By Aggrey Sam
I’ve been at Rbk U. at Philadelphia University since Sunday—actually since Saturday night, when I participated in a media panel where the players asked the questions and the journalists were put on the spot for once—and while Nike’s LeBron thing got a lot of fanfare, there’s plenty of talent at Reebok’s thing, too. While I could give you game coverage, in-depth analysis and a breakdown of what coaches were watching which players (I saw Coach K, Al Skinner, Bill Self, Jay Wright, Jim Calhoun, Phil Martelli, John Thompson III, the list goes on), what you really want to know is who’s killing. I’m not usually someone big on rankings, but for a warm-up of what you can expect in the very near future, here’s the top 20 kids at the camp—based on performances that I’ve seen with my own eyes. Stay tuned for a recap of tonight’s chip and all-star game.
1. Brandon Jennings, 6-2 point guard, Oak Hill (VA), 2008: When Jennings chooses to be, the Arizona commit has been simply spectacular, looking like a video game with his rainbow treys, ridiculous dimes and yo-yo handle. As the photo shows, he can also get freaky around the rim. Most impressive to me, however, has been his competitiveness, commitment to defense and unselfishness, all with a big target on him.
2. Olu Ashaolu, 6-6 power forward, Christian Life (TX), 2008: While BJ’s the most talented kid here, Olu has been the most consistently dominant. Displaying solid ballhandling skills and the ability to make open shots, he’s done his most serious damage in the paint, where he’s owned the boards and has multiple victims of his aeriel assaults.
3. Elliott Williams, 6-4 combo guard, St. George’s (TN), 2008: Maybe I’m good luck for the smooth guard from Memphis, but he hasn’t had a bad game whenever I’ve seen him play. Playing with a pass-first point guard has allowed him to do what he does best—get buckets, from deep jumpers, slashing drives and in transition—but he’s also played great D and attacked the boards.
4. Malcolm Lee, 6-5 point guard, North (CA), 2008: Lee, a UCLA commit, has tremendous size for a point guard, and uses it to his advantage. Quick with a tight handle, Lee can get dimes or buckets with equal effectiveness, as well as use his length on D and help out on the boards.
5. Romero Osby, 6-8 combo forward, NorthEast (MS), 2008: Osby might be the most versatile prospect at the camp. He has point-forward abilities, solid court vision, a good handle and range on his J, but he’s also an athletic warrior around the hoop.
6. Renardo Sidney, 6-10 power forward, Artesia (CA), 2009: I compare Sidney, who many believe to be the top prospect in his class, to Derrick Coleman. Like DC, he’s talented enough to dominate in the post, handle the rock, rack up the assists and step out to hit jumpers, but he also likes to float on the perimeter a bit too much.
7. Terrence Jennings, 6-10 power forward, Mt. Zion (NC), 2008: This Jennings gets compared to Amare by most experts for his tremendous athleticism and motor. A run-and-jump athlete who dunks everything around the bucket, blocks shots and boards, he’s also showed signs of a face-up game.
8. Courtney Fortson, 5-11 point guard, Jefferson Davis (AL), 2008: No one at this camp plays harder than this floor general, who runs the show, gets his teammates involved and keeps the defense honest with his J. But his intense D, amazing rebounding ability for his size and determination to get to the rack set him apart.
9. William Buford, 6-5 shooting guard, Libbey (OH), 2008: Buford, who’s headed to Ohio State, is as smooth as they come. A great shooter off the catch or on the move, he’s a silky slasher and athletic finisher in transition, as well.
10. Maalik Wayns, 6-2 point guard, Roman Catholic (PA), 2009: Wayns, who I’ve been touting as the top prospect within Philly city limits since the high school season ended, is now, in my mind, the top point guard in his class nationally. The recent Villanova commit plays 94-foot defense, knocks down jumpers, runs the show to perfection and with his physical nature, bullies opposing points into submission.
11. Kenny Boynton, 6-2 combo guard, Ely (FL), 2009: Boynton struggled in his matchup with Brandon Jennings early on, but since then he’s done what people expect of him: score. The lightning-quick Florida native has also showed improved point-guard skills.
12. Verdell Jones, 6-4 point guard, Central (IL), 2008: Jones, a magician with the ball in his hands, is relentless when going to the hoop, despite his rail-thin frame. Possessing a great feel for the game, a pretty stroke and outstanding court vision, Jones makes good plays seem ordinary.
13. Tyshawn Taylor, 6-3 combo guard, St. Anthony (NJ), 2008: The least heralded of the mob talented seniors at the Jersey powerhouse, Taylor has really opened some eyes here. More of a slashing wing for his high school team, Taylor has shown he can run the point and hit outside shots, while still playing that trademark tough St. Anthony D.
14. John Wall, 6-4 combo guard, Word of God (NC), 2009: When I first saw Wall play at Breakout a few weeks ago, I knew I saw a real sleeper. He’s proved it at Rbk by getting to the rack at will, nailing jumpers, playing hard defense, dishing the rock and changing the game with his speed.
15. Jio Fontan, 5-11 point guard, St. Anthony (NJ), 2008: For his high school squad, Jio’s focus is running the show and playing pressure D. While the Fordham commit has done that here, he’s also shown he can be a highly effective scoring point.
16. Quincy Acy, 6-8 power forward, Horn (TX), 2008: A high-energy player, Acy brought the house down numerous times with his high-flying and powerful dunks and blocks. The Dallas native also runs the floor like a guard, attacks the boards with passion and is pretty good offensively in the paint.
17. Mookie Jones, 6-6 wing, Peekskill (NY), 2008: Jones, a long and athletic swingman, has the complete package, as far as what colleges are looking for on the wing. Hailing from Elton Brand’s alma mater, Jones can slash with the best of them, play well above the rim, rebound at a high level, handle the rock and shoot it from out to 3-point range.
18. John Henson, 6-9 power forward, Round Rock (TX), 2009: A long, slender, face-up big man, Henson is active on the boards, runs the floor and is a presence on D. His best asset, however, is his J, which he can bury from mid-range or behind the arc.
19. Mike Rosario, 6-3 combo guard, St. Anthony (NJ), 2008: The highest-rated of Bob Hurley’s senior guards, a Rutgers commit, has been his usual solid self. While his J hasn’t been as automatic as usual, his intensity, ability to drive or distribute and intangibles have made him stand out.
20. Tristan Thompson, 6-8 combo forward, St. benedict’s (NJ), 2010: Another kid who was invited off the Breakout camp, Thompson has seemingly limitless potential, the big Canadian has knocked down jumpers, hit the boards and played like a vet at Rbk.