by Franklyn Calle / @FrankieC7
The format for this year’s AAU Super Showcase and Nationals features structural bracket changes from previous ones. The winner for the Super Showcase’s gold division (the bracket that features the top AAU teams and mostly top ranked players) receives an automatic bid to the AAU 11th grade Division I final four, where they would go up against the three other finalists from the Nationals Division I bracket, a division that also features talented players but not necessarily the cream of the crop as the Super Showcase Gold bracket does.
With Jabari Parker out nursing an injury and Andrew Wiggins not partaking in any events during this final recruiting live period, Julius Randle and the Harrison twins are the most highly touted players that are currently playing in grassroots basketball right now—and they all happen to be in Orlando this week.
Houston Defenders (4-0)
The Harrison-twins opened up the event against the Boo Williams Summer League team, which features nationally ranked Anthony Barber, Allerik Freeman and Troy Williams. The Harrison twins brought their A-game, with Andrew playing terrific defense and using his quick hands for deflections and flicks, generating steals or forcing turnovers with his suffocating on-ball defense while showcasing his court vision, passing skills and overall great point guard attributes, while Aaron once again proved that scoring just comes naturally to him. He was sinking shots from distance and breaking down the defense on his way to the rim. But it was Texas A&M-commit Derrick Griffin that stole the show with his freakish athleticism and highlight reel dunks. Griffin, a 6-6 small forward who actually committed to Texas A&M for football but is expected to play basketball as well, did a great job getting down the floor and positioning for high-percentage field goals. It also didn’t hurt that he happens to be playing with the top point guard in the country in Andrew Harrison. Andrew lobbed at least three alley-oops to Griffin, with the last one being a reverse dunk finish for the future Aggie. Aaron also threw one up in the air for Griffin to hammer down. In all, Griffin finished with seven dunks—five in the first half alone. Griffin and Aaron both finished with 21 points each, while Andrew was tallied up for four points, but although there wasn’t an official stat kept for assists at the scorer’s table, he must have reached double-digits in dimes being that I counted about six just between him and Griffin alone.
Texas Titans (4-1)
The Texas Titans, who feature the second ranked player in the nation, Julius Randle, along with sharp-shooter Matt Jones, and center standout Damian Jones, haven’t really been as dominant as they would like but have still managed to take care of business thus far. The Titans opened up against Each 1 Teach 1 Elite, which features Florida’s top point guard Joel Berry, along with Christopher Perry and Dakari Johnson (who is still out with a knee injury). Randle was doubled and even tripled-team at times when driving towards the paint. He was really taking a beating (or a “full-body massage” as one college coach described it) and was getting to the free throw line often. Although his shot wasn’t falling in this night, we did witness the amount of ferocious strength he possesses, as on numerous occasions he hit shots in the paint with two or three guys on him, while drawing the foul and getting to the line for a three-point play. Dare I say that every time he drives to the hole, his explosiveness and power resembles LeBron James? Cause it certainly does. Plus, he can handle the rock at the perimeter and put the ball on the floor with a variety of moves to shake defenders off him. Matt Jones, on the other hand, continued to showcase his smooth shooting touch.
On Saturday afternoon, a great Texas-rival match-up will take place when the Houston Defenders and the Texas Titans clash in the second round of the Super Showcase Gold division playoff bracket.
E1T1 Elite (4-0)
Joel Berry stole the spotlight from Randle, when they faced off with his stupendous play. He is a very smart point guard that always keeps defenders on their toes. Berry was a great floor general and made the right passes at the right time. When no one is open he has little trouble creating shots for himself—whether it’s putting the ball on the floor and making room for a shot or penetrating the defense on his way to the rim. Berry finished that game with 15 points and in control from start, as E1T1 cruised to a 72-53 win.
Georgia Stars (4-1)
Tadric Jackson quickly became one of my favorite players to watch with his savvy style of play. The first game I saw him play was against the Albany City Rocks. On the open floor, Jackson knows how to find the open man and thread the needle. He did a great job with his timely bounce passes to cutters and recognizing open teammates on the weak side of the floor. He elevates off the ground in a hurry and has range well beyond the perimeter. Only a rising junior, Jackson has upside. Jackson’s teammate and also a member of the 2014 class, Jalen Lindsey demonstrated a knack for setting up and letting it go from behind the perimeter.
Jarquez Smith, a senior, was really doing his thing when the GA Stars played the Baltimore Stars. He demonstrated some nice post moves, as well as a shooting stroke. He had three blocks in a matter of minutes, with impressively timed jumps. Overall, Smith showed great versatility in his repertoire. Delano Spencer, was another who demonstrated a knack for scoring—whether it was from distance or getting to the rack.