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December 20, 2012

City of Palms: Perfect day for Johnson

MORE: Tuesday at City of Palms

FT. MYERS, Fla. - Wednesday at the City of Palms saw some big-time talents take thier talents and do what they do best. Tournament favorite Montverde (Fla.) Academy throws a bunch of talent on the floor, and they did not disappoint as Dakari Johnson led the way in a romp over host Bishop Verot. Long Beach Poly's Jordan Bell had another big day, and Julius Randle talked about recovering from his broken foot.

Johnson leads Montverde, down to three

Head coach Kevin Boyle of Montverde (Fla.) Academy has a lot of weapons at his disposal. He's got a five-star backcourt in Florida-bound point guard Kasey Hill and undecided junior combo guard D'Angelo Russell. Both Hill and Russell were plenty good on Wednesday, but it was five-star senior big man Dakari Johnson who pitched a pretty much perfect game of hoops.

In just over 16 minutes of action, Johnson went 11-11 from the field and corralled 10 rebounds in a dominating performance.

Bishop Verot didn't have anybody who could come close to containing Johnson, but he still had to hold up his end of the bargain with conversions and tough play around the rim. Johnson isn't a crazy athlete, and his game is more about getting position around the rim; but he did run the floor hard for a few transition opportunities.

After moving to 2013 from the class of 2014, Johnson is also moving along with his recruitment. The 6-foot-10, 250 pounder is now down to Georgetown, Kentucky and Syracuse. He says that all three are in even standing and that he'll take his visits once the high school season is over.

Williams, Johnson lead way for Southwind in a laugher

The game between Memphis (Tenn.) Southwind and Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian should have been much different. Prestonwood should have been hitting the floor with the nation's No. 2 player in the class of 2013 Julius Randle and four-star sophomore wing Mickey Mitchell. But both of Prestonwood's star players were sidelined with injuries, making it a pretty easy go of things for Southwind and their high-octane, pressing style led by the senior duo of Missouri-bound Johnathan Williams III and Marquette signee JaJuan Johnson.

At times early on, Prestonwood couldn't even get the ball in bounds, and the baskets came fast and furious for Southwind from close range. Williams was an early beneficiary of this as his 6-foot-9 size and quickness to the rim were just too much to handle on top of everything else. He ran the floor, altered shots at the rim and generally had a pretty easy go of it while tallying 18 points.

A long 6-foot-4 perimeter player, Johnson didn't have his shot dialed in from deep early in the game. Instead, he used his quickness and great first step to attack the rim where he found plenty of success. When his jumper started falling late, he clicked off a few deep jumpers and ended up scoring a game-high 20 points in less than 20 minutes of action.

Randle out but not down

It wasn't easy for Julius Randle to sit by and watch his teammates get handed a lopsided loss. But the 6-foot-9 senior who ranks No. 2 in the class of 2013 felt it very important to be on hand to support his teammates as he tries to move on from a broken foot that will likely end up costing him his final run through high school.

"It sucks to be honest," said Randle when asked what it was like to watch his teammates struggle. "I just have to be there to support them whether I'm playing or not."

If there is any silver lining to be found in being injured, Randle is doing his best to find it. His recovery is going well, he's off of crutches and his attitude remains positive. He's had a rather hectic schedule for the past few years, and he at least gets a little time to rest and recover and prepare for his future.

"I haven't had a chance to get true, legitimate rest so I take that as a positive," said Randle who plans to do some things with USA Basketball in the summer. "Next year is the most important year for me so that's what I'm working on right now."

When asked if his injury has changed his recruitment or the approach of coaches Randle couldn't help but chuckle. Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, N.C. State, Oklahoma and Texas remain firmly in pursuit. He's looking forward to visits coming up to N.C. State, Kansas and Texas and says the only real difference in his recruitment is that he now has more time to talk to coaches.

"The (recruiting process) isn't weighing on me at all," Randle said. "They talk to me just like they did my freshman year. They're all saying the same stuff right now, I just have more time to talk with them."

Wednesday's tip-ins

After getting off to a good start on Tuesday, Jordan Bell was even better on Wednesday as his 17 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocked shots enabled Long Beach (Calif.) Poly to escape a tough game with Omaha (Neb.) Central. A wiry strong 6-foot-8 power forward, Bell has near-freakish athleticism and more importantly outstanding body control and timing. Given that he's not a particularly big post player, his ability to block and alter shots is quite impressive. Oregon head coach Dana Altman has always liked putting a lengthy, quick athlete at the front of his press, and Bell figures to cause a lot of problems in that role when he makes his way to Eugene next season.

Kansas is getting one offensively skilled player in 6-foot-6 senior wing Brannen Greene from Tift County in Georgia. A smooth player on the offensive end with great size, good instincts and plenty of game, Greene has almost made it look too easy at times over the first two days in Ft.Myers. Wednesday he faced a few different junk defenses aimed to stop him, and he responded by firing in 26 points while grabbing four rebounds and dishing out four assists in an efficient 32-minute outing. He doesn't get rattled, has the body to play physically if he wants to and doesn't seem to get hurried up by anything out there.

Montverde is loaded and D'Angelo Russell is looking much more comfortable in his second year in the program. The junior is a dangerous jump shooter but has also improved his playmaking and passing and can now slide over and play some point at times making him more versatile at 6-feet-4. The Louisville native says that his recruitment is mostly running through his father, but he's noticed the efforts being put in by programs such as hometown Louisville, Ohio State, North Carolina, Missouri, Georgetown and Florida and others.

One guy who has really helped his stock this winter is BYU-bound senior big man Eric Mika. Currently ranked No. 72 in the 2013 Rivals150, Mika is too low and will be seeing a bump in his ranking come final ranking time. Though he has some skill and is a fine athlete, the Highland (Utah) Lone Peak power forward is a throwback kind of guy. His game is all about physical competition and testing the manhood of his opponents around the hoop. There's nothing dirty about his play, but he never stops coming at opponents, and he's not somebody people seem to enjoy playing against. He was good for 22 points and six rebounds while making all eight of his field goals.

Trevin Joseph of McDounough (Ga.) Eagle's Landing could be one to watch this spring as a potential sleeper recruit in the class of 2013. A 6-foot-2 shooting guard with athleticism to burn, Joseph is confident on the offensive end and attacks in many different ways. He's a lane-filler in transition, gets to the rim really well along the baseline and can step out to bury some deep jumpers. His recruitment is just starting to take off with South Carolina, Wichita State, Georgia Southern, Samford and some more starting to pay more and more attention to him.

Another senior who should see his recruitment heat up a bit is 6-foot-3 shooting guard Douglas Brooks of Lake Wales (Fla.) High. A fine athlete who can get to the rim and make some jump shots, Brooks plays with a lot of energy on both ends of the floor and does some nice things. He made some slick passes, was a pest defensively and looks like a guy that will get high end mid-major and even some high-major looks as the winter progresses.

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