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May 27, 2008

TOC top performers

MORE: TOC: Sunday action | TOC: Saturday action | Rivals.com Hoops Tour

What a weekend of basketball it was in North Carolina. The star power shined through at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions and the top players in the event lived up to their billing at this year's loaded event.

These seven players stood out in the class of 2009.

Tournament of Champions Top Performers
Derrick Favors, PF/C, Atlanta Celtics
TOC stats: 19.7 points per game (18th in the tournament)

It was just a matter of time before Favors and the Celtics would show their immense potential. Winning this year's loaded Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions was a good time to play up to the expectations.

Favors has always been compared to former Celtic and Atlanta native Dwight Howard and for the first time this spring, the South Atlanta High School prospect looked like the NBA star from start to finish. His offensive work in the paint was eerily similar but when he stepped out to the high post as a jump shooter, Favors displayed an edge in this category at the same stage of the game.

Defensively, Favors is a menace around the basket and made it just as difficult for teams to score on him as it was easy for him to put points on the board.

The 6-foot-9 big man put on a show in the title game, scoring at will in the paint, owning the glass and blocking a number of shots down the stretch. Tournament officials ranked his performance in the title game amongst the great ones that have played at the Dean E. Smith Center if that is any indication of his impact in Chapel Hill over the weekend.

John Wall, PG, D-One Sports
TOC stats: 24 points per game (5th in the tournament)

It shouldn't come as a big surprise that Wall, the new No. 1 player in the nation, makes the list after his weekend. His play was inspired.

Speed is his strength and that has been well-documented over the last year. But what about his passing? Wall is the most skilled passing point guard in his class. His work against Indiana Elite was superb and NBA-like.

If there is still any question about his ability to win games, Wall is trying to tackle that responsibility by making big plays down the stretch. He hit some key free throws and had a big block in the clutch against the Nashville Celtics on Saturday night to advance in the tournament.

Defense will be an area for improvement for the No. 1 player in the nation this summer and he is already showing some flashes of improvement in that area. Wall's length and athleticism shined through as a shot-blocker when his man got to the rim and even on the help side. Now his attention should be shifted to stopping his man from getting to the rim.

Ryan Kelly, PF, D-One Sports
TOC stats: 20.6 points per game (14th in the tournament)

Kelly's offensive repertoire is about as good as you'll find in the deep power forward pool in 2009. He showed off nearly all of his tricks over the weekend. The 6-foot-9 forward is just as good of a perimeter scorer as he is a post scorer.

His dribble, pivot and fadeaway move from three over the out-stretched arms of the 6-foot-10 Mason Plumlee on Sunday morning was one of the best basketball moves of the spring.

His chemistry with Wall is fun to watch. The two are always on the same page and work like they are college senior teammates. Kelly is good to begin with and is made great thanks to Wall. The same could be said with the point guard. While it probably won't happen, a college would be smart to try and land both players. The combination could result in a busy late March/early April for that particular program.

Kenny Boynton, SG, Team Breakdown
TOC stats: 25.3 points per game (3rd in the tournament)

What else can be written about the five-star guard from Florida? Boynton continues his torrid spring, scoring at will, winning games and racing to the airport on Sunday afternoons because his team continues to play for championships.

Boynton scored like he always does from three, from the foul line and at the rim. The 6-foot-2 guard hit 24 three-pointers in a six game stretch, made 28 free throws and hit 26 two-point field goals over a six game stretch.

His scoring prowess was one of the top stories of the spring. It will be fun to see him get after it this summer in the individual camps where the talent is the best of the best. Expect more fireworks this summer from him. He's not slowing down anytime soon.

Mason Plumlee, PF, Indiana Elite
TOC stats: 17.4 points per game (41st in the tournament)

The 6-foot-10 forward looked comfortable playing at Cameron Indoor Stadium, his future home for college. The big man worked the paint well.

He went to work against Kelly in the playoffs and carried Indiana Elite One to the next round of the playoffs. He scored three consecutive and-one baskets and made sure his club was keeping their jerseys on their backs instead of being packed away for the trip home.

A game later against Derrick Favors, Plumlee struggled against the tournament's MVP. To be fair, everyone struggled against Favors last weekend. Nevertheless, Plumlee was good when it mattered before running into the buzzsaw that Favors was.

Plumlee is a rare player in his class because of his overall skill set, size and versatility at the position. It's easy to see why there was such a big race for Plumlee before he pledged to the Blue Devils.

Dominic Cheek, SG, Playaz
TOC stats: 19.6 points per game (21st in the tournament)

Cheek led the event last year in scoring at the 16 and under division and while he didn't get back to that top spot in the tournament in 2008, he was just as impressive. Watching the 6-foot-6 shooting guard stroke it from the wing is a thing of beauty. Cheek owns one of the prettiest shots in the nation.

His improvement in the midrange is a scary revelation for the rest of the country. The five-star guard is already hard enough to defend. Now he's finding even more ways to put the ball in the hole.

We weren't there, but apparently his matchup against Kenny Boynton at Duke was about as good as it gets. Cheek put in 27 while Boynton went over 30.

Terrell Vinson, SF, W.P.C. Elite
TOC stats: 22 points per game (9th in the tournament)

If there is any question about Vinson's ability to play on the wing full-time, he did a good job of answering that on the first night of the tournament. Vinson scored 29 points on 11 of 15 shooting from the floor and hit three three-pointers in the process against a tough, defensive-minded Juice team.

Vinson knew when to stop-and-pop with his perimeter shot or when to attack the basket with the dribble or expose a mismatch on the blocks.

While James Padgett of Juice was the big story of the game, Vinson was the best player in all facets in a tough loss. He's still in need of some work with his quickness, particularly on the defensive end, but overall his efforts were stellar on opening night.

MORE: TOC: Sunday action | TOC: Saturday action | Rivals.com Hoops Tour



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