The 50th annual Portsmouth Invitational Tournament has passed into history, with a basketful of warm memories added to its lustrous past. Basketball immortals and Hall of Famers like Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wes Unseld, Kevin McHale, Dick McGuire and Chuck Daly added their considerable insight and presence to the occasion. Current Georgia State head coach and former Duke star Lefty Driesell, who played in the first PIT in 1953, and former Utah Jazz coach and GM Frank Layden brought smiles and laughter to the PIT Celebrity Luncheon.
There were honors for James “Booty” Baker, the founder of the PIT, and for legendary basketball scouts Will Robinson of the Detroit Pistons and Jim Mitchell of the Los Angeles Clippers. Larry Rose, honored at this year’s Final Four in Atlanta as the NCAA Official of the Year, lent his talents and whistle to the proceedings on the floor. Marty Blake, the NBA’s venerable Director of Scouting who recently celebrated his 75th birthday, presided over the proceedings with his usual aplomb.
Amid the festivities of the golden anniversary, the play on the court dazzled most. The absence of the Nike Desert Classic on this year’s post-collegiate circuit meant better quality college seniors took part in the PIT. And despite some last-minute withdrawals by players who listened to erroneous advice from advisors, the field produced some of the best basketball at the PIT in years.
Here are the PIT All-Tournament and All-Consolation Teams, as chosen by the PIT Executive Committee, with my comments on their play in the tournament. While all-tourney status in Portsmouth does not guarantee a spot in the NBA Pre-Draft Camp scheduled for Chicago from June 4-7, these players capitalized on their opportunity to make NBA teams remember them when invitations for that event are considered in the coming weeks.
2002 PIT All-Tournament Team
Aaron McGhee, 6-8, 244, Oklahoma, 22.3 points, 12.7 rebounds per game – McGhee earned PIT Most Valuable Player honors despite his team, MD Design, finishing in second place. A dominant post presence all week, McGhee led the tournament in scoring and rebounding and shot a tournament-high 24 free throws, making 19 (79.2%). In the championship game, McGhee tallied 30 points and 15 rebounds, nearly helping his team to another improbable comeback before falling short, 77-71. McGhee overpowered most defenders on the block, aggressively carving out deep post position and hitting short jump shots in the lane. NBA scouts like their power forwards to be in the 6-10 range these days, but McGhee did all he could to make them take another look at a muscular 6-8 player with an incredible heart.
Reggie Evans, 6-8, 249, Iowa, 13.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg – Evans may have made the most impact of anyone on the championship Portsmouth Sports Club team, which is saying a mouthful, since five players from the team took spots on the 10-man all-tourney team. Evans was a rebounding factor on both ends of the court, with 14 of his 30 rebounds over three games coming at the offensive end. While Evans had some trouble finishing on putbacks after getting offensive rebounds, he still managed to shoot 50 percent from the field for the tournament and displayed his relentless hustle and desire before NBA draft-day decision-makers.
Lubos Barton, 6-7, 222, Valparaiso, 15.3 ppg, 62.5 FG% - After scoring 20 points combined over his first two games, Barton left the scouts with something to remember him by with a textbook shooting exhibition in his final game. Barton scored a game-high 26 points on 11-of-16 field goal shooting, including four three-pointers, to lead his team to a blowout win in the third place game. Barton shot over 50 percent in each game, especially impressive since most of his shots over the last two games came from the perimeter. The native of the Czech Republic has always been intriguing because of his offensive skills and size for the small forward position. It’s up to him to prove to NBA scouts that he can defend that position at the NBA level.
Preston Shumpert, 6-6 ½, 197, Syracuse, 15.0 ppg, 62.1FG% - The smooth shooting Shumpert has regained his shooting form after a mid-season slump caused by a scratched cornea. Like teammate Barton, Shumpert shot over 50 percent in each game, doing most of his work from the 15 to 20-foot shooting range. Although not blessed with the explosive leaping ability scouts like to see at the small forward position, Shumpert is very savvy in moving without the ball and finding good shots within the offense. It’s not hard to imagine him being a valuable contributor to an NBA team with a strong post presence, where he can move around the three-point line and make opposing teams pay for their double-teams. Shumpert is also very unselfish for a player with his pure shooting capabilities.
Adam Hall, 6-5, 198, Virginia, 12.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg – Finally healthy after missing 10 games this season due to a partially torn plantar fascia on the bottom of his right foot, Hall showed his explosive, slashing game throughout the tournament, making several hustle plays that gave his team extra possessions. Hall’s value to any team transcends his statistics, as he is a total team player who contributes in ways not registered on the stat sheet. Virginia’s fall from top 10 status in the polls was in no small part related to his absence from the lineup. In the PIT, Hall showed he was capable of guarding shooting guards and small forwards. More consistency in his perimeter game is probably essential to Hall becoming an NBA player a year or two from now.
Jobey Thomas, 6-4, 183, Charlotte, 13.7 ppg, 40% three-point shooting – For several years now, talent evaluators have complained about the dearth of pure shooters due to the influx of more athletically talented players who lack good shooting mechanics. Thomas could be the antidote for that affliction, as his picture-perfect shooting form resulted in a flurry of three-pointers in the tourney, which was won by his team. Thomas showed excellent quickness and good court judgement, as he tallied 10 assists in the three games. Like most college players, he’ll have to get stronger to play at the NBA level, but like Shumpert, he could find work as a zone buster on a team with dominant post players.
