamales. Knowing that I can use my totally awesome connections to get in, I made the last minute decision to head back to K-Town around 6:40. I arrived about nine minutes before tipoff, got in for free since everyone knows me at the Gym, and sat with the press behind the scorer's table. The kindness of Terry Downham and the KHS Sports staff had me set with an internet connection and I was able to run the surprise Open Thread.
In short, I am very glad I made the drive. It was certainly worth it to see some of the state's top talent on display for a basketball addict like me. I left Memorial Gym impressed by both classes The juniors used a furious rally to tie the game at the buzzer on a triple by D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. The teams then played a one minute overtime where the juniors won the tip, and Smith-Rivera drew a foul with five seconds left after they held for the final shot. Like Andrew Smeathers before him (who missed two free throws with five seconds left in regulation), Smith-Rivera missed both free throws and the seniors were unable to get off a quality shot. The teams played a sudden death second overtime, where Yogi Ferrell hit a baseline fallaway for a 104-102 win for the juniors.
Overall, I felt the junior class had more talent, but the seniors had more basketball savvy. For example. The famous Cody Zeller was dominant for the Seniors. He was 9 of 12 from the field, 7 of 13 from the line for 25 points and 21 rebounds. He is better than most returning big men in the Big Ten. Hanner Perea for the juniors was more athletic than him, but he still comes off as very raw. He was 3 of 9 from the field for 6 points and 15 rebounds, but had several "Holy Shit!"moments where he showed that he will be a dominant player with development.
Of course, I tried to focus on future Purdue players while I was there. Rapheal Davis was the only definitely player on the floor, as he suited up for the junior All-Stars. This was his first game action since surgery, and this is what he had to say about that afterwards:
"Right now it felt really good. I had a workout yesterday and it felt really good after being cleared. i wanted to get out here and just show a few things." - Rapheal Davis
Davis was limited to only six minutes of action, the fewest of any player on the junior roster. He hit one of four shots from the field for two points, with only junior Logan Irwin, who was scoreless in nine minutes, scoring fewer points. I also asked how Davis felt playing against a lot of the talent he will face in the Big Ten, and here is what he had to say:
"My team, I have been playing with them since about 7th or 8th grade AAU-wise. The competition, I just love it. Just playing with guys I can play with, it's all good." Rapheal Davis
The other player I watched extensively was Gary Harris. With Bade's move to football and other speculation out there (such as John Hart graduating early) there may yet be room for Harris. I talked to Bryan Gaskins, my editor at the Kokomo Tribune last night and expressed my concern for the scholarship situation if we were to get Harris. Even is Hart graduates and opens up a 2012-13 spot for Harris we would still be two spots over for 2013-14. His response was like many others: "Don't worry about it. We'll figure it out when we get there." Bryan is a Purdue alum and big fan like me, so I trust him.
Harris started the game slowly, but hit several big shots as the juniors overcame a double-digit second half deficit. He finished 5 of 11 from the field and 4 of 6 from the line for 15 points. He also had five rebounds and showcased some pretty god athleticism. He scored on a breakaway one-handed dunk to put the juniors in front 70-69 after they had trailed for some time. He also had a big three during the juniors' big run.
This was only my second time seeing Harris in person, and I was a lot more impressed this time. My first time was against a young Zionsville team this past winter, and I left more impressed by Zak Irwin and even Randy Gregory. Harris simply didn't do a lot that night, and Tom Izzo was even there. That Zionsville team is decent, but they had nowhere near the talent that Harris dominated at times last night.
Only Ferrell, Smith-Rivera, and D.J. Balentine outscored Harris for the juniors. If anything, I think Harris needs to develop a more consistent jumper. The juniors were just 6 for 25 from 3-point range, and Harris was one of three from out there. If he develops a jumper with the consistency that E`Twaun had, watch out.
Other impressive players:
D.J. Balentine - I know I am biased, but Balentine really showed off in the second half on his own floor. He led the juniors with 18 points and fouled out with a few minutes left as the juniors had to foul while behind in the last two minutes. He hit multiple runners in the line with a sweet little teardrop over Zeller as the juniors made their comeback. His three-pointer wasn't working like it did in the game down in Washington, but he still impressed with his basketball IQ. He is a smart player that is always in control. He had no turnovers last night and added two assists to his scoring. Currently, Balentine is uncommitted, but he has picked up an offer from Missouri State and Paul Lusk. He is one of the late rising players in this class, mostly because he led Kokomo to the State Finals in March.
Nick Osbourne - I am not sure where he is headed, but he was cleaning up on the offensive glass for the juniors. He had eight offensive boards, 11 total, and was the one junior that went toe-to-toe with Zeller on a consistent basis. He struggled scoring (3 for 13), but he put in major work on the glass before fouling out.
Chris Whitehead - Whitehead was Donnie Hale's teammate at New Albany and is still uncommitted, but he may have been the fastest player going coast-to-coast on the floor. He's the only uncommitted senior All-Star, and he finished with 14 points and was 6 for 6 from the line as he played the crunch-time point guard minutes.
Adonis Filer - Filer was a late-bloomer that led Hammond Noll to the 2A title game and they fell late to Yogi Ferrell. He was possibly the most athletic senior player and finished with 11 points.
Cody Zeller - He might be the best of the Zeller brothers. He will instantly be Indiana's best player and their first real post threat in years. The question is, will the Hoosiers be able to mesh around him next year.
Kellen Dunham - I was impressed greatly by him in March when I saw him play against Kokomo in the regional. Overall, he scored 70 points in both games. He is already committed to Butler, and had 10 points for the juniors last night. He's an incredibly smart and in control player.
Yogi Ferrell - He played a solid ballgame, scoring 16 and adding five assists plus the game-winner. I'd be concerned about his size, but LewJack has made it just fine in the Big Ten, so he will too.
Austin Richie - Richie was a scoring machine at Lowell this year, but had just five points last night. It may be the case of being a great player on a bad team for him.
Austin Etherington - Despite playing close to home, he was pretty much a non-factor while Balentine shined. He was 1 of 5 for two points, missed all three three-pointers, but still played 22 minutes.
Hanner Perea - As I mentioned above, he obviously has a ton of raw potential, but he is still just that: raw. He is not going to see much top-notch competition at LaPorte LaLumiere (and neither will Jay Simpson). Of all the talented players there I felt Perea needed the most polish.
I think I know the reason people are so excited about the 2012 class for both Indiana and Purdue. The junior class is very focused and they were not afraid to back down from their senior counterparts. They have an extreme amount of talent, and they add little fear to that. They were in attack mode throughout and their lack of fear was evidence by them going at Zeller all night long. Zeller blocked four shots, but Balentine, Smith-Rivera, Dunham, Ferrell, and Harris repeatedly attacked the middle against him.
I am disappointed that we missed out on quality bigs like Zeller and Perea, but if we can get Harris I know he will greatly help our 2012 class. I would liked to have seen Ronnie Johnson play again too just to see if he would have also taken round two against Ferrell.
I felt the seniors were heavily skewed to Zeller, while the juniors had better overallbalance and chemistry. If not for Zeller, the juniors probably would have won in a blowout. The seniors were up 53-43 at the half, but the juniors dominated the second half when Zeller sat down more. There were even two moments where Zeller took hard falls that caused the crowd to shriek in horror.
I'm really excited for the future though. This state has a lot of great talent. Purdue will have very little dropoff, and if Crean can coach what he has coming the rivalry will soon be back.