Reebok All-American Game Recap
Top High School ballers gather in DC.
Reebok is no stranger to the prep basketball scene. With events like their All-American Camp and the Summer Championships in Vegas, these dudes have been bringing together some of the best young talent around for years. With All-American games being the rage come the spring, Reebok decided to grab a piece of that pie for themselves, organizing the inaugural Reebok All-American game in Washington DC. The event, held at American University’s Bender Arena was just a quick metro ride away for me coming from the College Park area. With an intimate setting in the 4,800 seat facility, two games on the docket, and the best seniors in the country not appearing in the Jordan Game (props to Justin Walsh for a nice write up), this made for a good night of hoops in our nation’s capital.
– Game one of the evening featured some lesser known names, but with plenty of big name schools listed under the future college column in the game program, this match up was anything but short on talent. For whatever reason, both games feature Team Create (in black) and Team Finish (in white).
– Team Create features Texas point guard Raymond Penn who will be playing his collegiate basketball at Oklahoma State next year, as well as an imposing rotation of frontcourt players including Clarence Trent and Hassan Whiteside from the famed Patterson School and another Texas native in Raymond Turner. Team Finish is loaded with local standouts from Maryland, DC and northern Virginia. Undersized power forward Jamal Olaswere and Pittsburgh bound Talib Zanna are a couple of the standout homegrown products featured on the roster.
– The game starts off fast paced and sloppy, with both teams netting buckets either from the perimeter or on open transition flushes. The top athletes are the ones benefiting most from this pace. Raphael Putney jumps out and makes himself known right away. The super long, super skinny 6-8 small forward uses his wingspan to pin a pair of shots off the glass and runs the floor well for easy baskets at the other end. The future UMass baller gets the crowd on its feet when he takes a missed lay in off the rim and throws it down with two hands. I was most impressed with his versatility at this point in his development as he was able to step back and drain a couple of triples in the first half.
– Delaware native Brian Oliver keeps Team Create in stride with Team Finish through the first half, as the teams play to a 51-51 tie at the break. He’s listed as a 6-7 power forward, and while he gets some points early on cleaning up the offensive glass, as the game progresses he shows flashes of moving to the three in the future. Oliver has a good first step, range beyond the arc and has the athleticism to pull off a couple of reverse finishes that leaves one thinking he was put in the post because he was the tallest player on his high school team. He’ll be heading to Georgia Tech in the fall and if he can in fact move to the perimeter, that Yellow Jackets team will be absolutely massive with Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors manning things in the middle.
– Team Finish pulls ahead ever so slightly at the end of the third, 80-77, thanks to Olaswere and Zanna who start to come alive. Olaswere is another guy who looks like he has the potential to move from the four to the three with some more polish. The 6-5 forward was one of the better athletes on display in the preview game, elevating for a few impressive slams in the first half and routinely beating defenders off the dribble. His handles are still loose and his perimeter shot is inconsistent, but Olaswere will be a nice pick up when he ultimately decides on a school.
– Talib Zanna has turned himself into a player. I saw Zanna last year at the National High School Hoops Festival, and there was certainly potential there, but the big man hadn’t yet grown into his body completely. The 6-8 forward who plays at local hoops power Bishop McNamara has since signed a letter of intent to suit up in the Big East next season with Pitt. Zanna did most of his damage inside, playing aggressively on the glass and showing a developing post game. At this point he is limited to a drop step and baby hook to the middle, but the potential for more is there. I was most impressed by his ability to handle the ball in transition, which he did on several occasions, leading the break for Team Finish.
– With Finish going on a run to start the fourth quarter, Team Create needed Raymond Penn and Hassan Whiteside to step things up late to stave off a route. Penn is incredibly quick and plays like he has the ball on a string. At 5-9 and 160 pounds when soaking wet, the future OSU Cowboy has to rely almost solely on his elusiveness to remain an effective player on the court. He does show solid court vision though, picking up a handful of impressive dimes in transition.
– Whiteside, a four star center prospect, was a bit quiet in the game until the final quarter. His team wanted to run most of the game while he clearly prefers to post up with his 7-foot frame and go to work on the block. Still, he remained active inside setting screens and going to work on the glass where he was able to pick up the bulk of his points. The North Carolina big man should prove to be a steal for Marshall next season when he arrives in the fall.
– It’s a close one down the stretch but Team Finish is able to convert their free throws to pull away 102-96 in the opening game of the evening. Oliver, Olaswere and Zanna are the MVP’s of the ballgame, with Zanna posting an impressive stat line of 21 points and 14 rebounds. This one served merely as the appetizer though as the National Game got underway just twenty minutes later.
– The marquee event of the evening was loaded with talent from around the country, featuring commits from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-10 and the Big East. McDonald’s and Parade All-American Dante Taylor was in action, getting a chance to play in front of a hometown crowd. The only disappointment from the entire game was the last second pull out by All-American Dexter Strickland, who apparently told the event coordinators that he simply “wouldn’t be able to make it down”.
– Taylor went to work in the first half, netting 16 of his game high 26 points before the break in action. There wasn’t a question that he was the most physically imposing and gifted player on the floor during the game, getting his baskets on a variety of thunderous dunks in the lane and the a pair of spot up three’s on the wing. Having only seen video of Taylor in the past, I was most impressed with the big man’s motor. He hustled up the court on seemingly every play (rare in these kinds of games) and overall has good speed for a dude packing 220+ onto his frame. With Pittsburgh losing Sam Young and DeJuan Blair there is no question that Taylor will be starting from day one when he arrives on campus and this performance indicates the rook will handle himself just fine in the Big East.
