Oak Hill Academy, the nations top ranked high school team, came into this game with a perfect 36-0 record. Their rotation consists of no less then 7 high major division one players, those being UNC bound point guard Tywon Lawson, top three junior and Charlotte commit Michael Beasley, Beasleys best friend and Duke commit Nolan Smith, 67 PF/WF Jeff Allen (Virginia Tech signee), 68 WF/PF Landon Melbourne (Maryland signee), 66 WF Anthony Wright (Michigan signee), and 610 PF/C Alberto Jackson (Georgia signee).
We covered Oak Hill back in December, when they topped one of the nations top prep schools, Harmony Community School without McDonalds All American Tywon Lawson. Since then, Oak Hill has only gotten better, knocking off top schools such as Wayne Ellington and Gerald Hendersons Episcopal Academy and Lance Thomas Saint Benedicts Prep. With Lawson at the helm, Oak Hill is nearly unbeatable. The senior point guard has explosiveness reminiscent of former UNC guard and current Charlotte Bobcat Raymond Felton. His ability to set everyone else up while scoring over 20 points per game has given opponents nightmares all season, and continued to this past Saturday against North College Hill.
Cincinnati North College Hill, ranked 2nd in the nation by USA Today, is led by the top two juniors in the land in O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker. We first featured Mayo and Walker last April, as the duo put on a jaw dropping workout at the EA Sports Roundball Classic. Since then, we have tracked them multiple times, most recently in late December when they blew out the highly touted Patterson Schools high school team.
Since then, North College Hill has ran the table at numerous national tournaments. They knocked off multiple USA Today top 25 teams, including Ohios defending division one state champion Canton McKinley. One thing has changed since then however 611 junior center Keenan Ellis was dismissed from the team. Ellis, a top 50 recruit nationally, was an extremely emotional player who could not seem to handle not being in the spotlight and desired a more significant role with the team. While many said good riddance to Ellis, basketball insiders realized how crucial of a loss this was to a North College Hill team that already lacked depth to begin with. Never would this be more evident then in last Saturdays game against Oak Hill.
The game was played in front of a sold out crowd of 16,500 at Cincinnatis US Bank Arena. Tickets were going for nearly four times face value, and up to $200 for floor seats. Noticeable people in attendance were ESPN executives, various prominent AAU figures, multiple people associated with the grassroots basketball facets of shoe companies, and college stars such as Rajon Rondo, Eric Hicks, and James White. Reebok grassroots director Chris Rivers couldnt have been too happy to see O.J. Mayo sporting Kobe Bryants new Nike signature shoe and Bill Walker wearing LeBron James new Nike signature shoe, considering that Reebok sponsors both Mayo and Walkers AAU and high school teams, and the duo were considered Reeboks poster children of the future.
While the game was played in Cincinnati, the atmosphere did not give North College Hill any distinct advantage. Although they have the two best juniors in the nation, many in Cincinnati do not care for North College Hill because of their supposed constant trash-talking and running up the scores in local games. Because of this, it was more like the game was played at a neutral site than in North College Hills hometown.
The game started off with a bang, as O.J. Mayo threw an off the backboard pass to Bill Walker for an emphatic dunk on the games first play. The duo hooked up on another alley-oop two minutes later that had the fans in attendance going wild. Oak Hill then hit its stride, as Tywon Lawson begin to put on a scoring clinic. The UNC bound guard had 10 points in the games first four minutes, forcing North College Hill coach Jamie Mahaffey to call a timeout with his team trailing 15-8. Oak Hill came out of it in a flurry, scoring six more points before the quarter ended to give them a 21-11 lead. Mayo and Walker had scored all of North College Hills points throughout the first stanza.
New quarter, more of the same old story for North College Hill. Their role players seemed incredibly nervous and contributed nothing to the scoring column. Oak Hills Tywon Lawson changed his role, setting up his teammates with open looks instead of scoring himself like he did in the first quarter. Duke bound Nolan Smith and Michigan signee Anthony Wright were the main beneficiaries of Lawsons playmaking skills, scoring 8 points each in the half. Lawson also had a great no-look pass to Michael Beasley, who shocked the crowded with an explosive right hand dunk on a helpless North College Hill defender. O.J. Mayos awesome scoring ability was the only thing that was able to keep this game close, as he scored all of North College Hills 13 second quarter points.
