December 26, 2008

by Bryan C. Hanks, The Free Press, Kinston, N.C. , The Free Press

Glaxo returns talented field: Kinston joins 19 other statewide and national powers this weekend in Raleigh

Dec. 26--RALEIGH -- The GlaxoSmithKline Holiday Invitational is known throughout the country for bringing some of the best teams in the nation to its prep basketball tournament every year.

However, the 37th edition of the GSK, which begins today at Raleigh Broughton High School's historic Holliday Gymnasium, might have the strongest field in its history.

The Kinston Vikings, the defending NCHSAA 3A champs, are but one of 16 boys' teams from around the nation and Canada that will make up two eight-team tournaments. Four of the state's top girls' teams also make up a four-team tournament.

The Vikings make their 2008 GSK debut tomorrow.

Kinston is joined in its eight-team tourney by its' first-round opponent, Southern Lee, and the defending GSK champ, Raleigh Word of God. While Southern Lee features one of the state's all-time leading returning scorers in Akeem Richmond, Word of God has four elite Division I athletes on its roster.

The Holy Rams are led by the consensus No. 1 player in the Class of 2010, 6-4 point guard John Wall. He has been offered a scholarship by virtually every school in America and his final list reads like a Who's Who of college basketball royalty -- N.C. State, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and Memphis, along with Baylor, Oregon and Miami.

"John is in a position that he can go wherever he wants to go," WOG coach Levi Beckwith said. "The most important thing for John is finding the right person to play for. He needs to go to the coach that he fits with the best."

WOG also features junior forward C.J. Leslie, who has committed to N.C. State, along with a pair of sophomores who are also national recruiting targets. Bishop Daniels, a 6-0, 150-pound guard and Dezmine Wells, a 6-3, 210-pound wing transfer from Raleigh Leesville Road, start for the Holy Rams.

Arden Christ School joins Kinston in its bracket and is a potential semifinal opponent. The Greenies are led by 6-10 senior forward Mason Plumlee, who has already signed with Duke.

"He just loves to win," Christ School coach David Gaines said of Plumlee. "He doesn't care about how many points he had, he just wants the outcome to be a positive one for Christ School."

Rocky Mount -- which visits Kinston on Jan. 3 -- opens against Word of God in tonight's 9 p.m. feature game. North Mecklenburg and St. Raymond (N.Y.) also join Kinston in its bracket.

The other eight-team bracket features Raleigh Enloe, Cary Panther Creek, Raleigh Ravenscroft, Apex, Richland (Texas), Knightdale and Centennial (Ga.). Ravenscroft features acclaimed Duke recruit Ryan Kelly.

The other eight-team boys' tournament also includes the first international team in history: Father Henry Carr from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

"We're extremely excited to get down there," Crusaders coach Paul Melnik said. "(The Glaxo) is an elite tournament and we want to get down there and play with the best."

Melnik, whose team has played in the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C., said he lobbied GSK organizers for entry into this year's tournament.

"I do my research and I know where the better Christmas tournaments are," said Melnik, whose team was 46-5 last year. "The Glaxo is one of the best and I wanted our team to play in it."

Fans can keep up with all the games in the 2008 GSK by going to

Bryan C. Hanks can be reached at (252) 559-1074 or at