A rivalry is brewing in the AAU basketball ranks, and the Jayhawk Invitational will be ground zero this weekend for that potential storm.
K.C. Pump N Run is once again the favorite to win the Jayhawk Invite after winning it the last three years. But last year's runner-up, Howard Pulley Black, is back, and the players have just one thing - and one team - on their minds.
"Coach (Antwan Harris) said he needs us to come out here and win this year because we owe them," said Howard Pulley's Rodney Williams after a 72-67 victory over Indiana Elite on Friday at Allen Fieldhouse. "We owe K.C. Pump N Run. We want to see them at some point because we really do owe them."
K.C. Pump N Run had to wait and watch Williams - a Kansas University men's basketball prospect who is ranked No. 43 by Rivals.com - go back and forth against an Indiana Elite squad sporting another KU prospect, Stephan Van Treese, the No. 52-ranked player in the Class of 2009.
Williams made sure his team didn't disappoint the onlookers as he went off for 23 points, four rebounds, three blocks and four assists.
The 6-foot-5 junior out of New Hope, Minn., opened the contest with two consecutive three-pointers before going to work down low. Five of Williams' six second-half baskets came via dunks.
"My outside shot has been off for like a month now, so for me to come in and hit a couple of threes, that felt real good," Williams said. "It feels like I'm shooting the same shot, but it hadn't been dropping for me. Coach wants us to get out and run because we're more effective when we run - especially me."
Williams, who has a list of KU, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Iowa State and others, spent some of the second half manning up with Van Treese, who had 12 points and four rebounds in a losing effort.
"All of us looked like we just got off an airplane," said Van Treese, who is considering KU, Duke, Indiana, Louisville, Ohio State and others. "We weren't really hitting our shots like we usually do. Not to use that as an excuse because they played extremely well."
K.C. Pump N Run's Mike Dixon, a No. 87-rated player from Lee's Summit (Mo.) West who is considering KU, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma and others, wasn't on last year's U-17 K.C. Pump N Run team, but even he is ready to lace it up with Howard Pulley.
"We're looking forward to potentially playing them," Dixon said after a 74-49 rout of Los Angeles Pump N Run Elite following the Howard Pulley game. "I don't know where he (Williams) got his hops. He has a grasshopper in his family or something. He can really jump."
K.C. Pump N Run and Howard Pulley are in separate pools, so if the two teams are to meet it wouldn't be until Sunday's bracket play.
"They won the Kingwood Classic (a 255-team tournament in Houston) a few weeks ago," K.C. Pump N Run coach L.J. Goolsby said of Howard Pulley, "so we knew it was going to be pretty stiff competition this weekend to get things done with some good teams here."
¢ No-shows: KU target Elijah Johnson of Los Angeles Pump N Run Elite missed Friday night's game against K.C. Pump N Run due to travel troubles.
Johnson's team definitely could have used him, since it had only five players in a 74-49 loss to K.C. Pump N Run. Johnson, a 6-2 guard from Las Vegas and the No. 38-rated player in the Class of 2009, is expected to make it to Lawrence in time to play the rest of the weekend.
The Atlanta Celtics' Lance Stephenson, No. 4-ranked player in the Class of 2009 by Rivals.com, will not attend the tournament.