J.R. Smith, the New Orleans Hornets' first-round draft choice this summer, dazzled E Center patrons last year at the Smith's Ragu Classic prep basketball tournament while playing for St. Benedict's, N.J.
Even though this year's tournament may lack a potential superstar like Smith, organizers are excited about the quality of teams participating.
This year's five out-of-state teams are Denver East, Colo.; Bishop O'Dowd, Calif.; North Forsyth, N.C.; Mt. Tabor, N.C.; and Oakland, Calif.
Denver East enjoyed a perfect 25-0 last season, and star player Dazzmond Thornton recently committed to play for Bobby Knight at Texas Tech.
Oakland High is coached by former Judge standout Doug Vierra, whose team returns all five starters and is expected to contend for the top spot in northern California.
The fourth-annual Smith's Ragu Classic is Dec. 9-11 at the E Center.
In the short history of the tournament, players like Duke's J.J. Redick, North Carolina's Quintin Thomas and the Seattle Supersonics' Robert Swift have all played in the tournament.
Perhaps the best players this year are local products. Riverton's Joe Darger has committed to UNLV, while Olympus' Shaun Green has committed to Utah.
Other top Utah players participating in the tournament are Wasatch's Logan Magnusson and Darrin Mahoney; American Fork's Brennan Davis and James Shoff; Judge's Les Brown and Daniel Deane; Viewmont's Sol Jensen; Bingham's Dallas Kane and Fremont's Ryan Sanchez and Joel Hancock.
LEAVITT COMMITS TO POLY: Snow Canyon 6-foot-9 center Coby Leavitt verbally committed to attend Cal Poly of the Big West Conference earlier this week. Leavitt also plays with Salt Lake Metro, a traveling team, and is ranked No. 3 on the West Coast for centers by Prepwest Hoops, a national recruiting service.
PICKS ON THE WEB: Last week's prep grid picks winner was Gary Thurston of Payson, who won $50. He was one of 669 entrants. Submit your predictions for the state tournament through the Prep Sports page at deseretnews.com/preps. Six runners-up from last week each will receive a Grid Picks T-shirt: Keith Cisney, Layton; Jim Jones, Castle Dale; Roger Nordgren, West Valley City; Kyle Hyde, Logan; Brent Keele, Lincoln, Neb.; Rob Eckles, Salt Lake City.
LONE PEAK COACH NEEDED: Lone Peak is accepting applications for an assistant softball coach for the 2005 season. Contact head coach Jena Peterson at 763-7050 if interested.