Beach Ball Classic Basketball

Chicago duo Jahlil Okafor, Cliff Alexander earn MVP honors as East beats West in Jordan Brand Classic

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The Jordan Brand Classic was dominated by minimal defense and a duo of Chicago natives on Friday night as the East topped the West, 158-147, in the annual high school basketball all-star contest played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

East MVP and Duke commit Jahlil Okafor finished the game with a game-high 29 points to go along with nine rebounds while West MVP and Kansas commit Cliff Alexander finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and five blocks.

The game marked the highest scoring game in Jordan Brand Classic history and defense was definitely at a minimum throughout Friday night’s contest.

The East also had strong scoring games from Kansas commit Kelly Oubre (24 points) and Indiana commit James Blackmon Jr. (23 points) while Duke commit and point guard Tyus Jones registered the game’s only double-double at 10 points and 12 assists. Kentucky commit Trey Lyles (17 points), Stanford commit Reid Travis (12 points) and North Carolina commit Justin Jackson (11 points) also finished in double-figures for the East.

Arizona commit Stanley Johnson led the West with 24 points in the loss while SMU commit Emmanuel Mudiay tallied 19 points. Louisville commit Shaqquan Aaron tallied 14 points, Duke commit Justise Winslow added 13 points and Kentucky commit Devin Booker added 11 points. North Carolina commit Theo Pinson and UConn commit Daniel Hamilton each added 10 points. Kentucky commit Tyler Ulis added nine points and nine assists.

The game’s only unsigned player, Texas native Myles Turner, sat out the game due to injury. North Carolina commit Joel Berry and Seton Hall commit Isaiah Whitehead also sat out the Jordan Brand Classic due to injury.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
Associated Press
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.