Favors big man on campus

By Jason Elmquist, KUSports.com, Sunday, May 4, 2008

When you stand four inches taller and weigh 20 pounds more than anybody on the opposing team, you can pretty much do what you want in the paint.

When your opponents simply step out of the way when you enter the lane, your name is probably Derrick Favors, the No. 3-ranked recruit by Rivals.com in the Class of 2009.

That’s how things were for Favors when his Atlanta Celtics team torched the St. Louis Raptors, 88-32, Saturday at Horejsi Center as part of the Jayhawk Invitational.

“I don’t want to be just a post player, I want to be all-around, so I worked on a little jump shot, a little three-pointer, ball handling and passing,” the 6-foot-9, 220-pound power forward from Atlanta said. “I wanted to just work on my guard skills, try something new, but I didn’t think they’d open up the lane like that.”

Like a horde of ants running for cover from the rain, the St. Louis squad scattered every time Favors — who has Kansas University, Memphis, Kentucky, Georgia, Georgia Tech and others on his early list — looked to drive the lane.

“Most of the time, they’re going to move out of the way,” Celtics coach Jamar Stegall said. “Who wants to get dunked on?”

If throwing down four dunks in 14 minutes of play wasn’t enough to intimidate the Raptors, the big man also tried his hand at shooting from behind the three-point arc.

His first attempt — from NBA range — hit nothing but net.

Favors is just another future basketball star to come through a Celtics program with a long history of producing stars. The Atlanta AAU team has 14 former players currently on NBA rosters, including Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic.

“In the summer, we’re in the gym with the guys, doing the June tune-ups, and we invite all the guys back,” Stegall said. “I currently have four top-50 kids in the ’09 class on my team. We’re a little short this weekend because all the guys taking the SAT back home.”

But the notion of rankings doesn’t quite settle well with Stegall.

“I let Derrick know that those rankings really don’t mean anything,” Favors’ AAU coach said. “It’s just a personal opinion. You could be No. 1 on one list and No. 100 on another list, so what does it mean?”

Rankings may not mean anything, but tradition and championships were brought up by player and coach.

“Looking up at all the banners and stuff and playing in the famous arena that won a national championship was definitely fun,” said Favors of his experience playing in Allen Fieldhouse on Friday. “The Jayhawks are national champs. So it felt good.”

“The national champions? You’ve always got a chance when you’re the national champions,” Stegall said of KU recruiting Favors. “Always!”

• Elijah exhausted: No food, no sleep and jet lag can affect even the most physically gifted athletes.

So after arriving around midnight Friday evening and playing his first game of the Jayhawk Invitational at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Los Angeles Pump N Run’s Elijah Johnson couldn’t showcase his talents the way he wanted to when he played the Springfield Mustangs at 4:45 p.m. in Allen Fieldhouse.

“I didn’t want my first game to be like this in Allen Fieldhouse,” said Johnson, the No. 38-rated player in the 2009 class . “It didn’t go how I wanted it to go, but I can make up for that later on in the weekend.”

Johnson, a 6-2 guard from Las Vegas who has a list of KU, Duke, North Carolina, Texas, UNLV, Arizona, Arizona State and others, scored just four points in the 57-36 victory over the Mustangs.