The Name Game
Big names shine as the AAU Super Showcase wraps up, smaller names get some light as AAU Nationals starts getting serious.
by Aggrey Sam
My last post was supposed to include evaluations of 10 standouts from the AAU Super Showcase, but because of difficulties with WordPress, you’re getting them now. As for the event itself, Team Takeover out of the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) won the chip over Each 1 Teach 1 Elite in a mild upset on Monday evening. Preceding that was the televised showcase game I mentioned, in which Albany City Rocks, led by a slimmer, more athletic and quicker Tobias Harris (a 6-8 rising senior combo forward from Long Island) held off Team Final. On to the evaluations:
–Will Barton, 6-6 rising senior wing, Nike Baltimore Elite/Brewster (NH): A Memphis commit, Barton was not only a jack of all trades in this event–the skinny athlete with a big heart was a beast on the glass, got to the bucket and finished at will, knocked down treys from deep, defended with exuberance and as his team’s best playmaker, he also functioned as the de facto point guard–but he was dominant in leading his B-More squad.
–Kevin Boyle Jr., 5-10 rising senior point guard, NJ Celtics/St. Patrick (NJ): Boyle, son of the St. Pat’s coach of the same name, might not look the part–slow, short, unathletic and somewhat doughy–but he certainly played it, as his crafty ballhandling, fearless drives to the bucket, savvy positional D and most of all, his clutch and accurate deep shooting (eight treys, including a cold-blooded, last-second dagger to tie the game, in an eventual OT upset of high school teammate Mike Gilchrist’s Team Final squad; his shot was perhaps highlight of the tourney) were key in leading his team (basically the St. Pat’s varsity, minus Gilchrist and fellow rising junior Derrick Gordon, an early Western Kentucky commit) past some of the field’s heavy hitters.
–Taran Buie, 6-2 rising senior combo guard, Albany City Rocks/Bishop Maginn (NY): Ryan Jones’ future favorite college player–a Penn State commit, where he will join his older brother, Talor Battlle, the star of last season’s Nittany Lions resurgence–was impressive here last year, and a year later, the improvements in his game, namely better decision-making, a stronger frame, a purer stroke from deep and the savvy to get to the line rather force bad shots have nice, while he has maintained his explosive ability to create off the dribble and finish at the rim, unselfish playmaking and tremendous motor, best realized in how he makes plays in transition.
–Aaron Craft, 6-0 rising senior combo guard, All-Ohio Red/Liberty Benton (OH): Formerly a Tennessee commit, the now-future Buckeye–an in-state product who plays AAU with two other Ohio State commits; it was fate–has always been known as a tough competitor and a lockdown defender who could run the show with no issues, but Craft has now proven capable of being a playmaker whoo create easy looks for his teammates and himself after beating defenders off the dribble, as well as hitting contested mid-range jumpers and open treys with accuracy.
–Kyrie Irving, 6-1 rising senior combo guard, NJ Celtics/St. Patrick (NJ): Given that his pop’s a stockbroker, it’s no wonder Irving’s game is up and down like the market every time I see him; still, his overall talent is undeniable, and in Orlando, he showed the full package: trey balls from way, smooth breakdown skills off the dribble, unselfish passing and excellent court vision, maximum effort on D (it probably helped that his high school coach was on the sidelines), big-time athleticism and a knack for spontaneously making adjustments in the air while finishing in traffic.
–Doron Lamb, 6-4 rising senior combo guard, NY Gauchos/Oak Hill (VA): Lamb isn’t the most athletic prospect you’ll see, but his rediscovered attack mentality (he’s still smooth, but as laid-back as he is off the court, that approach didn’t always produce the desired results) is paying big dividends, as the savvy New Yorker uses herky-jerky moves, surprising physicality and an array of shots in the paint to get buckets or get to the line, is a big contributor on the boards, a committed defender, an excellent secondary playmaker and a comfortable, if streaky, shooter beyond the arc and deadly on pull-up jumpers.
–Austin Rivers, 6-3 rising junior combo guard, Each 1 Teach 1 Elite/Winter Park (FL): Doc’s son (the Celtics head coach was at Monday’s chip), an early Florida commit, is perhaps the most dynamic offensive player in the country (regardless of class), thanks to his blinding yo-yo handle, unbelievable feel for the game, outrageous range on his gorgeous quick-release J, creative finishing ability in the lane, outstanding basketball IQ and savvy adjustment ability, excellent court vision and strong competitive instincts, all of which allow him to shine, even in the most pressurized situations.
