By Paul Honda
In the second game of the opening day, Kinston (N.C.) leads Tsinghua (Beijing) 34-22 at the half.
Kinston is a sleeper, a first-time visitor to the ‘Iolani Classic. Four of the five starters are seniors, and that starting unit is pretty tall — 6-foot-2 to 6-7.
North Carolina basketball writer Alex Bass says this could become Kinston’s best team ever. Reggie Bullock (No. 35), the Vikings’ 6-7 center, has committed to North Carolina.
“Reggie could be the best player to graduate from Kinston High School. It’s important to say that because Jerry Stackhouse went to Kinston for three years,” Bass said, noting that Stackhouse went to Oak Hill Academy for his senior year.
Kinston is deliberate in the halfcourt game, but is long and athletic.
“They like to run. They want to get out and run, but they can play halfcourt basketball,” Bass added. “These guys have been playing together since middle school.”
Tsinghua? The visitors from China are wearing some sweet threads with a “NIKE LEAGUE” logo on the front. Don’t forget, the Classic is intertwined with Nike at heart, which makes the international relationships here enduring. This is Tsinghua’s third trip to the Classic.
The Dragons are still big — seven players are 6-5 and over — but a little more physical and savvy than that first team that visited in 2007. In fact, there’s a little more explosiveness — Kai Guo (6-7 center, just a junior) has a nice spin move on drives to the basket.
Later games are Neumann-Goretti (Pittsburgh, Pa.) against Kaimuki at 6:30 p.m. and favorite Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) against Kahuku at 8 p.m.
I’ll update on these games as I go back and forth from ‘Iolani to OIA girls basketball tonight. (The Oahu Interscholastic Association girls hoops regular season began on Tuesday).
Tomorrow (Friday), Lutheran (Orange, Calif.) plays ‘Iolani II, 3:30 p.m., followed by Columbia (Decatur, Ga.) and Hamilton (Chandler, Ariz.) at 5, Gonzaga (Washington D.C.) and Moanalua at 6:30, and Yates (Houston, Texas) and Kamehameha at 8.