MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Virginia Coach Terry Holland does not get much of a break during the holidays. He has his own games and tournaments with the Cavaliers of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Tuesday, he broke away from his schedule for a day and traveled south to watch the Beach Ball Classic, one of the nation's most prestigious high school tournaments.
Holland came to see the likes of such unsigned All-American players as Jerrod Mustaf of DeMatha High and Don MacLean of Simi Valley. But Holland is sure to keep his eyes open for other players--those whose names did not appear on the All-American lists.
"They're the ones who do benefit greatly," Holland said of the players who are considered fringe Division I talent. "The all-stars you see at the summer basketball camps, the other guys you don't."
Those guys include Simi Valley's Shawn DeLaittre and Butch Hawking, who have not had the exposure of their more publicized counterparts.
"It exposes them to a different element," Holland said. "Let's face it, a lot of recruiters aren't going to travel to, say, California to see a borderline player."
But they will travel to a tournament such as the Beach Ball Classic, which offers Division I recruiters an opportunity for close inspection of high school players. Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins and South Carolina Coach George Felton are among the many who took advantage of the opportunity to see the cluster of athletes in Myrtle Beach.
"I think there are a lot of kids that stand to benefit from this," said Brick Oettinger, a columnist for The Poop Sheet, advertised as the sports journal of the Atlantic Coast Conference area. "One from Simi Valley that I saw, DeLaittre, has been better than advertised. He's a sleeper at a high major college level. I like him because he played against some great athletes yesterday and played well. It's not enough to just play, you've got to play well."
In two games, DeLaittre scored 43 points, had 24 rebounds and impressed most observers with his hustle.
"This is a great chance to show some schools that I can play Division I basketball," said DeLaittre, a 6-5 forward-guard. "There's no pressure on me. I come here to play and all the recruiters' eyes are on Don, because he's an All-American."
After Simi Valley's 86-63 victory over Socastee on Tuesday, DeLaittre said an assistant coach from an ACC team complimented his play. It is not the sort of conversation that takes place after a Marmonte League game.
"It makes me feel good and I like to hear stuff like that," the two-time All-Southern Section player said. "I like the way it works out, to not be the star player. I could be a role player and maybe fit in at a Division I program."
Simi Valley Coach Bob Hawking is not surprised by the local attention tossed in DeLaittre's direction.
"Anybody who doesn't think Shawn's played well in the tournament is walking around with blinders on," he said. "It's a plus playing in a big tournament where there's quality players and teams. There's going to be college assistants out looking for talent."
There is enough to go around at the Beach Ball Classic. Thirteen All-Americans grace eight rosters, and four of the teams are in USA Today's top 25 poll.
DeLaittre already has been recruited by Division I schools Arizona State and Northwestern.
Likewise, Hawking, a 6-2 point guard, has drawn interest from Pepperdine and Air Force but likes the attention that comes with playing in a major tournament play. With it, however, comes responsibility beyond his usual duties.
"It's important for me, every time I step on the floor, to play well," he said. "Especially in a tournament like this, because you never know who's out there. And you have to play well in the big games. That's what they look for."
So far, anyone who is looking has seen Hawking average nearly 10 points and five assists a game while directing an offense that has scored 171 points in two games.
"I would think that I'm a Division I player," he said. "I do a lot of things well, so I could help a Division I team. Not necessarily a North Carolina, but there are others."
Others, like Virginia's Holland, who might have taken a day or two to notice.