Coaches look for talent, players make impression in Capital City tournament
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Every one of the coaches who entered their teams to compete in the recent Capital City Classic high school basketball tournament did so with pretty much the same sense of purpose.
Each man took the two-day holiday event at TCC’s Eagledome as an opportunity to assess their teams before they begin their respective district play.
Meanwhile, their players used the competition as their showcase in front a handful of college scouts who were looking for future talent. Six players from Rickards High School were hoping they made an impression.
But Raiders’ coach Eli Bryant, one of seven area coaches who had their teams in the competition, didn’t want to get too caught up just yet in what the tournament meant for his players’ future.
He seemed more focused on making sure he built a team that would get him back to the 5A state final for a second consecutive year.
“I’m trying to find eight kids that can play and see them under different circumstance,” said Bryant. “Ultimately you want to win the games, but I might give a kid five or six minutes (on the floor). Maybe I shouldn’t give him five or six minutes, but I get to see where he is mentally and physically and how he can help us down the line.”
In the end, Bryant didn’t seem to have too much to worry about. His Raiders easily handled Plant City 65-40, then rallied from a double-digit deficit before falling 50-45 to Norcross (Ga.) High School.
Like Bryant, Billy Teeden bought his team from Plant City to assess his players. As the first-year coach of a program that won just two games last season, Teeden, said he saw plenty that impressed him.
Especially after seeing how Plant City hung with a state top-30 program. The Raiders didn’t put away Plant City until they put together a 15-5 run in the second half.
“For half of a basketball game were right there with a state-rated team,” Teeden said. “They realize what it takes to get over. We are not going to see a team like that in our district so we can take that away.”
Norcross, which featured two projected Division I recruits in 6-foot-9 Lance Thomas and 6-foot-8 Rayshaun Hammonds, was the most dominating team in the tournament.
The presence of Hammonds and Thomas is proof that the event is essential to the exposure of high school talent, said Al Lawson, chairman and founder of the Classic. He started the event in 1979 as a competition for college teams, but switched to high schools six years later.
It has since become a nationally recognized event.
“Our tournament is recognized in Street and Smith, (magazine)” Lawson said. “When the season is over, a lot of college coaches know about them.”
“Every game helps my stock,” said Rickards’ 6-foot-4 small forward Cameron Enzor. “Every game.”
Scouts don’t just look for players who could score and take down rebounds. Maurice Howard seemingly knows that much. Howard, a Rickards point guard who was named player of the year in the Big Bend last season, said coaches often opt for the unselfish players with talent.
He had all that on display during the Classic.
“I try to get my teammates involved and see how they are going for the night, then I try to get mines,” Howard said. “If they fall down I help them up and if they take a charge I help them up; just being a team player.”