Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Day four

Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Day four
Apr 10, 2005, 04:29 am
Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Day four

The last day of PIT was definitely the best one of them all. The basketball played today was top notch, everyone was in good spirits, and some of the prospects really put on a show. I just watched a rerun of the Hoop Summit earlier today, and boy was I glad that I decided to stay where the real basketball was being played. Watching 22 year old 2nd round prospects fight for their life is a whole lot more entertaining than watching a bunch of 18 year old 2nd rounders it seems.

The first game in the afternoon was between MD Designs and Tidewater Sealants. This was easily the most high scoring game of the tournament, with 222 points being put up in 40 minutes between the two teams. With two terrific post players in Jason Maxiell and Ivan McFarlin, and the best PG at Portsmouth in Will Conroy, Tidewater and Jawad Williams just had no answer for MD Designs. Deng Gai was injured today (he actually got injured in the first game) and was replaced by Marquin Chandler. It's a shame because he really needed to have a big game here.

Jason Maxiell, Cincinnati

The most dominating player in the tournament, Maxiell continued to embarrass anyone who attempted to guard him today and only solidified his place in the draft this year even more with the way he played. The first half was all about showing off his very solid mid-range game, from 18 feet out, from the baseline, receiving the ball in the post and dribbling out a bit before pulling up and turning around, his shot was looking sweet all day long. In addition to showing off his range, Maxiell also tried to show that he can put the ball on the floor if needed, he handled the ball quite a bit and looked OK while doing so. Those who think that Maxiell is strictly a college beast who scored in the NCAA just by overpowering his way to the basket would have been very disappointed if they saw him today, he showed that there is much more to his game than just being an undersized monster inside, In the 2nd half the game was much more up and down and Maxiell showed that he has no problem running the floor. He broke free twice to receive the ball completely free in the open floor, and both times put some serious hurt on the rim with some powerful tomahawk jams. Someone tried to stop Maxiell in the 2nd by literally tearing his jersey off—he ran around for most of the game with a huge tear on the back of his jersey—but nothing was going to stop this kid from destroying anyone who tried to match up with him.

Quotes from after the game

Jonathan Givony: Jason, you might be the guy that helped himself out the most in Portsmouth. How do you feel about the way you played here?

Jason Maxiell: I just came out the same as always. There wasn't really anything different here. I just want to come out and play hard every game and that's what I did.

Jonathan Givony: You and Will Conroy seemed to have some great chemistry going on, it seemed like there was really something special going on between you two, did you guys plan on making each other look good?

Jason Maxiell: When I first got here I didn't even know what team I was going to be on, he came up to me and told me that. He said he was going to get me the ball and we were going to try and get up and down the court like they do at Washington. That's exactly what happened.

Jonathan Givony: What kind of role do you see yourself playing in the NBA?

Jason Maxiell: Same stuff I do in college, just play hard, rebound, get up and down the floor, score a little and block some shots. Whatever they need to me do basically.

Jonathan Givony: So are you looking forward to Chicago? It seems like a shoo-in that you would get an invite with the way you played here

Jason Maxiell: I have no idea what's going on with Chicago, but if I get invited I am going to do the same exact thing I did here, just play as hard as I can.

Jonathan Givony: Alright Jason, congrats on a great tournament and best of luck with the draft.

Jason Maxiell: Thanks man.

Ivan McFarlin, Oklahoma State

Considering that he's a 6-7 or 6-8 PF with average athleticism and very limited offensive skills outside the paint, it's kind of hard to take McFarlin too serious when it comes to the draft. That would be selling the kid way too short, though, as there are plenty of players like him who are making a decent living in the NBA even if they had to take the back route in. He's basically a garbageman and he doesn't seem to have a problem with that. McFarlin was all business today for every second he was on the floor, he just never stops working even for half a second, showing off the type of motor that we can only dream of lottery prospects having. This guy is just an animal on the glass and around the rim, he makes up for what he's lacking in size with incredible hustle, a fantastic nose for the ball, and the smarts and intensity to overcome any obstacle in his way. He even surprised by taking and hitting a couple of mid-range shots, and then a 3 pointer out of nowhere that actually looked kind of natural for him. Guys like Udonis Haslem and Reggie Evans were similarly overlooked and discarded coming out of college, they are both on their way to big paydays that will likely set them up for life. Can McFarlin do the same? 34 points (16-23 FG) and 11 rebounds on the final day was a great way for him to go out.

