Southern Invitational Wrap-Up

Though the 2003 version of the Southern Invitational tournament was not as talent-laden as in past years, there were still some very talented prospects on hand. The tourney was just a taste of what the 2004 class has to offer, according to recruiting analyst Dave Telep.

“The field here is a little diluted,” said Telep. “The 2004 class, however, is light years ahead of the 2003 class. It is deeper at virtually every position, especially with the big men. It’s very deep.”

The Invitational concluded on Sunday, May 12, with the Playaz team from New Jersey taking home the title, defeating the North Carolina Gaters 79-51 in the championship game. was there to check out Saturday’s action, where teams squared off in Pool competition to see who would advance to Sunday’s championship tournament.

Sean Singletary

The Playaz, Boo Williams, and the Gaters were two teams we focused on, as each featured top prospects being recruited by the University of Virginia. In fact, we arrived at 9:00 am Saturday morning, just in time to see the Playaz team face the Pennsylvania Red Storm. UVa is actively recruiting Playaz 5-11, 165 pound point man Sean Singletary , who plays for William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, PA. Singletary did not have his best stuff during the blowout victory.

“I didn’t play well at all,” said Singletary. “I started off slow and missed a lot of shots. I got the ball to my teammates a little but I also had a few turnovers.”

Singletary did show excellent vision at times, threading the needle on a couple of occasions for very nice passes. Despite his performance, Singletary was happy with his team’s chemistry and was happy to come away with a win.

“The team’s coming together pretty well,” said Singletary. “We haven’t had a full team in like three or four weeks, and we lost our last two big tournaments, but we all played together and the chemistry is good.”

Two games later, during the 6:30 contest versus Virginia Pride, it appeared Singletary had gotten the rest he needed. In another blowout victory, Singletary scored nine points, dished out one assist and had one steal in only nine minutes of play. He was out for most of the game with what appeared to be a sore shoulder, but played very well in his limited time.

Singletary has great vision, plays good, hard defense, and has a good looking stroke on his shot. He plays very calm and composed, and looks almost too calm at times. He has narrowed his list of schools to six – Virginia, Rutgers, Kansas, Ohio State, Indiana, and NC State, all of which have offered. Singletary hopes to make a fall decision.

The Playaz also feature several other top prospects, most notably JR Smith of St. Benedict Prep. The 6-4, 210 pound Smith can play either small forward or shooting guard. Smith competes hard in each and every game, playing tough defense, rebounding, and distributing the ball to his teammates.

In the Playaz third Saturday game, Smith showed off his explosive leaping ability, throwing down several nasty dunks on fast break opportunities against the Virginia Pride. Smith looks like he is in cruise control as he has excellent body control, but all of the sudden he flies through the air for a thunderous jam or a devastating block. The only knock on Smith’s game may be his shot. While he is a good shooter, he is not a pure shooter and can be inconsistent at times. Schools on his short list include Louisville (offer), UNC, Duke, UConn, NC State, and Pittsburgh.

Marquie Cooke

Boo Williams faced off against the DC Hawks in what would be one of the day’s top games. This game was our first chance to see Nansemond River standout Marquie Cooke , one of the nation’s top point guard prospects. His team fell short 76-72 in overtime, after storming back from a nine point half-time deficit to take a late second half lead. Cooke committed several turnovers in the second half and never really seemed to get in a good rhythm, thanks to a swarming DC Hawks defense led by Bishop O’Connell small forward Ernest Lomax.

One surprising standout for Boo Williams was Great Bridge (Chesapeake, VA) small forward Brian Gilmore . Gilmore, who is a 6-7, 220 pounds, has a good shot and good basketball savvy. His shot was off during the first half. Never short of confidence, he continued to shoot and regained his touch in the second half, scoring 11 points in helping Boo Williams make its comeback.

The 3:00 pm contest versus Lynchburg Hoops would turn out decidedly better for the Boo Williams squad. Cooke led his team to a blowout victory, scoring around 25 points and playing virtually the entire game. The 6-3, 175 pound Cooke showed why he is one of the most physically strong point guards in the country. On one occasion, Cooke drove the lane, and just as he left the ground, was fouled. Despite the hack, he continued to rise to the basket for a one-handed jam.

Extremely versatile, Cooke averaged 24.5 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, and four steals per game for Nansemond River High School as a junior. He can back down smaller guards and drive through heavy traffic in order to get to the basketball. He showed nice outside touch in the game versus the Hoops, draining a couple of threes. Cooke also made several very nice passes in the open court.

Overall, Cooke felt decent about his play over the weekend.

“I’ve played alright throughout the weekend,” said Cooke. “We haven’t played the best competition, and we beat ourselves in the game we lost. We can’t blame anyone but ourselves.”

Earlier this year, Cooke scored an 1,140 on his SAT’s. He currently possesses a 2.5 grade point average, which makes him easily qualified for NCAA freshman eligibility. He lists quite a few favorites.

“I like the Florida schools (FSU, Florida), Virginia, NC State, UNC Charlotte, Virginia Tech, Michigan State…the list just keeps going,” said Cooke.

Cooke has received offers from Florida State, NC State, and Virginia thus far, but says he will wait until spring to make a decision.

James Mays

Two of Virginia’s potential targets played for the North Carolina Gaters, including 6-8, 195 pound James Mays and 6-3, 180 pound Mack Montgomery. Mays plays for Garner High School in Garner, NC, while Montgomery plays for Clayton High School in Clayton, NC. One way to think of James Mays would be as a taller, stronger version of Adam Hall.

In the Gaters 1:45 pm contest versus the Richmond Squires, Mays was bouncing around, blocking shots and getting rebounds. He tends to play on the outside a little too much, and may be better served playing a little more on the blocks. Mays wants to play small forward in college, however, he knows he needs to improve his shot in order to accomplish his goal.

“I want to play small forward when I get to college,” said Mays. “I know I have a lot of work to do, so that’s basically what I’m trying to do this summer.”

Mays does possess surprisingly good ball handling ability along with his great instincts on defense. Though he had only seven points in the Gaters’ 50-49 victory over the Richmond Squires, he had at least three blocks and consistently pushed the ball up the court. He would often snatch a rebound and immediately push the ball, hoping for a fast break opportunity.

As his shot gets better and better, the phenomenally athletic Mays will certainly garner more scholarship offers. He hopes to decide by the fall signing period, and right now is considering a list of six schools.

“I like Maryland, NC State, University of Virginia, VCU, South Carolina, and Connecticut,” said Mays, who has an offer on the table from South Carolina. “I’ll probably decide in the fall.”