POSTED: Apr 16, 2013 4:30 PM ET
At its core, the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament is the perfect confluence of charity and opportunity.
Money raised from ticket sales and sponsorships is used to provide scholarships for local high school students. All the time and effort put forth by the people of Portsmouth to stage the event, now in its 61st year, is done on a volunteer basis. At the same time, players are given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to impress an audience dotted with NBA executives who have the power to change their lives.
The altruism fades a bit once the ball is tipped and the players start getting after it. The play is exceptionally physical. The calls from officials are scarce. The numbers you post in a box score are truly earned, or not, depending on how you adjust to the terrain.
Temple's Khalif Wyatt, the Atlantic-10 Player of the Year who was last seen scoring 31 of his team's 52 points in a third-round loss to Indiana in this year's NCAA Tournament, had a more difficult time locating the rim at Churchland High School on Thursday. He finished with seven points for Sales Systems, LTD in an 81-74 loss to Cherry Bekaert.
The last time Wyatt failed to score at least 10 points in a game came on Jan. 10 against Xavier. Based on how he finished the season -- he also scored 31 points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in a win over N.C. State -- you figured he was a safe bet to put some points on the board at the PIT.
Wyatt, an 84 percent free-throw shooter, missed all four of his free-throw attempts, didn't gather a rebound and committed four turnovers. For those who subscribe to the theory that if a player like Wyatt isn't scoring he isn't helping, there wasn't much evidence to think otherwise. He's a below average athlete by NBA standards. He's not going to make his mark on the defensive end. His appeal lies in his ability to score. He'll have two more chances this week to raise his game.
Murray State's Ed Daniel met the physical challenge head on, finishing with 17 points for Sales Systems, to go with six rebounds and about a dozen bruises inflicted on his opponents. Unlike Wyatt, Daniel had no trouble adjusting to the style of play, nor did anyone suspect he would, given his size (6-foot-7, 230) and make-up. An Ohio Valley Conference First Team selection, Daniel averaged 13.2 points and 10.0 rebounds. There doesn't appear to be much diversity to his game. But Ben Wallace, who was discovered at the PIT in 1996, played 16 years in the NBA without ever leaving the paint.
Oregon's E.J. Singler led Cherry Bekaert with 18 points. Miami's Durand Scott added 10 points and 10 rebounds, while UNLV's Anthony Marshall had a solid game, finishing with eight points, five assists and three steals.
Scott, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, has been on the radar for some time but never quite made the leap many were expecting, posting similar numbers all four seasons with Miami. Still, there's a lot to like. He's a solid athlete who plays bigger than his size (6-foot-3) would indicate. It's easy to see why he's lauded for his defense, given the tenacity he brings. Though not a point guard, he has a solid handle and can break down a defense. His perimeter shooting needs work, and is probably what gives scouts the biggest pause.
Like Scott, Marshall has an interesting set of tools. At 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 200 pounds, he has terrific size for the point guard position and is a solid athlete with a muscular build. Unlike many of the guards in this year's field, he also has a pretty good feel for how to play the position, balancing his ability to score with creating opportunities for others. Though most of the talk in Las Vegas this past season centered on the exploits of Anthony Bennett and the injury status of Mike Moser, Marshall quietly turned in a terrific season, averaging 10.4 points, 5.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds.
In the first game of the evening session Thursday, LaSalle's Ramon Galloway had 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Kansas' Travis Releford added eight points, six rebounds and three assists to lead Roger Brown's to a 91-64 win over the Portsmouth Sports Club.
Galloway had a terrific senior campaign for LaSalle, averaging 17.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.9 steals on his way to being named First Team All-Atlantic-10. The Explorers had a terrific run in the NCAA Tournament, winning three games and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to Wichita State. In Galloway's case, the stat line doesn't lie. He's extremely active and touches a lot of categories. His physical profile is average, and probably below average from an NBA standpoint, but his production and impact is hard to ignore.
