While most of the media coverage on the net over the Memorial Day weekend was focused on
Columbus and the Shootout at Ohio State, 57 teams from Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin,
Oklahoma, Michigan and Missouri spent the weekend battling in the 1998 Memorial Day
Run 'N Slam at three sites around Merrillville, IN. The weekend featured three divisions,
five pools in each division.
We arrived at Merrillville High on Saturday. Upon checking in, we discovered that Bob
Widmeyer's Spiece North squad was already 3-0, and other teams looking good were the
St. Louis Pistons and Team Sports Concepts (sophomores-to-be).
Spiece North (Seniors) had rolled through the early competition. They defeated Region
Rage 129-83 and North Shore Express 102-85 on Friday, then opened up Saturday morning
with a 122-65 win over Wheeler Boys Club. Up next was The Athlete, Saturday afternoon.
What was working for Widmeyer's squad was numbers. Spiece North is at its deadliest
when they are able to go 10 deep. Widmeyer has settled into a 5 and 5 rotation,
substituting teams at the 4 minute mark of each quarter. This substituation pattern
continues until the fourth quarter, when changes are made depending on the game situation.
This weekend, there weren't many changes made in the fourth. The Athlete turned out to
be Spiece North's toughest competition so far in the tournament, but Spiece still won
81-66. Spiece jumped out to a 31-16 lead after the first quarter, and kept that lead
through the whole game. Spiece's 6'4 Kenny Lowe of Gary West (3 2PT) ran the offense
for the five-man lineup featuring Martin Brothers of Indy Arlington (0 points), Ricky
Wright of East Chicago (5 2PT, 1 FT), 6'4 Josh Mullins of Greenfield-Central (2 2PT, 1 FT)
and Brett Snodgrass (1 2PT, 1 3PT). Austin Parkinson (1 2PT, 2 FT) only had 4 points in
the game, but they all came in a flurry at the end of the first two quarters. Taking the
inbounds, a full speed Parkinson went the length of the floor, hesitated at the
freethrow line to draw a post defender, pivoted around him, and drove to the basket
for two. At the end of the half, Parkinson again took the ball in a streak downcourt
after grabbing the defensive rebound, and made a no look dish to Gates in the lane.
Gates missed the 10-footer, but Parkinson was there for the offensive rebound and was
fouled on the putback. The guards on this team are very streaky, especially Lowe,
something that will be seen tomorrow against St. Louis. Just when you think they are
all dish and no shoot, they will run 4-6 straight points up on you. For The Athlete,
Mark Drake set himself up in the first half as the playmaker. The 6-footer from
Shelbyville led two players on The Athlete in double figures with 19 points (5 2PT,
2 3PT, 3 FT). Benton Central's 6'4 Greg Anderson added 13 points (4 2PT, 1 3PT, 2 FT),
and Benton Central's sophomore-to-be 6'5 Jay Dawson added 9 points (3 2PT, 1 3PT).
Dawson is a kid to keep an eye on over the next few years. He has good range out to
around 22', is a good ball handler and will likely be a wing forward in college. And
he was only a freshman at Benton Central last year. A combination of size and pressure
won it for Spiece. In the post, Wright and Carlton Baker (8 2PT, 11 FT) controlled
everything, but could have rebounded a lot better. Baker had a great game, scoring
27 points and hitting 11-11 from the line. In this game, Baker was the power to
Wright's finesse. He played good interior defense and blocked a couple of shots.
Baker lived up to his "showtime" reputation with a burst of energy late in the game,
taking advantage of precision fullcourt passes by Parkinson. Just before the final
buzzer, Baker had consecutive slams on the run, a two-handed and a one-handed tomahawk,
both of course followed up with a little "Oodie pout" to the fans in the endline
bleachers. Consider Baker only had 16 minutes in the game, and you can see how he can
easily dominate in a fast-paced game. Wright rarely had to even touch his defender on
offense and easily worked around them for putbacks. The defense was playing too far
off to stop his very effective turnaround short jumper. The second five of Baker, 6'6
David Meece of East Central (4 2PT, 1FT), 6'1 Jonathan Gates of Gary West (2 2PT), 6'4
John Hamilton of Greenfield-Central (4 2PT) and Parkinson outscored the starting five
by 25 points. The Athlete missed many opportunities against Spiece's 1-3-1 fullcourt
pressure by not throwing over the pressure to the corners, but couldn't quite get the
ball over the size in the middle of the court. They managed to get defenders down the
court frequently, but couldn't get the ball to them.
