Lights, Cameras, and a Lot of Action
Austin Rivers and Brandon Knight take center stage.
by Sam Guelil
Florida Atlantic University was the site for Friday night’s Old Spice High School Showcase featuring some of the nation’s top players which was broadcasted on the ESPN family of networks. The opening game put the No. 10-ranked team Montverde Academy (FL) against The Sagemont School (FL). But the matchup that everyone was anticipating was between Pine Crest (FL) and Brandon Knight vs. Austin Rivers and the rest of his No. 16-ranked Winter Park (FL) squad. Let’s start with the goods…
No. 16 WINTER PARK (FL) vs. PINE CREST (FL)
Winter Park beat Pine Crest 87-76, but the score was a small detail to some fans and talent evaluators that were watching. This was a matchup between arguably the country’s top players in their respective classes, 6-4 senior PG/SG Brandon Knight (2010) and 6-4 junior SG Austin Rivers (2011). Knight may have won the battle of points dropping a game-high 48, but the 41 Rivers poured in had his team in position to win the war. Clearly, the outcome of game mattered to these guys which showed how competitive they are. Knight has a winner’s mentality and didn’t care that he scored 48. You can see just how upset he was after the game. Rivers had a little more help when it was all said and done. John David Swanson was a big difference knocking down 6 three-pointers and going for 22 total points. This goes to show you that you can never turn your back on a man with two first names.
This was really more like a Pine Crest home game. They brought their band, a lot of fans, and a student section that was reminiscent to Duke’s Cameron Crazies. They painted their faces, dressed alike, and had some pretty creative chants. It was actually very cool to see for a high school game. They had it going early, and so did Brandon Knight. He outscored Rivers 12-5 in the first quarter while his team trailed by a deuce. That was pretty much a microcosm of how this game would go. He could pretty much get any shot he wanted, but his supporting cast just didn’t provide enough help. Knight, who is still undecided about his college decision, was up to the challenge of guarding the University of Florida commit Austin Rivers, and did a nice job on him early. However, Rivers did not start off defending Knight but did check him from time-to-time over the course of the game. That was probably just good coaching. It’s not that Rivers is a bad defender, he’s actually pretty good. It’s just tough for any player to keep the explosive Knight in front of him.
The second quarter is when this game really changed and took form. Rivers had missed a couple of free-throws early in first quarter and was trying to find his rhythm. Listen, I’m sure the kids that go to Pine Crest are pretty intelligent, but those misses gave them a really dumb idea. At the 4:43 mark and Rivers at the line, they started the “over-rated” chant….like I said, bad idea. Rivers told me after the game that he just used that as added motivation and he knows he’s not over-rated. These wannabe crazies were partly responsible for awaking the sleeping giant. Rivers was fired up and scored 34 points from then on out. He did it in every way possible; midrange jumpers, bombs from long range, getting out in transition, and finishing after contact thru traffic in the lane to complete a few three point plays. He even crossed Knight up a few times and drilled some three’s that left you shaking your head. I give Knight credit for wanting to guard Rivers, but sometimes better offense just beats good defense. Winter Park was up 41-33 going into halftime but seemed to be in total control.
The third and fourth quarters were the Rivers and Swanson show. Their timely three-pointers were just too much for Knight and Pine Crest to overcome whenever they tried to gain any type of momentum. Knight seemed to attack the goal much more and converted a perfect 15-15 from the line. He took less shots from the perimeter until the score made it necessary for him to start jacking desperation 3’s.
Overall, the matchup lived up to the hype. Rivers and Knight are tremendous talents and both have extremely bright futures ahead of them. They are nearly impossible to guard at the high school level. You can see why college coaches are salivating over these two and why NBA GM’s and scouts will have them on their big board’s sooner rather than later. Here’s a closer look why…
Brandon Knight | 6-4 | PG-SG | Pine Crest (FL) | 2010 | Undecided
Knight will be an immediate impact freshman next year the minute he steps foot on whatever college campus he chooses. Where he goes will factor into what position he plays. Everyone is recruiting him as a PG, but what Knight does best is score the ball. He has nice form and elevation on his jump shot which extends to NBA range. When he gets going he can put up huge numbers really quick. He can shoot it spotting up and off the bounce. Knight is very electrifying in the open court. He is also a very strong and athletic player with a tremendous first-step. If you play to close to him he’ll blow by you with his crossover. Knight can play either guard spot since he has excellent court vision and a good feel for the game. He is very crafty and can hit off-balanced runners after contact. He’ll be an even better player when he has more talent around him. Right now Knight has to be a prolific scorer. His teammates sometimes get caught up watching him so he has to be in attack mode. Knight is an excellent on the ball defender and plays the passing lanes fairly well but will gamble from time to time. Knight plays a little out of control and will forces some shots. If he can improve his left hand and play more under control there is no telling just how good Knight can be. NBA scouts should start evaluating him now since he’ll probably be one and done in college.
