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November 28, 2011

What we learned: Thanksgiving Hoopfest

MORE HOOPFEST: Texas juniors shine | Mudiay leads

It's only taken three years for the Thanksgiving Hoopfest to develop into one of the best high school basketball events of the holiday season. To wrap up the event, we take a look back at what we learned.

1. Tobacco Road powers are battling for Matt Jones

He won't directly say it and the battle for his services isn't over, but Duke and North Carolina seem to be putting their best foot forward in the recruitment of Matt Jones.

The 6-foot-3 junior shooting guard at DeSoto (Texas) High also mentioned Texas, Ohio State, Kansas and Florida among others. However, in speaking with him it appears that the efforts of head coaches Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski have made an impression on him.

Jones talked about speaking to Coach K after Duke's win in Maui and watching how involved he was on the sidelines. When it came to talking about Williams, Jones was glowing as well.

During October, Jones visited Duke and shortly after many thought he would commit to the Blue Devils. But, he also stopped by North Carolina during the trip and said that he's promised Roy Williams he will make a return trip to tobacco road in order to make Chapel Hill his focus.

For now, though, Jones is focused on a more immediate task.

"I've shut it down since the season started," said Jones. "I want to show these (teammates) that I'm 100 percent with them and focused on our goals as a team."

More specifically, Jones addressed the thought that he was close to committing to Duke.

"I'm wide open," said the No. 28 player in 2013. "Duke is cool and of course if I went there I couldn't go wrong. But, when I hear that I just laugh. People can say what they want, it's my decision."

Even though he played down rumors that he was close to making a commitment, Jones was very positive about Duke and based on speaking with him it's hard not to believe that other schools aren't playing catch up with the Blue Devils and UNC.

Jones pointed out Dec. 10 as a time that he would try to make it up to Lawrence to check out Kansas and Ohio State and also mentioned that he is looking to set a date for his Chapel Hill visit soon.

Other than that, he's in no rush to make a decision.

"I'm going to do it whenever it feels right," said Jones of making a decision. "There's no timetable.

[Update: Jones announced commitment to Duke following release of this feature]

2. Basketball is catching on in the Lone Star State

All anybody needs to do is take a look at any Rivals150 for it to become clear that the state of Texas is producing tons of top tier talent. It doesn't look like the state will be slowing down any time soon either.

Over the weekend in Duncanville, pretty much every highly regarded player was outstanding. From the class of 2012 it was Isaiah Austin and Marcus Smart. The previously mentioned Matt Jones, Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Keith Frazier and Jordan Mickey all shined from the class of 2013. In 2014 Emmanuel Mudiay continued to prove that he's the real deal.

It wasn't just the highly ranked guys that made things happen either. Youngsters like freshman Matthew McQuaid and Austin Grandstaff put themselves on the map and committed seniors like Jelon Hornbeak and Damyean Dotson cemented themselves as legitimate high majors.

Having scouted players in Texas over the years, there has also been a noticeable shift in the support of youth basketball in the state. It's true that football will always be king, but the swelling crowds and talent show that hoops is really catching on.

Also noticeable was the positive support that many of the kids are getting at the grassroots level. While there is lots of trash talk amongst the kids from different programs and their supporters, it is mostly good-natured. It was refreshing to hear coaches of a team sponsored by one shoe company, or scouts from one city speaking positively about kids and coaches affiliated with another.

The type of support that is springing up around these kids should only be beneficial to the development of Texas talent down the road.

3. Stevie Clark is emerging as a point guard

Because he can really shoot and score the ball, Stevie Clark has often played off the ball as a 5-foot-10 shooting guard. Because of that, he's gotten the label of an undersized shooting guard. In actuality, he is a point guard who is skilled enough to overcome the lack of size and produce when his teams have needed him to play a different spot on the floor.

In several ways, the junior at Oklahoma City (Okla.) Douglass is very similar to former Baylor point guard Tweety Carter. Coming out of high school in Lousiana, Carter was also regarded as an undersized point guard and not a point guard by many.

Carter got written off as a guy who was a shot-jacker when he was actually a guy doing anything he could do to win. After seeing him more, it's becoming evident that Clark is cut out of the same mold and has the qualities of a guy that can rally teammates and compete.

Currently, Clark sits outside the Rivals150 in the class of 2013. Given his ability to score, make plays and high level quickness for a point guard, that is something that looks like it will be changing when the rankings get updated in the spring time.



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