The next series of games featured three of Indiana's better rising prospects playing
on adjacent courts, 6'2 rising-sophomore point guard Curtis Thomas (Indianapolis Pike),
6'1 rising-junior Terry Collins (Fort Wayne Snider) and 6'8 rising-junior power forward
Brett Buscher (Chesterton). We'll start with the Indy Metros Gold squad and their game
against Spiece Believers, both in the juniors bracket. Indy Metros Gold has a well
balanced team, anchored in the middle by the 6'8 Buscher, who plays center for the
squad. From his play at Chesterton last season, he is being groomed for a wing forward
position in college, but is the center on this AAU squad. As of now, he is better in
the low post than he is out on the wing. Indy Metros Gold led almost the whole game,
but Spiece made a run in the last 2 minutes to make it very interesting. The Believers
crawled back from a 6 point 3rd quarter deficit and threatened to steal the game from
the Metros. 6'6 Brandon Webb (Knox) hit back-to-back threes with 1:03 remaining to cut
the Metros' lead to two, 60-58. Buscher was quickly fouled, and went to line to sink
two freethrows, 62-58 Metros. Collins went the length of the floor in 3 seconds and hit
an NBA bomb with :53 remaining, 62-61 Metros. The Believers applied tight pressure to
run some clock out and hopefully force a turnover. A defensive blanket was put on
Buscher in the paint by 6'9 Levi Adams (Terre Haute North) and Webb. Collins then
fouled 5'10 Wes ThornHill (Cambridge City) at the :28 mark, who hit 1 of 2 from the
line. The Metros turned right around and fouled Collins bringing the ball up the floor.
Collins hit 1 of 2, 63-62 Metros with :25 remaining. The Metros' Thornhill was again
fouled, but hit both this time, 65-62 Metros. With the ball in the hands of Collins,
he ran the clock down to five seconds and shot for the tie. The ball rimmed out, the
Believers fouled, and the Metros sank two more freethrows with 2.7 seconds left.
Another bomb at the buzzer by Webb wasn't enough, and the Metros won 67-65. Buscher
led the Metros with 19 points, followed by 6'4 Jake Argenta (Merrillville) and 6'4
Todd Patterson (Indianapolis Pike) with 11 each, and 6'4 Andrew Ford (West Lafayette,
son of Purdue's Bob Ford) with 9 points (1 2PT, 1 3PT, 4 FT). The Believers were led
by strong performances by Webb with 23 points (3 2PT, 5 3PT, 2 FT), and Collins with
19 points (6 2PT, 2 3PT, 1 FT). Webb's athleticism surprised me in this game just
about as much as his perimeter shooting. Collins and Webb are legitimate pressure
shooters, but Collins looks to be the better handler. This game was the first time
I had seen Bob Ford's son, and he looks to be ontrack to get a mid-major scholarship,
maybe at a Ball State or Valpo. Buscher is very effective in the post. He has a soft
touch and is very accurate to around 15 feet. He looks like he can carry a lot more
weight, but is the perfect size for a small forward, if he can extend his range. Both
Patterson and Ford can bury the three is left open.
Right next door was the matchup of Mike Comparato's Indy Metros squad and Logan AAU.
I didn't have the Logan roster, so I can't make too many comments on who was hot on
their squad. Logan won the game, 73-66, after trailing most of the game. The Metros
had two primary ballhandlers, 5'5 rising-freshman Matt Comparato (Indianapolis) and
5'10 rising-sophomore Curtis Thomas. Comparato started the game, and was replaced
about 6 minutes in when Logan turned up the pressure on him and forced some turnovers.
Short, but speedy, with good passing skills for a young kid. Thomas came in and took
over the offense. He wasn't scoring, but he was running the show. He would have
finished in double digits in assists if his teammates would have hit some very open
shots. Thomas has a host of passes, including a sweet running flip pass that was
always on target. He would frequently take his man into the paint, then sweep the
pass back behind him to a player on the perimeter. The highlight film pass of the
evening developed from a drive along the baseline. Curtis threw a perfect no-look
behind-the-back-pass to a teammate coming down the lane (shot was missed). Defensively,
Thomas stays in a low and very wide stance, and moves laterally very well. He
anticipates passes in the open court, and gets most of his steals there. Thomas'
favorite target was 6'2 forward Justin Grinstead (Greenfield-Central), who will be
one to watch. Played in the power forward spot and was relentless on the boards.
