From DC to Baton Rouge and from Philly to Chicago. And back to DC again. Heavy on the Chi.
by Aggrey Sam
With all the players I see, especially on the high school level (in addition to working them out, too), every once in a while, I get asked, “You ever thought about coaching? You would do a good job recruiting.” Well, I never have thought about that as a serious option, but if I was ever going to consider coaching–particularly at the college level, where the July recruiting “live period” can make or break programs–the past two weeks or so of my life have shut down that notion forever.
On June 30, I flew from New Orleans to DC, to spend a few days back home with the fam. Not hours after I landed at National Airport, did I make the drive to High Point High School in PG County, home of The Rock Summer League, to check out a matchup of traditional WCAC (DC’s Catholic league) powers DeMatha and Gonzaga.
The Rock Summer League, DeMatha vs. Gonzaga
Although the score of the game was important to fans, players and coaches alike, the game was more of an investigative mission to me. DeMatha won last season’s WCAC chip and DC City Title Game (even after top prospect and Tennessee commit Josh Selby left the squad during the season), while Gonzaga got the crown two years back. However, I was focused on which kids I’d been hearing about from people back home were truly the real deal (trust me, they all can play; if anything, kids out of that league are fundamentally-sound and battle-tested) and which kids nobody was really buzzing about looked like sleepers. I wasn’t disappointed, as in one game, I saw double-digit D1 prospects.
–BJ Allen, 6-6 rising freshman post, DeMatha: Doesn’t know the game yet, but a big-bodied kid with some agility, good rebounding instincts and the willingness to mix it up on the inside.
–Justin Black, 6-2 rising senior wing, DeMatha: Typical of DeMatha, Black hasn’t seen much burn during his high school career and will likely be a role player at best in his final season (bet he would put up big numbers at your run-of-the-mill public school), but he can shoot the rock, has a decent frame, plays tough D and I wouldn’t be surprised if a low-major D1 school takes a chance on him if he has a breakout game during the remainder of the summer or in the regular season
–Nate Britt, 6-0 rising freshman point guard, Gonzaga: Britt wasn’t the Gonzaga freshman I’d heard so much about (apparently that kid, DJ Fenner–son of DC-area native Derrick Fenner, a former NFL running back for the Seahawks–has moved back to Seattle), but I was still very impressed with his moxie, quickness, aggressiveness for a freshman, ballhandling and finishing ability for such a young player, especially considering how long he is and how he looks like he might continue to grow.
–Quinn Cook, 6-0 rising junior point guard, DeMatha: I last saw Cook, who just finished off an impressive stint with USA Basketball, in person as a freshman, and while I liked his potential I couldn’t get overly excited yet. Now it’s time to get excited, as the young man makes impeccable decisions with the ball in his hands, has in-the-gym range and possesses a combination of technically-sound and embarrass-you ballhandling ability.
–Chris Frank, 6-9 rising senior post, DeMatha: A serious project as a younger player, Frank has developed enough to be considered a real prospect, due to his fundamentals, solid post moves and rebounding ability.
–Jerami Grant, 6-6 rising sophomore wing, DeMatha: The youngest of former Washington Bullet Harvey Grant’s two sons on the team (an older brother, Jerai, is a DeMatha alum and now plays at Clemson, where his uncle Horace, of Bulls and Magic fame, went to school) is still a pup, but his length, sweet shooting stroke and athleticism bode well for the future.
–Jerian Grant, 6-5 rising senior wing, DeMatha: This particular Grant has been on the scene for a few years now, and justified his status as a high-major recruit by playing an intelligent floor game, knocking down both open and contested jumpers, consistently finishing at the rim, defending at a high level and displaying above-average athleticism.
–Mikael Hopkins, 6-8 rising junior post, DeMatha: If players were stocks, this would be the time to buy Hopkins, as his potential is turning into production right in front of observers’ eyes–always long, athletic and agile, he’s now a more authoritative rebounder and defensive presence, he finishes strong post moves with a flourish and he continues to expand his ball skills–in a recession-proof fashion.
–Malcolm Lemmons, 6-5 rising senior combo forward, Gonzaga: Lemmons has grown about two inches since I last saw him play, in December, and his game has grown with it–hes gone from an undersized, scrappy garbageman/role player to a wing who can create his own shot, play above the rim, lock up on D, hit mid-range jumpers and still mix it up on the inside when necessary.
–Cedrick Lindsay, 6-2 rising senior combo guard, Gonzaga: Often overshadowed by his backcourt mate (who I’ll get to in a second) despite big-time performances, this was the first time I’d seen Lindsay not come up with big plays down the stretch since he was a youngster (although even then he didn’t shy away from taking the big shot), but I was encouraged by his improved frame,work on the defensive side of the ball and ever-present intangibles.
–Victor Oladipo, 6-4 rising senior wing, DeMatha: Oladipo and the elder Grant are kinda like bookend wings (and regarded as similarly high-level players on the next level), except Oladipo is an inch or two shorter (but also has a slightly more compact and chiseled body type), a little less polished offensively, but also more of a high-energy player, a freakier athlete and prefers attacking the cup where Grant might take an outside J.