At the half, Oak Hill had a 37-24 lead. They were led by Tywon Lawsons 10 points, and 8 point contributions from Nolan Smith and Anthony Wright. For North College Hill, not one single player aside from O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker scored in the entire half. To go into even more detail, Walker scored his five first half points all within the first two minutes of the game, and O.J. Mayo scored every single North College Hill point after that, giving him 19 for the half.
The third quarter was a bit different from the first two, as Bill Walker and O.J. Mayo were able to give Oak Hill a run for their money. The duo showed why they are considered the top two players in the country, as Walker and Mayo scored 8 and 13 points respectively in the third. At around the four minute mark, North College Hills Andre Evans converted on a lay-up, giving the Trojans their first points from someone whose last name wasnt Mayo or Walker. Oak Hill kept up with Mayo and Walkers scoring barrage through a balanced scoring attack led by Lawson, Smith, and Virginia Tech recruit Jeff Allen. The Warriors carried a 61-46 lead in the fourth quarter.
Never was O.J. Mayos competitive nature more clear then in the final quarter of this game. The North College Hill junior put his team on his back and tried to defeat Oak Hill himself, scoring 19 fourth quarter points. Bill Walker chipped in with 11 fourth quarter points in his own right, including 3 dunks. Unfortunately for the Trojans however, they were unable to get the game within less then 10 points. Oak Hill had far too much size for North College Hill to compete with, beating them on the glass 46-27. The Trojans players not named Mayo or Walker combined for 7 points on an abysmal 3-25 from the field. Never was it more evident that two players, although the two best in the country, will never be able to beat a team with 7 very good ones.
Five To Watch
O.J. Mayo- 65, 205 lbs; PG/SG; 2007
43 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover on 12-30 FG, 5-11 3PT, 14-15 FT in 32 minutes
Aside from scoring, Mayo did a very nice job on the defensive end guarding Oak Hills plethora of high major players. He even had to guard 69 Michael Beasley for a few possessions, and was able to use his great strength to contain him. On the polar opposite side of things, Mayo also had to guard Tywon Lawson from time to time, and did a better job on Lawson then any of his other teammates were able to throughout the game.
This was your usual performance from Mayo. He didnt really show us anything new. His competitive nature and will to win often forces him to take some questionable shots, as he sometimes feels that he needs to score 50 in order for his team to win, probably true in this particular game. What was very impressive about his performance today however was the fact that he only had one turnover while going up against such an athletic team as Oak Hil. Turnovers had plagued O.J. in the past, and its great to see that hes finally getting that part of his game under control.
After this performance, there is no doubt in my mind that Mayo is the number one junior in the country. While teammate Bill Walker may have a little more potential because he is still very raw, it doesnt change the fact that O.J. is a legit 65 with capabilities of playing both the point and shooting guard positions. Its going to be interesting to see what the next step is for these two, as they have not even released a list of schools they are considering yet, but the rumor is that the two will land wherever Bob Huggins next destination is. Huggins has been close with both Mayo and Walker since they were younger, and since he is not currently a coach at the moment, has been able to recruit the duo without any rules or regulations against him. I personally have seen him at two North College Hill games I attended this year, so only time will tell if these rumors have any credibility or not.
Bill Walker- 66, 220 lbs; SF; 2007
24 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 4 steals on 10-19 FG, 1-5 3PT, 3-5 FT in 32 minutes
Athleticism aside, Walker showed the bad side of his game in much of the first half against Oak Hill. After the first two minutes of the game, he totally disappeared for the remainder of the half. Bill wasnt aggressive at all, and put up some extremely contested mid-range jumpers off the dribble that made many shake their heads in disbelief.
In the second half, Walker came out inspired and scored 19 points. He seemed to understand that the strong points of his game were slashing to the basket, using his great athleticism to his advantage, and simply overpowering foes instead of shooting contested outside jumpers. Walker did manage to hit one there pointer in the second half however, showing great lift and form on his jumpshot. The only major flaw on Bills shot is that it is very flat, therefore making it inconsistent. When he has arc, he will shoot a respectable percentage from three, evidenced by him making four out of five three pointers en route to his 50 point, 25 rebound performance against one of the better teams in Kentucky a few weeks back.
