A yearly congregation of college basketball's top 64 senior NBA prospects, the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament boasts some of the biggest names fans have come to know and love over the past four years.
NCAA tournament darling and Temple star Khalif Wyatt and Kansas' Elijah Johnson were just two of the top-tier names that made the trip this year. Buoyed by those notable names, the Portsmouth Invitational keeps things interesting by dividing the players up onto eight evenly distributed teams and actually having them duke it out tournament style.
Portsmouth is no Underwear Olympics; it's actual basketball. While the NBA scouts on-hand for the event aren't expecting to see any future superstars—Portsmouth is almost totally reserved for guys who will be second-round picks or are looking to hook on in the D-League—the competition is surprisingly fierce.
These are guys who have played basketball their entire lives and see the prospect of professional hoops slipping away. Winning is not only important from a pure pride perspective, but keeps your face in front of scouts in games of higher importance.
For those who have made it to Friday night's semifinals matchups, the tournament has been a rousing success in that regard.
With mere hours remaining before the games tip off, let's catch up on the first couple days of action and preview each of the semifinal contests.
Note: All results and roster information can be found at the Portsmouth Invitational's official website.
Top Prospects in Semifinal Games
Elijah Johnson (G, Kansas)
Expected to ascend during his senior campaign at Kansas, Johnson was overshadowed by backcourt-mate Ben McLemore and turned in a frustrating season. He averaged only 9.9 points per game on an atrocious 38.2 percent shooting and gave credence to the notion he won't be able to shoot from the outside as a pro.
While all it takes is one team to like him, Johnson is the quintessential Portsmouth prospect—a guy once seen as a mid-second rounder who has fallen all the way to undrafted territory. Johnson's ability to play stellar on-ball defense against both guard positions still makes him an intriguing player overall, but his dualities have already been on full display in Portsmouth.
In K&D Round's Landscaping's blowout victory in the opening round, Johnson finished with eight points, seven rebounds and three assists. He did a nice job of playing lockdown defense on the perimeter, as did many of his teammates, but Johnson also looked hesitant on the perimeter and made only one of three shots.
A guy like Johnson, who played at an elite program for all four years in college, needs to stand above his competition. Instead, he looked like just another guy—much like he did this season with the Jayhawks.
Jamelle Hagins (F, Delaware)
Though he didn't come into Portsmouth very high on people's "must-watch" list, Hagins undoubtedly made the biggest impression of anyone thus far. The former Delaware power forward dominated the interior for Portsmouth Partnership, filling up his stat sheet to the tune of 29 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and a block.
That made him the leading scorer of all players still in the winners' bracket of the tournament, while making his repeat attempt an intriguing possibility. Hagins was a double-double machine at Delaware, finishing each of his final two seasons with the Fightin' Blue Hens averaging more than 10 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Hagins' deficiencies have always come from his lack of offensive polish. His motor and explosive athletic ability were paramount to his ascent in college, where he became known as quite the human highlight reel.
In his first game, though, Hagins showed some nice flashes in the post that could boost his stock. For a player who came into Portsmouth almost guaranteed to go undrafted in June, Hagins now could sneak in as a late pick if he can continue this run.
Ramon Galloway (G, La Salle)
By now, just about every college and NBA basketball fan on the big blue marble knows of Ramon Galloway's stylings. The La Salle guard helped push the Explorers to the Sweet 16 this year before losing to eventual regional champion Wichita State.
A South Carolina transfer, Galloway made the most of his two years at La Salle. As a senior, he averaged 17.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game while flashing a sweet stroke beyond the arc. At 6'3" he's a little bit of a tweener, but his quickness and athleticism keep him from being a liability on the defensive end for the most part.
That being said, Galloway's biggest warts were on display in his first game in Portsmouth. Though he scored a team-high 18 points for Roger Brown's Restaurant, Galloway turned the ball over nine times—an astounding figure in just 30 minutes of play. While nine turnovers is an anomaly, Galloway does have enough of a propensity for turning the ball over that plenty of scouts are worried about his handles at the pro level.