Grinstead led the Metros with 22 points (7 2PT, 1 3PT, 5 FT), followed by Thomas
with 13 points (5 2PT, 1 3PT, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals and 1 block) and
Comparato with 11 (2 2PT, 2 3PT, 1 FT, 1 steal, 2 assists and 1 rebound).
With the senior and junior brackets finishing up before the tournament seeding, we
walked around and looked at some of the younger kids in the sophomore-to-be bracket.
We were surprised to see Kristof Kendrick, son of Boiler assistant Frank Kendrick,
getting ready for a game. Being an 8th grader, we didn't expect him to be playing
in a sophomore-to-be bracket. But he was, along with a team full of 8th graders.
Kendrick played for Spiece Gym Rats South Stars, featuring a ton of young talent.
Spiece South faced Team Sports Concepts at 4:30pm, what would be the first game of
the evening that was too controlled by the officials. I'm not normally one to whine
about the officiating, but this was one of two games this weekend that featured
horrible officials who for some odd reason decided to influence the outcome of the
games. We only had the roster for Spiece, so info on TSC is rather sketchy. We do
know that a kid named Young on TSC has some great potential, possessing good size
and a wide body. His game reminded me of a younger version of Brett Buscher. The
roster for Spiece South included #35 Greg Stone, #44 Jason Bell, #25 Kevin Jones,
#54 Parnell Smith, #33 Stan Gaines, #50 Ryan Potter, #10 Corey Cobbs and #32 Kristof
Kendrick. The game deadlocked at 18 after the first quarter of play. Spiece was led
in the quarter by Stan Gaines, who popped two threes at the start of the game.
Interior play was physical, which would eventually send both Young and Stone to the
bench early. Taking up the slack was Jason Bell, who used his strength to aggressively
rebound against a very good rebounding opponent. The second quarter saw a glimpse of
what was to come from 5'9 guard Kevin Jones. Jones ran the break and pulled up for an
NBA three-pointer that got nothing but net. Running the show for Spiece most of the
game was 5'3 speedster Corey Cobbs. Cobbs scored twice on what would become his signature
play, taking the ball from the top of the key, curling down the right side of the lane,
and putting up a floating jumper that ALWAYS went in. TSC did not have a guard that could
contain Cobbs, who slashed his way to 15 points in the game. 6'2 Kristof Kendrick started
slowly, hitting a mid-range jumper for his only two points of the game. Kendrick's
instincts seem to be good, but he gets himself in trouble when he has time to think.
He showed an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time in the game
defensively, but bricked a handful of threes during the game. Nice shot, but needs
practice, practice, practice. His passing needs to get crisper, as well as his habit
of throwing lazy passes over the top. Gets himself in good defensive position, playing
a mixture of shooting guard and wing forward in the game. He also fell back to defend
the left post in the triangle-and-two. TSC pulled ahead 36-33 at the half, with Young
shooting for close to 10 in the first half. No one player really stood out in the first
half, but Gaines and Cobbs led the team with 6 points each. The second half would
establish Kevin Jones as a premier shooter. In the third quarter, Jones had 14 of his
team's 20 points. Bell and Stone were the only other Spiece players to score in the
quarter. Jones hit 4 threes, two of which were shot 6 feet outside the arc. Greg Stone
managed two steals in the final two minutes of the quarter, one of which he took in for
an uncontested layup and the other he had to heave at the buzzer. Spiece led by one at
the start of the fourth, 52-51. Cobbs started the fourth quarter with his signature
play, burning TSC with it on consecutive possessions. After a Kendrick miss from the
perimeter with pressure in his face, Cobbs came down on the next possession and burned
TSC again with his signature play... always to the right...always making the shot.
Two plays later, Cobbs decided to go left this time, missing the shot which was
eventually cleaned up by Jason Bell. TSC reinserted Young after the Cobbs run, and
TSC led again by 5 with 2 minutes remaining. Young is the focus of the TSC offense,
and is frankly unstoppable at this age level. At this point, the officiating got
really strange. One of the referees called a technical on one of the Spiece players.