Many within the national recruiting scene feel that while Mayo is the better player now, Walker has more potential. I totally agree with that, due to the fact that Walker is just beginning to develop a perimeter game and is already the second best player in his class nationally. He is just beginning to tap into the endless well of upside that he has, and its going to be fun to watch how far he comes along in the future.
What will be more interesting, however will be where Bill Walker plays next year. As it stands now, the OHSAA is currently investigating whether Walker will be eligible for the second semester of next year or not. OHSAA rules state that a player is only eligible for eight semesters once he enrolls in high school. It has been reported by many that Walker enrolled in North College Hill a semester early, and would therefore be ineligible for the second semester of next year. The hot rumor around Cincinnati has the two transferring to Oak Hill Academy next year, only if Walker is deemed ineligible by the OHSAA as he would still be eligible in Virginia. It will be very interesting to see this story unfold, and DraftExpress will have the latest on the topic as it arises.
Ty Lawson- 60, 185 lbs; PG; 2006; Signed with North Carolina
21 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 8 turnovers on 7-14 FG, 2-4 3PT, and 5-5 FT in 32 minutes
Tywon combines the ability to score himself with great vision and playmaking skills. It is truly rare that you can find a point guard who can play both the scoring point guard role as well as the set up man role, and Lawson is one who is able to do both. As mentioned before, his quickness is eerily reminiscent of former UNC point guard Raymond Felton. Tywon is a little smaller than Felton was coming in, but is already a far better shooter then the current Bobcat was in high school. Another thing that Roy Williams will absolutely love about Lawson is that he can really defend and therefore should wreak havoc on opposing ACC point guards.
Where there is good, there is bad, and there is some bad with Lawson. While the UNC recruit can knock down the three ball, he has very little lift on his shot, literally shooting with all arms. His mechanics could use some work, but Im sure the North Carolina coaches will help him with this. Tywon also over-dribbled a few times, putting himself into tough situations to pass out of. He would often put himself into tough situations for a player of his size to get out of, which led to a few of his uncharacteristically high amount of turnovers and leads us into Tywons most glaring weakness: His size.
Tywon is listed anywhere between 510 and 60, depending on who you talk to. He looked about 511 to me, which as we all know, is far less the average size for an NBA point guard. Even undersized point guards such as Jameer Nelson and T.J. Ford measured out at 60. The only point guards in recent memory drafted in the first round under 60 that I can think of are Nate Robinson this past year and Craig Speedy Claxton in 2000.
Nolan Smith- 61, 175 lbs; SG/PG; 2007; Committed to Duke
19 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists on 7-13 FG, 0-1 3PT, 5-6 FG in 28 minutes
Nolan's two biggest weaknesses are his size and lack of a true position. If he were 65, he would be a great shooting guard prospect, but he is only 61. While he has shown flashes of being able to play some point guard, he is still definitely a shooting guard first. With the departure of Tywon Lawson from Oak Hill this year, Im sure Smith will request to play point guard more next year, and will run the point this summer for his DC Assault AAU team. Right now, while hes a great high school player, its hard to look at him as an NBA prospect until he has a definitive position.
Michael Beasley- 69, 225 lbs; PF/SF; 2007; Committed to Charlotte
11 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 assists on 4-9 FG, 0-1 3PT, 3-5 FT in 30 minutes
The main problem with Beasley is that he gets noticeably frustrated when he doesnt get touches, and it throws his entire game off. This was the case early in the game, but after he got his first points, he was a totally different player. Mikes hands didnt really look too good tonight as well, as he dropped or bobbled quite a few passes.
In my mind, Beasley is hands down the third best junior in the country behind Mayo and Walker. He is a world class athlete, has very good size, and has the skills to play both perimeter positions. Mike uses both hands incredibly well around the basket, and can really change the game when he plays inspired. His body and wingspan are very good, with a frame that can easily add 20-30 lbs to it. Its really going to be fun to watch how Beasley does when he makes his way to Charlotte in 2007, as some people think that he will be the best player in the Atlantic-10 already in his freshman year.