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December 18, 2012

City of Palms, Tarkanian Classic loaded

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With Christmas just a week away, a few major high school events kick off on Tuesday. Over the course of the next five days, Rivals.com will go from one coast to another as we spend Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the always loaded City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla. Early Friday, we'll travel across the country to spend Friday and Saturday at the inaugural Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas. Here's a look at some of the storylines we'll be following as we see a combined 35 Rivals150 players from 2013 and 2014, along with six 2015 prospects who have achieved four- or five-star status.

Double dose of top players at City of Palms

The City of Palms won't feature just one player ranked No. 1 in his class nationally; it will feature two. Both 2013's No. 1 player, Andrew Wiggins, and 2014's No.1, Jahlil Okafor, will be in attendance. Unfortunately, the format of the tournament won't allow for a matchup between Wiggins' Huntington (W.Va.) Prep squad and Okafor's Chicago (Ill.) Whitney Young team. However, it will be nice to get another look at both players.

Wiggins has been universally crowned the No. 1 player in not only his class but all of high school basketball. While that title isn't really in question at this point, Wiggins wasn't quite at his best the last time we saw him. Given the highly juiced crowd and electric environment that can usually be found on the campus of Bishop Verot High School, we've got a feeling that the 6-foot-7 wing is going to bring his A game.

The last time we saw Okafor, the low post player made the decision to elevate him to No. 1 in his class look like a good one. If Whitney Young continues to allow him to establish himself on the low block and dump the ball into him on a regular basis, he could further solidify his status as the top player in the junior class. Most likely, Okafor will get a stiff test on Thursday night when his team should face off with a loaded Montverde (Fla.) Academy squad featuring 2013 five-star center Dakari Johnson. Johnson is one of the few players in the country with the size and low post game to match Okafor, and the matchup between those two is one we'll be watching very closely.

What exactly is up with Johnson?

Speaking of Dakari Johnson, we're excited to see how the 6-foot-10 center is coming along. Formerly a member of the class of 2014, he's accelerated his learning curve and will graduate in the class of 2013.

Since making the decision to move up a class in the fall, the five-star has been tough to get a hold of, making it hard to check the temperature on his recruitment. Florida, Syracuse, Kentucky, Kansas, Missouri and many others have been involved at one level or another, but we've yet to hear from Johnson about whom he may favor and which schools he might like to visit. Checking up with him on his plans and what he's thinking on the recruiting front will be a priority.

Could Jackson be close to a decision?

On Thursday night, Class of 2014 star Justin Jackson of Houston (Texas) HCYA will get a major chance to show whether he deserves a bump up from his current ranking of No. 29 in the junior class.

A 6-foot-7 wing who shoots well, Jackson has the ability to play as a stretch four man thanks to his size and passing out of the high post. One of the weaknesses in his game has been a lack of strength, so we want to see if he's gotten stronger. Finally, rumors have been running rampant that Jackson could be on the verge of ending his recruitment, and we'll be looking to get to the bottom of what he's got going on that front.

Who else will step up in Florida?

The players we've mentioned would be more than enough to make for an exciting tournament. But they are just a small sampling of the talent expected to be on hand in Fort Myers.

From the Class of 2013 we'll also see guys such as five-stars Kasey Hill and Rondae Jefferson, along with four-stars Brannen Greene, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Eric Mika, Nick Emery, Dominic Woodson, Moses Kingsley, Jordan Bell, Roschon Prince, Johnathan Williams III, JaJuan Johnson, Akoy Agau and Devin Williams.

Class of 2014 stars expected to on hand include five-star D'Angelo Russell, along with four-stars L.J. Peak, Paul White, Kameron Chatman, T.J. Haws, Joel Berry and Tadric Jackson. The 2015 class will be well represented with players such as five-star Malik Newman and four-stars Marcus Derrickson and Montaque Gill-Caesar.

2015 talents on display in Vegas

Like the City of Palms, the Tarkanian Classic is loaded with top talent. Played on the campus of Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, the event features mostly West Coast talent. A trio of sophomore big men will be among those we are watching the closest.

The race for the top spot in the Class of 2015 is wide open, and five-star power forward Ivan Rabb of Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd will get his chance to audition for the top spot. A top-of-the-line athlete who rebounds and finishes above the rim, does Rabb have the skill level to merit serious consideration for the top spot in his class? Is anybody taking charge in his recruitment?

Looking to protect his home court and make the move from a high-end four-star to five-star status will be Bishop Gorman's budding star, Stephen Zimmerman. The 6-foot-11 center is thin but long with a high skill level, and he's on the fence of four-/five-star status. He's not the only four-star sophomore at Gorman, either. 6-foot-9 Chase Jeter teams with Zimmerman to give Gorman as strong a pair of sophomore big men as there is in the country.

Another four-star sophomore scheduled to be in attendance is Centereach (N.Y.) Our Savior New American's 6-foot-9 shot-blocking machine, Cheick Diallo. Angling for four-star status will be California combo guard Cameron High and combo forward John Ross.

Plenty of other ranked players to monitor in Vegas

The Tarkanian Classic will feature several other Rivals150 ranked players from the classes of 2013 and 2014.

Representing the 2013 Rivals150 will be Dakarai Allen, Billy Garrett, Kyle Davis and Darin Johnson.

Meanwhile, 2014 will feature the likes of five-star Stanley Johnson, along with four-stars Isaiah Bailey and Dorian Pickens and three-star Josh Cunningham.



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