Back on the Circuit
Just like riding a bike. Evaluations from the Pangos All-American Camp.
by Aggrey Sam
After focusing almost exclusively on the NBA for the last few months (keep up the good work, Rodger), I felt out of the loop on the high school scene. So when I headed out to Cali for my man Dinos Trigonis’ Pangos All-American Camp last weekend, I wasn’t sure if I still had it. By “it,” I mean the ability to evaluate talent at camps and on the AAU circuit. Well, my weekend in Long Beach proved to myself that not only could I still spot the diamonds in the rough and see the so-called elite players for what they really are, but I have the added perspective of having a better idea of which kids project to be potential pros, something always heavily debated at these types of events.
Here’s a clear-cut example: Jerome Dyson, the former UConn star, was in the gym (he’s supposedly working out in Cali; I was discussing with a friend why agents have players work out in places like L.A., Vegas, etc. if they expect them to completely focus on working on their games) on Saturday. For those who don’t remember his high school days, he had a somewhat quick rise to the level of top prospect and many predicted he would play in the NBA. Well, it didn’t happen as planned. On Sunday, my man John Wall (in L.A. for a photo shoot) comes to the camp’s all-star game. While John had a good deal of hype by the time he was a senior, since I witnessed his emergence on the national scene, I can recall it being a much more meteoric rise than Dyson’s.
Then, there was my guy Schea Cotton, who was working the camp as a coach. Schea was LeBron before LeBron, in Sports Illustrated as a 15-year-old (a little part of my then 12-year-old NBA dream died that day in my dentist’s office; Schea was a 6-5 manchild as a high school freshman) and one of the best prospects Cali (and the nation) had ever seen. Due to injuries and other issues (which you’ll be able to read about in a very familiar publication in the near future), he never reached those lofty expectations, although he’s quite content in his new role, giving back to kids and using his own experiences as a teaching point.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I talked to a few of the more highly-touted kids at the camp and after telling them what I’m up to now, I told them to cherish these days of getting flown around the country, staying in nice hotels and getting free gear. While the Bulls’ star is Derrick Rose and he was always expected to be a superstar, a (half) season around the likes of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson–neither of whom were even seen as high-major recruits until late in their high school careers, even coming out of the hoops hotbed of New York–hammered home the fact that making the League isn’t about hype, the right AAU team, going to the right events or even attending the biggest school. It’s about talent, work ethic, finding a niche, making the most out of opportunities and capitalizing on situations. Now, let me get off my soapbox. Here’s 25 kids (not necessarily the camp’s best players) who stood out to me at Pangos:
–David Andoh, 6-7 rising junior combo forward, St. Teresa (CA): A long and versatile forward prospect, Andoh was quietly impressive with his blend of outside shooting, activity inside, athleticism, finishing ability, rebounding and high motor.
–Isaiah Austin, 7-0 rising junior post, Grace (TX) : Austin, the nephew of former NBA player Ike Austin, this rail-thin big man is highly regarded in his class for good reason, as he’s extremely long and mobile, possesses excellent perimeter skills for his size, has a soft touch on his shot out to three-point range, battles inside despite his lack of bulk, owns a nicely-developing post game, uses his tremendous timing to intimidate foes as a shot-blocker and is both active and vocal on the court.
–Brad Beal, 6-4 rising senior wing, Chaminade (MO): Beal, a Florida commit, is one of the premier sharpshooters in his class, clearly preferred a more structured and less run-and-gun setting, but still managed to display his high basketball IQ, pride on the defensive end, high-level athleticism when finishing, solid ballhandling and of course, his potent stroke.
–Quddus Bello, 6-4 rising senior wing, Westchester Country Day (NC): Previously known as just an athlete, look for “Deuce” to significantly raise his profile this summer, as his length, tremendous motor, defensive ability, underrated rebounding and freaky hops are now complemented by solid mid-range and outside shooting, good playmaking ability and an effective handle that allowed him to relentless get to the cup and display his aforementioned bunnies.
–Sim Bhullar, 7-4 rising junior center, Kiski (PA) and Tanveer Bhullar, 7-2 rising sophomore center, Kiski (PA): This was the first national showcase-type camp for the Bhullar brothers, natives of India by way of Toronto, and even though they only recently hit the scene, observers were well aware of them in advance. Both are works in progress and while Sim is a bit more advanced at this stage, possessing a higher level of comfort in the post, little brother Tanveer has good fundamentals and improved as the weekend went along.
–Quinn Cook, 6-1 rising senior point guard, DeMatha (MD): Cook, another star in the long line of highly-touted players from his high school, continues to maintain his status as one of the nation’s best floor generals, as his outside marksmanship, sharp handle, playmaking ability and savvy overall game are a tough combination to deal with.
–DeAndre Daniels, 6-8 rising senior combo forward, Taft (CA): Daniels, a Texas commit, has polished his wing game to the point where he’s capable of knocking down deep treys and playing some point forward, but his bread and butter remains his versatility, slashing ability and top-notch athleticism.
–Amir Garrett, 6-6 rising senior, Leuzinger (CA): Another sleeper to come out of his high school (Russell Westbrook and Dorell Wright are two other notable late bloomers), Garrett is a top baseball prospect (the lefty supposedly throws 90+ MPH as a pitcher), but with his bouncy game, big-time athleticism and developing perimeter skills, he could potentially opt for a future on the hardwood, as opposed to the diamond, where some think he’ll be a high draft pick in a year.
