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April 20, 2013

Paige enjoys breakout performance

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DUNCANVILLE, Texas -- The final two weekends of April are always of immense importance on the grassroots circuit. During those two weekends, college coaches can watch players around the country in any number of events. On Friday night, the Adidas Exclusive Run kicked off at the Duncanville Fieldhouse and junior guard Jeremiah Paige of the Colorado Hawks had a breakout performance.

Big night for Paige

If Friday night is any indication of what he's capable of, keep an eye out for Paige this spring and summer. The 6-foot-2 junior combo guard from Aurora (Colo.) Rangeview flat out put his Colorado Hawks squad on his back and willed it to a win over a very talented Compton Magic Select group.

The Magic Select are basically a 16-and-under team playing up in the 17-and-under division, but Paige showed the younger guys no mercy. He gave it to them off the bounce, using his outstanding quickness to get into the lane and finish or create for others. Then he unleashed his confident jumper from all around the perimeter. This is a kid who showed flashes last spring and summer, but he really looks to have taken his game to the next level, and colleges are taking notice.

According to Paige, he has offers from Colorado, Colorado State, Wyoming and Utah State. Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Kansas State and Arkansas are among those keeping tabs, and the group of coaches following him is sure to grow. If he keeps up this play, the currently unranked three-star prospect could work his way into the 2014 Rivals150.

Another Hawk who impressed on Friday night was 6-foot-6 combo forward Treyvon Andres. The lefty is a big-time athlete who explodes to the rim, and he was chasing down one play after another.

Francis, Keith key Florida Elite

Clearly, Florida Elite was ready to play on Friday night. The crew from the Sunshine State came out and blitzed Dream Vision early before holding on late for a win. Much of its success had to do with the play of junior guards Brandon Francis and Eddie Keith.

They are both physical players. Francis is a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from the Dominican Republic who plays at Jacksonville (Fla.) Arlington Country Day. He's a strong kid who has a good-looking stroke and a high level of skill to go with his strength and willingness to play with physicality. Rated as a three-star prospect, Francis will be in contention for the 2014 Rivals150. He has a wide array of interest and offers coming from Illinois, Minnesota, SMU (head coach Larry Brown watched), Kansas State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Cincinnati, Indiana, Florida, Rutgers, West Virginia, Washington and others.

While Francis is pretty well known, Keith was a pleasant surprise. A product of Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater, he is a powerful two guard with a nice 6-foot-4 frame and a versatile offensive game. He will score off the drive and from midrange, and you have to respect his deep jumper. The three-star prospect mentioned offers from Jacksonville, Florida Gulf Coast (old staff), UCF and Florida International (previous staff) to go with interest from Miami, USF, Georgia, George Mason, Kansas State, St. John's and Alabama.

Celtics-Neysmith get hard-fought win

One of the more storied programs in grassroots basketball history, the Atlanta Celtics have two teams competing in the 17-and-under division of the Exclusive Run. On Friday night, we focused on their Horace Neysmith-coached squad as it pulled out a hard-fought victory over the Wisconsin Playground Warriors. It came in thrilling fashion.

After the Celtics gave up a five-point lead late in the game, 2014 shooting guard Andre Chatfield got the ball in the open court with a somewhat clear path to the rim. Instead of heading to the hoop, the 6-4 junior pulled up from the right side and swished a 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds left to give the Celtics a three-point win.

A three-star prospect, Chatfield is a smart player with a pretty stroke. He shrugged off a slow start and was huge down the stretch. He mentioned that he has offers from Auburn and Mississippi State. While he hit the key bucket, he wasn't alone in making plays. In fact, he's a bit of an elder statesman on the team and a sophomore and two freshmen also stood out.

Leading the way for the Celtics was 6-foot-7 sophomore combo forward Kaiser Gates from Alpharetta (Ga.) St. Francis. A newly minted four-star prospect, Gates was hitting corner 3-pointers, getting on the glass and showing a well-rounded game. Among those he's hearing from early are Alabama, Virginia, Auburn (offer), Georgia (offer), Kennesaw State, Georgia Southern and George Mason.

Freshman forward Braxton Blackwell is on his way to being a high major. At about 6-foot-6, he's tough to pencil into one position. His body is more of a power forward's, but he has a very high skill level. Time and again, he drove out of the high post and found teammates with slick dishes. He mentioned that he speaks regularly with his uncle Ralph Sampson and is hearing from the likes of North Carolina, Tennessee, Memphis, Cincinnati, Florida, Auburn, Virginia, LSU, Vanderbilt and Providence.

Also, keep an eye out for Gates' high school teammate Kobi Jordan-Simmons. A 6-foot-4 playmaker, the slender freshman guard is slick with the dribble. He has a nice floater and is another outstanding passer who can use a tremendous first step to blow by defenders. Look out as he adds strength.

It wouldn't be right if we didn't mention the play of Cameron Ward for the Wisconsin Playground Warriors. The 6-foot-1 combo guard was outstanding. The lefty smoked home one 3 after another whenever he got a look and played with loads of toughness for a skinny kid. We didn't know much about the Marshall (Wis.) High product coming in, but we look forward to catching him again down the road.

Friday night's notes and notables

The No. 21 ranking in the class of 2015 is well earned for Cameron Walker of the Compton Magic Select. A 6-foot-7 small forward from Santa Maria (Calif.) Righetti, Walker is a smooth operator along the baseline who has a versatile offensive game. His size allows him to go to work on the interior, he is adept at getting to the free throw line, and his handle and jump shot are more than passable for a kid his size and age.

Playing against Florida Elite, Dream Vision dug itself too big a hole to recover from. However, the nation's No. 2-ranked player in the class of 2015, Stephen Zimmerman, didn't disappoint. The nearly 7-foot center from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman needs to add weight, but man is he skilled. He knocked in a corner 3, handled the ball and whipped some nice passes. Maybe most important, Zimmerman displayed an edge not always seen before. He was talking some, getting physical with opponents and demanding the ball.

We will focus on him more on Saturday, but 2015 four-star guard Jalen Coleman, who ranks No. 35 nationally, looked good while we watched on Friday night. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard has added a lot of strength and looks like he's got lots of growing left to do. This kid is a no-brainer as a high major and likely the best sophomore in the state of Indiana.

One of the youngest players in the 17-and-under division, 6-foot-6 wing Mario Kegler of MBA Hoops, has a bright future. A standout from Jackson (Miss.) Callaway, he has length and a scorer's mentality, and he should be a very live-bodied athlete when it is all said and done.



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