End of the Road
Wrapping up the action from AAU Nationals in Orlando, with another special guest appearance.
by Aggrey Sam
The vibe in Orlando is a little different now. Yes, Mickey is okay, and no, Vince isn’t hurt already. Seriously though, not only was today the championship game for AAU Nationals (at least for the 17-and-under division; the 14-and-under madness begins tomorow), but with yesterday being the last day of the July live recruiting period, all the D1 coaches are gone. Since I’ve seen just about every top team and prospect here at least once, so there shouldn’t have been any surprises in the chip, which features two perennial AAU powers, Boo Williams and All-Ohio Red, both of which boast several high-major players on their respective rosters.
I know I’m tired, but I can imagine the kids, most of whom have been hooping non-stop since July 6th or so, are completely worn out and ready to finally sleep in their own beds for a change. It’s almost unfair to evaluate them at this stage of the game, being that I see them so often that I feel myself starting to nit-pick at the flaws of even the elite players. That’s why I try to focus on fresh faces (by the way, I did get a chance to see Majok Majok play, Hursty: not bad), youngsters with a high ceiling, kids who have improved since the last time I saw them play or are starting to display more aspects of their game than I thought they possessed, such as the five prospects below:
–Justin Anderson, 6-5 rising sophomore wing, Boo Williams/Montrose Christian (MD): Anderson, who I first saw ball back in April with his high school squad, wasn’t the headliner for his chip-bound team here, but his remarkable explosiveness, ability to finish above the rim, tremendous frame and power for his age and defensive mentality were so impressive that I have a feeling he will be a very special player in the future.
–Kevin Gray, 5-11 rising senior combo guard, All-Ohio Red/Reynoldsburg (OH): The most overlooked member of his much-ballyhooed team’s starting five, Gray didn’t produce the same results in the chip (more on that later) that I’d seen from him previously, but if past performances were any indication, his capable ballhandling, solid D and prolific long-range bombing from deep will mean opposing teams (likely on the mid-major level) will be kicking themselves for not paying more attention to him–just like they do on this level.
–Tobias Harris, 6-8 rising senior combo forward, Albany City Rocks/Half Hollows Hills West (NY): Harris, now slim and trim after working off some baby fat, looked a lot leaner, more explosive, quicker and dynamic, all of which complemented his already-versatile repertoire–he can shoot from deep, put the ball on the floor fluidly, finish at the hoop, mix it up on the boards and post up–making him perhaps one of the most complete forwards in his class offensively.
–Desmond Haymon, 6-4 rising senior wing, Jackson Panthers Select/Williams-Sullivan (MS): An absolute sniper from deep, Haymon, a sturdy, if unspectacular athlete, not only impressed me with his efficiency and shot selection, but his awareness in making the adjustment when defenders closed out on him by converting pull-up mid-range jumpers and crafty finishes at the rim, as well as tough defense and an excellent understanding of the game and all-out hustle.
–Trency Jackson, 6-2 rising senior combo guard, Jackson Tigers/Wingfield (MS): Jackson, who stood out to me in the same game where his hometown rival (at least their AAU teams) went off, is a quick and explosive scorer with the rock in his hands, who drove with reckless abandon to the rack by utilizing shifty dribble moves, finished strong in a variety of different ways, made plays when on and off the ball, knocked down the open outside J, was a terror in transition, functioned as a playmaker when needed, contributed heavily on the glass and played pressure D.
Also, for the majority of my time here in Orlando, I had some assistance from my homegirl Le’Sheala “Shea” Dawson, who I met when I went to the Pangos All-American Camp in Cali a few months back. Shea is a Cali native, played D1 ball in college and while she hasn’t done any formal scouting before, she’s a vet of the grassroots scene, having worked the legendary Five-Star Basketball Camp for numerous summers and coaching high school and AAU ball out in Cali. Shea and I both share a love of discovering sleepers, so with no further adieu, here are five of the lovely Ms. Dawson’s top beneath-the-surface players from the events in Orlando:
Whoever would have thought that Disney World had a lot more to offer as an amusement park other than rides, great food and mythical creatures. I was delighted to arrive inla.,home of the world-famous Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex to cover the 2009 AAU Nationals and Super Showcase. I watched over 30 games and evaluated each kid closely, to find a few talented kids flying under the national radar. Here are a few of the players that I found to show signs of potential dominance.