–Lenzelle Smith, 6-3 rising senior combo guard, Rising Stars/Zion-Benton (IL): Smith, an Ohio State commit, continues to be a complete all-around player–his ability to put in work down low, as a finisher, post-up scorer and Windex man are admirable, especially since he’s not a freak athlete–but his evolution as more and more of a true point guard has been fascinating, as he’s capable of breaking down defenders with his shifty handle and quicker-than-expected first step, overpowering them with his husky frame, he uses his size at the position to see the court and can deliver pinpoint dimes without fearing turnovers, thanks to using his bulk to shield off would-be pickpockets, all of signs of him playing the position full-time in Columbus, or at least sharing it with the aformentioned Craft.
–Dion Waiters, 6-3 rising senior combo guard, Team Final/Life Center (NJ): The South Philly product, a Syracuse commit, has been known in the past to have a bit of selfish streak, but here Waiters has been functioning as a playmaker first–running the show, waiting for teammates to come off screens or get open down low, driving and dishing with solid vision and great creativity–but his scoring ability is still present, as he hits deep treys, muscles defenders to the bucket with his stocky frame (either off the dribble or in the post) and skies for high-rising finishes after using his tight handle to break down his man.
–Brandon Young, 6-3 rising senior combo guard, Team Takeover/Friendship (DC): Young, who I first watched play in a DMV summer league (and chronicled his exploits on this very site), has continued his ascent from prospect to player (not just in my eyes either), as his playmaking ability–on both ends; his explosive quickness, creative and willing passing and dynamic handle offensively, and his length, lateral speed and active hands on D–not to mention his capable scoring ability off the dribble, tremendous hustle and motor and matchup problems he posed as a bigger point guard were key ingredients in sparking Team Takeover’s run to the Super Showcase chip.
Monday also marked the beginning of AAU Nationals, and while there have been plenty of standout performers through the end of pool play (which ended yesterday; playoffs start today), I prefer to focus on the players who don’t get all of the attention. Here are just five of the tourney’s lesser lights who I witnessed do their thing:
–Robert Brown, 6-4 rising junior wing, Showtime Ballers/Eastridge (FL): Brown, an early Virginia Tech commit, was a complete unknown to the likes of me going into the event, but his smooth and athletic game–excellent in transition, getting to the cup in general and especially on the baseline with his pretty floater–coupled with a sweet stroke off the catch or off the bounce and solid efforts on D and on the glass announced his presence not long after viewing him.
–Jalen Courtney, 6-8 rising senior combo forward, Jackson Tigers/Provine (MS): An LSU commit, Courtney I’ve seen since he was a rising sophomore, so to see the maturation of his game has been a pleasure to watch, as he isn’t quite a true swingman, but with his length, athleticism, rebounding prowess, finishing ability and willingness to bang, as well as his explosive quickness, ballhandling ability, transition game, comfortable stroke out to 18 feet and aware passing, he should be a versatile and effective performer for my man Trent Johnson and them down in Baton Rouge.
–Dominque Langston, 6-3 rising senior wing, Connecticut Basketball Club/St. Thomas More (CT): Langston was a kid I’d never heard of or seen before late last night, the final game I watched that evening,but I’m glad I stuck around, as he quickly announced he was a force to be reckoned with by banging home six powerful flushes–in the first quarter alone!–as well as displaying excellent ability to play the passing lanes on D, a desire to take contact on drives thanks to his chiseled frame and big-time rebounding for a perimeter player, not to mention his freaky hops.
–Dominick Scelfo, 6-2 rising senior combo guard, Mid-City Cyclones/Jesuit (LA): I’ve probably seen Scelfo more than any other kid in this event, due to him attending school in the N.O., but just like when I saw him play over the holidays (at a Christmas tournament in the DMV), he seems to rise to the occasion against upper-level national comp, as he not only drained treys in his typical fashion (the kid’s a pure shooter), but he did a nice job of running the show, played tough and scrappy D, got into the lane and finished with savvy and simply outworked his opponents.
–Aaron Walton-Moss, 6-3 senior combo guard, DaJuan Wagner All-Stars/Camden (NJ): Walton-Moss, a player I’ve seen since he was a youngster (the CMD resident always put in work across the Ben Franklin Bridge at Philly’s Sonny Hill League every summer) and while he hasn’t won every game I’ve attended, he always gives maximum effort, something that didn’t change in Florida–despite being a guard, he dominated the boards, posted up all comers, got into the lane at will with his explosiveness and shifty handle, occasionally hit some outside shots with his streaky J, locked down on the defensive end, led his teams by example and actions and just willed them to win.