by Aggrey Sam
Unless you’re new to this, you should know by now that I love sleepers. With all of the high-profile events I attend, people often (wrongly) assume I could care less about players who don’t have big names, but anybody who really knows me, understands I’m all about the kids. Last weekend, I made the short trip from my crib in Hyde Park to Gary Comer College Prep, located a little deeper in the South Side of the Chi, to attend the Fall Midwest Exposure Showcase, hosted by Orlandus Thomas, the head coach at Comer and a local AAU coach. Anyway, this event was geared toward D2, D3, NAIA and juco prospects–the kids who need the most help (and I’m used to helping in my non-journalism life)–so I was hopeful that I’d find some sleepers. I wasn’t disappointed. Here a few of the standouts from the event:
–Kareem Amedu, 6-5 senior post, Neuqua Valley: Amedu, a big-bodied undersized post who recently committed to St. Michael’s, a strong D2 school in Vermont, was one of the few big men at the event and used his power, rebounding ability and finishing skills on the inside to wreak havoc, while also displaying some developing perimeter skills.
–Marshall Bennett, 6-5 senior wing, Rich East: A long, smooth and athletic swingman, Bennett showed nice versatility in being able to handle the rock, knock down some outside shots, slash to the basket.
–Kendall Dawson, 5-9 senior point guard, Bowman (IN): Dawson, from nearby Gary (hometown of Glenn Robinson and Michael Jackson; RIP to the latter), crossed state lines and proved to be a tough and feisty scorer, who made outside shots off the catch and off the dribble (he’s got a funky, high release, but it went in more often than not), determined defender and capable ballhandler and playmaker.
–Matt Funkhauser, 6-4 senior wing, Oak Forest (IL): A wing with nice size, decent ball skills and a solid understanding of the game, Funkhauser was the best pure shooter at the event, as he was pretty much automatic from deep.
–Noah Hawkins, 6-4 sophomore combo forward, Comer (IL): Hawkins, a raw young prospect, still needs to add considerable polish to his game, but his hustle, energy, athleticism and agility indicate he could become a force to be reckoned with in time.
–Jerry Humphries, 6-4 junior combo forward, Hales Franciscan (IL): A recent transfer to a school around my way (so I’ll be able to keep tabs on his progress), Humphries is still clearly making the transition from the post to the wing, but his athleticism, physical play, knack for scoring in the paint, work on the boards and defensive mindset should ensure he makes the switch with ease and begins to fulfill his potential.
–Rahjan Muhammad, 5-11 senior point guard, Neuqua Valley: Muhammad, an overlooked member of a strong suburban program (the aforementioned Amedu and fellow senior teammate Dwayne Evans, a St. Louis commit, receive the bulk of the attention), effectively blended his scoring and distributing skills, as the stocky floor general pushed the tempo in transition, finished in the lane (with surprising athleticism), hit pull-up jumpers and spot-up shots from deep and dropped off nice dimes to his teammates, as well playing solid D.
–Wayne Simon, 5-10 senior point guard, St. Joseph’s (IL): A standout in the classroom, as well as on the court at Isiah Thomas’ alma mater (immortalized in “Hoop Dreams,” my favorite flick), Simon is a quick, fundamentally-sound scoring point, who used shifty dribble moves to get by defenders, savvy to score in the paint, a nice touch to make it rain from the outside and solid court awareness to create for others.
–Asante Smiter, 5-10 junior point guard, Curie (IL): Smiter, a crafty and clever playmaker, stood out with his slick ballhandling, stocky build, streetball scoring instincts, excellent court vision, physical defense and competitive nature, all of which have made him a highly-regarded player in city circles.
–Emeka Umeadi, 6-1 senior wing, Fenton (IL): An excellent student, Umeadi, a powerfully-built slasher, had perhaps the highlight of the event with his transition bang over an opponent who shall not be named, but also impressed with his physicality, willingness to do the dirty work, hustle and obviously athleticism.
While all of the aforementioned prospects were talented players, the event’s best player was clearly Kashaune McKinney, a 6-4, 195-pound senior wing from Rich East High School in the city’s south suburbs. McKinney, who I saw briefly at a summer event out here (he was solid, but on a loaded Illinois Warriors team, he didn’t get to show off his true potential–thus, I didn’t write him up in my recap), was head and shoulders above the competition at this event. A tough, well-built, versatile and athletic scorer, McKinney has a nice stroke and excellent range, attacked the basket with his smooth ballhandling ability and finished strong at the rim, was a defensive playmaker and an unselfish and creative passer. Severely underrecruited, McKinney has to be one of the top uncommitted senior prospects in the Chicagoland area. On top of that, he has an even-keeled court demeanor and seems to be a solid kid off the court, as well. Players like him are why I love events and “discovering” sleepers.
