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July 30, 2012

AAU: Sunday stars

MORE: AAU: Randle breaks slump

The final day of the NCAA certified evaluation period ended at 5 p.m. on Sunday, with many high-profile coaches sticking around to the bitter end. Sunday turned out to be a bracket-buster day at the AAU Nationals in Orlando, as several favored teams, including the Houston Defenders, CP3 All Stars, and Each 1 Teach 1, fell in upsets.

By the end of the day, only four teams remained in the hunt for a national championship, which will be decided on Monday afternoon. Those teams are the D12 Warriors (Fla.), Arkansas Wings (Ark.), Southern Stampede (Ga.), and Team NLP (Ill.).

Here's a look at who produced on Sunday, and throughout the entire event, to help their team reach the semifinals.

Arkansas Wings

The Wings are perhaps the most well-known team remaining in the field as they boast two 2013 Rivals150 prospects in centers Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley. A five-star prospect who is already committed to home state school Arkansas, the 6-foot-10 Portis is ranked No. 15. Portis has that ranking because he's the rare young center prospect who will physically play inside while also being skilled enough to step out on the wing. Don't be surprised if Portis eventually turns himself into a true power forward with great size, capable of being an instant impact guy for Arkansas coach Mike Anderson.

Kingsley, a native of Nigeria, is ranked 86th. A long 6-foot-9 rim defender, Kingsley will leave the Southeast to attend Huntington (W. Va.) Prep for his senior season. A hardworking player, Kingsley has the toughness that coaches love in big men, and could fit perfectly in a college setting for a team with an uptempo style. Kingsley lists Louisville, Florida, North Carolina State, and Arkansas as the four schools currently recruiting him the hardest.

D12 Warriors

Dwight Howard's program is an up-and-coming one from Orlando, and this final four appearance should do even more to enhance its reputation. Two guys putting their names on the lists of major college coaches are 2013 forwards Dre'kalo Clayton and Wilfredo Rodriguez. Clayton is a 6-foot-6 power player with good explosiveness around the rim. He's earned the label as an excellent rebounder and tough player that can bring versatility to the offensive end. Skilled enough to score down low or step outside and knock down the 3-point shot, Clayton is really beginning to excite in-state and regional coaches at both the mid-major (where he holds several offers) and high-major levels. Rodriguez is a fast-rising prospect with length and mobility who is just starting to get recognized by college coaches. One of Florida's top sleeper prospects in 2013, Rodriguez is known as one of the Orlando area's most prolific scorers.

The other standout performer for D12 has been underclassman shooting guard Dmitri Thompson. A big-time shooter and athletic leaper, Thompson can score the ball from deep or short range, and uses his dribble aggressively to make plays. Also a top defender, Thompson should get major consideration to enter the next set of Rivals rankings for the class of 2014.

Thompson is being recruited heavily by Florida, Florida State, Miami (FL), South Florida, Central Florida, and Purdue.

Team NLP

Athletic 2013 point guard Jordan Johnson has taken steps in Orlando to build on the reputation that he made for himself last year as a speedy playmaker who is exciting to watch. Johnson doesn't play on the most talented of the four remaining teams, but his group is the scrappiest as they clawed their ways to huge wins over Terry Porter Elite and Boo Williams on Saturday. As a 6-foot ball-handler who excels at scoring off the dribble, Johnson has thrived as a scoring guard who can produce a highlight-reel play at any given moment.

The Waukegan (Ill.) High rising senior is being recruited at the mid-major level by several Midwestern programs, and hopes to see a rise in his stock after such a strong showing in Orlando.

Southern Stampede

No team is playing better right now then the Nike squad from Georgia. Fueled by momentum from an upset of Florida rival Each 1 Teach 1, the Stampede pulled another upset in the quarterfinal by defeating the Chris Paul All-Stars to advance to the semifinals. The story all week for the Stampede has been the play of star 2014 point guards Nate Mason and Brandon Goodwin. The two lead guards, along with 2013 stud Tahj Shamsid-Deen, all struggle to clear the 6-foot barrier, but they excel at pushing the tempo in their squad's fast-paced and high-scoring attack.

Goodwin and Mason are particularly impressive as triple threat guards who can shoot it, attack the tin, and love to set up teammates. Playing alongside quality big men such as 6-foot-10 class of 2013 center Tosin Mehinti, Mason and Goodwin are both highly skilled at creating scoring opportunities around the basket for interior players.

Georgia, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, and a multitude of southeastern mid-major programs have reached out to the two guards, whose AAU coach feels that because of their size they're floating under the radar at this point.



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