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May 26, 2013
On the final day of the Adidas Chicago Classic, in the northwest suburbs of the Windy City, it might have still been a little bit chilly outside, but the action heated up in the gym, as players fought it out on the hardwood for the hardware.
A familiar team ended up taking home the title in the top division, but several well-known prospects, and some fresh faces, stood out as top performers on championship Sunday in Chicago.
Damontrae Jefferson might only be 5-foot-8 (on a good day), but he can score. Through three games on Sunday, the Milwaukee Runnin' Rebels point guard did just that, putting on a shooting and dribbling display that could likely lead to him becoming a YouTube sensation in the coming weeks.
Jefferson scored 21 points in the first half and 31 overall, in the first game that Rivals watched him play on Sunday morning, leading his team to a win over IBA Select.
The tiny floor general was able to control the offensive tempo off the pick and roll, looking to split defenders and acrobatically finish around the rim. Also a long-range shooter and creative passer, Jefferson is a triple threat inside of half-court, and despite his height is surprisingly efficient around the basket as a finisher or distributor.
While it's not necessarily big recruiting news, Jefferson has gotten college coaches' attention recently as the Milwaukee native has announced that he will officially reclassify to the class of 2015. Currently ranked as one of the top point guards, and the No. 104 overall prospect, in the 2014 class by Rivals, Jefferson could challenge for potential top 10 status among rising junior point men.
In the two years he plans to play in prep school at Arlington (Fla.) Country Day, Jefferson plans on continuing to improve his academic standing, which according to his travel coaches with the Milwaukee Runnin' Rebels, should lead to a huge burst in his recruiting status.
Runnin' Rebels coaches went on to say that they have fielded recent calls about Jefferson from Baylor, Seton Hall, New Mexico, UMass, Florida State and New Mexico State, but believe that the reclassification should attract even more programs to come out and evaluate Jefferson in July.
Not only is 2014 Rivals150 center Sean O'Mara a strong presence on the basketball court, he's also excellent in the classroom.
After showing an array of post moves and back-to-the-basket finishes in a second-round loss with his IBA Select team, the 6-foot-10 center from Lisle (Ill.) Benet Academy took some time to talk recruiting.
Currently, O'Mara lists offers from Southern Illinois, Xavier, Saint Louis, Boston College, Virginia, Marquette, DePaul and Georgia Tech. In addition, approximately 10 other mid-majors have shown interest. One of the most important aspects in his recruiting, however, is going to be finding a good fit in the classroom, as O'Mara has amassed an impressive academic resume at Benet Academy.
That high IQ is evident on the court, as O'Mara does a nice job of reading defenders before making a post move, knows how to get to spots where the ball is likely to come off in long rebounding situations and is also a very efficient passer out of double teams.
While IBA Select isn't the most well-known team in Illinois, look for O'Mara to continue to make an impact on the travel circuit, sneaking up on teams which aren't aware of the talent that the No. 119 prospect in the junior class possesses.
Around the gym
While several players had very strong weekends, there wasn't anyone in Chicago who was more productive over the course of three days than 2016 small forward Braxton Blackwell.
A likely future five-star from Nashville (Tenn.) Christ Presbyterian Academy, Blackwell was dominant in several areas of the game for his Nashville Celtics team, helping lead his squad to a championship game appearance in the 17-and-under division.
For a 6-foot-6 freshman, the Nashville native is extremely fluid as a bigger athlete who has the agility to play on the wing with skill and strength. Blackwell was efficient all weekend as a tall and long guard who hits the glass on both ends, but on Sunday he stepped up another area of his game, his defense.
Blackwell recorded five blocks, by our count, in the Celtics' semifinal win over Wisconsin Playground Warriors, and most of his deflected shots ended up as dunks for his teammates on the other end.
Also a versatile offensive player, Blackwell will quickly make a name for himself as an elite passing wing who can also score the ball. Blackwell told Rivals that he tries to model his game after top-five 2013 prospect Jabari Parker, referencing Parker's combination of size, offensive IQ and unselfishness as traits he admires.
On the recruiting front, Blackwell already can claim offers from Mississippi State, Auburn, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Florida, Tennessee, Cincinnati, LSU and Memphis. He has drawn interest from Indiana, North Carolina and Kentucky as well.
Florida Elite won yet another Adidas event in the 17-and-under division, going even further to leave a bad taste in the mouths of opposing Adidas circuits that simply can't figure out the Sunshine State squad.
While he didn't have as dominant of a weekend as he had in April when Rivals covered the Adidas VIP Run in Dallas, Elite's heart and soul, three-star guard Brandone Francis, was a standout during Sunday's championship run.
The great part about Francis' game is not just his will to win, but his ability to make his teammates rise to his level of competitiveness. The fiery 6-foot-5 off-guard can lead a team in scoring by attacking off the dribble or by shooting the ball in the mid-to-long-range game, but it is his demeanor that separates him from most of his peers in the eyes of scouts and college coaches.
An Arlington (Fla.) Country Day prospect, Francis is no stranger to top competition on a year-round basis, which could explain how he transitioned so quickly and efficiently from high school to the travel circuit this April when some other top prospects struggled.