–James Robinson, 6-1 rising sophomore point guard, DeMatha: A very highly-regarded young prospect in the DMV (DC-Maryland-Virginia), Robinson doesn’t do anything spectacular at this point, but his advanced understanding of the game, defensive ability, fundamentals, size at the guard position the fact he contributes on such a loaded squad at his age and his overall demeanor make him a player to watch (and believe me,are already doing just that) for the future.
–Cahli Thomas, 6-2 rising junior combo guard, Gonzaga: Thomas, like Lemmons, is another role player forwho has grown literally and figuratively since my last observation, as he now is clearly comfortable as a primary ballhandler, uses his length and quickness to pressure the opposition on both ends and is finding his niche as a playmaker and slasher.
–Tyler Thornton, 6-2 rising senior point guard, Gonzaga: Watching Thornton, a Duke commit, in a camp environment (I saw him at NBPA Top 100 Camp last month), the name that comes to mind is “Wojo” (don’t sleep, the former Duke point guard and current assistant coach was a McDonald’s All-American in high school and old heads in B-More, where he’s from, give him his respect), as he seems content merely running the show, making hustle plays, being a playmaker, taking charges and playing lockdown D, while for his high school team, he does all of the above, but is also much more assertive and creative, as well as showing off a polished scoring game when necessary.
I planned on seeing some more ball while I was in town for that stretch, but between catching up with folks and Fourth of July weekend, I never got around to it. In fact, I didn’t even go to sleep the night of the Fourth, as I had to catch an early-morning flight to Baton Rouge for the I-10 Elite Camp on the 6th, the first day of the live period. Put together my man Jamie Palmer and Todd Foster, the head coach of Louisiana state powerhouse Christian Life, the intent of the camp was to get the best players in the state (as well as some from Mississippi and Memphis) under one roof. To be honest, that idea might not have worked in a lot of major cities, but in Louisiana, it happened, as I can’t think of more than a handful of kids from the state who should been there, but didn’t attend. In addition, there were probably about 50 coaches there to observe the kids, and for a football-crazy state like Louisiana, that’s not a bad turnout at all.
I-10 Elite Camp, Baton Rouge
–Chip Armelin, 6-2 rising senior combo guard, Sulphur (LA): Nicknamed “Teen Wolf” by my GreyTone partner-in-crime Toney Blare after witnessing him go off in a state playoff game last season (you had to be there), Armelin’s athleticism, deep range and shot-creating ability were all on display at the camp, but the scorer also showed he has some point-guard skills.
–Shavon Coleman, 6-4 rising senior wing, Thibodaux (LA): Another well-regarded player in the state, Coleman is an athletic, physical and versatile wing who excels going to the basket, in transition and on the glass.
–Chris Crawford, 6-3 rising senior combo guard, Sheffield (TN): A big point guard with great court vision, a smooth handle and tremendous scoring ability, Crawford, a Memphis native, had perhaps the best camp of any prospect in attendance, as he simply did whatever he wanted to on the court.
–Matt Derenbecker, 6-7 rising senior wing, Metairie Park Country Day (LA): Derenbecker, who committed to LSU yesterday, is perhaps the top player in Louisiana’s crop of seniors, and while the pickup game camp environment didn’t necessarily play to his strengths, the big wing’s savvy, multitude of offensive skills and outrageous scoring ability all still shined through to observers.
–Javon Felix, 5-10 rising sophomore point guard, St. Augustine (LA): A freshman starter at the point for tradition-rich St. Augustine in New Orleans last season, Felix kept up his impressive play by showing great poise, decision-making, ability to distribute, court vision and playmaking skills for a youngster.
–Langston Galloway, 6-4 rising senior combo guard, Christian Life (LA): A recent St. Joe’s commit (Geoff Arnold, an assistant there, is actually his uncle), I’ve seen Galloway on multiple occasions, but after this camp I was finally sold on him as a player, with his intensity on both sides of the ball, solid ballhandling and passing skills, improved strength and finishing ability, shooting range and all-arouind intangibles making him likely to be endeared to the Philly faithful in a few years.
–Mike Harrell, 5-9 rising senior point guard, Southern Lab (LA): A short and stocky true point guard, Harrell has a bulldog mentality to go with his frame, as his attack-dog mentality, defensive prowess, unselfishness and strong penetration won him admirers among the coaches in attendance.
–Aaron Jones, 6-7 rising junior post, Gautier (MS): A very intriguing young prospect, Jones was capable of pushing the ball from coast to coast, setting up his teammates with intelligent dimes, finishing at the rim, blocking shots and controlling the glass, several of which he would do on individual possessions.
–Kyle McClue, 6-2 rising senior combo guard, Riverside (LA): I’ve only seen McClue play a supporting role on his high school team, so to see him in a different setting was eye-opening, as he did a little bit of everything–from running the point, breaking down the D and getting his teammates involved to his more familiar habits of hitting open jumpers, playing tough defense and making hustle plays–from the guard position.
