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June 23, 2014

Kellam Wins Boo Williams Team Camp

Going undefeated in a three-day basketball camp with 12 teams participating is no easy task. However, with their textbook execution that consisted of sharp ball movement, dead-eye outside shooting and all-around unselfishness, the Kellam Knights from Virginia Beach made it look that way at times.

Kellam outlasted a quality field in Hampton to win the Championship of the Gold Bracket in Sunday's Seventh Annual Boo Williams Team Camp held at the AAU pioneer's Sportsplex in Hampton. The Knights went a perfect 7-0 over the 48-hour stretch that proved to be quite the battle of attrition, rallying to edge the Hampton Crabbers - - winners of the 2011 Boo Team Camp on their way to a state title the following season - - by a count of 69-63 to complete an improbable unbeaten run.

"They were definitely tired, but they sucked it up. Once we got in the Championship, I told them this won't even be like real basketball. It's just going to be who's going to suck it up and who won't," declared Kellam Head Basketball Coach Norman Hassell, who has 107 wins in his eight seasons at the helm of the Knights.

Leading the way for Kellam was Class of 2015 point guard Janai Raynor-Powell, a First Team All-Atlantic Conference performer as a junior who averaged 19.6 points per game in the six contests over the weekend. That was highlighted by a whopping 29 points with 20 in the second half to beat Hampton.

No bigger than 5-foot-9, Raynor-Powell caused disruption with his active hands defensively, and on the offensive end showed off an improved jumper. Kellam outscored the Crabbers by nine from behind the three-point line. His three long distance makes were the difference, the last one coming with 2:16 to play to put his team up 64-62 and for good.

"Two years ago, he was taking a backseat to Ramone [Snowden] and rightfully so, and then last year he was trying to be a facilitator, not really understanding how to take games over," pointed out Hassell. "We have just talked to him so much about his role. Janai plays his role, but he understands the game and knows he has shooters all around him. We told him if you can be one of those guys too, we'll give teams a fit."

Kellam jumped out to a quick 20-10 lead against Hampton behind three treys from Class of 2016 forward Noah Singer. The 6-foot-4 Singer ended up with 16 points, his third double-digit performance of the weekend, and also providing a lift were Alex Ratajczak (Class of 2015) and Jashawn Shelton (2016) with eight points apiece.

Hampton, which finished the weekend out at 5-2 overall, battled back to take a 37-36 lead at half-time as seven different players scored. Rising sophomore point guard Mastadi Pitt led the way with 18 points with help from fellow Class of 2017 guard Jalen Ray with 15 and rising senior guard Roy Coleman with 11. Pitt's three-point play with a little more than four minutes to play gave Hampton a 62-57 lead before Kellam rattled off ten unanswered points.

Both Pitt and 6-foot-4 shooting guard Marquis Godwin, another Class of 2017 prospect already drawing interest from schools at the next level, appeared to be at less than 100%. Godwin sat out most of the Championship with a bruised tailbone, while Pitt fought through a sore ankle.

Hassell's Knights were able to overcome some adversity of their own. In the quarterfinals, they trailed Heritage - - the reigning Boo Williams Team Camp Champs - - by a count of 56-47with 6:09 to play when a small scuffle between a couple of players on the court occurred. While nobody left Kellam's bench, every player left the bench and onto the court for Heritage, resulting in eight members being ejected. That left the Hurricanes with four players to finish the game out.

Guard Chris Schulz (2016) made 10-of-12 free-throws to take Kellam from down nine to up one with no time expiring off the clock. They went on to prevail, 71-64.

Just when Kellam looked to be finished, they were given new life and took advantage.

"We were dead. It was over," Hassell admitted. "I've never been through anything like that in my life. That was the most bizarre scenario I've ever seen, and it turned out in our favor. We took advantage of it and kept it moving."

Another challenge awaited them with Norview, awarded a bye for the Gold Bracket semifinals by virtue of their undefeated record before Kellam knocked them off, 49-45 in a much lower scoring battle than the fast-paced, athletic Pilots would've preferred.

"We try to bore everybody to death. We definitely slowed it down and put heavy pressure on the perimeter," noted Hassell. "More than us, I just think they were cold. It looked like they were a little tight and their legs were a little tired. I won't take credit for us doing something against them; I just think their shots were off, and the whole key after that was rebound and try to get out in transition."

To go with Raynor-Powell's masterful play, Kellam received consistent play from its supporting cast of Singer, Ratajczak, Shelton, Schulz and others, such as 6-foot-5 rising senior Chase Carroll and 5-foot-10 rising junior Connor Campbell.

"What Connor does is give Janai a break. He was my backup point guard last year. He can push the issue just like Janai and Janai does not always have to have the ball. With the way Janai's shooting, it gives him the opportunity to spot up," commented Hasesell.

"We lost Kobe Copeland, Colten Ward and Will Shook, all my tough guys. But then Noah, Jayshawn and Chase have come in and they're three taller guys. When Noah can hit the outside shot, that's a big deal for us.

Winning the Silver Bracket of the Team Camp was Green Run, a 50-31 winner over a Grafton team that they rallied to beat two days prior in a 65-64 thriller when Class of 2017 guard DeShaun Wade was fouled on a three-pointer at the buzzer and made each free-throw.

Despite a solid 14-9 overall record last season, Kellam was denied a regional berth because only two teams from their conference move on to the 5A-South Region Tournament. That bids went to Maury and Green Run.

Even though Maury, Green Run and Norview all finished ahead of them in 2013-14, the Knights are evolving into a cohesive group that nobody may want to see come playoff time next winter. Already, this squad has accomplished something that previous squads didn't.

"They know that even the undefeated team never won a Boo Williams Team Camp. They are confident and this only skyrockets it even more," stated Hassell. "Since Summer League, we were 9-1 and we've now won 15 in a row in the off-season, which means nothing. It just means that it's a great confidence builder and chemistry."

Matthew Hatfield serves as State Basketball Analyst for VirginiaPreps.com, part of the Rivals.com Network. Check out Hatfield's Twitter page for more sports related updates, and you can also read his work in the Suffolk News Herald. To contact Matthew, please e-mail [email protected], and don't forget to listen to him every Saturday at 10AM on ESPN Radio 94.1, plus watch him on the Cox 11 Sports Report.

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