FORT MYERS, Fla. – From award seekers to players overcoming superstitions, here are a few of the things that we’ve learned so far at the City of Palms Classic.
Ali wants to win Poster of the Week
On a day full of jaw-dropping, Sportscenter-worthy plays, Sagemont (Weston, Fla.) shooting guard Prince Ali stole the show with his vicious throwdown over IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) center Oliver Black.
Ali, a Connecticut commit, caught a pass on the break, took off just outside of the paint and glided over Black for the slam, much to the delight of the capacity crowd.
“I thought he was just going to stand there or move,” Ali said. “But when I looked at him he sized me up and we all know what happened from there.”
Ali’s post-poster course of action? A brief pause before a jog back downcourt while flashing a slick grin.
When asked if his dunk should win our Poster of the Week award, Ali was very matter-of-fact.
“Yes, it should.”
don’t forget allen
This isn’t so much something we learned as it is something you’d do well to remember.
People forget about Providence (Jacksonville, Fla.) shooting guard Grayson Allen when they mention Duke’s unreal 2014 recruiting clas. Allen is usually the fourth name mentioned after Whitney Young (Chicago) center Jahlil Okafor, Apple Valley (Minn.) point guard Tyus Jones and Saint John’s (Houston) wing Justise Winslow, but so far at the City of Palms Classic, Allen is showing why he may need to be one of the first names uttered.
Allen opened with a 31-point, seven-rebound outing in a win over St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) and its star-studded backcourt of Daniel Hamilton, a Connecticut commit, and Tyler Dorsey, who is ranked No. 2 among scoring guards in the ESPN 60. Allen followed that up with an 18-point, seven-rebound performance in a win over Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia), ranked No. 10 in the USA Today HSS Super 25, and elite point guard Ja’Quan Newton, a Miami signee.
Allen is proving why he’s in contention for the prestigious postseason All American games (Jordan Brand Classic and McDonald’s).
Hodskins is the biggest draw
So far no player, not even Okafor, the No. 1 player in the country, has excited the spectators at the City of Palms Classic like Milton (Alpharetta, Ga.) shooting guard Zach Hodskins.
Not just because he’s crafty in the way he gets to the rim and not just because he knocks down threes with high efficiency; Hodskins has been the center of attention on the court because he plays with one hand.
We profiled Hodskins, who was born with just half of his left arm, last season, but it’s just as mind-boggling for us when seeing him in action.
He’s not good “for a guy with one hand,” he’s good period. His future coach, Florida’s Billy Donovan, would concur.
Montverde will have to adjust to new quarters
It’s a little-known fact that Montverde (Montverde, Fla.) coach Kevin Boyle is superstitious.
“No, he’s very superstitious!” said Montverde shooting guard D’Angelo Russell, an Ohio State signee.
OK, very superstitious; that’s why it’s not sitting too well with him that the Eagles are staying at a different hotel this year at the City of Palms Classic.
Three times Boyle and the Eagles have stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn right around the corner from the venue and two of those three times, including last year, they’ve finished as champions.
This year they’re staying at the Crowne Plaza.
“We’ve gotta deal with it,’ Boyle said. “We’ve come to the conclusion that we’ve gotta overcome things like this. We’ve had a lot of second place finishes at the Crowne Plaza so we’ve gotta see if we can break that streak.”
So far so good; the Eagles, ranked No. 2 in the USA Today HSS Super 25, rolled past Milton (Alpharetta, Ga.), 77-42, in their first game on Thursday.
Simmons is a star
Montverde (Montverde, Fla.) forward Ben Simmons was virtually unguardable in Thursday’s win over Milton, scoring 31 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, dishing out four assists and swatting four shots.
Simmons, an LSU commit, scored most of his points in the paint, but kept the defense guessing by knocking down perimeter shots, breaking his man down off the dribble from the wing and even playing the point-forward role running the offense.
Last year Simmons, who hails from Melbourne, Australia, debuted at the end of the season in the National High School Invitational, which Montverde won. This year it’s clear: Simmons, who is ranked No. 4 in the ESPN 60, is primed for stardom.
It’s obvious that Montverde coach Kevin Boyle is a believer; whenever Simmons got the ball around the basket, Boyle barked two words from the sideline: “Now score!”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY