SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - For the last 27 years, the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions has brought some of the nation's top talent to the campus of Missouri State in Springfield. Not surprisingly, the 2011 edition featured high-level players from out of town going head to head with local teams looking to score the upset.
The locals were happy as Nixa (Mo.) High scored a win over La Verne (Calif.) Lutheran behind the play of their sophomore duo of Austin Ruder and Jaylen Norman. Avery Dingman and Branson (Mo.) High fell to powerful Oak Ridge (N.C.) Military, but the Creighton signee didn't go down without a fight.
Thursday night Bass Pro standouts
Avery Dingman, SF, Branson: Nobody had a better evening than the 6-foot-5 Creighton signee. A three-star prospect, Dingman has excellent size, is a fine athlete and most of all, he's got a lethal jumper. He flows into his shot off the catch or the dribble and gets excellent elevation, lots of arc and great rotation. He's added some needed bulk and works hard to free himself for looks. As he tightens up his ballhandling, he's got a chance to become an impact scorer in the Missouri Valley. He finished with 28 points and eight rebounds and drained 5-of-7 from 3-point range.
Jalen Norman, SF, Nixa: The athletic small forward is the biggest player on his team so he's asked to do a lot of dirty work in the paint. That, he does very well as he banged with a much bigger Grant Jerrett, crashed the glass and even blocked some shots. A fine athlete, he finishes in transition and steps out to make some jump shots. He had 21 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks as coaches from Missouri State, Creighton and Missouri looked on.
Austin Ruder, SG, Nixa: Nixa's other star sophomore, Ruder is a 6-foot-2 shooting guard with deep range and toughness. His jumper is textbook as he catches with his wrist cocked back and ready to fire. He can handle the ball a little bit too and finished with five 3-pointers en route to 17 points.
Malcolm Brogdon, SG, Greater Atlanta Christian: The senior shooting guard is going to fit in well at Virginia. While not a burner or a high flyer, he is a very good ballhandler, works hard off the ball, can make contested jumpers and gets to the free throw line. He should be physically ready to compete in the ACC.
Grant Jerrett, PF, La Verne Lutheran: A five-star prospect from the class of 2012, the 6-foot-8 Arizona commitment is highly skilled on the offensive end. He's comfortable catching on either block, scores with either hand and will spin to either shoulder. He can make face-up 12-footers, rebounds and runs the floor. He is thin and not particularly explosive off the floor, but his high shoulders and long arms help him play bigger than you might expect. He had 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting to go with nine rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocks.
Chris Jones, PG, Oak Ridge: The Tennessee signee was a bit of a slow starter and only had five points nearing the end of the third quarter. Then over an approximate 5-minute stretch, he scored 15 points and broke open a tight game with Branson (Mo.). He's a competitor with toughness off the dribble and a dangerous jump shot.
More Bass Pro notables
Romond Jenkins, PF/SF, Douglass: Long armed and athletic, the 6-foot-6 Jenkins teams with his twin brother, Ramond Jenkins, to give OKC Douglass a pair of athletic combo-forwards. Jenkins worked the glass on both ends of the floor, followed in transition for tip dunks and fought for tough buckets around the rim. He's quick, and has a frame that should fill out nicely in college.
Bruce English, G/F, La Verne Lutheran: The Loyola Marymount signee is a hard-driving, square-shouldered wing with bounce. He makes excellent use of the jump stop and is always explosive to the rim. He slashed his way to 14 points (7-of-9 shooting) and five rebounds.
C.J. Cooper, G, La Verne Lutheran: The UTEP signee had a nice night running the show. He picked his spots to score with 17-foot jump shots, but it was his passing that stood out. The senior dished out 10 assists to go along with his eight points and four rebounds. Most impressively, he didn't turn the ball over once.
Jaylon Tate, PG, De La Salle: The 6-foot-1 sophomore only shot the ball twice, but he showed a high level floor game while racking up seven assists to just two turnovers during 30 minutes of play. He's a good on-the-ball defender and shows patience.
Tate is joined by two other solid sophomores at De La Salle. 6-foot-7 southpaw power forward Alex Foster is long, lean and quick and was good for 17 points, three rebounds and a pair of blocks. Also, 6-foot-3 wing Alvin Ellis is a bit of a jack of all trades. He's a transition finisher and a guy who defends and rebounds his position.
Mike Shaw, PF, De La Salle: The future Illinois Fighting Illini and four-star prospect was very impressive in the first quarter. He swished a good-looking 3-pointer, pounded the glass and showed sneaky athleticism near the rim. Then, he kind of disappeared only scoring three of his 13 points after the opening 8 minutes.
Andre Henley, PF/SF, De La Salle: An unsigned senior combo forward, Henley is a pretty good athlete and can score a bit. He finishes with dunks in transition and also likes to shoot 3-pointers from the corners. He finished with 12 points and five rebounds, but was a little shaky with the ball and turned it over six times in the Meteors' two-point win over Springfield (Mo.) Parkview.
Jacob Lawson, PF, Oak Ridge: Much like Mike Shaw, the Purdue signee started quickly as he used his athleticism at the rim to make plays over the top of a smaller and athletically overmatched Branson front line. He had some early dunks, blocked a few shots and finished with 12 points (10 of them in the first half), six rebounds and four blocks in 26 minutes.
Theo Pinson, SF, Oak Ridge: He only scored six points, but they were loud. Particularly impressive was the quick 6-foot-5 wing's explosive drive from the left wing for a big slam in traffic. He defers to the older guys for now, but Pinson shows high-level potential.