Will Conroy, Washington

Conroy was very steady in the first two games, playing mature and under control while doing all the right things, but today, he absolutely exploded. He tied the all-time record for assists (set in 1990 by Bennie Seltzer) in one game with 16, but by my count he may have been robbed of as many as 5 dimes just in the first half. Regardless, Conroy did everything humanly possible to help himself out today, playing basically a flawless game for his 21 minutes on the floor. The 16 assists don't tell the whole story, he had only one turnover to go along with that, basically giving his team a basket (and himself an assist) on almost every possession he played. He controlled the tempo of the game wonderfully, making great decisions on the break and always using the threat of scoring himself to keep the defense honest. He basically showed off everything a PG can in a game like this; executing the pick and roll to perfection, getting in the lane and kicking out on the drive and dish, a fantastic backdoor pass to a cutting big man, sharing the wealth to put the ball just where his shooters want itin terms of running an offense there isn't much that Conroy can't do. He's not really a flashy guy, nothing that he does really wows you that much, he's just solid as a rock and gets the job done perfectly every time. In addition to his PG skills he showed off a few other things; including the toughness to get in the lane and finish strong after taking a big hit, terrific defense to give his PG matchup hell, whether its by picking his pocket and igniting the break, getting in the passing lane and then finding the big man running the floor, or coming up with an athletic block on transition.

Quotes from after the game

Jonathan Givony: DAMN Will, you played great. What in the world happened out there?

Will Conroy: ManI was watching some of the guards out here in the other games. They think you have to be effective by scoring the ball, they don't get that you aren't going to be scoring on an NBA team like that, if we get in we're going to be role players for our first couple of years. So I came out here and I pushed the ball, pushed the tempo, and I got my guys some open looks (laughs).

Jonathan Givony: You sure as hell didI don't know how many assists they gave you, I still haven't seen the boxscore yet, but I saw that in the first half they gave you 7, I thought you had at least 10 and probably more like 12. Do you know how many you ended up with officially?

Will Conroy: I have my AAU coach here and he was counting all my stats. He had me for 14 in the first half and then 9 in the 2nd. So that's 23 by our count.

Jonathan Givony: I don't care whatever they marked you down with [Will: 16], you had an almost completely flawless game. To go along with those 20 assists or whatever I think you only had one turnover, that's pretty impressive at a scrappy camp like this where no one really knows each other and the game is basically up-tempo all the way through.

You and Jason [Maxiell] seemed to have some pretty good chemistry going on. Is that something you guys talked about beforehand, or did it just happen out on the court?

Will Conroy: It's easy with him and McFarlin, they come down the court so quick and I just need to put the ball in their hands. In the NBA game in the on-ball situation, if a guard is too close I'll ask for the pick and then I'll swing and either kick for the jump shot or bounce it to Max for the dunk.

Jonathan Givony: Well obviously that screen and roll was working today. They just couldn't stop it. Thanks a lot for your time.

Will Conroy: Not a problem Jonathan.

Jawad Williams, North Carolina

On the losing end was Jawad Williams, who started the game off miserably, went scoreless for the first 30 minutes, and then somehow managed to score 17 points in the last 10 minutes. Much like in the first game, Jawad went into his shell after things weren't going for him early on. A couple of good shots rimmed out for him, the three ball wasn't falling, all of a sudden he had an airball, and then it was if he was absolutely invisible until the game was basically done. Then a strange thing happened, after sitting out the first 7 minutes of the first half he came back in and then after feeling things out a bit started looking for his shot again. His first field goal of the game came off a monster put-back dunk and that was the spark that got him going. He started scoring around the rim a couple of times with some aggressive moves, and then moved his game outside to show off his jumper and spin moves. A sweet alley-oop finish of a TJ Sorrentine pass completed 17 points for him on the game, and basically salvaged this camp as a wash as far as he should be concerned.

Quotes from after the game

Jonathan Givony: Hey Jawad. You started off the game pretty slow today. 0-5 in the first half, no points in the first 29 minutes. But then you started rebounding a little, making some aggressive moves to the basket, everything seemed to open up for you and you finished pretty strong. What happened for you to go from playing so bad and then all of a sudden looking great?

Jawad Williams: It was all about me keeping my confidence really. I knew that even though my shot wasn't falling it eventually would. My team was down, and even though we were losing we decided that we were going to go down fighting.

Jonathan Givony: How would you grade your overall performance at Portsmouth?

Jawad Williams: To me its not about my individual performance, its about the way my team played. We lost, so I give myself a C.

Jonathan Givony: Would you agree that your team wasn't as talented as some of the others, and since you're kind of a versatile role playing guy who does a lot of everything—rebounding, blocking shots, passing, playing great D, hitting the open shots, scoring inside, etc

Jawad Williams: I'm not going to say that. I'm not going to knock anyone else out there. No matter who my teammates are, I'm going to do whatever I can to win my games. I probably should have been knocking down more of my shots.

Jonathan Givony: Do you think you should have done a little bit more in terms of demanding the ball and taking more on yourself?

Jawad Williams: I feel that, I feel that. And now I realize that maybe I should have. Maybe that would have changed the outcome of the game.