Austin Rivers | 6-4 | SG | Winter Park (FL) | 2011 | Florida (Committed)
Rivers plays with a swagger and tenacity that you just love to see. He would also be an impact player in college next year but the only problem is that he still has that senior year thing to take care of. The son of NBA coach Doc Rivers and it clearly shows. He plays at a great pace. Rivers changes speeds and direction exceptionally well with the ball in his hands. He also moves well without the ball and knows when to shoot and take over games. Shooting off the dribble is one of his strengths. He has great elevation on his jump shot and lightning quick release. Rivers is kind of a herky-jerky when he dribbles and crosses over, but that awkwardness is all part of what makes him so good since defenders don’t see his style often. Physically Rivers has room for improvement. He has long arms and a good frame and will put on more muscle as he gets older. His foot speed isn’t great, especially when moving laterally on defense. Right now he positions himself well enough on defense to be effective on that end. He has a great feel for the game and knows how to play the passing lanes. Rivers can also improve handling the ball with his left hand and finishing with it in transition. When he does go left it’s off a quick cross-over from his right hand followed by a quick pull-up jump shot. Although he isn’t a freak athlete, he is athletic enough and will be effective at any level. Rivers could also be on the fast track to playing against his father or maybe for him in the NBA.
No. 10 MONTVERDE (FL) vs. SAGEMONT (FL)
The pressure defense and overall depth of Montverde was just too much in the end for Sagemont to overcome as they were downed by the score of 57-52. This game featured no shortage of Division 1 talent. Sagemont’s “big 3” consists of senior Fab Melo, senior Will Sheehey and junior swingman Rod Days, were the only players to score for their team. Days was clearly the best player on the court in this game setting his career high of 28 points. His 5 treys along with his ability to finish in the open court showed why he is a high major recruit. The senior center and Syracuse signee Fab Melo was in foul trouble for most of the first half and wasn’t really able to establish himself. Future Indiana Hoosier signee Will Sheehey chipped in with 14 points and displayed a nice skill set.
Now let’s get to one of the nation’s best high school teams. The 10th-ranked Montverde showed why they are the basketball factory that they are. Six players on this roster will eventually go DI. They are headlined by 6-5 Senior guard James Bell, who has already signed with Villanova. Bell didn’t have his best game, but still scored 17 points and hit some clutch free throws down the stretch. The Marquette senior signee Jamail Jones was relatively quite in this one, but showed his potential with a couple of 3’s and a quick first step. The senior PG Kaleb Clyburn was the man hitting every free throw when Sagemont fouled him trying to extend the game. Junior Steve Moundu-Missi of Montverde was everywhere and their leading scorer with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
This was a relatively well played game. Montverde put a team out there that not only could be mistaken for a DI basketball team, but also a football team. These kids were physically imposing. They were strong, athletic, long, and very competitive on the defensive end. Sagemont turned the ball over early and often. A late shooting spurt from Days made this one a little closer in the end. This was a well played game and as well as coached. Here’s a quick breakdown of each team’s top players…
James Bell | 6-5 | SG | Montverde (FL) | 2010 | Villanova (Signed)
Bell is a very strong and athletic shooting guard that lets the game come to him. He doesn’t force shots and plays under control. He shoots the ball well off the bounce and when his feet are set. His handle is very good with both hands. Bell moves well without the ball and posses a great feel for the game. He competes defensively and plays the passing lanes very well.
Jamail Jones | 6-5 | SG | Montverde (FL) | 2010 | Marquette (Signed)
Jones is a very smart player that really knows how to play. He doesn’t force shots and plays within the team concept. Jones also has a quick first step making him a match-up problem since he can knock down the long range shot as well as the mid-range. His length and athleticism makes him very disruptive as an off the ball defender. He is a very sound player and has tremendous potential to get even better.
Fab Melo | 7-0 | C | Sagemont (FL) | 2010 | Syracuse (Signed)
Melo is one of the country’s top center prospects. He has a massive frame, long wingspan, and can be a monster if he gets into a good conditioning program. He blocks shots and rebounds very well. He’s almost impossible to move on the block. Melo has good footwork and moves well in small areas for a guy his size, but doesn’t run the floor great. Once he does get into better shape, and he will, he could be a very different player. He is still very raw, especially on the offensive end. But at 7-foot tall he is an interesting player because you can’t teach height.
Will Sheehey | 6-6 | SG | Sagemont (FL) | 2010 | Indiana (Signed)
Sheehey is going to be well received once he gets to Bloomington. He is the prototype old school IU player. He can shoot it very well from three and from mid-range. He is aggressive and is very savvy with the ability to draw contact from defenders. He can handle with both hands and is deceptively quick. Sheehey is almost like a coach on the floor. He communicates very well with teammates and knows where everybody on the court is supposed to be.
Rod Days | 6-6 | SF | Sagemont (FL) | 2011 | Undecided
Days is a very long and athletic wing player with a very nice shooting touch. Those two are reasons alone are enough to make him a big-time prospect. Still a junior, Days has room to improve. Right away he reminds me of WVU’s Da’Sean Butler. He seems to have a nose for the ball and is always doing something positive. He moves well without it and can exhaust the man defending him because he has such a great motor. Days is good in the half court game, but he really thrives in transition.