–Jay Canty, 6-4 rising senior wing, CP3 All-Stars/Ragsdale (NC): Great lean, athletic body type, looks like he’ll put on weight when he gets to his school of choice. Fundamentally sound scorer, always looking for the opening in the defense. He moves well without the ball and makes cuts and passes with a purpose. Defensively, he’s not always the most assertive, but will make attempts to help and stop the ball in transition.
HIGH MAJOR SLEEPER
–Jerail “Hot Sauce” Howerton, 5-10 rising senior point guard, Richmond Squires/George Washington (VA): A tough, stocky kid that will go at any defender, knows how to use his size to shield off the defense and finish strong at the rim. Makes acrobatic lay-ups to keep shot blockers guessing and has no problem with a little contact, not to mention he’s strong as a bull. I feel that he’s a legit point guard and floor general that plays his role well. He’s very competitive and knows how to compete on both ends of the court. He’s always up for the challenge when it comes to locking players down on defense and getting into people’s faces. He’s an overall tough competitor who can produce.
LOW TO MID MAJOR SLEEPER
–Justin Jackson, 6-7 rising senior post, Each 1 Teach 1 Elite/Montverde (FL): Plays extremely hard when out there on the court, coming off the bench, he is a spark plug for his team by fighting for rebounds and muscling up shots on the inside. He happens to be a great finisher and is good around the rim for tip-ins and dunks. Will post up strong and knows how to seal off his man, gets good position on the low block. Seems like he’s always trying to make it easier on the guards to get him the ball and most of the time they are not disappointed.
–Malik London, 6-8 rising sophomore post, All-Ohio Force/Chillicothe (OH): An up-and-coming star if he sticks to summer workouts and continues to play on the circuit. He’s a skinny kid who can take up a lot of space in the lane with his wing span. He already has the proper timing down for blocking shots, and although he’s not always successful, he does change and alter shots, which is helpful on defense as well. Can and will finish around the rim, especially when his teammates put him in good scoring situations, you can count the basket. Has a ton of room for growth and development; I can’t wait to see what happens with this kid.
MID TO HIGH MAJOR SLEEPER
–Andre Stringer, 5-10 rising senior point guard, Jackson Tigers/Forest Hill (MS): A true point guard, he’s a crafty but smart little guard that runs through defenses like people run through stop signs. He’s quick in his lateral movements and can get from point A to point B in zero to 10 seconds. He’s a consistent shooter from behind the arc, whether it’s a wide-open look or with a hand in the face it’s BOTTOMS for this kid. Not only is he known for being a shooter, but his finishing ability due to his lack of height at the point guard position is pretty impressive. He has a soft touch and maneuvering skills that allow him to adjust his body to score the basketball. He knows the meaning of running an offensive set as well as what it takes to lead a successful break and convert. Has a great feel for the court, and is able to make quick adjustments that leave opponents always guessing.
Thanks, Shea. As for the chip itself, All-Ohio Red beat Boo Williams, 76-66 to take the 17-and-under (junior boys) AAU national title, mostly due to the efforts of 6-8 widebody Jared Sullinger, a Columbus native and Ohio State commit, who dropped 30 and was simply too much to handle on the inside, while Wake Forest commit Travis McKie, a 6-7 combo forward had 23 for Boo in the L. If I seem a little ho-hum about the chip, maybe it’s because All-Ohio Red has been together for so long, dominated every age group and is more talented than 99 percent of the AAU teams out there–not to mention, they have better chemistry than the other one percent–that I almost expected them to win it all, especially after getting upset in the AAU Super Showcase. And after all, isn’t this the place where dreams come true?