by Randy Miller

The Mary Kline Classic, an annual charity basketball all-star event that brings together high-level high school talent, commemorates the life of the late Mary Kline and anyone else that has lost their bout, or is currently battling cancer.

In its fourth year, the post-season all-star games took place at West Orange High School in West Orange, NJ. The showcase consisted of two games – one for seniors and another for underclassmen – as well as a 3-point and slam dunk contest. The founder, Alex Kline, did a tremendous job raising awareness and raising $31,000 towards cancer research. The proceeds from the event will benefit the National Brain Tumor Society and Brain Tumor Research at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

Here are the players who stood out at this year’s event.

Underclassmen Game Standouts

Bryant Crawford, 6’2, G, Gonzaga Prep HS / Team Takeover (DC) 2015

Bryant Crawford gets it done. In what was a rather lopsided game, the junior guard played well, scoring 20 points and showing why he is receiving attention from high-major programs likes Villanova and Louisville. He scored most of his points in transition and by getting to the basket, but is very capable of connecting from beyond the arc. Crawford can play either guard position – possessing the ability to facilitate an offense, make plays for his teammates or create his own scoring opportunity. The sky is the limit for Crawford, and if he keeps working, he will contribute immediately at the next level.

Unique McLean, 6’1, G, Hoosac School/ Team Scan (NY) 2016

Please do not let McLean’s size fool you. If McLean catches a defender slipping while attacking the basket or in transition, that defender will certainly become a part of McLean’s growing highlight reel. McLean hopped, skipped, and bounced his way to 26 points, garnering the MVP trophy for Team Inspiration, as well as winning the Slam Dunk contest. At this stage of his development, the sophomore guard is more comfortable attacking the basket but is working on his handle and leadership skills in order to transition into more of a point guard. He also has the physical tools to be a lockdown defender. McLean would fit nicely at a mid to high level program.

Cheick Diallo, 6’9, F, Our Savior New American/ Team Scan (NY) 2015

The 2014 Reed Richards. Dude’s potential in frightening. Although he only scored eight points, Diallo demonstrated athleticism that gives credence to his many high major offers. Diallo is a long, fluid, graceful athlete who runs the floor well. It doesn’t stop there. Cheick also showed the ability to handle ball and make counter moves while attacking the rim. The junior forward also displayed a soft touch when he knocked down a jumper from the baseline. Defensively, the coach within me got excited thinking about how disruptive he would be at the top of a 3-2 zone or closing out on a shooter at the bottom of a 2-3. To say that Diallo will contribute immediately at a high-major program is a foregone conclusion. If his skillset improves, Cheick Diallo could possibly play professionally.

Tyus Battle, 6’5, G, Gill St. Bernard’s (NJ)/ Team Scan (NY) 2016

This kid is the goods. Battle possesses great size that will allow him to play either guard position. He is great with the ball in his hands — displaying a tight handle, the ability to change speeds and directions, as well as court vision. Battle also showed the ability to keep defenses honest by connecting from downtown. The all-everything guard boats offers from schools such as Ohio State, Michigan, Villanova, UConn, and has recently picked up interest from Kentucky.

Derrick Jones, 6’6’, WF, Archbishop Carroll HS (PA)/WE R 1 (DE) 2015  

Derrick Jones has rocket fuel coursing through his veins. As always, Jones played above the rim en route to scoring 31 points, nabbing the MVP award and a victory for Team Bravery. He also wowed the audience by jumping over two of his AAU teammates (6’7 and 6’9) during the dunk contest.  What was most impressive about his game performance was the work that he’s been putting in on his perimeter game. Jones made moves off of the bounce, attacked the basket in traffic, and even knocked down some 3-point attempts. If he continues to develop his skill-set on the wing (especially if he adds a mid-range jumper, given the way he elevates-Sheesh), and adds strength, Jones will definitely be ready to contribute at high major program.

Rawle Alkins, 6’4, G, Christ the King HS/ New RENS (NY) 2016

Although it was an all-star game, Alkins played with a chip on his shoulder. I mean he was trying to be disrespectful. The New York native possesses a slick handle and hops (as opposing defenders can attest to) that allow him to attack the basket. Alkins is also powerfully built, which helps him fend off defenders and finish through contact. He will also knock down the triple. Alkins will enhance his arsenal by continuing to develop his midrange jumper. Rawle Alkins can contribute at a mid to high level program.

Jamal Murray, 6’4, G, Athlete Institute/ CIA Bounce (CAN) 2016

Murray continues the tradition of Canadian prospect that have success in the US. He exhibited excellent skills as a lead guard by showing an understanding of the pick and roll, finding the open man, and knocking down the open jumper. Murray demonstrated great handle, and the ability to shoot of the bounce. Murray has the tools to lead a high major program.

Senior Game Standouts

Ja’Quan Newton, 6’2, G, Neumann-Goretti HS/Team Final (PA) 2014

Newton was up to his usual antics, scoring 21 points and ultimately earning the MVP award for Team Perseverance.  The Southwest Philly guard is extremely skilled, and has plenty of tricks up his sleeve. Newton Euro-stepped in tight spaces to lose defenders, showed flashes of a polished mid-range pull-up, and got to the basket at will. Newton displayed glimpses of creating easy scoring opportunities for his teammates. As he adds strength and extends the range on his jumper, he will only enhance his chances to play right away once he gets to the University of Miami.

Shep Garner, 6’2, G, Roman Catholic HS/Team Final (PA) 2014 

The Penn State commit played like he was determined to prove he belonged on same stage as the more heralded players in the Senior Game. And that he did. Garner flaunted a crafty handle, showed he could accelerate past high level defenders, hit the three, drew fouls, and finished on his way to scoring 20 points. If Garner adds a consistent midrange J, he will fit well within Penn State’s offensive system.

Phil Booth, 6’2, G, Mount St. Joseph’s/ Team Takeover (DC) 2014

Booth showed a complete guard game as he knocked down 3’s, attacked the basket, and created plays for others, ultimately pacing Team Courage with 21 points and claiming MVP honors for his squad. He stated he wanted to continue working on his defense, strength, and handle in preparation for his upcoming season as a Wildcat. Booth will be in the mix of a stable of guards at the Big East powerhouse. Given their up-tempo style of play and being guard-oriented, Booth made a great choice in choosing Villanova.

Isaiah Whitehead, 6’4, G, Lincoln/Juice All-Stars (NY) 2014

Whitehead knocked down jumpers and finished in transition, pouring in 15 points for Team Courage. More importantly, the Brooklyn guard gave the Seton Hall contingent a preview of what is to come by setting up teammates and trying to find the open man- something he says he wants to get better at as his freshman season approaches. Not to be outdone, his future teammate Angel Delgado rebounded everything that came off the rim, and showed tremendous athleticism by snatching a board, handling the ball in the open court then finishing with a monster bang. Watch out for the young Pirates.

Photo Credit: Maddy Pryor