In a game decided early by the deadly outside shooting of CAL commit Jemarl Baker, Earl Watson Elite (Calif.) captured the Las Vegas Fab 48 17U Invitational title over fellow California program Splash City. Seattle Rotary (Bigfoot Hoops Las Vegas Classic) and undefeated Mass Rivals (adidas Summer Championships) also won major 17U grassroots titles in Las Vegas during the final July NCAA recruiting period.
Earl Watson Elite was facing a familiar foe in the title game of the Las Vegas Fab 48 17U Invitational Division in Splash City. Both California-based grassroots programs competed on the Under Armour Association (UAA) Circuit and were hungry to win a major Las Vegas title after coming up just a bit short in the UAA finals during the second live NCAA evaluation period earlier this month.
Earl Watson Elite was missing power forward Ira Lee (who spent his junior season at Prolific Prep in Northern California), while Splash City was missing its floor general Damari Milstead, who will be a senior at Moreau Catholic (Hayward, Calif.) in the fall. While EWE missed Lee's rebounding and intensity, it got off to a hot shooting start and without Milstead's scoring and setups, Splash City wasn't able to overcome the early offensive onslaught as Ryan Silver's program captured the title with a 65-50 victory.
Doing most of the early damage for EWE (which also beat Splash City during FAB 48 pool play 68-63) was 6-foot-4 shooting guard Jemarl Baker (Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif.), who set the tone by nailing four 3-pointers. Baker hit two right away to give his team a 14-5 lead and his third made it 21-5, as the program named after the current Phoenix Suns Head Coach (the former NBA point guard was a classmate of Silver at UCLA) was well on its way to victory.
Splash City, which made the UAA final and is coached by Jules Milstead (Damari's father), made it more competitive by the end of the first half, trailing 40-24, but just couldn't get the offensive run it needed to get back in the game.
"The reason we won is we came together as a team and started playing for each other," said Baker, a CAL commit who finished the title game with 20 points and was named FAB 48 MVP. "Not worrying about individual play or anything else, that the was difference. At the start of summer, I set out a goal to compete against the best to prove I was one of the best guards in the country."
EWE also got excellent scoring all tournament from guard Reed Farley, a 2017 prospect out of La Jolla High who is an excellent student and is starting to get serious D1 interest. He finished with 14 points, including four 3-pointers. Zafir Williams (Poly, Long Beach, Calif.) and Adrease Jackson (Santa Margarita, Calif.), a pair of 2017 forwards, did the dirty work inside and combined for 18 points.
Six-foot-3 2017 guard Jad'e Smith (St. Joseph, Alameda, Calif.) led Splash City with 12 points. The program also got excellent play from 2016 forward Chris Seeley (Central, Fresno, Calif.) throughout the event, but he finished the title game with six points. Seeley saw his recruitment take off after he qualified academically with some excellent performances during the July live period and one EWE player was extremely happy to see that. Baker was teammates with Seeley two years ago at Roosevelt (Eastvale, Calif.) before the bouncy wing moved back to Fresno.
"Chris got much better," Baker said. "I always knew he was going to get better."
Splash City defeated Each 1 Teach 1 in the semifinals by two points (62-60) after defeating Big Red 76-61 in the quarterfinals. Big Red, made up of players from Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.), advanced after it lost on the court in the round of 16 to UAA champion We R 1, 88-83, because that Delaware-based program had to catch an early Sunday flight. Milstead had 18 points in Splash City's UAA title game loss to We R 1, and it could have used some of that scoring in the Fab 48 title game.
EWE defeated Splash City during Fab 48 pool play, 68-63, in a game Baker had 26, with Milstead going for 25.
EWE defeated the Florida Vipers in its semifinal contest, 71-61, as Baker nailed four 3-pointers and finished with 22 points. He made five 3-pointers and finished with 18 points in the 79- 60 quarterfinal win over the OSA Crusaders.
Adidas Uprising Summer Championships: Mass Rivals Wins 17U Title To Cap 21-0 Summer
The team concept always defeats individual play and while there is general complaints about a lack of quality coaching in grassroots basketball, Mass Rivals is exhibit A why that is simply not true. Vincent Pastore’s outfit captured the major adidas 17U division title with a 93-78 victory over North Carolina-based Garner Road. With its nationally-televised win, Mass Rivals finished as the team of the summer with an unblemished record behind its magnificent backcourt play and stellar defense.