–Ronald McGhee, 6-4 rising senior wing, Istrouma (LA): I’d heard so much about McGhee without seeing him play that I felt like I already knew his game, and I was correct, as he proved to be a smooth offensive assassin, who could light up a scoreboard by knocking deep treys, making athletic plays on the break or using his length to slash to the cup and finish at the rim.
–Elridge Moore, 6-5 rising senior wing, St. Augustine (LA): Moore, a long wing, was his typical slashing self at the camp, but he also displayed a newfound confidence in his jumper, better finishing ability, improved ballhandling skills and the willingness to help out on the boards.
–Matt Moss, 6-9 rising senior post, Anacoco (LA): Another big man with ball skills, Moss was constantly on the attack at the camp, whether it was on the offensive glass, snatching defensive boards and pushing the rock himself, going to work in the post or knocking down mid-range jumpers.
–D’Audrio Patton, 6-5 rising senior wing, Ruston (LA): Patton, a big wing with an excellent handle and great court vision, seems to have found his niche as a terror in transition and a slasher in the halfcourt, and with his improved frame, finishing at the rack isn’t an issue for him.
–Jarvis Ray, 6-5 rising senior wing, Walker (LA): Possibly the camp’s most athletic player, Ray definitely provided some highlights with his high-flying dunks, but his game also has some substance, as his length and quickness makes him a tough defender, he’s an excellent rebounder for a swingman and he can consistently beat his man to the basket, showing he’s not only a high-major caliber athlete, but a high-major ballplayer, too.
–Nick Walker, 6-4 senior wing, Karr (LA): Walker, who graduated in May, was one of a few available seniors at the camp, and apparently his experience paid off, as he was all over the court–handling the rock, slashing to the basket and finishing, playing tough D, rebounding, finding his teammates for easy scores and dominating in transition.
One kid I won’t “officially” evaluate, but whm you should keep an eye out for in the future is Craig Victor, a 6-5 rising eighth-grader at St. Aug in New Orleans. Because of his age, who knows how Craig’s game will develop, but the youngster certainly has a chance to be a good player down the road.
From Baton Rouge, I was supposed to fly back to DC for a pit stop before driving to Philly for the Reebok All-American Camp the next day. Notice the “supposed to.” I was flying out of Lafayette, La. (special thanks to Danielle Farrell for the ride) and not only was my plane delayed, but there was a mini-tornado outside. I ended up taking a much later flight to ATL, an luckily my man Greg Grainger from college took me in for the night, before catching an early flight to DC. Long story short, I made the drive to Philly (picked up some old Pennys at the Nike outlet past B-More), and with a day to spare before the camp started, I planned on catching some local ball in my old stomping grounds. I went down to North Philly to hit Temple for the Sonny Hill League, but unfortunately, I forgot how July is with so many top prospects out of town. I should have stuck around, but I went to see “The Hangover” (it was worth it) with a friend and instead, so I missed the late games, but at least I got to see Sool and my man E. Hurtt at McGonigle
Reebok All-American Camp, Philadelphia University
Anyway, the following day, I woke up and scooped up SLAM colleague Franklyn Calle from downtown and we headed up to Philly U. for Reebok. Much to my surprise, the lovely Amber Godfrey was working media relations, along with my man Matthew Smith, so we were well taken care of. Franklyn already gave you a detailed description of the proceedings, but I wanted to highlight a few kids who stood out to me on the first (and my only) day of camp.
–Wannah Bail, 6-8 rising sophomore post, Village (TX): Bail, from Houston by way of the Bahamas, was one of the most intriguing kids I saw at the camp because even though he’s still clearly figuring out the game he possesses advanced explosiveness and coordination for a young post prospect, has tremendous length and athleticism and most of all, uses his great quickness to outrun other bigs in transition and beat them to either the ball or his desired spot in the halfcourt.
–Joe Jackson, 5-10 rising senior combo guard, White Station (TN): Probably the top-rated rising senior prospect in the camp, Jackson toyed with the comp in Philly, scoring at will and in a variety of different methods, using his explosiveness, tight handle, range on his J and amazing quickness to get the job done.
–Myles Mack, 5-9 rising junior point guard, Paterson Catholic (NJ): This was my first time seeing Mack, a big name in Jersey (product of leaving the East Coast), hoop, and he met my expectations, as he sliced and diced up the defense through quick and craft dribble moves, pinpoint passing and capable outside shooting.
–Bobby Ray Parks, 6-4 rising junior wing, St. George’s (TN): Parks, the son of former Memphis State and Phillipines pro star Bobby Ray Parks Sr., was an eye-opening performer at the camp, as he used his solid frame to overpower other guards in the paint, showed the agility to go around bigger wings and displayed a nice touch from inside and out.
–Lenzelle Smith, 6-3 rising senior combo guard, Zion-Benton (IL): Smith, a Chicago-area prospect (he missed the first two days at the next event I covered; what up, Rev) Ohio State commit, used the camp as a forum to show observers he could indeed be a full-time point guard on the next level, as he distributed by virtue of his impressive court vision and decision-making ability, repeatedly got into the lane to finish using his strength and kept defenders honest from the outside with his shooting, but didn’t abandon his post-up game and rebounding.
