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January 17, 2014

Bass Pro: Montverde shines on Thursday

THE RIVALS150: Class of 2014 - Class of 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- When it comes to a combination of fan support and high level talent, the Bass Pro Tournament of Champions is as good as it gets. Each year, fans pack the Hammons Center on the campus of Missouri State to watch hoops and this year is no different. Thursday night's opening night crowd of 7,112 was treated to maybe the most impressive performance by any team this season as the nation's top team Montverde (Fla.) Academy -- led by five-star Ohio State signee D'Angelo Russell and five-star junior Ben Simmons -- destroyed Sun Valley (Calif.) Village Christian in the nightcap.

Lamb, Simmons lead Montverde

By the time the final horn had sounded in the nightcap between Montverde (Fla.) Academy and Sun Valley (Calif.) Christian, Kevin Boyle's Montverde squad had solidified their status as the top team in the nation. Even without Rivals150 point guard and California signee Ahmaad Rorie, who has left the program, and without four-star junior big man Noah Dickerson, who is still sitting out after transferring to the program, Montverde was able to overwhelm a talented squad by the score of 96-46.

While Montverde may have been missing some high end talent, the players they were still able to put on the floor more than made up for it. Leading the way was the No. 21 player in the class of 2014, Ohio State-bound shooting guard ]db]D'Angelo Russell[/db]. Russell was basically perfect before going to the bench midway through the third quarter. He hit smooth jumpers from deep, found teammates for easy buckets and scored in transition. In a highly efficient night he finished with 24 points, three assists and three steals while making all nine (including 4-of-4 from three) of his shots.

From the class of 2015, 6-foot-8 combo forward Ben Simmons showed again that he is currently ranked too low at No. 6 in his class. The Australian lefty looks like he may have grown a bit bigger than his 6-foot-8 listing and he has certainly added a lot of strength. He is a high-end athlete, has a very good skill level and does a great job of finishing with either hand. The southpaw is so good with his right hand that a few people sitting courtside didn't realize that he was a lefty until he went to the free throw line midway through the second quarter. He was committed to pounding the glass on Thursday night and his 13 points and 10 rebounds in 16 minutes were loud. Montverde will head to the Hoop Hall Classic in Springfield, Mass. after they finish up at the Bass Pro and Simmonds will get another big stage and should be considered a legitimate contender for the top spot in 2015.

Delarosa keys win for Christ the King

For a large portion of their game with hometown favorites Springfield (Mo.) Kickapoo, favored Middle Village (N.Y.) Christ the King was in big trouble. Kickapoo kept making timely threes and had healthy support from the hometown crowd. On top of that, CTK's star player Rawle Alkins the No. 19 player in the class of 2016 was having a tough night shooting the ball.

However, as Kickapoo's zone packed even tighter into the lane daring the CTK guards to shoot, the biggest player on the floor came up huge for the Royals as 6-foot-10, 300 pound senior center Adonis DeLaRosa bludgeoned the interior of Kickapoo's zone for a game-high 17 points in CTK's 49-46 win.

An enormous individual, DeLaRosa looks much improved since Rivals.com last saw him in the summer. He is moving better and is much more assertive on the block. He was demonstrative in calling for the ball and then showed off nice hands and very soft touch around the rim once he got the ball. Moving forward, college programs will want to shave some weight off of him and he'll need to be more of a rim protector, but the three-star prospect can play the game at a pretty high level. His coach, Joe Arbitello, mentioned St. John's, Fordham, Florida State and Rutgers among his offers.

Despite shooting just 3-of-12 from the field, the 6-foot-4 Alkins was able to make an impact on the game. He used his elite athleticism to cause issues on both ends of the floor and was active in transition and around the rim to finish with 12 points and four rebounds. He mentioned that his latest offer is from Minnesota and was glad his teammate saved them from getting upset.

"This was our first time playing on this floor and in front of the crowd and we got kind of shook," Alkins told Rivals.com. "But, big Adonis really saved us out there."

More notes from Bass Pro

Another outstanding team at the Bass Pro is Fairfax (Va.) Paul VI. They are talented and deep and are another squad that is surviving attrition with UNC-Greensboro signed big man Quadree Smith having left the program and four-star junior shooting guard Franklin Howard out with injury. Just like with Montverde, the players on the floor more than made up for things for a Paul VI squad loaded with talented players. The No. 117 player in the class of 2015 Kevin Dorsey was outstanding on both ends in the 83-49 win over Willard (Mo.) High. A ball hawking point guard who shares ball handling duties with senior Evan Taylor, he had four steals and scored 15 points while dishing out a pair of assists. Georgetown-bound junior Marcus Derrickson had 14 points and five rebounds while sophomores Josh Reaves and Tyler Scanlon added 17 and 15 apiece. Reaves is one to keep an eye on down the road. The 6-foot-4 wing is a big-time athlete and strong finisher at the rim. He looks like a high major slasher/finisher type.

Willard was in big trouble shortly after tipoff but Chris Kendrix did everything he could to keep his team in the game early. Playing on his future home floor, the Missouri State signee scored 21 of his game high 26 points in the first half. He was hitting three pointers, getting to the line and playing well above the rim. At 6-foot-6, he will give the Bears a high-flying wing with big upside as he adjusts to the college game. Kendrix added four rebounds, three blocks, three steals and a pair of assists to go with his 26 points.

For years, Memphis (Tenn.) White Station has been coming down to the Bass Pro and enjoying great success. They have built a strong local following and moved to 15-0 on the season with a win over High Point (N.C.) Wesleyan Christian. They did so without huge efforts from either of their top 50 ranked seniors LeRon Black or Chris Chiozza. Signed with Illinois, Black got going a little bit in the second half to finish with 12 points and eight rebounds while the Florida bound Chiozza scored just four points (only took five shots) while dishing out six assists and coming up with five steals. But, others stepped up for White Station like senior wing Ladarius Coleman and junior guard Nych Smith.

An unsigned wing who is good to go academically, Coleman is a tough and rugged athlete. He hit mid range jumpers and was able to play above the rim during a very nice 16 point and six rebound effort. White Station coach Jesus Patino said that he is expecting South Carolina to take a look and that Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee State and South Alabama have been involved to some extent. Mostly, Patino said that Coleman's recruitment has been pretty quiet but he certainly deserves more looks. A point guard who plays off the ball because of Chiozza being on the floor, Smith was a sparkplug early. He hit three first quarter threes and finished with 16 points, two assists and three rebounds. Smith reports that he has interest from Mississippi State, Wichita State, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Memphis, Connecticut and more.

In a losing effort, North Carolina signee Theo Pinson continued a strong senior campaign. The 6-foot-6 small forward was an ace attacking and finishing well above the rim. He didn't shoot quite as well as he has at other stops this winter, but the five-star still managed to make enough shots to score a game high 23 points while grabbing six rebounds and dishing out five assists.

Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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