Though he hasn't been ignored, Releford never played a starring role in four seasons at Kansas and probably never will on any team in any league. That's not to say he doesn't have a chance to play in the NBA. Releford is a rarity in today's game -- a guy who knows what he is and doesn't deviate from it. Thursday's game was a prime example. He ran the floor and got some easy baskets. He made the extra pass when the situation called for it. He took good shots. He played like himself. While it's doubtful he'll hear his name called on Draft Night, he's a guy who can make an NBA team in the right spot.
Detroit's Nick Minnerath, a late addition to the tournament, led Portsmouth Sports Club with 16 points. Washington's Abdul Gaddy added 14 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Things didn't quite go according to script for Gaddy at Washington, where he arrived four seasons ago as a McDonald's All-American. He struggled as a freshman, and tore his ACL just 13 games into his sophomore season. Not blessed with exceptional quickness and burst before the injury, Gaddy's physical limitations thrust him into a supporting role alongside future NBA players Isaiah Thomas and Terrence Ross. Though his team got shellacked Thursday, Gaddy tried to stay faithful to his point guard duties, looking for seams in the defense and creating shots for others.
In Wednesday's opening game, Southern Mississippi's Dwayne Davis scored 19 points and Tennessee State's Robert Covington added 16 points and nine rebounds to lead Mike Duman Auto Sales to a 90-80 win over Norfolk Sports Club.
It was the second strong game for Davis, a former junior college standout who played only one season at the Division I level. He made it count, averaging 16.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists on his way to earning All-Conference USA First Team honors. He's making this week count as well, bringing an aggressive approach to the floor, which led to eight free-throw attempts Thursday (he made all eight).
Covington has shot the ball well this week, and also has done a nice job rebounding from the wing. He rarely puts the ball on the floor and creates, but he's clearly an above average athlete with a solid stroke. Listed at 6-foot-9 at Tennessee State, Covington measured out at a shade over 6-foot-6, which probably changes the way he needs to be viewed. He'll have to improve his perimeter skills to find a niche in the NBA.
Notre Dame's Jack Cooley had another solid game for Norfolk Sports Club, finishing with 14 points and a game-high 16 rebounds. He's leading the PIT in rebounding, though that number is a little deceiving. His team has shot the ball miserably, so there's been a lot of loose change around the basket. He's also struggled to finish near the basket, but has collected a lot of his own misses. That said, you can't knock his effort. If he's not attacking the glass, he's out at the top of the key setting screens for guards. If you've watched Cooley at all the last few years, he's a player who takes extreme pleasure in laying the wood to an unsuspecting guard.
It was a tough game for Iowa State's Will Clyburn, who finished with only three points, after scoring 25 in his team's first game. He's clearly playing hurt after tweaking an ankle in the first game. Give him credit for playing through it, but he needs to be careful at this stage of the game. Fighting through pain is one thing. Playing with an injury is another. Clyburn has some fans in NBA circles, and he needs to be healthy over the next several months leading up to the June 27 NBA Draft.
East Carolina's Maurice Kemp also had his share of fans heading into the PIT. Those fans are waiting for him to justify their adoration. He scored six points on 3-for-9 shooting in this game, after scoring seven points in his first outing. He's not a shooter, and his intrigue as a prospect doesn't completely rest on his ability to put the ball in the basket. It does hinge on his athleticism and activity level, which haven't been on full display. He also, at 6-foot-8, weighed in at 176 pounds, which makes you wonder how his frame would ever absorb the physical pounding of the NBA.
Iona's Lamont Jones led Norfolk Sports Club with 19 points. He finished third in the nation in scoring (23.0 ppg) this season. He also took 21 shots, and was 0-for-6 from 3-point range. Once Jones realized he could consistently beat Florida's Kenny Boynton and Providence's Vincent Council off the dribble, he went to town, getting layup after layup in the second half. Not a serious NBA prospect, it still was encouraging to see a player adapt to the circumstances and take advantage.