I fled the scene at Reebok after the second session of games and drove back down 95 to DC (seems crazy, but that’s where my flights were booked out of; plus, who doesn’t want some home-cooked meals when they can get them?) for an early-morning flight out of Dulles to Chicago. Real quick, for those of you keeping track, this is what my itinerary looked like at this point: New Orleans to DC on June 30th, DC to Baton Rouge on July 5th, Baton Rouge (via Lafayette and ATL) to DC on July 6th/7th, DC to Philly (driving) on July 7th, Philly to DC (driving) on July 8th, DC to Chicago on July 9th. Back to the trip. Oh yeah, I picked up a copy of Wale’s new “Back to the Feature” mixtape on my initial trip home. Not feeling it as much as his earlier joints, but I still support him. DC needs a rapper to finally make it! But that’s what I rocked to throughout this trip.
Chicago Summer Classic, Joy of the Game
So I got into Chicago mid-afternoon (crazy traffic getting to Dulles, missed my scheduled flight) and after renting a car at Midway (Avis gave me a gold Toyota Matrix; my man in the Chi called it “the graduation present,” as in the type of car parents give their daughters after they graduate high school), I drove out to my hotel near O’Hare (it was a hike, but I stayed at a really nice Aloft–just like the W; good looking out, TJ!–it ended up being closer to where I needed to be anyway), I drove out to my guy Mike Weinstein’s facility, Joy of the Game, in Chicago’s northern suburbs. The gym was flooded with coaches (Mike told me approximately 170 programs attended–that’s not counting schools who brought multiple coaches), from Rick Pitino to D3 assistants, and with good reason. The Chicago Summer Classic was loaded with top-notch players and teams at all age levels, and with Chicago being a certified hotbed for hoops, any coach worth his salt should have been their if they were looking for a foothold in the city, anywhere in the greater Chicagoland area or even the Midwest in general. I can’t say I saw every kid who did their thing at the tourney (especially because I mostly confined myself to Joy of the Game’s main courts; although I missed a lot of the younger players at the event, there was enough talent there alone to go around), below are the prospects who stood out to me.
–Tracy Abrams, 5-11 rising junior combo guard, Mount Carmel (IL): An early Illinois commit, Abrams is more of a scorer than a point guard at this stage, but his talent and physical tools are undeniable, as his handle, quickness, athleticism, strength and knack for getting buckets are all pretty much top-notch.
–Wayne Blackshear, 6-5 rising junior wing, Morgan Park (IL): Blackshear, a hot topic in the Chi for his game, as well as a controversial transfer during the high school season, is one of the top players in his class and the reasons why he’s so well regarded–a college-ready frame, top-notch athleticism, smooth ballhandling ability, a nice stroke out to three-point range, a hard-nosed mentality on D and on the boards–were clearly evident here.
–Kyle Cain, 6-8 senior post, TF North: Once committed to Detroit, Cain has opted to a post-graduate year at prep school, which should pay off in the form of a high-major scholarship, as the once rail-thin prospect has added needed strength, but maintained his high level of athleticism and activity around the basket, while increasing his face-up skills and becoming a near-dominant force on the boards, in the post and as a defender.
–Flavien Davis, 6-7 rising senior wing, Wisconsin Lutheran (WI): Long, athletic and equipped with a solid frame, this was my first time seeing Davis, who has long been viewed as a top prospect in his region (if not nationally for his class, and I wasn’t disappointed, as he snatched boards with power and grace, hit occasional outside jumpers, used his length as a deterrent on D and most impressively, often functioned as a big playmaker who slashed to the bucket for skilled conversions or dished off to his teammates with equal aplomb.
–Lavonte Dority, 5-11 rising senior point guard, Foreman (IL): A bowling ball of a floor general (the first of three point guard from his high school I’ll mention; he plays on a different AAU team than the other two), Dority uses his excellent quickness, shifty handle and powerful build to put pressure on the D, is a willing and creative passer, finishes with toughness and savvy and imposes his will defensively.
–Duje Dukan, 6-8 rising senior, Deerfield (IL): Dukan, a native of Croatia, was compared to Toni Kukoc (Kukoc’s nephew actually is his AAU teammate) by a few coaches who observed him play and while balling for his hometown Bulls may or not be in his future, he’s a savvy and versatile player in the same mold, who’s a knockdown shooter from deep, capable of handling playmaking duties and using his size to create mismatches in the paint and on the perimeter.
–Jordan Dykstra, 6-9 rising senior post, Rock Valley (IA): Schools at the highest level that missed the boat on Dykstra will be kicking themselves in a few years, as the lean post prospect is agile, bouncy, scrappy, determined and tough, has multiple moves and counters on the block, a soft touch out to 15 feet, runs the floor like a guard, uses his athleticism to own the glass, intimidates penetrators with his wingspan, finishes with power and finesse, is an intelligent passer and has a competitive streak comparable to Lenny.
