From early contenders emerging for the coveted Player of the Year award to once highly-ranked teams beginning to realize their potential we learned a great deal from the onslaught of holiday tournaments that just finished up.
Here are a few takeaways.
API can score… A lot
Advanced Prep International (Dallas) was ranked No. 4 overall in the Super 25 preseason rankings because they had, arguably, the most talented roster in the country with three players ranked in the Top 10 of ESPN’s 2016 and 2017 rankings.
The Bulldogs haven’t consistently lived up to that appointment so far this season, but last weekend at the Cancer Research Classic they gave us a reminder of their dominant potential.
API won 105-71 over Westtown (Chester, Penn.); their offensive production broke a tournament scoring record.
The Bulldogs’ three Top 10 players – Trevon Duval 25 points, Terrance Ferguson 21 points and Billy Preston 16 points – all showed up in a big way.
Is this the start of API’s ascension back to the top?
Kentucky may need to re-secure the rims at Rupp Arena
High Point Christian Academy (High Point, N.C.) forward Edrice “Bam Bam” Adebayo was voted Most Likely to Break a Rim by his peers this past summer, an appointment he nearly made good on at the Under Armour Elite 24 in August, and if his play at the HSOT last week was any indication, Kentucky may need to re-secure the rims at Rupp Arena.
Powerful dunk after powerful dunk, Adebayo, a Kentucky signee who is ranked No. 8 overall in the ESPN 100, literally left the rims shaking well after he’d jogged down to the opposite end of the court to play defense.
He ended up being named Most Outstanding Player of the HSOT and led his team to the title, and, yes, the rims are still tact… Barely.
No one’s forgotten about Dennis Smith Jr. and Harry Giles III
There were at least two probable 2015 McDonald’s All Americans (De’Aaron Fox and Edrice Adebayo) on the court at the High School OT Holiday Invitational last week, which, of course, set the stage for capacity crowds; still, the biggest draw at the HSOT were easily Harry Giles III and Dennis Smith Jr., who sat courtside during the tournament.
Fans swarmed both players before games, at halftime and after games for autographs, pictures, hugs and handshakes.
Both players suffered torn ACL’s, keeping them sidelined for their senior seasons.
The Harry Giles III Blog: Coping with ACL tear, joining Duke, McDonald’s AA dreams and more
As a result, Smith, the No. 1 point guard and No. 4 overall player in the ESPN 100, recently enrolled early at North Carolina State and will continue rehabbing before suiting up next season.
Giles transferred from Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) back home to North Carolina in November and now takes online courses at Forest Trail Academy (Kernersville, N.C.) and rehabs at Duke, where he’s signed.
The only bigger rock star at the HSOT needed two policemen with him wherever he went – Kentucky coach John Calipari, who came out to watch his 2016 recruits Adebayo and Fox go head-to-head.
Jayson Tatum is making a strong push for POY
Good luck finding a more dominant player in the country than Chaminade College Prep (St. Louis) forward Jayson Tatum, a Duke signee who is ranked No. 2 overall in the ESPN 100.
Tatum was averaging 28 points a game headed into the CRC last weekend and erupted for 46 points in an overtime win over No. 18 Huntington Prep (Huntington, W.Va.).
He’s managing that type of production all while going head-to-head with at least four probable 2015 McDonald’s All Americans and five ranked teams.
That’s POY stuff.
Lonzo Ball and his brothers can, well, ball
Another player making a strong push for Player of the Year is Chino Hills (Chino Hills, Calif.) point guard Lonzo Ball, a UCLA signee who is ranked No. 11 overall in the ESPN 100.
Ball’s buzz is at an all-time high after earning MVP honors at the uber-prestigious City of Palms Classic on Dec. 23 and leading Chino Hills to the title.
The best part?
His younger brothers help him form, arguably, the best backcourt in the country.
Both LiAngelo and LaMelo were named to the COP all-tournament team.
Thomas Allen is on the come-up
Admit it, before our story on Garner (Garner, N.C.) point guard Thomas Allen last week at the HSOT you’d never heard of the 6-foot junior.
Allen pumped in 31.1 points a game at the HSOT and exploded for 40 points in his last game. He was equally dominant during the AAU season last summer with the Garner Road Bulldogs scoring 23 points a game.
Allen isn’t currently listed in any national rankings, but we’re guessing that will change in time.
Hammond School deserves your respect
Every school that’s not ranked in the Super 25 feels like they have a case for why they should be; Hammond School (Colombia, S.C.) may actually have a valid argument.
The Skyhawks didn’t lose a game in 2015, and are currently riding a 29-game winning streak with title wins at the Chick-fil-A Classic and Poinsettia Classic.
Their success is due in large part to point guard Seventh Woods, a North Carolina signee who is averaging 19 points, six assists and five rebounds a game.
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY