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December 2, 2012

Thornwell shines on Saturday at Hoopfest

MORE: Friday at Hoopfest

BENTON, Ky. -- Saturday's action at the Marshall County Hoopfest was just as strong as day one. Not only did Oak Hill Academy, Huntington Prep and Fort Bend Travis return, but they were joined by three of the top players from a loaded Memphis, Tenn., area.

With another raucous crowd on hand, mostly wearing Kentucky blue, the stars performed well, but the story of the day was really the talented players who are secondary options on their teams but really stepped up.

Thorn in Opponent's Side

Oak Hill Academy wing Sindarius Thornwell, a four-star prospect who is committed to South Carolina, was possibly the most impressive player in the gym on Saturday. Thornwell came out aggressive and maintained that intensity throughout as he finished with a game-high 31 points on efficient 10-of-17 shooting.

Thornwell has always been a strong and athletic wing who can slash through traffic and finish at the rim. But on Saturday, the 6-foot-5 scorer showed he can be prolific from the 3-point line as well, knocking down three out of four shots from deep.

Also one of the more versatile players in the field, Thornwell was effective on the defensive end, guarding the post as he mostly matched up with Memphis Southwind's Jonathan Williams III.

On a team with four Rivals150 prospects, Thornwell is the glue that holds Oak Hill Academy together and gives the team its competitive edge.

Also for Oak Hill Academy, class of 2013 wing R.J. Curington was impressive for the second straight day. Currington finished with 21 points, mainly because he knows how to play his role off the ball and score when the chances come.

A very good shooter from the perimeter, and a deceptively bouncy athlete, Currington is a hot mid-major prospect who is receiving the most interest from Western Kentucky.

Rim to Rim

Memphis Southwind was led by Williams III and four-star wing JaJuan Johnson. A 6-foot-5 Marquette commit, Johnson tied Thornwell for the game high in points as he also tallied 31.

Playing in front of his future head coach, Buzz Williams, Johnson showed that he is slippery off of the dribble, has a relentless motor and can score in the mid-range game.

Johnson showcased his skill set most efficiently in the transition game. He got to the basket or get fouled on every trip, even against the long and athletic defenders of Oak Hill.

Joining Johnson in the offensive effort for Southwind was Williams, who chipped in 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.

Williams has such great length and agility in the post that he can finish over opponents in the lane whenever he wants, while also having the ability to step out on the wing and handle the basketball.

The 6-foot-9 four-star power forward, who is headed to Missouri, needs to make sure that he plays with great effort on every possession. But he is as talented as anyone in the field was on Saturday.

Crowding the Paint

Andrew Wiggins scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds in another routine win for Huntington (W.Va.) Prep. That shouldn't surprise anyone because Wiggins has long been the best amateur player in the nation. Saturday's game was just another of his many high-level performances.

One of the surprise standouts for Huntington Prep, however, was Dominic Woodson. The 6-foot-10 four-star, who is committed to Baylor, might have scored only eight points and grabbed five rebounds, but his ability to clog the paint was enough to provide a glimpse of how good Woodson can be at the next level.

With his size and girth at 295 pounds, Woodson is extremely skilled on the low block. When he plays with physicality, he can bury his man in the post. Woodson has good hands and soft touch around the rim. He also has a good feel for the offensive end by waiting for his man to commit to a side, then using good footwork to go the other way and score.

Playing against leaner and more athletic big men, which is the norm for Woodson, he was also very good at using his length and size to disrupt his opponents and alter shots without leaving his feet and committing unnecessary fouls.

Lean and Mean

The first thing that stuck out about five-star power forward Austin Nichols on Saturday is that the Memphis commit, from Briarcrest Christian Academy, definitely spent a lot of his fall in the weight room. The 6-foot-9 and exceptionally athletic Nichols came out with notably more weight on his frame and showed that he is willing to get physical in the paint, even against players as big as Woodson.

While his team struggled in a blowout loss, making it tough for Nichols to get the ball in premium scoring areas, the power forward still managed a team-high 17 points.

Nichols is an overachieving big man because he plays with toughness, pursues balls out of his area and consistently beats his opponents down the floor.

Also a skilled big man who can play in the high or low post, Nichols stepped out and showed nice touch on his mid-range jump shot out to about 17 feet.

His Brother's Keeper

One of the storylines from Friday's action was the chemistry between twin brothers Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison. Well, on Saturday that chemistry was tough to find because Aaron played very limited minutes thanks to three early first-quarter personal fouls.

With one half of the dynamic duo on the bench, twin brother Andrew, who is usually more of a distributor, realized that he had to pick up the scoring load. Andrew did just that, as the 6-foot-5 point guard, headed with his brother to Kentucky next season, scored 25 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out five assists.

Andrew's strategy for scoring was pretty simple: Get by his first opponent off the dribble, then go straight downhill to the rim. In getting to the foul line several times in the second quarter, Harrison really caught a groove, and from that point on it was tough for Madison (Ky.) Central to contain him in a game that Harrison's Fort Bend (Texas) Travis squad won 64-57.

Aaron returned late in the fourth quarter, and Andrew eventually fouled out with about two minutes left, exiting not only to a standing ovation and a handshake from the Madison Central coach but also a chant from the pro-Kentucky crowd of, "Go, Big Blue."



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