Nevertheless, he is still the type of player who makes a name for himself in these types of settings. A shot creator first and foremost, Galloway will get his points and will probably find himself among the top scorers in Portsmouth. That should artificially boost his stock a bit, but scouts will be far more concerned with how he holds onto the ball in Friday's action than anything else.
Jordan Hulls (G, Indiana)
Being a great shooter might not translate into highlight reels during a college career or even a max contract in the pros, but there is a reason guys like Steve Kerr have decade-plus-long NBA careers. If you can hit an open three-pointer and aren't a malcontent, there is a place for you on an NBA bench.
At least that's what Jordan Hulls is hoping for over these next couple of months. A four-year contributor who averaged at least 25 minutes per game in every one of his seasons in Bloomington, Hulls is one of the better pure shooters in this entire class. He knocked down over 40 percent of his three-point shots at Indiana and has the type of silky-smooth jumper that looks like it's going in every time.
Even more impressive is Hulls' basketball IQ and team-first attitude. Hulls knew that being a complementary piece to Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller was the only way Indiana would see success, so he became a spot-up shooter and smart defender for the betterment of the team.
The problem for scouts is selling Hulls to the front office. He's a guy who doesn't look like anything special until you see him shooting the rock, and plenty of times general managers would rather take a high-risk player in the second round, where contracts are non-guaranteed, than someone like Hulls.
The ex-Hoosier didn't do himself any favors in his opening-round matchup. Hulls hit just 3-of-9 shots while taking only a third of them from deep in a strange nine-point performance. He'll get another crack at making a real impression thanks to his Cherry Bekaert teammates, and he would be remiss to not take advantage of his long-range excellence.
K&D Round's Landscaping vs. Portsmouth Partnership (7 p.m. ET)
It's hard to call any of these groups of players "teams," but K&D Round's Landscaping was about as close as you can get in their first game. Six of their eight players finished with 10 or more points in K&D's 91-67 win over Norfolk Sports Club, a top-to-bottom drubbing that is also a rarity at Portsmouth.
Portsmouth Partnership, meanwhile, played their way to a thrilling 90-89 win over Mike Duman Auto Sales. It's hard to say the result had any true stakes because, of course, it didn't, but the ending of that game created some palpable excitement—which is more than what one can say about just about every other game at PIT.
Hagins was obviously the star with his ascendant effort, and Davidson's Jake Cohen also had a solid evening with 16 points. Team defense just wasn't the strong suit for Portsmouth Partnership, which is to be expected considering their roster constitution.
As such, K&D should probably be considered the favorite for this matchup—whatever that means. Their all-around team performance was simply more impressive than Hagins and Cohen leading the way for Portsmouth Partnership. That being said, look out for UCLA's Larry Drew III. He isn't much of a scorer but he and Tyler Brown are both interesting creators that can play with just about everyone.
Prediction: K&D Round's Landscaping Wins
Roger Brown's Restaurant vs. Cherry Bekaert (9 p.m. ET)
It feels like every positive we just went over for K&D Round's Landscaping could be said about Roger Brown's Restaurant. Each of Roger Brown Restaurant's eight players finished with seven or more points, six of whom went for double figures.
Leading the way was Galloway, whose 18 points were a game high in Roger Brown's 91-64 flattening of Portsmouth Sports Club. Former Oregon center Tony Woods won the battle of the big men against ex-Butler standout Andrew Smith, forcing the latter to shoot a paltry 1-of-11 from the field. Wichita State forward Carl Hall, who helped spur the Shockers' Final Four run, also had a nice game inside with 10 points.
Cherry Bekaert, meanwhile, struggled with their shot while defeating Sales Systems, LTD. Oregon's E.J. Singler and Ole Miss' Murphy Holloway were the only two Cherry Bekaert players who even remotely looked like pros on the court, as they were the leading scorers and two of the team's three players to shoot better than 50 percent.
Hulls' aforementioned struggles were strange, and Texas A&M's Elston Turner was also surprisingly quiet for such a volume shooter.
Something tells me that will change this time around. Predicting these matchups is admittedly hard due to their wonky nature, but I simply like Cherry Bekaert's talent a little more.
Prediction: Cherry Bekaert wins.
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