Big Strick Classic Preview
A handful of the nation’s best high school players are set to compete in New York City.
by Eldon Khorshidi | @eldonadam
The third annual Big Strick Classic (formerly the Franchise Classic), is set to tip-off this Saturday at 6 p.m. at Gauchos Gymnasium in the Bronx.
With the AAU circuit and skills camps in the rearview, the event is often the last event of the summer (save for those competing in the Elite 24) for the top prospects. In its two years of existence, Big Strick has pitted some of the top high school players from around the country—the USA Team—against some the top players from the Tri-State area—the NYC East Team.
The alumni list (most of whom have been PUNKS subjects at one time or another) includes Archie Goodwin (Kentucky/Phoenix Suns), Kyle Anderson (UCLA), Andrew and Aaron Harrison (Kentucky), Troy Williams (Indiana), Chris Walker (Florida), Omar Calhoun (UConn), Jermaine Lawrence (Cincinatti), Robert Hubbs (Tennesse), Kuran Iverson (Memphis), and many others.
The buzz surrounding the event is noticeably growing because, well, this year should be no different, with a handful of the best talent on the high school level competing in the heart of New York City. Between 7-footer and projected 2015 top-three pick Myles Turner, uber-athletic swingman Kelly Oubre, the epitome of New York swagger and competitiveness in Isaiah Whitehead, the eye-opening length of Syracuse-bound Chris McCullough, 2015 top-three prospect Stephen Zimmerman, shot blocking machine Cheick Diallo, a vicious bully in Carlton Bragg, and two of the most underrated high schoolers in the country in Ladarius Chester and Bashir Ahmed, there’ll be more than enough talent for every basketball fan to get their fix.
As always, admission to Saturday’s game—located at 478 Gerard Avenue in Bronx, NY, is free and open to the public. The players will also scrimmage tomorrow (Friday) at 6 p.m. at Dyckman Park, located at 204th Street and Nagle Avenue in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan.
Over the years, I have watched a number of this year’s participants, both with their high school teams and on the AAU circuit. But I haven’t seen everyone, and it wouldn’t be ethical (or accurate) to write player evaluations based off what I’ve heard and read. With that being said, here is a breakdown of 15 of the game’s 26 participants, all of whom I have observed. Following the game, I will report back with evaluations of all 26 players.
Team New York
Chris McCullough (Brewster Academy)
2014, PF, 6-10, 220
Committed to Syracuse
McCullough is a physical specimen. He’s very raw right now, as he needs to develop his frame and a back-to-the-basket/face-up game, but his athletic abilities are jaw-dropping. With freakishly long arms, he doesn’t go to the rim; he goes at the rim, trying to dunk everything in his path. I’ve seen McCullough play a number of times, but at the Peach Jam he showcased something we hadn’t seen before: a consistent motor and determination.
McCullough seamlessly roams the floor and covers enormous ground with his long arms. With his wingspan, fluid strides and weak-side shot-blocking ability, he should do very well in Syracuse’s 2-3 zone. A big-time prospect who should continue to improve.
Isaiah Whitehead (Lincoln HS)
2014, PG, 6-4, 195
Offers from Syracuse, Arizona, UCLA and others
No matter who’s matched up against him, Isaiah will compete his butt off—at the Big Strick, we saw him go at it with Archie Goodwin two summers ago, and Andrew Harrison last year. Whitehead is one of the best attackers in the class, and has a vast offensive arsenal to break his man down and put the ball in the hoop. He’s made major improvement throughout his high school career, and it was evident again this summer. Whitehead always had immense talent, but he would often take ill-advised shots and have tunnel vision with the basketball. Now, he’s found a comfortable balance, showing a willingness to reverse the ball and play within the offense, and then attack if an opportunity presents itself.
Shavar Newkirk (Cardinal Hayes)
2014, PG, 5-11, 175
Committed to St. Joe’s
Newkirk is a tough point guard who plays good defense and can direct his teammates. He gets into the paint and can finish around bigger defenders. An improving player who has made strides in his game.
Thomas Bryant (Bishop Kearney HS)
2015, SF/PF, 6-9, 200
Offers from Syracuse, Florida, Ohio State and others
At 6-foot-9 and with long arms, Bryant is a high-level athlete with a versatile skill-set. He can put it on the floor, shoot out to 17 feet, and bang down low. Many have said Bryant is the best power forward in his class. He plays on a loaded Team Scan AAU team which features 2014 forward Chris McCullough, 2015 forward Cheick Diallo and 2016 forward Kassoum Yakwe.
Bryant’s perimeter game is still fairly raw. Although he’s shown improvement in his handle and is becoming more comfortable on the perimeter, right now he plays mostly in the paint. Still, the skills are definitely there to extend his game.
Cheick Diallo (Our Savior New American)
2015, PF, 6-9, 215
Native of Ivory Coast
Offers from Arizona, Kansas, St. John’s and others
Diallo is a defensive standout, but unpolished offensively. He quickly gets off his feet to block everything that comes his way. He makes it a personal mission to alter every shot in his vicinity, and has excellent mobility to run the floor lurking for blocks. He is young and extremely aggressive. If he can make progress on offense, he will be a valuable high-major prospect. If he can’t, he’ll settle for being a rim protector and disruptor on defense.
Bashir Ahmed (John F. Kennedy HS)
2014, SG, 6-4, 200
Going to prep school, still undecided.
Interest from Villanova, Rutgers, Texas A&M , Seton Hall.
