Unfortunately I was not able to scout any Badger prospects in person this past high school season, so when I heard the Wisconsin State AAU Tournament was going to be held in Stoughton, I knew I had to check it out.
So I traveled down to the Impact Sports Enhancement Academy on Saturday to take in a few games. Unfortunately a couple of teams did not show up for the event, leading to some of forfeits. Despite the cancellation of a few games, I was still able to see one each for the likes of Vander Blue, J.P. Tokoto, Wally Ellenson, Marquis Mason, Chip Rank, Kyle Kelm, Nimrod Hilliard and Jamar "Popcorn" Morris.
Outside of Blue and Mason, I had never seen any of these guys play live before. Needless to say, watching Tokoto was my main objective.
However, the first game I caught was in the 17U division, between Blue's Madison Spartans and the Wisconsin Force. Unlike the Spiece tourney last week or day 1 in Stoughton, Blue did not quite have his touch this time. He struggled from the field and subsequently, the Spartans lost by a few points to the Force, led by Josh Cameron and Sam Gage. But Blue continues to have his way getting to the basket at this level and had quite a few free throw attempts down the stretch. The Badger commit also tried a ridiculous dunk over his defender from outside the free throw lane on the baseline -- the gym would have erupted if it had stayed down. He still got the star treatment afterwards with a Channel 3 interview.
Playing on the court next to Blue around noon was the stacked Wisconsin Swing-Selk team, who completely ran away from the Wisconsin Blaze. I was pretty impressed by Chip Rank. He slammed the boards (knew how to box out well) and played with intensity all game long. His handle and shot were decent too. Mason's footwork inside stood out to me. Pretty nimble guy that should make a good receiver for the football team. He was the one guy I saw who able to actually put down his dunks, although he seemed a little lazy when it came to getting rebounding position.
Sadly, nothing Kelm did shouted "prime-time player" to me. He seemed more fatigued than others (didn't get the ball over the rim on a dunk) and just hung out by the 3-point line all game long.
Madison East's Hilliard found his rhythm behind the arc in the second half to fuel a big comeback for the 16U Madison Spartans against the Wisconsin Playmakers club. Miles Chamberlain's bucket at the buzzer gave the Spartans the win after being down as many as 16 points. Hilliard was fun to watch, very smooth.
After that I caught the first half of the 15U Wisconsin Force against one of the Wisconsin Swing teams. Junior Lomomba was not playing for some reason and was hanging out with the Madison Spartan kids. That left Popcorn Morris to handle business for the Force. He reminded me a bit of Flavien Davis -- 6'4" or 6'5", can lead a fast break, do work under the basket and get up for alley oops. I wanted to watch more, but the 15U Wisconsin Playground Warriors finally were ready to tip off.
Like Blue, Tokoto did not set the world on fire with his shooting touch, but he did get a few more buckets to drop in the second half as the Warriors kept the pesky Northwest WI All-Stars at bay. It must be hard to judge Tokoto when he plays down at this level because he is so much bigger and more athletic than any of the opposing players. He played up a lot in the full-court pressure the Warriors played and made several hustle plays that coaches love.
I tried to take a couple of videos with a weak Canon PowerShot, but they leave a lot to be desired. The first one shows Tokoto (#24) posting up and the second, blurry one shows him skying to retrieve what looked like an alley oop pass gone awry.
Ellenson was an interesting player to watch. He was quick enough to take any defender to the rack. Even though he was predictable in that way, his strength and aggressiveness earned him at least 10-12 points on those drives alone.
- There will be a rule change in 2009-10 regarding taking charges while under the basket -- it is now a blocking foul every time. There are a couple other rule tweaks and points of emphasis too.
- The Daily Cardinal checks in with Rashard Griffith.
- Many of Wisconsin's recruits and/or recruiting targets played well in last weekend's big Spiece AAU tournament (ie: Bill Hensley Memorial Run 'N Slam) in Indiana, including Blue, Tokoto, Evan Anderson, Chasson Randle, Nnana Egwu, Jacob Williams and J.D. Weatherspoon.