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December 19, 2012

City of Palms: Chester on a run

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- One could make a pretty good argument that the City of Palms stands as the nation's premier in-season high school event. Now in Year No. 40, the C.O.P. is certainly one of the most stable events and it got off to a fine start on Tuesday. Many of the heavy hitters won't take the floor until Wednesday and Thursday, but there was still some good stuff off Tuesday, including Rondae Jefferson helping to lead his team to an impressive win.

Chester on some kind of run

Chester (Pa.) High and star small forward Rondae Jefferson entered their Tuesday night game against Orlando (Fla.) Lake Highland Prep on a 60-game winning streak. By the end of the night they had extended that run to 61 games to set a Pennsylvania state record. While Jefferson has the most notoriety, the Clippers are a team all the way.

Before tip-off, Chester was already at an advantage as Lake Highland Prep's star junior point guard Joel Berry was sidelined with a knee injury. Berry could have helped keep things a bit closer, but at the end of the day the results likely would have been the same as Chester is overwhelming. Loaded with athletes, Chester plays a tough, physical and aggressive style of basketball that the Arizona-bound Jefferson spearheads.

The 6-foot-7 senior isn't a huge scorer and he's not a guy that will consistently make teams pay with the jumper, but he's plenty effective. Jefferson is one of the country's best defensive players and can do a lot of things. He rebounds at a high level, is a very good passer off the dribble and he sets a tone on both ends with his physical play.

It's important to recognize Jefferson's strong supporting cast as well. Junior point guard Conrad Chambers is slick with the dribble and can score going to the rim. When Lake Highland Prep dared Chester to shoot from deep, it was senior guard Darius Robinson (who had Hofstra watching) who came up big burying a trio of 3-pointers. He's a physical 6-foot-2 shooting guard who can also get to the rim. Finally, senior big man Richard Granberry was also big on Tuesday and converted over and over at the rim with dunks and layups.

In the absence of Berry, junior Jay Henderson stepped things up for his team. A 6-foot-3 shooting guard, Henderson has plenty of confidence in his jumper and made 5-of-11 from the land of 3s. He's got decent length, is starting to fill out and is beginning to show a bit more game off the bounce than we had seen in the past. Henderson finished with a game-high 25 in a losing effort.

Eubanks learning the ropes on the perimeter

Currently ranked No. 99 nationally in the 2014 Rivals150, Kobe Eubanks is already a fairly well-known player. The 6-foot-5 wing at Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage is also a top-shelf athlete and capable slasher.

Now, he's working on being more of a two-guard than a small forward and is trying to take his recruitment to the next level.

His jumper wasn't there on Tuesday, but Eubanks didn't panic and eventually did what he does best: attacked the basket. He scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

"I'm making that move to the two," said Eubanks. "I can play it or the three though. Either or, it doesn't really matter to me."

On the recruiting front, Eubanks is starting to generate some heat. Georgia was there watching him and Central Florida, South Florida, Missouri State and George Mason have all offered scholarships. More high-level programs are starting to test the waters with his recruitment, so the C.O.P. could be big for him down the road.

Tuesday's tip-ins

Central Florida has itself a nice player in wing Steven Haney. The 6-foot-6 senior from Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas had a good performance in a tough loss. Haney used a great shot fake and a nice little hesitation move to drive into the lane and score a late bucket and draw a foul to take a one-point lead. He missed the free throw and Aquinas ended up losing to host school Fort Myers (Fla.) Bishop Verot on a buzzer-beating two-pointer. That aside, Haney showed game. He can fill it from deep, has good size and is a very crafty and aware passer.

Bishop Verot junior big man Ricky Doyle was unfortunately out with an injury, but senior shooting guard Tyler Mason came up huge in Doyle's absence. The 6-foot-3 Taylor was the entire Verot offense early and did an impressive job on the glass. He finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds and will be a good college player on one level or another.

The game between Tift County from Georgia and Long Beach (Calif.) Poly lost a little bit of star power with Poly's top 50 junior wing Kameron Chatman sitting out due to transfer. But, there was still plenty to go around as Kansas bound senior Brannen Greene and four-star junior Tadric Jackson of Tift County did battle with the Pac-12-bound duo of USC signee Roschon Prince and Oregon signee Jordan Bell.

The 6-foot-6 Prince and 6-foot-8 Bell combined for 36 points and 15 rebounds and they were both strong around the rim. They each play physical defense and Bell showed again why he's one of high school basketball's top shot-blockers. For Tift, Greene hit on some deep bombs but also used his big body to shield off defenders on some drives in a 21-point, seven-rebound effort. Six-foot-2 and solidly built, Jackson is a to-the-rim guy all the way and very tough. He finished with 20 points.



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