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December 19, 2013

City of Palms: Bacon, Blakeney start strong


THE RIVALS150: Class of 2014 - Class of 2015

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The City of Palms Classic always attracts top high school teams with top prospects from all over the county. The opening day of action featured breakout performances from prospects in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 classes as well as big games from prospects already signed to play at high-major programs.

Bacon adjusting to new role

Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy junior Dwayne Bacon is currently ranked as the No. 27 prospect in the 2015 Rivals150 and is listed as a small forward. Small forward isn't where Bacon sees his future, though. He's making the transition to playing with the ball in his hands more often.

"I'm playing point guard," Bacon revealed. "That's where I want to play in college, so I'm starting to make the transition now."

Sure enough, that's exactly where IMG Academy coach Yusef Fitgerald had Bacon playing in an opening-day game against Sagemont (Fla.). While the transition is still a work in progress, Bacon found teammates for easy baskets at times and chipped in 20 points himself.

Bacon's performance earned him an offer from UCLA, which had an assistant coach in attendance. Prior to receiving the offer from the Bruins, Bacon said Florida State, Georgetown, Louisville and USC are recruiting him the hardest, and each school had an assistant coach there to see him as well.

Big game for Blakeney

In the opening game of the event between Oak Ridge (Fla.) and Greenforest Christian (Ga), it didn't take long to figure out who the best scorer in the gym was. At the end of the first quarter, Oak Ridge led 11-9 over Greenforest Christian with all 11 points coming from junior guard Antonio Blakeney. The 6-foot-3 scoring guard finished with 32 points in a 61-55 overtime loss and also chipped in eight rebounds.

Blakeney, who currently ranks as the 56th best prospect in the 2015 Rivals150, can score it any way you like. He's deadly from 3-point range, as he showed by connecting on six long range shots, but he's also quick enough to beat his man off the dribble and crafty enough to finish in the paint. His size, skill-set and athletic ability might remind some of a young Louis Williams.

Blakeney's scoring ability certainly has the attention of the top college coaches around the country. Coaches from Florida State, Georgetown and Louisville were on hand to see him on Wednesday afternoon. In a recent interview with Rivals.com, Blakeney mentioned that Florida, Florida State, North Carolina, Kansas, Louisville and several other high-major programs are aggressively recruiting him.

His mind is currently focused on finishing his junior season strong, but a decision might not be too far out for Blakeney.

"I honestly don't know when I'll commit. I'm really thinking more about my high school season right now than anything else. If I had to guess, I'd say maybe after the high school season is over," Blakeney told Rivals.com.

St. John Bosco underclassmen impress

Despite a losing effort to Providence (Fla.), a pair of underclassmen from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco were among the most impressive prospects on the opening day of action at the City of Palms. Freshman forward Billy Preston and sophomore wing Vance Jackson both showed ability that could make them among the most highly recruited kids in their respective classes on the West Coast.

Preston, a 6-foot-8 combo forward, led St. John Bosco with 21 points and 12 rebounds. He connected on all three of his attempts from three-point range, including one late in the fourth quarter to bring his team within two points. Athletic with a strong build, Preston has the skill level to make him a matchup nightmare down the road.

Like Preston, Jackson presents match-up problems for opposing teams with size and athleticism. At 6-foot-7 with a sweet stroke, the four-star prospect also has the ability to make plays off the dribble and didn't appear to be afraid to mix it up inside.

Assistants from UCLA and USC stuck around for the final game of the night to see St. John Bosco, whose roster also features five-star junior guard Tyler Dorsey and five-star Connecticut signee Daniel Hamilton.

Notes

One of the better performances of the day came from Miami signee Ja'Quan Newton. The Neumann Goretti (Pa.) lead guard nearly racked up a triple-double with his 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in a big victory over Denver East. He'll be an instant impact player for the Hurricanes next year.

Another talented prospect headed to the ACC put up big numbers. Duke signee Grayson Allen pumped in 31 points for Providence in the last game of the night over St. John Bosco. The 6-foot-4 wing showed off serious range on his jumper and also brought the house down with an impressive dunk right down the lane. His free throws down the stretch were important in holding off a St. John Bosco comeback.

UCLA may have stolen one out of Florida in Gyorgy Goloman. A native of Hungary, he scored 18 points in Sagemont's victory over IMG Academy. He has an advanced offensive game with his ability to score inside, catch everything thrown his away and to pass out of the post. He'll need to fill out his 6-foot-10 frame before he'll be ready to contribute in the Pac-12, but he's a talented player that will have a chance to sneak into the final 2014 Rivals150.

David Sharpe recently committed to play football for Will Muschamp at Florida, but he's also significant contributor on Providence's basketball team. Sharpe uses his offensive lineman body well in the post and is nearly impossible to stop when he gets position in the paint. The future Gator finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.

One of the more surprising performances came from Milton (Ga.) forward Mo Lewis. Usually known more for his ability to play inside and hit occasional mid-range jumpers, the Navy signee caught fire from beyond the arc on Wednesday night, connecting on five of his eight 3-point attempts and finishing with 25 points. A Navy assistant was on hand to see Lewis.

Almost going basket for basket with Blakeney in the opening game of the day was Greenforest Christian sophomore guard John Ogwuche. The 6-foot-2 shooting guard finished with 25 points, connecting on five out of his eight shots from three-point range. Ogwuche has already received an offer from UAB with heavy interest coming from Georgia.


Dan McDonald is a contributing national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.



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