–Nnana Egwu, 6-9 rising junior post, St. Ignatius (IL): While he isn’t a finished product by any means, Egwu’s tools–developing and fundamentally-sound post moves, great length and solid athleticism, excellent motor and ability to run the floor and a strong presence defensively and on the glass–justify the bespectacled youngster’s status as one of the top rising prospects in the Chicagoland area.
–Dwayne Evans, 6-5 rising senior wing, Neuqua Valley (IL): A tough and athletic wing, Evans can keep defenses honest from deep and has some breakdown ability off the dribble, but his strengths include hitting the mid-range J, going to work against smaller players on the block, locking down a variety of players on the defensive end, finishing strong and above the rim, pounding the glass and slashing to the goal.
–Phillip Greene, 6-2 rising junior combo guard, Fenger (IL): A lanky guard who’s effective both on and off the ball, Greene combines a scoring mentality with point-guard instincts, as he uses his size, tight handle and aggressiveness to get into the lane for a variety of finishes and sees the court to utilize his distribution skills effectively, as well as mixing it up in the lane to help out on the glass and using his length to play tough D.
–Tommy Hamilton, 6-8 rising freshman post, Whitney Young (IL): The son of the the former top high school prospect of the same name (Tommy Sr. was a seven-footer with three-point range), Hamilton is simply a phenom, as he’s way too big and skilled for kids his own age–he shoots treys comfortably, has unbelievable hands that gobble up boards and toss incredible dimes, decent strength and athleticism for his age, polished post moves and an adequate handle–not to mention older prospects; I rarely do this with a kid this young, but think Chris Webber.
–Malcolm Hill-Bey, 5-9 rising sophomore point guard, Mount Carmel (IL): Another young prospect with a big rep in the Chi, Hill-Bey is a pass-first lefty true floor general, who gets where he wants on the court with his dynamic handle, spoonfeeds his teammates due to his pinpoint passing, finishes craftily with either hand, ballhawks opposing ballhandlers on D and even sneaks into the lane to snatch boards from the tall trees.
–Justin Jackson, 6-7 rising senior combo forward, Montverde (FL): Jackson, a big-time athlete I first saw over the holidays with his high school squad, was thrust into a more featured role with Team STAT (Amare sponsors them) due to the absences of the high-major trio of Brandon Knight, Villanova commit James Bell and early Florida commit Austin Rivers (Doc’s son was actually in attendance and sat on the bench, but unfortunately didn’t participate), and he took full advantage, displaying his usual high-energy and high-flying act–plenty of monster dunks, blocks and boards–but also showing his skill game has improved, particularly his ballhandling, passing and short jumpers.
–Terone Johnson, 6-3 rising senior wing, North Central (IN): A stocky scorer in the Eric Gordon mold (he actually plays for his fellow Indiana native’s AAU team), Johnson, a Purdue commit is way too strong for the vast majority of guards on his level, is a proficient shooter from deep and mid-range, has the athleticism to finish in the paint and contribute on the boards and is capable enough (if not flashy) ballhandler to create his own shot.
–Meyers Leonard, 6-10 rising senior post, Robinson (IL): Leonard, an Illinois commit from the “downstate” region, plays with a Chicago AAU team and has a city swagger (I hate that word, but it fits here) and a game reminiscent of Birdman (not just because he’s white, either; if you saw him play, you’d know I wasn’t stereotyping), as he’s a freak athlete for a big man, throws down monstrous flushes, rejects weak and strong attempts at the rim alike and outruns other posts for easy buckets.
–Jordan Manuel, 6-8 rising senior combo forward, Howe (IN): A slender and skilled forward with excellent athleticism, Manuel possesses a versatile game that consists of baseline drives, high-rising finishes, adept offensive rebounding, accurate deep shooting and the quickness, length and size to give opposing players fits on both ends.
–Zach McCabe, 6-7 rising senior wing, Heelan (IA): Reportedly also a high-major prospect as a football quarterback, McCabe first appeared to be only a shooter (albeit a prolific one), but later proved to possess skillset that included crafty ballhandling skills and the ability playmaking point forward, as well as toughness in the paint that allowed him to finish in the lane, rebound at a high level and score in the post.
–Mike McCall, 6-1 rising senior point guard, Foreman (IL): McCall, the second of Foreman’s point guards, did nothing spectacular, but everything solid–including distributing the rock, playing intense D, hitting the occasional outside J, getting into the lane at will, making good decisions with the ball and finishing at the basket–which justified, in my mind, the high-major coaches watching his every move.
–Doug McDermott, 6-7 rising senior wing, Ames (IA): Son of Iowa State head coach Gregg McDermott, I appreciated McDermott’s game when I first saw him at the Pangos All-American Camp, but wasn’t overwhelmed; playing in a more team-oriented atmosphere here, however, he showed he was the ultimate glue guy with his hustle, unselfishness and activity off the ball, but his individual scoring ability–a pretty pure shooter when left open, he also maneuvered his way into pull-up jumpers and tough finishes, despite his lack of athleticism–not to mention his hard-nosed rebounding, determined effort on D and aware passing.