– While everyone in attendance was expecting to see Taylor put on a show, Kansas commit Thomas Robinson was able to steal some of the early spotlight with impressive plays at both ends of the floor. The DC native (he attends Brewster Academy in NH) is a super athlete with good instincts on the defensive end. Robinson on back to back defensive series pinned a shot off the glass and intercepted a pass, the latter of which led to a thunderous tomahawk at the other end. He is surprisingly quick off the dribble and was able to cross up his defender once for an easy lay in during the second quarter. The future Jayhawk also showed a smooth shooting stroke out to 15 feet.
– While Taylor and Robinson were leading the charge in a scorching 62-point first half for Team Finish, a pair of Baltimore products in Isaiah Armwood and Terrell Vinson combined with Hargrave Military’s Maurice Creek helped Create stay within eight at the half.
– Armwood, who plays his ball at famed Montrose Christian, is a very interesting product because of his tantalizing potential. At 6-9 and hovering somewhere around 190 pounds, the power forward is rail thin but super athletic. He got out in transition early for a few monstrous throw downs that got the crowd going, but then settled into his mid-range game which could be his bread and butter at Villanova next year. Armwood’s release point is still inconsistent, but he elevates well on his shot and has range out beyond the arc. At this point he is at his most dangerous when he takes slower frontcourt players out to the wing where he can pick them apart with decent handles and a developing pull up jumper.
– Vinson, who recently was granted a release from Loyola-Marymount, looks very much like a player who will move to the wing in college despite being listed as a four right now. He is a super athlete who at 6-7 creates match up problems when he steps away from the basket. Vinson has a smooth jumper that he gets off quickly in traffic and he has shown the hops to finish against bigger defenders around the rim.
– Creek proved to be one of the more flamboyant performances of the evening. The future Hoosier was repping his new school during warm ups, wearing an Indiana basketball banner as a cape as he soared in for multiple dunks leading up to tip off. The Prep School All-American was quiet in the first half, but a steal and a dunk, followed by a three point play cooled off a 9-0 run Team Finish. Creek has a superior nose for the basket and despite lacking outstanding athleticism, manages to find ways to get his points.
– The game started to become a route in the third, with Finish pulling ahead 104-85 at the conclusion of the quarter. Taylor continued to get the job inside, but some of his other decorated teammates begin to contribute as well.
– Maryland native Rodney McGruder, who had his own cheering section in the arena, showed off his ability to create with the basketball in his hands. He is a smart basketball player, getting to the rim on a variety of hesitation and dribble drive moves that left defenders playing catch up on multiple occasions. His perimeter game isn’t great at this point, but he was able to knock home one long three in the third quarter. McGruder is a good sized wing player with tons of energy that will be a welcome addition to Kansas State next season.
– If UCLA commit Mike Moser does nothing but spot up for perimeter shots in Pauley Pavilion next season, that will be just fine with Ben Howland. The Portland product seemingly could not miss from the outside, which ironically enough is supposed to be one of the weak points in his game. He showed a good sense of how to move off the ball and simply rotated behind the defense for open looks all night. On a few occasions when he put the ball on the deck it was only in a straight line, which brings up questions about his handles, but his athleticism and tremendous wingspan more than make up for any deficiencies at this point.
– Erik Murphy, a future Florida Gator, reminded me tremendously of former McDonald’s All-American Luke Babbitt. Murphy is a hard nosed presence inside and got a lot of his points by simply outworking the opposition. He very much is a pure post guy at this point, as he rarely ventured anywhere other than the block with the basketball in his hands. While he doesn’t appear to have any set post moves in his repertoire at the moment, he certainly has good instincts, relying on ball fakes to get his defender off balance.
– Back to the action on the floor. What looked like a potentially boring fourth quarter, turned into a great finish as Team Create went on a tear to claw their way back into the ball game. North Carolina State recruit Lorenzo Brown teamed with future ACC opponent Mfon Udofia (going to Ga Tech) to make it a game. Both players are super talented and explosive guards, with Brown serving as an off-guard currently and Udofia being a true point. Brown gets to the basket with ease and can elevate with most defenders while also showing he can knock down the occasional perimeter shot. Udofia had to rely more on his stellar quickness to make things work for him. He doesn’t have much issue getting into the lane, but once there, his smaller frame and lack of excellent hops makes it a little harder for him to finish with as much consistency as Brown does right now.
– Ari Stewart, who has verbally committed to Wake Forest, had an excellent second half as well. One of the better small forwards in the country, Stewart has outstanding size and length for the position at the collegiate level. He put down several impressive flushes in the lane with traffic in his way, while also displaying a first step that will have him beating defenders off the bounce even as a newcomer to the ACC. His jumper still needs some polish before he can be considered a true threat to can anything from deep, but this athlete will be a player early on for the Demon Deacons.
– The game amazingly enough comes down to the wire, but with a couple of successful trips to the charity stripe by Dante Taylor, Team Finish escaped 134-131. Four MVP awards were handed out as voted by the members of the media in attendence (including yours truly). The honors went to Dante Taylor and Rodney McGruder from Team Finish and Team Create’s Maurice Creek and Ari Stewart.