Another Comets Shootout is in the books, ending with buzzer-beating finishes at both the 16s and 17s levels. The Wisconsin Playmakers won the 16 and under championship over Fury Gold with David Jesperson hitting a trey with no time on the clock, and Net Gain Sports won the 17s as Taylor Stafford scored a reverse lay-in at the buzzer to beat 43 Hoops.
Johnny Woodard of Net Gain Sports- The 6-foot-4 wing from Duluth East had a sensational final day that was highlighted by a semi-final performance of six for six three-point shooting and 28 points in a win over the Minnesota Comets. Net Gain Sports had a tough first five halves of basketball - including a loss to WOTN - but the group did a complete 180-degree turn to go ahead and win the event. Woodard was at the head of the turn as he went from scoring a quiet eight or ten points each game to exploding for 28 in the semis and 17 in a final that included three more treys. Most of Woodard's points this weekend were scored slashing to the rim, and with a muscular build, Johnny has the strength to breeze through contact to finish. His combination of strength, athleticism, and ability to get his shot off whenever has put him on the college recruiting radar. Performances like this having him moving up the charts, and don't think he didn't help himself with the Minnesota Gophers as assistant coach Vince Taylor watched the semi-finals and finals (Taylor's son Brendan Taylor is also on Net Gain Sports). The stock of Johnny Woodard is most definitely rising fast.
Ater Manyang of Net Gain Sports - People think I'm crazy, but when I watch Ater I often think back to Kwadzo Ahelegbe's younger years. Kwadzo is more of a two, obviously, while the 6-foot-4/6-foot-5 Manyang plays more as a combo forward. But when Kwadzo was younger, his role was to use his intensity, strength and athletic ability to defend like a monster and play with activity. Kwadzo did that at a very high level, and that is exactly what Ater has been doing. Then, when Kwadzo hit the end of his junior year, he became a big-time scorer. At this point, Ater has work to do with his offensive game, but we have seen glimpses of what could be. Last fall his 30-plus point performances at the Tonka Fall League included numerous pull-up jumpers off the bounce, and we saw some of that this weekend, especially against Minnesota Southside. In that game, Ater scored a game-high 23 points, including three three-pointers, plus he defended Joey King, holding the Eastview standout to a couple field goals and ten points. All weekend long, Ater rebounded and defended at a high level, plus he was in double figures in just about every game (Ater scores in the paint consistently).
Rashad Vaughn of Net Gain Sports - Ladies and gentlemen, Minnesota has another super standout in the 2014 class. Everybody knew Rashad's name coming into this spring/summer season, but I'm not sure that most expected him to score at the level he was this weekend on a consistent basis. When Net Gain struggled on Saturday, it was Vaughn who took the ball to the rim and scored in every which way possible. At about 6-foot-4, Vaughn consistently turned the corner on older defenders and then finished over contact with tear drops and difficult angles bank shots. Plus Rashad's body control, balance, and length allowed him to contort while elevated and finish consistently. And I almost forgot his eye-opening dunk on 6-foot-6 Comets forward Damien Reinke. If anybody was filming that, it should be on YouTube in the next few days.
Tommy McDermott of Net Gain Sports - The 6-foot-1 McDermott was the consistent number two scoring option for NGS. Early in the seven games, it was Rashad Vaughn who was the main scorer, Ater had the big game against Southside, and Woodard was huge in the last couple contests. However, every game it was McDermott scoring 11-15 points while attacking defenders at will as the consistent number two option. This weekend, there wasn't one defender in the event who could consistently keep McDermott from getting to the paint, and when he got there, Tommy's array of pull-ups, floaters and bank shots were usually money. McDermott also sat a couple defenders down on their backsides this weekend with one of the crispest crossovers you will ever see. Division two schools love him, and division ones are going to take interest.