–Jabari Parker, 6-5 rising freshman wing, Simeon (IL): The youngest son of my man Sonny Parker, a Chicago legend, Parker is another young phenom, but while he has incredible potential, his maturity, overall demeanor and already-polished skillset–he’s a big, pass-first guard with great court vision, a very fundamentally-sound game, solid finishing ability and a decent frame–he showed he’s capable of putting in work against the big boys right now; playing with kids his own age is literally child’s play.
–Chasson Randle, 6-2 rising junior combo guard, Rock Island (IL): Another USA Basketball participant, Randle’s name is buzzing in the Midwest, but I have a feeling his days of being relatively unknown nationally are coming to an end because the long, smooth youngster has an amazingly efficient all-around game, consisting of quick drives to the bucket, a sweet stroke from beyond the arc and off the dribble from mid-range, tough defense, the ability to run the show and enough athleticism to finish over the top of bigs.
–Mike Shaw, 6-8 rising junior combo forward, De La Salle (IL): In terms of natural talent, Shaw is at the head of his class nationally, and when he puts it all together, as he did in spurts here, it can be scary to watch, as he’s a very effective outside shooter, a smooth ballhandler and willing passer, not to mention he can use his length, solid frame and agility to dominate the boards, intimidate on D and eat his man alive in the post with his savvy post moves when he feels like it.
–Reggie Smith, 5-11 rising senior combo guard, Thornton (IL): Smith is already somewhat of a local favorite for his exploits during the high school season, and while some knock him for not being a true point, his toughness, defensive mindset, big-time athleticism and quickness, knack for scoring and winning mentality supersedes that to me; plus, he showed he can run the show if called upon to do so, distribute the rock and hit the outside J if he’s disregarded.
–Jacob Williams, 6-5 rising junior wing, St. Patrick’s (IL): Although he had to sit out his sophomore season of high school ball, Williams didn’t look rusty; rather, the long wing played as though he had something to prove with his quick slashes to basket and athletic finishes at the rim, inspired play on D, herky-jerky ballhandling, tough rebounding and capable shooting, which all made him one of my favorite players to watch.
–Tommy Woolridge, 6-1 rising senior combo guard, Foreman (IL): The third, and least heralded of Foreman’s point guards, Woolridge was easily my favorite player in the Chi, as he’s the epitome of toughness, has a motor that never stops, plays 94-foot D on every possession, gets into the lane at will and finishes ambidextrously with layups and floaters, knocks down treys, serves up pretty dishes to his teammates for layups, hustles non-stop and just competes from whistle to whistle, without ever backing down no matter how much reputation, size and/or weight he gives up with his skinny frame and (previously, at least outside the Chi) no-name status.
Following the tourney, Weinstein also had a two-day event, the JG Academic Showcase, for kids in the region who also excel in the classroom. While most of the kids there probably weren’t D1 prospects, there were definitely some with some talent, but the kid who was head and shoulders above the comp was Rayvonte Rice, a 6-4 rising senior wing, from Centennial High School, which is downstate in Champaign, home of the University of Illinois’ main campus. Rice was actually in Philly at Reebok, so I caught a glimpse of him there, and like the aforementioned Smith, the camp prevented him from being at the first two days of the tourney with his AAU team. However, after watching him at the Academic Showcase (22 on the ACT), I couldn’t not mention him. Rice is a power swingman, built like a football player (which he was, until last season), and while he definitely bullies smaller guards, he also is a proficient ballhandler and shooter from the mid-range area, a tough defender, excellent rebounder for a guard, an unselfish passer, a big-time athlete in general and has a tremendous motor.
After leaving the Academic Showcase, I stopped by Niles North High School to see the chip for the 14-and-under bracket of the tourney. I don’t like watching younger kids, but knowing that two in particular (guess who? I already evaluated them) were already being billed as major players on the high scene as incoming freshmen this upcoming season, I felt somewhat obligated. And with that, I was done with Deerfield (the six-car pileup ahead of me in the express lane ruined my Saturday) for the time being.
On Monday, I had some personal business to attend to, but after a meeting at Moody Bible Institure on Tuesday–former home of the NBA Pre-Draft Camp and the site of Juwan Howard’s basketball camp on that particular day–on a whim, I headed out to A.T.T.A.C.K. Athletics. If you’ve never heard of A.T.T.A.C.K., you’re probably on the wrong site, but here’s a refresher: Jordan, Bryant, Wade. I had met a recent Emerson grad (Presti protege!) named Joe Boylan at Joy of the Game over the weekend, who told me it was cool to stop by the facility, and a friend of mine who coaches in college followed that up with a phone call referencing me to his man who does workouts there, so I thought I’d be good. And of course, there’s the SLAM thing, which usually does the trick. So what happens when I show up? Zero. Fortunately, I’m allowed a sit-down with Mike Procopio, the friend of a friend, and he says I can come back the next day, bright and early at 8.
