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InsideHoops [High School Basketball]

2006 Roundball Classic Practice Report

 


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| Apr. 8, 2006

The first practice session for the 42nd Roundball Classic brought back memories of the last two summers.

That's because the West All-Star team in Sonny Vaccaro's annual event has three of the stars from coach Mike Conley's Spiece Indy Heat team that won the last two Big Time tournament titles in Las Vegas.

With Greg Oden, Daequan Cook and Mike Conley Jr. playing prominent roles, the West cruised to a 43-10 rout in Friday's open scrimmage. The star-studded West also features 6-foot-8 Lance Thomas of St. Benedict's Prep in New Jersey, who engaged in some friendly trash talk with East coach Danny Hurley, the former Seton Hall star who coaches Thomas at St. Benedict's.

"43-10, he's going to hear about that for a very long time," Thomas said. "We keep playing like the way we're playing, it's going to be embarrassing. But coach Hurley's too crafty, he's very slick. He's very cunning as well, he has a game plan. He's got something up his sleeve, he's too good of a coach to let it happen again."

The event represents one last go-around for coach Conley with the guys who wrecked AAU basketball the last couple of years. All three players are headed to Ohio State, along with 6-foot-5 David Lighty, a West All-Star who recovered from knee surgery last summer.

The best known of Conley's guys is Oden, a major reason why Bulls fans are wishing the NBA didn't institute its age limit this season. The 7-footer recently led Lawrence North H.S. to another state title and has gotten used to the hype.

"Greg's going to come in and give it his all," Conley Sr. said. "He plays hard, he's a menace on the court. You don't realize how long or tall he is or high he jumps until you play against him. He's the next great one."

Cook had a big McDonald's game in San Diego, knocking down five 3-pointers. Conley had high praise for the 6-5 wing guard.

"Daequan is the greates offensive player I've been around in a long time," he said. "He reminds me of the old George Gervin. he'll shoot 'em off the glass, score any which way you give him the ball."

Conley Jr. has developed quite a name for himself while running the show alongside Oden and Cook. His father _ the Olympic triple-jumper _ feels the son has matured well on the court and still has room for improvement.

"He's got a lot more to do," he said. "He's got to work on that shot some, get a lot stronger."

Conley Jr. should get a chance to match up against ultra-quick Eugene Harvey in Sunday's game. Harvey is a St. Benedict's teammate with Thomas, but finds himself on the opposite side this weekend.

"It's fun playing against Eugene, coach Hurley because once we win it, I can rub it in their face back home," Thomas cracked.

OTHER PRACTICE NOTES

Michigan State was beaten badly on the boards in its NCAA tournament loss to George Mason. 7-foot center Tom Herzog of Flint Powers Catholic H.S. is hoping to help change that once he gets to East Lansing.

"Coach Izzo is going to get us ready," Herzog said. "That's not going to happen next year. We're going to be tough, we're not going to get killed on the boards like that."

Herzog is on the West team and got some reps in practice against Oden on Friday. It was good work for two players who will see each other in the Big Ten next season.

The future Spartan was impressed with the quality of play.

"It takes a lot of getting used to if you're playing against guys at home and then you're playing against the best in the country," he said.

Both Harvey and Thomas are still deciding their colleges. Harvey said he intends to visit Mick Cronin's Cincinnati program and Maryland. Thomas said he expects to choose between Duk and Rutgers - his finalists for soe time now - in the next couple of weeks.

Harvey played in one of the more notable matchups in the high school season this year when his St. Benedict's team lost to Oak Hill 78-72 in a nationally-televised game at the Prime Time Shootout in Trenton. Harvey went head-to-head against North Carolina-bound Tywon Lawson and held his own.

Although Lawson was his usual blur with 33 points, Harvey scored 20 and matched Lawson's speed.

"That's what guys like me wanna do, play against the top guys across the country," Harvey said. "Play against them and have fun doing it.

"That's the first time I've really played against somebody as quick as myself and strong, like he's real strong. So it was pretty fun doing it."

There weren't too many bright spots for the East on Friday, but 6-9 wing forward Durrell Arthur was one of them. Arthur had a couple of nice drives to the basket and clearly has NBA-level athleticism as part of his game.

The high-flying Arthur isn't satisfied with just getting a few dunks to hype up the crowd.

"Our team didn't get its chemistry going," Arthur said. "We didn't get our roles together. I don't think anybody knows their roles yet. So we're going to get that straight tomorrow."

One reason for the East's struggles may be the absence of Niagara Falls, NY guard Paul Harris, who attended Notre Dame Prep this past season. Harris will not be in Chicago this weekend since he's taking part in the Hoop Summit on Saturday in Memphis.

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