What does a basketball analyst do on his day off? Attend a high school basketball tournament, of course! Don't tell my wife, but I had the time of my life at the 39th annual City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers. I took my son-in-law Thomas Krug and grandchildren Connor and Jake and we had a blast.
They featured some of America's greatest scholastic players, the stars of tomorrow. It is never disappointing to see the future college hoop stars. I got a glimpse of some players that will be very special at the next level.
The tournament featured Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman HS in Las Vegas. There is a great recruiting battle between Kentucky, UCLA, Duke and UNLV for his services. The Runnin' Rebels are in the picture as a program on the rise and UNLV coach Dave Rice's brother coaches at Bishop Gorman. Muhammad had 42 points in a loss to Prestonwood Christian of Texas, which features junior Julius Randle.
My friends, you will be hearing a lot about Randle, a high school junior, in the future.
Junior Nerlens Noel, a shot-blocker extraordinaire, also stood out. He is one of the best I have seen in all of my years of covering basketball. He is a natural talent and if Randle is among the best juniors in the rankings, Noel is right up there too.
There is no doubt Randle and Noel will be major impact players when they jump from the high school ranks to the collegiate game. They showed a world of potential.
I also saw a young freshman from Prestonwood named Mike Mitchell, a 6-7 left hander with great hands and shooting ability. He had incredible instincts for a frosh.
It was a thrill to see these young men in action. This tournament is really a special event; last year I watched Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Austin Rivers and a year later they are making a difference as diaper dandies at Kentucky and Duke respectively.
It was fun... nothing like going to see great basketball. I also had a thrill as tournament director Donnie Wilkie asked me to speak to the crowd before the championship game. I told the fans that we should be fortunate to get the opportunity to see the future stars of the game.
I also saw a 7-1 player with a ton of potential in Isaiah Austin
. He will be in a Baylor uniform next season.
There is nothing like hoops hysteria during the holiday season. Santa Claus will be bringing great players to the college game in the future.