John Linehan, 5-9, 159, Providence, 11.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, 54.2 FG% - Linehan, the Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year, has gone through life being called a sparkplug, so we won’t do that to him. How about catalyst, floor general or clutch performer? The diminutive one was all of those things at the PIT, despite playing with a sore right wrist that he wrapped after the first game. Not known as a particularly good outside shooter, Linehan made several clutch perimeter shots when his team needed them most, preserving a semifinal victory for Portsmouth Sports Club with two 20-foot jumpers in the final two minutes. Linehan led all PIT players with 10 steals over three games, but that isn’t news coming from one of college basketball’s best defenders. The question now is will a coach who wants constant ball pressure from endline to endline give Linehan a chance in the NBA?
Andy Ellis, 6-11, 216, Texas Tech, 12.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg – Ellis enjoyed an excellent senior season for one of the most surprising teams in the NCAA ranks this season, and he carried that over to the PIT. Most comfortable out on the perimeter, Ellis brought opposing big men out to the top of the key to guard him, enabling his teammates to access driving lanes to the basket. A smart decision-maker with the ball, Ellis rang up nine assists with only one turnover. With his slight build and perimeter touch, Ellis would have to make it as a small forward in the NBA at this time, in the mold of Danny Ferry in San Antonio. Since NBA scouts rarely give up on big guys who can shoot away from the basket, expect them to follow Ellis’ progress closely before and after the NBA Draft.
David Bluthenthal, 6-7, 225, USC, 13.0 ppg, 42.9% three-point shooting – Bluthenthal led the winning team in shot attempts, and although he only shot 39 percent overall, he hit 43 percent of his three-point attempts and joined Jobey Thomas in spreading the defense with his deep shooting ability. A jack-of-all-trades type of player who teamed with Sam Clancy and Brandon Granville to give USC three potent seniors this past season, Bluthenthal likely showed enough to make a professional basketball career a reality.
Clarence Gilbert, 6-2, 193, Missouri, 14.3 ppg, 54.2% three-point shooting – Gilbert showed a well-rounded game at the PIT, averaging 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists to go along with his point production. But what really caused NBA scouts to pay attention was his outstanding three-point shooting throughout the tournament. Gilbert easily led all players with 13 three-pointers and 24 attempts, including a torrid 7-for-11 performance in a semifinal victory on Friday night. Some scouts noted Gilbert’s similarity to Jason Terry of the Atlanta Hawks, a player who can play both guard spots and has seemingly unlimited three-point range. Gilbert wasn’t always the most consistent shooter in his days at Missouri, but when he finds the range, look out.
2002 PIT All-Consolation Team
Rolan Roberts, 6-7, 246, Southern Illinois, 19.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 70.3 FG% – The biggest reason the Salukis advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament, Roberts made the most of his one season at Southern Illinois and made the most of his opportunity at the PIT. Built along the sculpted body lines of Anthony Mason, Roberts led all PIT players with 16 offensive rebounds, relentlessly pursuing caroms with reckless abandon. Roberts made 26 of his 37 field goal attempts for unheard of 70.3 percent shooting from the field. The former Virginia Tech muscleman displayed uncommon strength, shedding taller defenders with the ease of a dog shaking rainwater off his coat. Despite being only 6-7, Roberts has elbowed his way into consideration for the NBA Draft.
Byron Mouton, 6-5, 213, Maryland, 22.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg – Since Mouton’s team lost both of its games, his appearance in the PIT was brief, yet memorable. Mouton played forward at Maryland because of the presence of All-American Juan Dixon and point guard Steve Blake in the backcourt, and he showed he could dominate defenders his size at this tournament. Mouton has an excellent idea of where his shots should come from on the floor, and he has enough muscle and desire to get into those spots. A fiery competitor who hustles all the time, Mouton may have a chance to join his high-profile Maryland teammates in the NBA some day soon if he continues to improve his shooting range.
Randy Holcomb, 6-8, 227, San Diego State, 14.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg – Holcomb had two dominant games of double-figure rebounds before finishing off with a quiet game (eight points, six rebounds) in his finale. There was nothing quiet about his windmill follow dunk on Thursday night, however. The athletic maneuver had the tongues of fans and scouts alike wagging the rest of the weekend. Holcomb, jumped, caught a missed shot by teammate Luke Recker about a foot below rim level and in one motion windmilled the ball through the rim. The play took less than a second, but it was marked down in every NBA team’s scouting report as such: ATHLETE. Holcomb promised to work on his ballhandling between now and the Pre-Draft Camp, knowing improvement in that area will make him even more attractive to draft-day decision-makers.
Bill Phillips, 6-11, 250, St. Joseph’s, 10.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg – Phillips displayed the outside shooting touch and aggressive rebounding well-known to Atlantic 10 fans. He saved his best game for last, producing team-highs of 17 points and 12 rebounds in the consolation final victory for Sales Systems. Phillips was particularly effective on the offensive boards at the PIT: 15 of his 23 rebounds came at that end of the court.
Billy Knight, 6-5, 206, UCLA, 15.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg – Knight’s tournament averages are somewhat misleading. He led his team with 15.3 ppg, but attempted 45 shots in the tournament, second only in attempts to MVP Aaron McGhee, and shot only 35.6% from the field. Contrast those 45 shot attempts with two – count ‘em two – assists for the tournament, and a dimmer picture of his performance emerges.