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Featherston Previews The 13th Annual Bob Gibbons T.O.C.!

Three future Duke players and at least seven future ACC recruits (although probably many more than that) are scheduled to be on display this weekend for the 13th annual Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions.

The three-day event opens Friday night with games at a wide variety of locations – from Cameron to the Smith Center, from Weisinger-Brown in Raleigh to North Carolina Central’s McLendon Gym.

“It’s one of the strongest fields we’ve ever had,” Gibbons said Wednesday.

The Gibbons event has long provided area basketball fans a unique chance to preview future college and NBA talent. Five years ago, J.J. Redick engaged in a memorable dual with UNC-bound Raymond Felton in the Smith Center. One court over, unheralded N.C. State recruit Ilian Evtimov was abusing future NBA No. 1 pick Eddy Curry. Dwight Howard, Kiwame Brown, O.J. Mayo and most recently Greg Oden are all Gibbons alumns.

Current Duke standouts Josh McRoberts, DeMarcus Nelson and Greg Paulus introduced themselves to Triangle fans at the Gibbons event, while Blue Devil recruits Gerald Henderson and Lance Thomas were on display a year ago.

Thomas will be back this weekend, along with 2006 recruits Nolan Smith and Taylor King.

Thomas, a 6-8 McDonald’s All-American who signed with Duke earlier this month, will miss Friday night’s opener to attend his high school prom, but is expected to rejoin the New York Panthers in time for its second game Saturday at 1 p.m. in NCCU’s McLendon Gym. The Panthers will also play at 7 p.m. Saturday in Cameron.

Nolan Smith, a 6-2 guard from Oak Hill Academy who committed to Duke in the Class of 2007, is a key player for the No. 2 seeded DC Assault. Although there have been reports that Smith was injured and will not play this weekend, Gibbons said that as of Wednesday afternoon, Smith WAS planning on playing and was, in fact, one of the keys to the Assault’s high seeding.

“They’d be in trouble without him,” Gibbons said. “Most of their strength is up front.”

DC Assault opens the tournament at 9:30 p.m. Friday in Cameron. The team is also scheduled to play at the Smith Center at 11:30 p.m. Saturday and at UNC’s Carmichael Auditorium at 6:30 p.m.

Duke’s third recruit plays for the top-seeded team in the Tournament – the Southern Cal All-Stars. King, a 6-7 forward who will join the Blue Devils in the fall of 2007, is just one of the big guns on a team that also features 6-9 UNC target Kevin Love and Brandon Jennings, rated by Gibbons as the nation’s best sophomore point guard.

The All-Stars open play at the Smith Center Friday at 8 p.m., then move to Cameron for an 11:30 p.m. game Saturday, then back to the Smith Center for a 6:30 p.m. game.

Each team plays three games in its pool, then the winners advance in the playoffs – the championship games in all age groups will be played Sunday afternoon in the Smith Center. A full schedule is available at

In addition to the future Duke trio in the field, other future ACC players include:

-- Point guard Edwin Rios: A top 25 2007 recruit for Miami, who will play with Team Breakdown.

-- Forward Dennis Horner: The only one of Herb Sendek’s 2006 recruits who is still firmly committed to the Pack, will play for South Jersey Select.

-- Power forward Deon Thompson: A 6-9, 250-pound big man who will enroll at North Carolina this fall as part of the nation’s top-rated recruiting class. He’s playing for Rising Stars America.

-- Power forward Jeff Allen: The 6-8 Oak Hill product was the gem of Virginia Tech’s 2006 recruiting class, but he’ll probably spend a year at Hargrave Military Academy before joining the Hokes in the fall of 2007. He’ll play for Triple Threat.

In addition, 6-4 swing man Dominique Sutton, a former player at Durham’s Jordan High School who is now a junior at the Patterson School in Lenoir, N.C., will play for DC Assault. Sutton has committed to Wake Forest, contingent on his academic situation.

Of course, there are plenty of other prominent names in the field, including several who could wind up in the ACC – even the Big Four.

Love, who was once on Duke’s radar, but is now expected to pick between UNC and UCLA, is the prime target. He’s a top 10 prospect in the Class of 2007. Two other top 10 players from the 2007 class expected to be on hand include 6-5 Eric Gordon (Illinois commit) who will play for the Indiana Elite team, and point guard Jaryd Bayless (Arizona commit), who will play for the Southeast Elite.

DC Assault features a number of top frontcourt products, including 6-8 Michael Beasley and 6-10 Julian Vaughn (from the same Reston, Va., high school that produced Grant Hill and Joey Beard) and swingman Austin Freeman (committed to Georgetown).

Duke is reportedly looking at Vaughn, just in case the Devils’ pursuit of Kyle Singler (who won’t be at the Gibbons Tournament) doesn’t work out. The Blue Devil coaches also have 6-10 J.J. Hickson of Atlanta (playing for the Worldwide Renegades) on their recruiting radar. N.C. State is one of several ACC teams keeping an eye on 6-9 Herb Pope, who has rescinded his commitment to Pitt. He will play on the same South Jersey Select team as Pack-bound Dennis Horner.

Those interested in long-term prospects can check out three of the four top-rated freshmen in the country, including 6-8 Renaldo Sidney, who dazzled observers last year as an eighth grader. He’ll play for the Jackson (Miss.) All-Stars. Also on hand are shooting guard Lance Stephenson (of the Juice All-Stars) and Kenny Boykin, who will share the backcourt on Team Breakdown with the Miami-bound Rios.

The field also includes some familiar names:

-- Former UNC guard and current Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany will be coaching his 6-1 son Newman Delany’s team – the Illinois Defenders.

-- Former Maryland star Buck Williams will be coaching his son 6-3 Julien Williams of the Maryland Madness.

-- Brian Wright, the younger brother of UNC recruit Brandan Wright, will be playing for the
Tennessee Mavericks.

-- The Rising Stars JG will feature not one, but two sons of former UNC star Michael Jordan. Jeffrey Jordan is a 6-3 junior drawing some college interest, but 6-1 Marcus Jordan, a 15-year-old freshman, is projected to be an even better prospect.

Tickets – either good for a day’s admission at any site or for the entire tournament – will be available at each site.