Jonathan Givony: Looking at the rosters, you are clearly the biggest name here. Now a lot of guys who definitely aren't as good as you decided to pull out, but you still came and maybe it didn't turn out the way that some people expected it would. In hindsight, how do you feel about that now?

Jawad Williams: I'll play against anybody, I'm not going to duck out just because some other players did. I told them I would come here early on, and I was going to stand by my word. I'm a man of my word. I wasn't going to screw them over by not showing up. I wanted to make sure I go Chicago.

Jonathan Givony: Well I'm sure you're going to be invited to Chicago based on your career at UNC.

Jawad Williams: I hope so

Jonathan Givony: Was it hard coming off a national championship straight to fighting to continue your professional career?

Jawad Williams: No. If you love the game of basketball you can always come out and play your best no matter what the circumstances are.

Jonathan Givony: You proud of the way Jackie [Manuel] played? I'm not sure a lot of people knew he had that in him from what he showed at UNC.

Jawad Williams: Absolutely. Jackie just showed what he is capable of. Playing at Carolina he went up against a lot of great players, and obviously that helped him out a lot. Once he got the chance to showcase his skills you guys all saw exactly what he is capable of doing. It didn't surprise me. In terms of athletes he is right up there with Vince Carter, Jerry Stackhouse, guys like that.

Jonathan Givony: He was amazing indeed. I didn't know he could fly like that. I just didn't see that at UNC.

Jawad Williams: I'm sure there's a lot of things you don't know about a lot of players on our team. We play team first, and that's why we win. In the NBA and games like this we'll be able to show off all the other things we can do.

Jonathan Givony: Have you talked to Felton and Marvin Williams lately? Any idea what's going to happen with them in terms of the NBA draft?

Jawad Williams: I talk to them a lot. I'm not really sure what they are going to do. They might have a press conference in the next couple of days

Jonathan Givony: Sounds good Jawad. Thanks for your time.

The second game pitted Norfolk Naval Shipyard and Norfolk Sports Club. This was probably the best game of the tournament so far, featuring great offensive weapons like Taylor Coppenrath (who did not really stand out and had a similar game to the one he had yesterday), Omar Thomas (hit the game winning basket to finish with 15 points) and some excellent defensive players as well like Aaron Miles and Willie Jenkins. The high flying Mindaugas Katelynas and Jeremiah Massey ensured that there was never a dull moment.

Willie Jenkins, Tennessee Tech

One of the nicest surprises of the tournament. Jenkins might be one of the only SG's here that aren't undersized (he's 6-6 and has a great body), can really shoot and plays very good defense on top of that. He was handling the ball an awful lot today, and he looked fine doing so, usually making good decisions and opening things up for his teammates. His game is still a little rough around the edges, he's probably used to scoring almost whenever he pleases in the Ohio Valley Conference, but he adapted himself quite well. He's a physical player that doesn't back down from anyone, he drived fearlessly to the hoop a number of times and drew defenders before kicking it out to the open man. When he tried to finish himself he got into a bit of trouble, though, as he doesn't quite have the athletic ability needed to finish amongst the trees. In warm-ups and the game itself he showed off a very nice stroke, which is obviously a huge plus considering the position he'll be playing. His game doesn't really scream out to you at first, but after you watch him closely for a bit you notice that he's a very solid all around player that does a bit of everything. He played excellent defense on the very athletic Omar Thomas as well. He had some tough shots rim out for him, but all in all he helped himself big time with the way he played here at Portsmouth and definitely showed that he belonged even though he was a last minute invite to the camp. He could be an interesting guy to invite to Chicago, it would be nice to see him beat people up a little and then step out and knock down the three. What's even better about him is that he's not a selfish player, he could make some noise if he falls on the right team.

Mindaugas Katelynas, UT-Chattanooga

Katelynas didn't have a great game shooting wise, but other than that he did not do much to change the opinion most people here in the gym have about him: he's a freak athlete with a perfect body for an NBA SF and he has an incredible upside. He showed that right off the bat by winning the opening tip and showing off his pogo stick once again. His handle looked decent once again, but still in need of refinement. A nice move he had was dribbling the ball confidently form the perimeter and pulling up for a jump shot which he nailed from about 17 feet out. A breakaway double clutch reverse slam and a couple of very well timed rejections from the weakside introduced himself nicely to the new enthusiastic crowd that was not familiar with him before. He was very active on the glass and did a good making his presence felt even when his jumper wasn't falling. After the last day I still consider him to be the most intriguing prospect at this camp by far when it comes to pure potential.

