Thursday's matchup (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) between South Atlanta and LeFlore (Mobile, Ala.) will be a showcase for Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins. Undoubtedly, the two post players will be facing their toughest test of the season on national TV. It should make for plenty of intrigue.
Both athletes are dominant players, leading successful, highly ranked teams that are in contention for the mythical high school national championship. South Atlanta's Favors, the No. 2 prospect in the nation, grabbed headlines Wednesday with his commitment to Georgia Tech. Cousins, meanwhile, has gotten plenty of media coverage for his de-commitment from UAB.
Although they are similar in their styles of play, Cousins, the No. 4 prospect in the Class of 2009, is probably further along in his skill set. He has the body and build that could allow him to play in the professional ranks right now. Cousins is both athletic -- he has the burst to go coast-to-coast with the ball -- and powerful enough to overpower his man on the low block. As far as his weakness are concerned, they are very few, although he does need to become a more consistent free-throw shooter and work on his conditioning.
Cousins' main advantage against Favors will be his strength. He also should be able to take Favors away from the basket with his ability to score from the perimeter. He also is an adept passer who is gifted at finding the open man. LeFlore wants an up-tempo game and with as much full-court pressure as possible. The more positions LeFlore gets, the more points they'll score; the Rattlers are averaging more than 80 points per a game. For LeFlore to win, Cousins must score; they do not get a lot of production from other players on a consistent basis. He also needs to keep his composure and not get caught up in the national hype of his head-to-head matchup with Favors.
Favors is skilled, but not at Cousins' level. Still, Favors is entirely capable of dominating a game, particularly in the paint. He understands how to seal and maintain his position when posting and catches everything thrown his way with his soft hands. Defensively he's an absolute beast; that's where the Alonzo Mourning comparisons come in. He uses his size, speed and length to terrorize his opponents. His teammates are able to gamble or force the action because, at the basket, nothing is easy or goes unchallenged, as he uses his superior timing when blocking shots.
Look for South Atlanta to utilize some zone defense tonight. If employed, a zone will force LeFlore's shooters to beat them and help keep Favors out of foul trouble. Favors' advantage in this matchup against Cousins will be his ability to run the floor and his knack of consistently producing points, rebounds and blocked shots for his team. He will be difficult for Cousins to keep off the glass, and he needs to attack Cousins in transition. To guide his team to victory, Favors must dominate the paint defensively and produce his usual big numbers in scoring and rebounding.