National Prep Showcase: Top Seniors
Ricardo Ledo, Jakarr Sampson and others put on clinics.
For years now, the National Prep Showcase has been a rite of passage to kick off the prep school basketball season. In the weekend before Thanksgiving, virtually every national media outlet that you can imagine makes the pilgrimage to New England to peep the finest prep school players that this country has to offer. Spanning over three days with games running over 12 hours a day, it’s a one-stop-shop for college coaches of all levels.
To tell you how legit things really were, one Big East assistant coach missed a game so they could stick around Albertus Magnus College to recruit and get some face time with a few players. Mix in a hospitality room that is to die for and you see why Adam Finkelstein of ESPN and New England Recruiting Report nearly sells the gym out each year.
With the majority of the schools in the Northeast offering post-grad options and/or reclassification, many of the cats that we’ll write about will have reclass’d a grade. It’s just the nature of the beast of the prep schools in this part of the country, so you can like it or love it, but you won’t change it. With that said, here are a few of the top seniors who did their thing in New Haven:
Ricardo Ledo, 6-6, SG, South Kent (CT)
There wasn’t a senior more impressive than Ledo, the man who many have deemed as the leader of Providence’s hoops resurgence. A 6-6 combo guard with a filthy J, he blends a streetball flare with a refined skill set—reminiscent of Jamal Crawford. He hung an easy 37 on La Jolla Prep with an oop to himself off the glass and a number of NBA range threes. When he’s on, he’s on and let’s just hope that he’s able to continue showing off his full package in the Big East for the Friars.
Jakarr Sampson, 6-8, PF/SF, Brewster (NH)
After popping to St. John’s early last season, most expected Sampson to be Lavin’s top recruit when the Red Storm suited up for the ’11-12 season. Fast forward a year and Jakarr is back on the board, but with the same home at Brewster. The athletic combo forward continued to show everyone why he is a problem to defend: Too quick for power forwards, too big for small forwards. Jakarr’s lightning first step made it too easy for him to get to the rack and bang on defenders. What is bringing all of the colleges to the table for Sampson is his defense, though. He carries over that same versatility to the defensive end and is easily able to put the clamps on three positions, resulting in some comparing him to Stacy “The Plastic Man” Augmon. The former product of LeBron’s old HS needs to continue to sure up his J to make himself harder to defend, but that won’t stop him from being one of the hottest names of the spring signing period.
Semaj Christon, 6-2, PG, Brewster (NH)
Being an Ohio guy, I had been hip to Semaj for a minute now. Originally a member of the Class of ’11, struggles with the books forced him to take his game to the Northeast for a post-grad year. There may not be a more athletic point guard in the country and he showed on center stage in New Haven that he can finish among just about anyone. The Cincy native is still a work in progress in terms of his decision making and should mature as a playmaker as he is still adjusted to running the show full time after playing as more of a combo guard during his high school career. Xavier fans will be very happy once Semaj hits the hardwood in his hometown next November.
Montrezl Harrell, 6-7, PF, Hargrave Military Academy
Harrell’s play could be summed up in one word from his time in New Haven: Warrior. The 6-7 animal dominated both of Hargrave’s wins with his monstrous dunks and absurd rebounding numbers. The Virginia Tech recruit used his 7-3 wingspan to become a problem on the defensive end, both in terms of blocked shots and outstanding rotation. There’s still some room for improvement in his offensive game, but look for ‘Trez to make an immediate impact from day one in Blacksburg.
Mitch McGary, 6-10, PF/C, Brewster (NH)
There wasn’t a bigger story at the National Prep Showcase than McGary, who is eligible to enter this year’s NBA Draft since he is already 19 years old (as long as the same rules from the old CBA stand). Two Eastern Conference teams were on hand to see the Indiana native battle foul trouble all weekend and spend more time on the bench than on the hardwood. Sportin’ his usual mad-man intensity, the breakout player of the spring lived up to his rep and led both by example and vocally. It wasn’t the world’s best weekend for the Michigan recruit, but don’t let one foul plagued weekend negate the dominance that McGary has imposed to the Class of 2012 over the past eight months.
William Howard, 6-8, SF, New Hope Academy
The French import who our friends over at DraftExpress have profiled numerous times during his European competition made a surprise appearance in the states at prep school after many figured that he would sign a pro deal in France. Now doing his thing in the states, Howard shocked many onlookers with his dominant performance in New Hope’s two games with averages of nearly 25 points and 12 rebounds per game while playing out of position at the 4. The clear cut wing showed off a silky smooth J that extended well beyond the collegiate three-point line to go along with the ability to put the ball on the deck a little bit, he surprised many of the national media who didn’t know what to expect out of him. Reportedly Howard has been placed at New Hope by Washington, where he would be the ideal lengthy wing that Lorenzo Roman craves at UW.
Jalen Reynolds, 6-9, PF, Brewster (NH)
While many donned Ohio State freshman Amir Williams the top senior that Michigan had to offer last year, we got a tip about a 6-9 kid from just outside of Detroit who many felt was truly the best senior in the state of Michigan. Not playing hoops at all during his junior season, Reynolds put in work at Livonia Stephenson but didn’t quite get the highest grades, hence him spending an extra year playing prep ball. Equipped with a 7-4 wingspan and standing every bit of 6-9, you can’t help but be taken back by the imposing physical presence that he imposes. Even though the Xavier commit owns range out to the arc, he had to pick and choose his shots on a straight stacked Brewster team. Reynolds made his biggest presence felt on the defensive end as a rebounder and shot-blocker, but don’t let the box score fool you: This kid is a beast.