Following the showcase, I headed back to “Obamatown” to get my fantasy draft done, before heading out to Simeon Career Academy (Derrick Rose’s alma mater) for championship Sunday of the Sonny Parker Fall Basketball League. Sonny, a Chicago legend for both his playing days and his efforts to help the Chi’s youth, has some of the city’s better talent playing in his tune-up for the regular season. Things started off with the frosh-soph (JV) championship (there were some nice prospects, but if you’re a regular here, you know my stance on young players who haven’t done the varsity thing yet) before the main event. The varsity chip, between the “Lakers” and “Cavaliers” featured some prospects I was already familiar with, a few I’d heard of but hadn’t seen and of course, some sleepers. By the way, “Team Illinois” beat “Team DePaul” in the frosh-soph game, while the Lakers topped the Cavs in the varsity contest; both were close, hotly-contested games. Here are some of the players who did their thing at Simeon on Sunday:
–Steven Dandridge (Cavs), 6-7 senior post, Thornridge (IL): Dandridge, a physical big man, is still somewhat raw offensively, but is a presence in the paint, a solid rebounder, force on D and displayed the ability to finish strong above the rim with his athleticism.
–Adonis Filer (Cavs), 6-2 junior wing, Mount Carmel (IL): A well-regarded football prospect (his older brother Steven was a high school standout and currently plays for Notre Dame), Filer’s gridiron background is surely a factor in his fearless approach, as he slashed to the bucket and finished with ease, using his quickness, strength and athleticism.
–Fabyon Harris (Cavs), 5-9 senior point guard, Hyde Park (IL): Harris, a talented floor general and recent Northern Colorado commit who stands out every time I see him play, was his typical high-energy and playmaking self, distributing the rock, putting on a show with his masterful ballhandling, scoring over the trees in the lane, making plays on D and hitting deep jumpers.
–Malcolm Hill-Bey (Cavaliers), 5-10 sophomore point guard, Mount Carmel (IL): Another kid I’ve seen a few times previously, Hill-Bey is obviously talented and while he forced the action at times and took a few questionable shots, his tremendous quickness, excellent handle and superb court vision made him a threat to get into the lane and either score or a drop dimes to his teammates whenever he had the ball in his hands.
–Josh Humphrey (Lakers), 6-4 senior wing, Crete-Monee (IL): Humphrey, an athletic and versatile scorer, proved capable of beating his man off the dribble and finishing at the rim or hitting the outside J, as well as helping out on the boards, playing solid D and creating for others with his handle.
–Ray Lester (Lakers), 6-6 senior post, Crete-Monee (IL): A tough competitor with nice footwork in the post, good rebounding ability and a powerful frame, Lester is also a solid athlete, as evidenced by his his and-1 dunk to seal the win for his squad.
–Kendrick Nunn (Team Illinois), 6-1 freshman guard, Simeon (IL): Nunn played in the frosh-soph game, but I’ll make an exception for him, as the lefty’s high-flying athleticism, explosive quickness, nice outside stroke, tricky handle, and ability to make plays on both ends made it obvious that he could have played with the big boys, although for his loaded high school program, he’ll likely start out on the frosh-soph squad.
–Chris Oliviera (Lakers), 6-8 senior post, Seton (IL): A skilled big man who I first noticed in the summer, Oliviera showed off his solid footwork, rebounding ability, touch around the basket and solid athleticism.
–Montero Rice (Lakers), 6-1 junior combo guard, Thornton Fractional North (IL): Rice, a scorer who went on a run of about four straight buckets, showed not just a knack for scoring, but versatility, solid D, a high basketball IQ and enough knowledge of the game that his seemingly being in the right place at the right time was more than a coincidence.
–Aqui Shareef (Cavs), 6-5 junior wing, Hyde Park (IL): A quintessential example of a sleeper, Shareef, who hadn’t heard of or seen in brief time in the City of Wind, impressed me with his athleticism, physical game, slashing ability, mid-range stroke, solid handle, tough D, work on the glass, versatility and nice upside.
On another note, in a recent issue of the magazine, I wrote a story about ATL top senior prospect Jelan Kendrick. Unfortunately, the photo that went with the story was of Ohio big man Adreian Payne , and Payne’s story had Kendrick’s pic. In fairness, they do have a slight resemblance (hey, at least they were both in the mag–I did a story on current Pitt junior guard and then-Philly prep star Brad Wanamaker a few years ago, and a photo of his twin brother Brian appeared in the mag), although their games aren’t at all similar . Anyway, I’m a big fan of Kendrick’s game, so when my guys at courtcred.com told me they have a video of the kid working out, I figured putting it up on the site would be a good way to right a wrong. Enjoy:
Real quick, I’m headed to Richmond this weekend to attend Halloween Havoc, a showcase event hosted by my man Antwain Fletcher, who works closely with Tony Squire of the Richmond Squires, a perennial powerhouse AAU squad. Antwain let me know about some of the prospects who will be in attendance, and judging from the prospects who committed to playing (keep in mind, Virginia is one of the most underrated hoops hotbeds in the nation; ‘Twain also invited some top prospects from outside of the state), it should be a tremendous event and an excellent warm-up to the high school season. The familiar names have me awake, but the unknown kids won’t catch me sleeping…