Ahmed has fell under the radar in New York City. He is a long, athletic 6-4 guard with next-level moves and ability. Similar to the other highly-ranked 2014 New York City guards (Khadeen Carrington, Jon Severe, Isaiah Whitehead, etc), Ahmed has made a noticeable impact in every single game he’s played in this year. He has great size and wingspan, is a suffocating one-on-one defender and is an excellent rebounder. This past season, he scored 25 points on Wings Academy, and had a monster 36 points/20 rebounds/3 blocks against Cardozo – both are teams that advanced deep into the PSAL Playoffs.
Terry Larrier (The Phelps School)
2014, SF, 6-7, 200
Offers from Arizona, UConn, Miami, Maryland, Texas and others
Larrier has great length that every college coach would love to get their hands on. He is a big-time talent whose best basketball is clearly ahead of him. He can effortlessly finish on the break, and because of his great size for a small forward (6-7), he can shoot over smaller defenders. If he can crash the boards with more conviction, Larrier will be able to contribute in ways besides scoring, and that will take his game to the next level.
Khadeen Carrington (Bishop Laughlin)
2014, SG, 6-3, 185
Offers from Boston College, Hofstra, Iowa State, Pittsburgh and others
Carrington is a smooth lefty who is quick in transition and has a nice mid-range game. He can finish in transition and play both on/off the ball, and has seen his stock rise throughout the year.
Isaiah Briscoe (Roselle Catholic)
2015, SG, 6-3, 200
Offers from UConn, Florida, Indiana and others
Briscoe is a strong guard with great body control and finishing ability. He doesn’t play above the rim, but he uses his body well and has a versatile skill-set—scoring, passing and getting out in transition—to make a significant impact.
Briscoe is powerful and converts difficult shots from the perimeter, making him an offensive juggernaut when he’s on. He understands how to use his body, and has the confidence to battle with any guard. Not the most talented, but in authentic New York/Jersey fashion, he always gets up for the challenge.
Tyus Battle (Gill St. Bernard’s)
2016, SG/SF, 6-4, 170
Interest from Indiana, Villanova, UConn, Washington, Xavier.
At 6-5, Battle is extremely difficult to guard; he has a quick first step, is athletic, attacks the rim with authority and can shoot the ball out to 3-point range. He has a smooth, and is one of those players who doesn’t just score, but knows how to score. He picks his spots and then attacks. Battle is a pure perimeter player who’s dominated games as a freshman.
Kelly Oubre Jr. (Findlay Prep)
2014, SF, 6-7, 190
Offers from Kansas, UConn, Louisville, Kentucky and others
Oubre is a great athlete who feeds off his defense to create transition opportunities. He has freakish athleticism and length, making him a versatile defender. He can make plays off the dribble and finishes with thunderous authority. Oubre is versatile enough to legitimately guard three positions on defense, and has shown a knack for rebounding in traffic. The kid is a moving pogo stick with unreal bounce and a mean streak; when Oubre is clicking, he has the makings of a future pro.
His biggest concern is his jumpshot; if he can get a smooth stroke, his game will go to the next level. Right now, he plays on a wing-heavy Houston Hoops teams, so one has to wonder how his game would flourish alongside a traditional point guard.
Jalen Lindsey (Huntington Prep)
2014, SF, 6-7, 185
Committed to Providence
Lindsey is a rare breed: He’s a cerebral player with freakish athleticism. He operates smoothly on the wing, is an effective slasher and explodes to the rim with even the slightest inch of separation. He has great length, plays with an infectious energy and can shoot out to 20 feet. What’s fascinating about Lindsey is that although he’s right handed, he prefers to go left, which keeps defenders on their toes. Lindsey doesn’t’ waste dribbles and understands how to gain position on drives by lowering his shoulder and sinking into his defender. At this point, Lindsey needs to shore up his handle to consistently create his own shot, but he has all the tools to do so.
Khadeem Lattin (Redemption Christian Homeschool)
2014, PF, 6-9, 190
Offers from Alabama, Arizona, Baylor, Georgetown and others
Lattin roams behind looking for blocks, and is a great rebounder. He finishes put-backs above the rim, and can score well inside of 15 feet. But in order to maximize—or even use—his skills in college, Lattin NEEDS to get stronger. He plays more of a center than power forward, so this is even more important.
While Lattin is limited offensively, his defense is special. He really embraces rebounding and playing defense, knowing how to rotate and hedge on his man. His defensive instincts are impressive at this age.
Derrick Jones (Philadelphia, PA/Archbishop Carroll HS)
2015, SF, 6-6, 185
Offers from Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland
Jones is an under-the-radar stud. He is a next-level athlete with great finishing ability and an endless motor. Some talent evaluators have labeled him the “next big thing” out of Philadelphia. He attacks the rim, goes after every rebound and blocks shots with the ferociousness of a 7-foot center. He needs to shore up his jumpshot, but from a purely physical standpoint, he has all the tools be a force on the court. He has excellent finishing ability, and is a versatile defender.
Ladarius Chester (Melrose HS)
2014, PG, 6-1
Interest from Tennessee, Wichita State, Texas A&M, Murray State and others
Chester could be the most under the radar rising senior in the country. Only 6-1, he’s an electric PG with next-level athleticism and a massive chip on his shoulder.
Chester is a bully. He has broad shoulders, and uses his strong frame to finish through contact at the rim. The next step for him is learning how to run an offense—namely, the pick and roll—but if I were a college coach, I’d be very intrigued by the thought of acquiring Chester. He’s a fearless competitor—with great physical tools—who digs into his opponent every game.