This past Saturday, a small cadre of high school basketball prospects convened at Gauchos Gym in New York City to compete in the 5th Annual Big Strick Classic. Since 2011, Big Strick has gradually developed into a premier event, pitting highly-ranked players from around the country (Team USA) against many of the top players from the Tri-State area (Team NYC).
Fueled by Josh Jackson’s record-setting 50 point performance, Team USA cruised to an easy 159-137 victory. Jackson—a 6-7 SF who is regarded by some as the top player in the country—turned heads in New York. He showcased a complete game, mixing in contested 3-point jumpers, a soft touch from mid-range, and explosiveness near the rim. Jackson, along with a few other participants, showed that they have a chance to make a profound impact at the college level, and perhaps progress even further.
Below are some thoughts and observations on 10 players from this year’s Big Strick Classic.
MVPs (chosen by event organizers)
Team USA: Josh Jackson (overall event MVP), Billy Preston
Team NYC: Myles Powell, Trevon Duval
Josh Jackson, SF, 6-7, 185, 2016, Prolific Prep (CA): As mentioned above, Jackson proved why he is a consensus top-5 player in 2016. Recording 50 points and 16 rebounds, the 6-8 SF was composed and methodical throughout, taking what the defense gave him and still producing. Jackson started off distributing the ball; playing on the wing, he hit cutting teammates for layup opportunities, and attacked off the dribble for drive-and-dish opportunities. In transition, Jackson threaded the needle with precision. He doled out assists like a point guard, impressing with his court sense and playmaking instincts. Then came Jackson’s shot making ability. He was able to create space off the dribble using his handle and footwork. He consistently knocked down tough, contested jump shots off the dribble. If the defense tightened up too much, Jackson blew by for an explosive, head-at-the-rim finish. Overall, Jackson’s playmaking at the SF position makes him a special talent. It was tough to assess defense in this game for a number of reasons. But at least offensively, with his ability to shoot, pass, and play within himself, Jackson looks the part of an elite wing prospect.
Edrice “Bam Bam” Adebayo, PF, 6-8, 220, 2016, Northside High School (NC): Adebayo impressed with his leaping ability and strength. He was too powerful for the competition, dunking drop-offs in the half court, alley-oops in transition, and put-backs on the glass. He plays with an excellent motor, and is an interior anchor on both ends of the floor. If Adebayo can develop his offensive touch—extending his range to 15-feet and adding a back to the basket move—he could develop into a dominating interior force due to his impressive power and leaping ability. Adebayo’s explosiveness was, in some ways, reminiscent of a Shawn Kemp highlight reel.
Billy Preston, PF, 6-10, 2017, Prime Prep Academy (TX): Preston was a bit of a tweener in this guard-oriented event, but still it was easy to see his potential. At 6-8 and very mobile, Preston is a stretch forward who could become a dual threat on the pick-and-roll, stretching the defense and creating mismatches. He was able to knock down numerous 15-foot jumpers, and then attack the rim with one dribble when pressured. Overall, Preston is raw as of right now, in terms of his ball handling and shooting, but with continued development he has a chance to be a high-level hybrid forward.
Markelle Fultz, SG, 6-4, 180, 2016, DeMatha Catholic High School (MD): Fultz displayed a lethal combination of ball handling and pure shooting. His ability to hit various shots—pull-up jumpers, running floaters, step-backs, etc.—makes him perhaps the best combo guard in the country. He’s ridiculously fast off the dribble, able to get into the teeth of the defense and create. At only 6-4, Fultz must improve his court vision to play point guard and impact the game in areas besides scoring. But regardless, he is one of the most complete guards in 2016. His ball handling and shooting are straight-up filthy.
Wenyen Gabriel, SF, 6-9, 185, 2016, Wilbraham & Monson Academy (MA): Gabriel is a gangly swingman who can defend the SF and PF positions at a high level. Offensively, he is an excellent slasher. He must add at least 20 pounds of muscle to his frame in order to compete physically at the college level. If he can get stronger, though, Gabriel has elite potential defensively.
Mustapha Heron, SG, 6-5, 200, 2016, Sacred Heart High School (CT): Heron is an aggressive lefty who looks to attack the basket. He finishes through traffic due to his strong frame, and this year he showcased improved touch, which allows him to angle his body and not always drive in a straight line. The next step for Heron is to improve his jump shot to round out his game.
Mamadou Diarra, PF/C, 6-8, 215, 2016, Woodstock Academy (CT): Committed to UConn, Diarra is a hard-nosed competitor who gives 100% effort, without exception. He may be undersized at 6-8, but what Diarra lacks in height he makes up in effort. He finishes strong at the rim, tracks down rebounds outside his area, and over the course of a game is extremely productive. If he can expand his game to incorporate a face-up jump shot, Diarra could be a solid stretch forward at the next level. Any coach would love Diarra.
Myles Powell, SG, 6-0, 170, 2016, Trenton Central High School (NJ): Powell, the event’s 3-point champion, scored 28 points in the BSC, including six 3-pointers. At first glance, Powell appears somewhat clunky, but as you watch him you realize he is a smart player with a pure jump shot. Powell can shoot off the catch or off the dribble, or come around screens for a jumper. If defenders take away his jump shot, Powell is learning to lower his shoulder and finish through contact. Any roster could use a shooter, and Powell is a proven marksman.
Trevon Duval, PG, 6-2, 185, 2017, Saint Benedict’s Prep (NJ): A crafty ball handler, Duval can break down defenders and get to the basket. He is constantly in motion, slivering his way through the lane or around screens to get into the teeth of the defense and create. His ability to keep the ball on a string and create plays is a precocious talent. The next step for Duval is tightening his jump shot and improving his feel as a point guard. But in terms of breaking down the defense and finishing at the basket, Duval is already there.
Hamidou Diallo, SG, 6-4, 175, 2017, Woodstock Academy (CT): Diallo is a long and explosive wing prospect. He’s a pure shooter off the catch, can rebound from the wing for put-backs, and contests shots defensively. Diallo’s motor is terrific, which gives him a “turbo” gear that most players don’t have. Find him in transition and it’s two points. If Diallo can develop his ball handling to create off the dribble, he could be a 20-point per game scorer.