Aaron Miles, Kansas

There were some sarcastic comments made in the gym before this game about certain people who wrote that Miles did not have a good outing in his first game (when they won by 30+), because he did not score and only dominated the game completely by controlling the tempo, running his team to perfection and locking up his man. Some were wondering if people were paying attention to anything besides the boxscore. Needless to say, Miles heard the criticism and decided to turn it up a notch in his last game, finishing the game with a double-double (10 points, 13 assists). He got going early by hitting a 3 pointer, and once he made sure to get all his teammates involved in the offense proceeded to show how off how well he can get into the lane. He got to the basket a number of times and either found the open man for the easy two, finished the play himself, or got fouled and went to the line. His defense was superb as usual, no surprise here, except that this time he showed that he can defend both the 1 and the 2. Miles also was awarded the tournament's best sportsmanship trophy (although he wasn't there) at the awards ceremony at the end. He most definitely earned himself a spot in Chicago with the way he played, if he hadn't already with the outstanding season he had.

The championship game was also well played. It was tied for most of the way and there must have been two dozen or more lead changes throughout the game. Jared Homan had a bit of a quiet game, but still managed to finish with 11 points and 9 rebounds. Holiday Inn Portsmouth struggled at times because they had 3 players on the roster (Darren Brooks, David Logan, Fili Rivera) who all needed to show the scouts that they can play the point in the NBA, and what ended up happening is that none of them did, although Rivera definitely came the closest. David Lucas from Oregon State looked like Chuck Hayes' twin out there with the way he was scoring around the basket and hitting the offensive glass. Quemont Greer finally had a good day shooting the ball, but I don't think anyone that actually watched the 3 games here (at least from the people I talked to) instead of just looking through the boxscores thought he had an impressive tournament.

The most intriguing prospect on the floor, potential wise, might be Mike Bell from FAU. He was playing with a broken bone in his foot for the 3 games here, but still managed to piece together a very nice highlight reel with some of the things he showed here, especially today. He's a long, lean and very athletic 6-9 combo forward who can play both in the paint and on the perimeter. If he's going to get drafted (probably a long shot unless he gets invited to Chicago and shows something) its going to be because teams think he can play the 3 for them, kind of like James Jones (Indiana) or Tim Thomas do for New York. He showed a pretty nice all around game; decent ball-handling skills, a sweet stroke from outside and really nice range. What made him stand out was a great vertical leap to get up and snatch rebounds away from 7 footers with that great wingspan, along with some nice passing ability and just a good court demeanor to get everyone involved.

On the winning team, it was nice to see David Simon from IPFW finally have a good game. He looked very aggressive for every minute he was out there on the court, something that is an absolute must for him. He was taking the 16 foot jump shot that the other team was giving him, and even trying to put the ball on the floor a bit, although without much success. Most of the good work he did came when he was playing like a Center. He has a nice hook shot, excellent hands, he can block shots and finish strong around the basket when he wants to. He's a very old school big man, fundamentally sound and pretty talented. He was backing down his man and scoring quite a bit in the paint when he was getting the ball. This was the way he was playing last year in Chicago at times, and he drew praise from a lot of people for it before he ended up tearing his ACL in the last game.

Another player who came to life in the final game was Doron Perkins from Santa Clara. In terms of the body, defense, wingspan and athletic ability, no one tops this kid here at Portsmouth. The problem is that the rest of his game is very raw at the moment, so he probably doesn't have much of a shot unless someone decides to take him on as a project player. His PG skills are not very good right now, and his outside shot is very streaky. He's a tough player that doesn't mind contact and is willing to step in and take a charge if needed. He's extremely active and doesn't appear to ever tire as he is constantly in motion trying to wreak havoc. Because of his outstanding first step he got into the lane plenty tonight and finished strong because of his strength and terrific vertical leap. Regardless of what happens in the draft, teams will have to keep track on this kid and see how his PG skills are coming along.

The MVP of the tournament ended up being Chuck Hayes from Kentucky. The MVP is always taken from the team that wins the championship, and there was no doubt that Hayes earned it with the way he played and what he meant for his team. His outstanding passing ability really set the tone and made some of his teammates look quite a bit better than they actually are. He was rebounding like a madman and creating points out of absolutely nothing with his work on the offensive glass. He showed off some nice ball-handling skills over the past few days, and hit the outside jumper when it was there for him, two things we talked about that he said he wanted to show. He went scoreless in the first half today, but then came back with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in the final 20 minutes of the tournament. If I was an NBA GM I would take him with the #61 pick of the draft without a doubt, meaning that as soon as the draft is over he would be the first one I called to bring in for summer league. He's just too good of a player and person not to want on your team. As this tournament showed once again, all this guy does is win.

If you would like to watch and judge for yourself who the most impressive players were at the Portsmouth invitational tournament, go to They have all the games online for viewing. The quality of this service is outstanding, you get a crystal clear picture from the best angle possible. These are the same DVD's that NBA teams will be watching when they sit down to evaluate the tournament. There are also many other games online to view, including Martell Webster, Andray Blatche and many others. We'll be using this service extensively in the next couple of months as well, as they are constantly adding games to their database.

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