Back To Basics
Louisiana’s finest show out during Final Four weekend.
Down in New Orleans for all of the festivities that the Final Four had to offer, we got up with Graegg Holmes from New Orleans Elite to see if there was going to be any AAU hoops during our stay. Coincidentally, Holmes was in the process of putting together a four-team shootout and graciously invited SLAMonline to come and check it out.
Held at Back 2 Basics, a brand new training facility just outside of New Orleans, the event offered a atmosphere that you don’t see on the AAU circuit. B2B owner Marcell Scott threw an NBA length floor inside of the hangar complex (along with another side court) to go along with a legit strength area to encompass everything a hooper would be looking for to get their game right. Throw in some dope inspiration quotes by athletes and world leaders painted on the walls with some dope jams blasting through the surround sound and you see why this isn’t your usual run-of-the-mill basketball facility.
Together with Scott, New Orleans Elite put on the legit event with relatively short notice. Reebok-sponsored Louisiana Future joined the adidas-sponsored New Orleans Elite, and a group of unsigned seniors who were looking to show their game off in effort to land a scholly. Unlike most early spring AAU events, these kids went hard. I’m talking flagrant foul, dive on the ground for loose ball every time hard. Not sure if it’s something in the water or just some great motivators, but the Louisiana kids who we saw were all playing the game with a passion that you just don’t see on the regular any more.
Here’s a look at some of the top guys:
Jarell Martin, 6-7, SF, New Orleans Elite, 2013
The man who shut down Vegas last summer with his in-game eastbay has taken his skill to a whole new level. Martin looked much more comfortable putting the ball on the deck than we last saw him, mixing in some sick drives to the basket while keeping defenders honest with his J. The Baton Rouge native is still a work in progress, but the versatility that he brings to the table makes him one of the more interesting guys in the Class of 2013 as far as long term potential is concerned.
Craig Victor, 6-8, PF, New Orleans Elite, 2014
Donned a top-25 big man by most recruiting gurus, Victor showed off the diverse skill set that has set him apart from most 6-8 guys his age. Able to beat you both with his face-up game and with his moves on the block, he proved to be perhaps the toughest cat to defend in New Orleans. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, but all of the pieces are there for Victor to be the next star out of NOLA.
Jeremy Treaudo, 6-5, SF, New Orleans Elite, 2015
As far as the young bucks were concerned, there wasn’t anyone who caught our eye as much as Treaudo. Considered by some to be the top freshman in Louisiana, he took a lot of cats for surprise with his big time athleticism for a player right on the cusp of being 15 years old. When not finishing with dunks in transition, the emerging wing showed off a reliable pullup from mid-range and even stepped out beyond the arc. While he’ll be splitting time between multiple age groups, Jeremy is definitely a guy who you’ll be hearing a lot about in the near future.
Mike Thomas, 6-10, C, Louisiana Future, 2014
A huge (both literally and figuratively) surprise that we saw in NOLA was 6-10 sophomore Mike Thomas. The big lefty went right at Victor to the point that they had to be separated a number of times. He surprised everyone when he put the ball on the deck and made a nasty crossover, but his area of expertise was certainly centered around his intimidating presence. Look for Thomas to draw a lot of buzz among college coaches as Louisiana Future plays this spring.
Jordan Cornish, 6-5, SG, New Orleans Elite, 2014
It was the first time we had the chance to see him after watching him kill at John Lucas’ camp in the fall. He was playing a bit of a different role with New Orleans Elite, doing the majority of his damage as a spot-up shooter. Cornish didn’t dominate like he did at Lucas, but college coaches are still clamoring over his ability to score the ball in a variety of different ways.
James Thompson, 6-7, PF, Louisiana Future, 2014
Along with Martin, Thompson was right there for the most athletic player in the gym. Fresh after lacing up his shoes, he threw down a nasty 360 without even stretching. Dude has bunnies—the kind of bunnies that change a game on both ends of the floor. There’s a long ways to go in terms of Thompson’s skill level, but the athleticism and energy that he offers make him a super unique prospect who college coaches dream of working with.
Tyree Griffin, 5-8, PG, New Orleans Elite, 2014
The reigning district player of the year didn’t score a huge amount of points, but made a huge impact on the game. He single handedly broke Louisiana Future’s press by himself, showed off a filthy handle, and was great distributing the rock to the scorers on his team. Size is always going to be an issue with Griffin, but he’s the type of cat who is flat out going to help you win games at whatever level he winds up at.
Dwayne Benjamin, 6-5, SF, 2012
Committed to UTEP as a wide receiver, Benjamin may wind up giving it a go on the hardwood as well. A serious athlete with range out to the three-point line, he fits the mold of the athletic wings that former Bulls/USC coach Tim Floyd loves. Must be nice to have choices like that…