We never figured out what exactly happened, but it led to a 5 minute delay. Jones
slashed to the basket and pulled up for a 12-footer, which was stuffed by Young.
The referee called a jump ball, even though the contact was brief. Jump ball call
#1. After a 1:25 of argument over the poor call, TSC got the ball on alternate
possession. Spiece was able to tie up the ball on the other end, forcing the second
jump ball call and gaining possession. At the :44 mark, TSC's guard Snyder was
fouled, regaining a five point cushion at 74-69. Spiece put the ball in the hands
of Kevin Jones in the final seconds. Fouled on a three-point attempt, Jones cooly
went to the line an hit three freethrows, 74-72 TSC. TSC came back an missed the
next attempt. Jason Bell grabbed the rebound in the air with a TSC player, but
Bell clearly came down with the ball and started the ball upcourt. However, the ref
again decided the brief dual control deserved the third jump ball call of the final
two minutes, possession back to TSC. The two teams each threw the ball away in the
next two series, leading up to yet another tie-up and the fourth jump ball call,
possession to Spiece. Spiece finally tied the game with :17 remaining, 74-74. Cobbs
and Jones rushed TSC guard Snyder at midcourt and forced a travel with :10 left.
Jones came down for the game-winner, but missed. All alone under the basket was
Jason Bell, who jumped up for the rebound and came down on his back. Absolutely no
defender was within four feet of him, and somehow TSC was called for fouling Bell
with :00 on the clock. Spiece hit the freethrow for the one point win, 75-74 Spiece.
The game was pathetically influenced in the last two minutes by the refs, one of
which should never be allowed on a basketball court again. The worst calling I had
seen... until the very next game when another offical decided to call 5 technical
fouls in one game. Players of the game for TSC were Young and Snyder. Spiece had a
few standouts. Kevin Jones led Spiece with 25 points (4 2PT, 5 3PT, 2 FT), followed
by Cobbs with 15 (7 2PT, 1 FT) and Stan Gaines with 12 (3 2PT, 2 3PT). Defensive
players of the game were Young for TSC, and Kendrick and Cobbs (who really turned
up the pressure in the 4th) for Spiece.
At the end of pool play, five senior-to-be teams showed their strength by finishing
first in their pools. Spiece North, Omaha Godfathers and Tulsa Hawks got byes until
Sunday morning, with Spiece South and Tolson Bulls playing their first matchups on
Finishing first in their pools in the junior-to-be division were Team 2000 (Marion, IN),
Saginaw Pride (MI), Indy Metros Gold, Spiece South and Spiece North. The final games of
the evening we caught were the first round tournament games featuring the junior-to-be
With the tournament seeding complete, Spiece Believers opened up with a 23 point win
over Northern Blaze, 80-57. A trio of Believers led all scorers with 17 including Terry
Collins (6 2PT, 1 3PT, 2 FT), 6'4 Jovan Witherspoon of Fort Wayne South (7 2PT, 3 FT)
and Brandon Webb (6 2PT, 1 3PT, 2 FT).
Comparato's Indy Metros team defeated Simonton Lakes 59-56. Curtis Thomas went to the
line with 9.3 seconds remaining and hit two freethrows to secure the win. Justin
Grinstead led the Metros with 12 points (5 2PT, 2 FT), part of a balanced Metros
attack. Curtis Thomas (3 2PT, 1 3PT, 2 FT) and Matt Comparato (2 2PT, 2 3PT, 1 FT)
added 11 each, 6'2 Ryan Kidwell of Indy Roncalli hit for 10 (5 2PT) and rising
freshman 6'0 Mesanto Love Jr. had 6 points on two three-pointers.