A.T.T.A.C.K. Athletics, Chicago
I made the trip to the Westside yesterday (yup, time flies) morning, and arrived as some of the college players were showing up. Let me back up real quick. While the facility is beautiful ($15 million), the neighborhood isn’t sweet, hence the top-flight security treatment (not to mention the level of the players who show up) I got the other day. Anyway, the only notable college guy in attendance was Jeremiah Rivers, Doc’s oldest son (Austin, his younger son–who will be the truth–reportedly worked out at A.T.T.A.C.K. while his AAU team played at the Chicago Summer Classic; he was at the games, but didn’t play), who will play at Indiana this year after transferring from Georgetown. Still, the level of focus and intensity was top-notch, and although I had to leave before the pro guys really got started (Channing Frye started working out, Juwan Howard and Gilbert Arenas walked in; T-Mac was supposedly scheduled to come in, too), I can see why people rave about the place. Thanks again to Mike, as well as Joe Boylan and Tim Grover, for having me.
Chicago All-American Camp, Orr Academy
From A.T.T.A.C.K., I stayed on the Westside, to cover the Chicago All-American Camp, which was held at Orr Academy, a public high school. The event, which was put on by Mandel Oliver, was intended to have Chicago’s best high school players all have a chance to go against each other in one setting, under the observation of college coaches. However ambitious, it was tough to pull off in the middle of July, competing with tournaments and camps galore all over the country. Still, there were some coaches in attendance, and even being in a sweatbox, I didn’t mind, as I got to see some of the Chi’s more under-the-radar talent.
–Floyd Campbell, 6-5 rising senior combo forward, Von Steuben: Campbell does his best work inside as a rebounder, finisher and defensive force for now, but he shows signs of being able to make a full-time transition to the wing down the road, as he already makes 15-footers, has the quickness to defend on the perimeter and uses his athleticism to convert strong drives to the basket.
–Aric Dickerson, 6-2 rising senior combo guard, Lincoln Park: Dickerson, he of the classic name, who I also viewed briefly at the JG Academic Showcase andSummer Classic (he took a hard fall as I was leaving Joy of the Game to check out a matchup in another gym, so it was good to see him bounce back so quickly), is a shooter with range, solid quickness and enough ballhandling to create his own shot (usually a mid-range or a floater) off the dribble and run the show for stretches.
–Mychael Henry, 6-5 rising junior wing, Orr: A student at Orr, the host school (a security guard implored him to “wreck shit; this is your house!”), it’s easy to see why Henry is regarded as one of the Chi’s top up-and-comers, as he’s pretty smooth for his size, long with deceptive athleticism, and while he still needs to add polish and strength, he’s already a versatile inside-outside scoring threat.
–Shaquille Henry, 5-11 rising junior point guard, Crane: This Henry was possibly my favorite player (not saying he was the best; that’s coming up soon) at the event, showed tremendous discipline in running the show and getting his teammates involved early on (for a camp situation, he really showed outstanding leadership qualities), but then proved to have great creativity off the dribble, a knack for making tough shots and pride on the defensive end.
–Curtis Jones, 6-2 rising sophomore wing, Orr: A youngster who certainly didn’t lack for confidence or moxie, Jones, another player for the host school, first caught my eye with his accurate stroke from deep, but then expanded his repertoire by beating defenders with strong dribble moves and either finishing at the rim with decent athleticism or pulling up for the mid-range J.
–Mike McCall, 6-1 rising senior point guard, Foreman: McCall was easily the most highly-touted player at the camp, and he certainly lived up to the hype, but was no primadonna, as he gave maximum effort (as noted earlier in my observations of the Chicago Summer Classic) and was a dominant force on the defensive end, as well as unselfishly setting the table for his teammates, getting to the rack and scoring with ease and comfortably knocking down the outside J.
–Jelani Neely, 5-10 rising sophomore point guard, Simeon: One of two point guards who stood out to me from Derrick Rose’s alma mater, Neely, viewed by many as one of the top players in his class in the Chi, was smooth as silk with the rock in his hands, exemplified by his advanced dimes and knowledge of when to push the tempo and when to pull it back out, but also his excellent quickness, hustle on D and crafty scoring.
–Tywon Pinckney, 6-0 rising junior point guard, Simeon: Pinckney, the second of Simeon’s point guards, might have had the best handle at the camp–he got by defenders at will with by switching up his pace, changing directions and pure quickness–but he also showed a great feel for the game, impressive court vision, in-your-shorts D and savvy scoring ability.
–Jordan Threloff, 6-10 rising senior post, Dekalb: A big-bodied post prospect who I’d glimpsed at both of the Joy of the Game events, the camp provided me with the opportunity to get more familiar with Threloff’s game (albeit against mostly smaller comp), which mainly consists of banging in the paint, persistently strong boardwork, fundamentally-sound post moves and determined (if not explosive; he’s not a high-flyer by any means) conversions around the basket.
–Greg Travis, 6-2 rising junior wing, Curie: Travis, a well-built guard who’s at his best when attacking with the ball in his hands, used his stocky frame to overwhelm smaller defenders, showed creativity in his vision in his passing, displayed deceptive athleticism and a willingness to mix it up and kept the opposition off balance with his tricky handle and ability to stop on a dime and pull up for his J from various ranges.