–Jordan Goodman, 6-8 rising junior combo forward, Progressive Christian (MD): Goodman, a well-traveled former Georgetown commit, is typical of many DC area kids in that, despite his size, he possesses solid ballhandling skills and a desire to play on the perimeter, making for a versatile prospect with a nice inside-outside game that can bang and finish inside and also fluidly operate on the perimeter.
–Savon Goodman, 6-6 rising junior combo forward, Academy of the New Church (PA): This Goodman, a Philly product, typifies his city’s mentality bullying the competition down low, but he adds excellent slashing ability, sneaky athleticism and surprising ballhandling ability to his tremendous rebounding prowess and knack for finishing plays.
–Grant Jerrett, 6-8 rising junior post, La Verne Lutheran (CA): Jerrett, arguably the best of a handful of nice prospects in attendance from his school, a burgeoning Cali power, used his great length, nice athleticism and high level of activity to get a variety of things done, including hit the glass hard on both ends, run the floor to finish plays in transition, be a defensive presence and score from 15 feet and in on offense.
–Myck Kabongo, 6-1 rising senior point guard, Findlay (NV): Kabongo, a Canada native and Texas commit who transferred from Jersey’s St. Benedict’s when coach Danny Hurley left for the college ranks, has ascended to one of a handful of elite floor generals in his class nationally, due to his improved strength and outside jumper, as well as his ever-present Rondo-like length, quickness, ballhandling ability, defensive acumen and playmaking skills.
–Charles Lee, 5-10 rising senior point guard, Hamilton (WI): A diminutive Milwaukee native, Lee pestered opposing ballhandlers with his outstanding quickness on the ball defensively, kept defenders honest with his outside J, finished with savvy in the lane and pushed the tempo and got to the rack with his speed, where he often set up his teammates for easy buckets.
–Landen Lucas, 6-8 rising junior post, Sunset (OR): Lucas, a true inside player who won’t wow you with flash, handled himself well at the camp by utilizing his solid post moves, high activity level, willingness to bang, length on the glass and the ability to face up and knock down mid-range jumpers.
–Luke Mergerson, 6-7 rising senior post, Duncanville (TX): Megerson, a crafty, below-the-rim player, gave opponents fits with his hustle, physicality, rebounding prowess, finishing ability, range out to feet and savvy.
–Keaton Miles, 6-6 rising senior wing, Lincoln (TX): A sharpshooting wing with a great motor, Miles is rounding out his name nicely by adding some bulk to his slender frame, improving his ballhandling ability, becoming an excellent defender and playing a more all-around game.
–Quincy Miller, 6-9 rising senior combo forward, Westchester Country Day (NC): Miller showed why many consider him to be the top player in the nation right now, scoring with ease from beyond the arc and above the rim, dominating the boards at times, being a defensive presence and just being a major factor every minute he was on the court.
–Charles Mitchell, 6-8 rising junior post, Wheeler (GA): Mitchell, a big body down low, has added improved ball skills and face-up ability to his solid post moves, physical nature inside and strong rebounding prowess.
–Uche Ofogebu, 6-5 rising junior wing, Stephens (TX): Hailing from San Antonio, not exactly known as a basketball hotbed, Ofogebu is a bouncy wing with good size, nice athleticism, solid slashing ability and a deadly stroke with tremendous range.
–Norman Powell, 6-2 rising senior wing, Lincoln (CA): Although Powell, a San Diego native, may have been the best athlete at the camp along with the aforementioned Bello–as he continually rose above the crowd for high-flying finishes–he also showed he could knock down outside jumpers, play lockdown D, handle the ball well enough to make plays for himself and others off the dribble and use his ridiculous hops and strong frame to battle inside with the big boys.
–Chasson Randle, 6-2 rising senior combo guard, Rock Island (IL): A much-coveted recruit hailing from an hour outside the Chi, Randle’s efficiency, smooth game and versatility were evident, as he is capable of playing both on and off the ball, defending at a high level, getting to the basket and finishing at will and knocking down shots off the dribble and from beyond the arc.
–Jerome Seagers, 6-0 rising senior point guard, Flora McDonald (NC): Seagers, another DC area native who’s been to a few different schools, is starting to gain a national profile as an overlooked scoring point and justified it in Cali by using his effective handle to get to the rack, knock down outside shots, play tough defense and generally play aggressive ball with a chip on his shoulder on the court.
–Jordan Tebbutt, 6-5 rising junior wing, Horizon Christian (OR): Built like a football player, Tebbutt showed a nice blend of strength and skill, as he was too strong for most wings to handle in the post and on the glass, where he was a relentless finisher and rebounder inside, and too smooth on the perimeter and in transition, using his capable handle and strong mid-range game to put in work
–Naadir Tharpe, 5-11 rising senior point guard, Brewster (NH): Tharpe, a recent Providence de-commit, pulled out his entire arsenal, proving to be a supreme floor general that excelled in using his blinding quickness and yo-yo handle to get to the basket, spoon-feeding his teammates with thread-the-needle dimes, pressuring opposing point guards on the defensive end, keeping the opposition honest with his J and finishing creatively in the lane.
–Jevante Thompson, 6-0 rising senior point guard, Irving (TX): A top Dallas-area prospect, Thompson is deserving of being on the national radar with his strong playmaking ability, tough defensive mindset, solid outside shooting and excellent court vision, all of which he used to hold his own against some of the higher-profile players at his position that he battled at the camp.