We spent the remainder of the evening watching the Indy Metros Gold squad in the
junior-to-be division take on Bloomington Blaze. Yet another game where the officials
had too big of a role in the game. The Metros were assessed 3 technical fouls in the
first four minutes of the game, which led to the first 8 minute quarter lasting more
than a half of an hour. Bloomington Blaze showed up in the wrong color jersey, so the
Metros agreed to change uniforms. The problem was that one of the Metros players did
not have the other jersey in his number, so they gave him the jersey of a player who
did not show up. At the start of the game, due to scorekeeper confusion, the Metros
were slapped with a tech for not announcing the number change, and the Blaze got a
tech for wearing the wrong color jersey. The Metros' Nathan Richie was then given
another technical, followed immediately by a tech on Metros' coach Mike McGraw (given
to the bench, not the coach). Mercifully, the first quarter ended 14-12 in favor of
the Metros. The tempo remainded low in the second quarter, with no single player
scoring more than once during the 8 minutes. At the end of the half, Metros still
had a two point advantage at 23-21. The Blaze were having difficulty against the
Metros pressure, while the Metros couldn't hit anything offensively. The second half
started with inside domination from Brett Buscher on a baseline kiss off the glass and
a putback slam. The tempo went up, which favored the Metros. Their full-court pressure
defense headed by guards Nathan Richie and Andrew Ford made it difficult for the Blaze
to match the Metros' offensive output. The Metros would go on to stretch a 9 point
lead at the end of the third, to a 15 point victory, 61-46. We were impressed by the
Blaze's 6'6 Scott Fisher (Bloomington South) and his consistent mid-range jumper. For
the winners, Buscher was the most consistent threat with 10 points, followed by
Indianapolis Pike's 6'4 Todd Patterson and 6'4 West Lafayette's Andrew Ford, both
having outstanding quarters. Defensively, Ford gets the award. His constant pressure
never seemed to tire him, and during his outstanding offensive performance in the
third quarter, he stole the ball and hit a sweet three at the horn. We didn't have
numbers for the Blaze team, but were provided with the numbers for the Metros...6'4
Todd Patterson of Indy Pike (10 points: 2 2PT, 2 3PT), 6'6 Adam Fedak of Merrillville
(4 points: 2 2PT), 6'8 Brett Buscher of Chesterton (10 points: 5 2PT), 6'6 Jake Argenta
of Merrillville (6 points: 3 2PT), 6'4 Andrew Ford of West Lafayette (7 points: 2 2PT,
1 3PT), 6'1 Nathan Richie of St. Leo (3 points: 1 2PT, 1 FT), 6'5 Aaron Drake of
Cambridge City (6 points: 2 3PT), 5'11 Luke Miller of Chesterton (3 points: 1 2PT,
1FT), 5'10 Wes Thornhill of Cambridge City (0 points), 6'3 Michael Kmak of West
Lafayette (4 points: 2 2PT), 6'0 Ty Tancredi of Carmel (2 points: 1 2PT), and the
only non-rising junior on the squad, rising-freshman 6'2 Greg Woods of Indianapolis
(4 points: 2 2PT). During the Metros game, the senior-to-be Spiece South team came
in the gym to wait for their 9:00pm matchup. A few of the players began to heckle
the official that had earlier in the game handed out all the technicals. After being
told the ref had already called four techs in the Metros game, one of the players
said the same ref called a mess of techs against Spiece in a game earlier in the day.
It seems one of the techs came after the final buzzer went off. The official made the
teams return to the floor because the Spiece squad was celebrating in a manner the
referee did not like.
We were unable to stay for Sunday competition, but Spiece North coach Bob Widmeyer
filled us in on the results of the seniors tournament. He should know, since Spiece
North won the thing. Spiece North started Sunday with a victory over DJ Bullets,
setting up a game with the St. Louis Pistons. Spiece jumped out to a big lead helped
in large part by 6'4 guard Kenny Lowe who scored 15 straight points, finishing the
first half with 18 points. Lowe would go on to lead Spiece with 23 points for the game,
but fouled out in the second half along with Ricky Wright and Carlton Baker. With just
Martin Brothers and David Meece as the only players over 6'4, Spiece held on to win the
game by 2 points. In the finals, Spiece North beat Reggie Tisdale's Spiece South club
for the championship. Spiece North's Carlton Baker was named tournament MVP.
Unfortunately, stats were not provided for all the games and all the teams as they
were at the West Lafayette tournament, but we were able to pick up some here and there.
Rosters were not provided either, so I had to go from memory with a lot of teams.
Overall a good display of talent in a variety of age groups, and the Merrillville
facilities are absolutely incredible. Except for the over-officiating that occurred
in a couple of games, it was highly enjoyable.
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