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July 26, 2013

Vegas Week: Strong finishes highlight Day 2

MORE: Vegas Week: Day one

LAS VEGAS -- On day two of Vegas Week, we made a shift over to Rancho High School for the Adidas Super 64. Goodluck Okonoboh and Curtis Cobb came up big in the second half to help Mass Rivals to a come from behind win over the Milwaukee Rebels in an afternoon game. To end the evening, Rex Pflueger spearheaded the Compton Magic Select as they took out the Ohio Basketball Club in a high-level 16U game.

Okonoboh and Cobb finish strong

Early in their game against the Milwaukee Rebels, the Mass Rivals looked lethargic and out of sync. They also seemed without answer for the Rebels mercurial 2015 point guard Damontrae Jefferson. After some verbal motivation from coach Vinny Pastore, Rivals got things going. Of course, the play of high-end four-star big man Goodluck Okonoboh and intriguing 2015 shooting guard Curtis Cobb had a lot to do with that.

Tasked with the chore of checking five-star Kevon Looney (who was pretty good on Thursday) on the defensive end, Okonoboh was a big factor on the glass and found ways to contribute offensively. He got off the floor in a hurry and threw down some massive dunks in traffic, hit a jump shot and threw a few really surprising passes that even caught his teammates a little off guard. Okonoboh didn't really want to list any schools and said that he felt everybody was showing him the same level of attention. In the next month or so he hopes to cut things down and did finally mention Indiana, Duke, Louisville, Kentucky, Connecticut, N.C. State and Florida among those pursuing him.

A relative unknown on the national scene, Cobb is a teammate of Okonoboh's at Wilbraham (Mass.) Wilbraham & Monson and a good looking 6-foot-4 shooting guard. After a quiet first half, Cobb took over offensively scoring all 17 of his points after the intermission. He showed off a pure jumper with deep range, the ability to put the ball on the floor and get into the lane and did it all without forcing things. Towson and Manhattan are the first two to offer but others such as Temple, Providence, La Salle, New Mexico, Rutgers, Boston College and many more are starting to take a much longer look.

Pflueger shines in Compton Magic Select win

To finish the day's action, we headed over to Valley High School to catch some 16U action at the Adidas Super 64. The Compton Magic Select squared off with Ohio Basketball Club in what turned out to be an intensely played and pretty high-level game. OBC had five-star Carlton Bragg, and the 6-foot-8 combo forward was all over the place early; but his teammates seemed to totally forget about him in the second half as the Magic's overall talent level overwhelmed.

For the Magic, small forward Cameron Walker, point guard Sedrick Barefield and shooting guard Rex Pflueger are all four-stars who currently rank among the class of 2015's top 100 players. Walker is a smooth wing who can score at the rim and from deep, and on Thursday night he made things look easy on the offensive end. At times Barefield forced the issue a little too much and made some poor decisions; but when he relaxed and made the available play, he was putting teammates in position to score. But it was Pflueger who changed the game completely during a big second-half run.

A bouncy 6-foot-4 wing capable of shooting it from deep range, the Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei product is an intense competitor who plays with a real edge. Although he's a shooting guard, he hunts for shot blocking opportunities on the defensive end and offensively tries to dunk anything he can. It all came together on the play of the day when he drove down the right side of the lane for a towering one-handed slam. Then, he raced back down to the other end of the court to meet Bragg at the rim to thwart the OBC star's dunk attempt. He also hit some threes, made some good passes and was was at his best when the Magic took over in the second half.

The game drew head coaches from Fresno State, Michigan, West Virginia and Colorado to go along with assistants from Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, California, UCLA, Michigan State and many others.

Final Friday notes from Vegas

We have written about 5-foot-7 point guard Damontrae Jefferson plenty this spring and summer, because despite his lack of size he plays with loads of heart and nobody has been able to stop him from scoring. The Milwaukee native plays in his opponent's face, has quickness and never shows any fear. He does things on his terms, and his teammates all seem like they would run through a wall for him. UMass and New Mexico State have made it clear that they would love to have him and from speaking with his coaches Jefferson would like to get his recruitment wrapped up sooner than later so that he can start focusing on his next step.

There were two class of 2016 wings who caught our eyes due in large part to their similarity. Six-foot-5 Mustapha Heron and Rawle Alkins are both physical wings who love to attack the basket, finish through contact and make enough shots to keep their defenders honest. We'd expect that we will hear a lot from them down the road. Alkins already has offers from Villanova and Fordham and has heard from George Mason, Kentucky, St. John's, Florida, West Virginia and others.

During the last update of the Rivals150, 6-foot-8 power forward LaDamean Keys slipped out of the rankings. A long and bouncy insider, he looked Thursday like a player that could work his way back in. He ran the floor, was active around the rim and put up numbers. One of the quickest leapers in 2014, he blocked several shots and had a stretch where he finished seven of eight possessions near the rim with big dunks. Keys says that he has no offers yet but Auburn, Mississippi State, LSU, UTEP, Oklahoma State, USC and Miami have all shown interest.

When it comes to shooters in the class of 2014, Arizona State signee Kodi Justice is near the top of the heap. Playing for the Compton Magic Elite squad, Justice was making deep bombs look like layups during a win over the Dallas Mustangs.

Florida Elite looked pretty good during a morning win over the Milwaukee Rebels. Top-25 senior shooting guard Brandone Francis was hitting jumpers, handling the ball and making plenty of plays with toughness. His size and versatility are going to give Billy Donovan a lot of lineup options when he arrives at Florida. Also impressing for Florida Elite was class of 2015 shooting guard Donovan Hale and 2015 top 100 wing Prince Ali. Ali is a high-level athlete who threw down some serious dunks, while Hale is big bodied two-guard who can stroke it from between 12 and 20 feet. Hale said that his job is to move the ball and hit shots where he can after being moved up from the 16-and-under squad. Hale doesn't yet have any offers, but mentioned interest from Florida State, Florida Atlantic and Michigan.

Georgia-based Game Elite is loaded with 2015 talent playing up on the 17U level. Five-star Jaylen Brown was off to a good start before he came down awkwardly on a breakaway dunk and played a bit gingerly. He was picked up by his teammates, though. Top-100 junior-to-be Marcus Sheffield got into the lane for some finishes, and top-100 big man Shawntrez Davis made some plays. The biggest lift came from rising senior Antonio Lang who was absolutely on fire from deep swishing home one three pointer after another.

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