From Orr, I headed back to the airport and hopped on a flight back to DC. I should have been sleeping, but there’s no rest for the weary–I headed to High Point for The Rock playoffs Thursday night. Although a lot of kids from theDC metro area were on the road at AAU events, there’s enough talent in the DMV that The Rock still had enough top prospects, as well as sleepers, in the gym that it was worth my while to take a trip.
The Rock Summer League playoff quarterfinals, High Point High School
For the record, I arrived halfway through a hotly-contested game between KIMA and Friendship, which was won by KIMA. McNamara blew out High Point in the second game, and Towson (a team made up of players from various Baltimore-area schools; Sam Cassell Jr. was listed on the roster, but unfortunately, he didn’t show up) took down Prep before the primetime matchup of the evening, DeMatha against league rival St. John’s. St. John’s started out hot and maintained a double-digit lead through halftime, before DeMatha stormed back and pulled out a narrow win. Now, about the players…
–Jonathan Arledge, 6-9 rising senior post, KIMA: Arledge’s name has been buzzing for a while as a potential big-time sleeper, and while he’s not a finished product just yet, his tremendous length and athleticism, decent frame and perimeter skills for his size, assertive post moves, strong finishing ability and interior presence on both ends are sure to make him a highly-coveted prospect.
–Brandon Coleman, 6-7 rising senior post, McNamara: Best known in the DMV for his gridiron exploits (apparently he’s a high-major football recruit as a wide receiver; think an unarmed), Coleman is the definition of a high-energy player, as big-time athleticism and quickness pose problems for foes on both ends of the floor with his thunderous above-the-rim finishes, strong post moves, dominant rebounding, intimidating shot-blocking and activity level in transition.
–Quinn Cook, DeMatha: Since I already covered Cook, there’s no need for further description of his game, but he was definitely the key to DeMatha’s comeback win, as he decided to take matters into his own hands by converting on strong drives to the rim, unconsciously stroking jumpers from all over the court, involving his teammates by setting them up for easy buckets, working extremely hard on D and most importantly, providing excellent leadership, both vocally and by example.
–Jerian Grant, DeMatha: Grant was more of a silent assassin, making complementary plays, such as snatching crucial boards, taking charges and forcing turnovers to start the break, but he also had more noticeable moments, like clutch jumpers, tough slashes and finishes to the basket and a perfectly-timed pin high on the backboard of a transition layup attempt.
–Malick Kone, 6-6 rising senior wing, Friendship: Kone, another so-called sleeper I’d been hearing about, wasn’t the featured player for Friendship this game (I’ll get to him), but I could still see his vast array of abilities, as he has a beautiful stroke out to three-point range, as well as off the dribble in the mid-range area, excellent strength, lateral quickness, length and athleticism that allows him to bang inside, finish well above the rim and guard on the perimeter and a fluid and smooth outside game that should translate very well to college.
–Chris Martin, 6-0 rising junior combo guard, St. John’s: Martin, who I last saw play over the holidays, is turning into one of the most deadly shooters in the area, due to his quick release and outstanding range, but he’s no one-trick pony, as he can put the ball on the floor to create his own shot, uses his toughness and impressive physique to muscle his way into the paint and finish and plays intense D.
–Denzel Primus-Devonish, 5-10 rising senior point guard, St. John’s: One reason I love graduation is that it gives younger players a chance to step up into bigger roles, and Primus-Devonish is a clear example, as he’s developed from a quick point guard whose job it was to run the show, not turn the ball over and play pesky D, to a playmaking floor general who sets the tone for his squad on both ends and is always in attack mode, either creating his own shot and finding a crafty way to finish among the trees, keeping the defense honest with his improved outside J or setting the table for his teammates with his aware and opportunistic passing ability.
–Malik Small, 6-5 rising junior post, Towson: Small, an undersized post warrior, was described as a “worker” by one courtside observer to a friend who arrived at the game at halftime, which was completely accurate, judging his multiple and-one finishes, dominant rebounding on both ends, defensive mindset and tough, crafty and polished post moves (by the way, he was matched up with a 6-8 kid), all of which should serve him well in college (even if not at the highest level), despite his limited size and athleticism.
–Markel Starks, 6-1 rising senior point guard, Georgetown Prep: I can’t say Starks, a Georgetown commit, was a one-man gang, but it definitely seemed that way at times, as his opponents clearly had a target on his back, although he still managed to penetrate through multiple lines of defense, hit enough outside shots to make himself a threat, make plays for his teammates and most impressively, not force the action when there was no play to be made (although him having the ball alone would often create the play, even if he wasn’t credited with the bucket or assist), expanded considerable energy on D, hustled with reckless abandon and showed great maturity.
–Brandon Young, 6-4 rising senior combo guard, Friendship: Honestly, Young was a name I had only heard of in passing before I saw him, but with his performance (even in an L)–he’s a smooth combo guard in the truest sense (the quickness, handle passing and instincts of a point guard, with the size, athleticism and scoring ability of a skilled wing) who distributed with great skill, used advanced dribble moves and great length to get to rack and finish, knocked down shots from deep and mid-range, mixed it up inside to rebound and as most kids do in the DMV, played tough D.
And now I rest–until Thursday, at least, when I head to Orlando for more ball.