Wabissa Bede, a 6-foot 2017 point guard out of Cushing Academy (Ashburnham, Mass.), is unsung nationally but results speak for themselves, as he finished the title game with 17 points, including three 3-pointers, six rebounds and five assists. Four players finished in double figures for Mass Rivals, including Bede's backcourt mate Makai Ashton-Langford. The 6-foot-2 2017 Cushing Academy standout had 14 points for a team that also captured the adidas Uprising Creators Cup, a mini-tournament within the Summer Championships created for the event's best 17U programs.
In Sunday morning's semifinals, Mass Rivals defeated Team Loaded VA, 64-51, as Bebe (12) and Langford (11) combined for 23 points in a balanced attack. It also was a revenge win of sorts as Team Loaded VA defeated Mass Rivals by two points in the 2015 final of the same event. In seven games this week in Las Vegas, Bebe averaged 13.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, and 4.0 apg, while Langford averaged 11.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, and 2.9 apg. Mass Rivals defeated D-I Minnesota in the Creator's Cup final, 67-61, as Bebe averaged 17.0 ppg in the three victories.
Garner Road, which defeated Juice All-Stars (N.Y.) in the 82-74 semifinals, was led in the 17U title game by 6-foot-1 2017 point guard Thomas Allen (Brewster Academy, Wolfeboro, N.H.) and 5-foot-11 2017 guard Jordan Ratliffe (Village Christian Academy, Fayetteville, N.C.). Both netted 18 points in a losing effort.
Las Vegas Classic: Seattle Rotary Guts It Out
To win one of the major Las Vegas Tournament to close the summer viewing period used to be the most prestigious resume-builder of the summer, but that is simply no longer the case. With USA Basketball commitments, shoe-company driven circuits and non-viewing events taking place seemingly every weekend, plenty of elite players view Vegas as they would any other event.
Some of the nation's elite players were in Chile for the FIBA Americas U18 Championships and some simply chose not to play, or played one game during the week only to sit out the next to the distain of the college coaches in attendance. It made for lackluster play at times, but also gave lesser-known players the opportunity to shine on a big stage.
With that in mind, Seattle Rotary's roster stepped up its game to capture the 17U Platinum Elite Championship after its two star guards from Garfield (Seattle), Jaylen Nowell and Daejon Davis, left Vegas for the Nike Skills Academy in Los Angeles. The boys from the Pacific Northwest took on a Howard Pulley (Minn.) team missing 6-foot-5 Gary Trent Jr. (who will spend his senior season at Findlay Prep in Nevada and who also departed for the Nike event) and was able to pull out a 76-75 victory in overtime. Seattle Rotary nearly gave the game away by missing four free throws in overtime, as Howard Pulley had plenty of chances, but a turnover with five seconds remaining doomed the latter's chances.
Seattle Rotary was led to victory by 6-foot-6 2018 forward Charles Elleby (Cleveland, Seattle), who scored plenty inside and hit a 3-pointer to finish with 15 points. Kevin Porter, a 6-foot-4 left-handed shooting guard who the University of Washington was intently viewing, added 14 points. P.J. Fuller, a highly-regarded 2019 shooting guard who played his freshman season at Garfield, added 10 points for Seattle Rotary.
In the quarterfinals on Sunday morning, Seattle Rotary defeated Houston Hoops (which played without injured standout Jarred Vanderbilt) 69-67. The game was clinched when Porter nailed two late free throws, while Fuller nailed four 3-pointers and finished with 16 points. In the semifinals, they pulled away from the Oakland Soldiers down the stretch to record a 84-66 victory. Fuller again hit four 3-pointers and finished with 18 points. Seattle Rotary also got a big second half from athletic 2018 wing Khalil Chatman (Franklin, Seattle). He scored 12 points in the second half and finished with 14.
Howard Pulley's standout minus Trent was Minnesota commit Brad Davison, a 6-foot-3 guard out of Maple Grove (Osseo, Minn.). He netted 26 points in a losing effort versus Seattle Rotary. He also had three second-half 3-pointers and finished with 17 points in a 74-69 semifinal win over upstart California Stars Elite. That game was clinched on two free throws with 24 seconds remaining by 6-foot-4 2018 guard Gabe Kalsheur (De La Salle, Minneapolis). He also finished with 17 points.