Marcus Marshall of 43 Hoops - An observing coach said "Marcus may not be the best prospect in our 2012 class in terms of size and whatnot, but when it comes to performances, I don't think there is a more consistently productive player in this class". Some can argue this as there are some Pulley Panthers who had a pretty good weekend in Virginia. However, Marcus made a pretty fair argument himself, exploding for buckets game after game like we've been accustomed to seeing him do in the 43 Hoops blue and orange. In the semi-finals against the Dakota Schoolers, Marshall knocked down four treys and scored 27 points. In the finals, he produced a game-high 18. Marshall is going to make some mid-major basketball program extremely happy, because we will hear about him producing as a scorer for years to come. This coming year at Johnson, we could see him hit some incredible numbers.
Marcus Tyus of 43 Hoops - Tyus simply has a knack for scoring. At Anoka, Marcus plays a combo guard spot and is the lead producer while with 43 Hoops he's a complimentary scorer to Marshall - and a good one at that. Most of what he does is off the dribble, and from there he has a very good midrange game.
Nate Kratch of 43 Hoops - Nate scored in bursts in both the semi-final and final. Dakota Schoolers fought 43 Hoops tough for a while, but Kratch scored eight big second half points in that win. In the game that followed, Nate scored back-to-back buckets in the first half inside and back-to-back treys in the second half finishing with 13 overall. At a long 6-foot-6, Kratch has a quality left-handed shooting stroke that he completes with consistency, plus he's a sneaky rebounder against higher-level competition.
Duke Anyanwu of 43 Hoops - Despite looking beat up by injuries, Duke was the one guy at the Comets Invitational who had some success keeping McDermott from the paint. At a strong 6-foot-3/6-foot-4, Duke is laterally quick, plus he's tough as nails and athletic. This combination makes him a top-notch defender and it led to one of the days most impressive tip dunks. Not sure if it's in football or basketball, but Duke is a scholarship-level athlete.
Tyler Vaughan of Minnesota Comets - The question that Tyler faces this spring/summer season is if he can continue to score at a high level against the best level of competition that the Comets can find. After one event, the answer to that is yes. Vaughan's weekend highlights included numerous floaters scored off of ball screens and ball reversals, of course three point shooting consistency, and some clutch performances. The Comets moved past the top Select squad with Vaughan scoring a three in the final seconds as well as hitting clutch free throws. Division two schools of all variety (St. Cloud State, Augustana, Mary, Bemidji State, Moorhead State, etc) were in regular attendance.
Jal Rial of Minnesota Comets - Simply put Rial has a lot of ability. He spent the winter in Alaska winning a state championship, but has since moved with his brother and mother and is taking classes at St. Cloud Apollo. At a long 6-foot-5, Rial is very athletic and he can beat the vast majority of forwards with his dribble with ease. Rial most definitely has the look of a division one player and he brings a different element to the Comets.
Nate Meyer of Minnesota Comets - Nate is a player that just makes coaches happy. He has great knowledge of the game, he is a fantastic passer, he defends, he can create, and his shooting stroke looks very nice. When Meyer is confident in that shooting stroke, he's a weapon from so many angles.
Skye Warwick of Dakota Schoolers - The defense of 43 Hoops can make a lot of guys crack under pressure, and in the semi-finals we saw that from many of the Schoolers - but not Skye. Warwick took their loud and intense defensive pressure and brushed it off, scoring 23 impressive points. That production included five three-point makes plus playmaking from the interior of the 43 defense. Warwick's team lost, but he was definitely one of the toughest kids on the floor.
Anders Broman of Minnesota Glory - Barring injury, Broman is very likely to break the Minnesota state scoring record held by West Virginia forward Kevin Noreen. Many have ragged on his competition level at Lakeview Christian, but if you were in St. Cloud, you would have no more questions - this kid can play. With good size, skill and a mean streak, Broman is a competitor. Anders has a stroke both at the arc and mid range, but he can also get past defenders. His size (about 6-foot-3) allows him to score over opponents, even if the help is on time. This is a scholarship-level player.
Tyler Flack of Minnesota Select - I believe that there were a lot of local schools that came away impressed by the Lakeville North four man. Flack is a little shorter than your prototypical power forward, but his quick bounce makes up for it. Add in his explosive quicks to a strong frame, and Flack showed he was able to take contact and still extend to finish.