Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Scouting Report: Elijah Johnson

Height: 6'4''
Weight: 195lb
Bday: Unknown

Team: Kansas
Class of 2013

Ever since stepping Elijah Johnson stepped onto campus as a Jayhawk, he has shown tremendous patience. He has been forced to sit behind Tyshawn Taylor, who arrived on campus one year before who to claim the point guard spot, and play a more complimentary role off the ball. In return, scouts have been patience with Johnson's game. Entering his senior year, scouts still have hope that Johnson can prove he can run the point now that Tyshawn Taylor has moved on to the NBA.

Elijah Johnson hasn't been riding the bench all this time, though. No, he was the starting shooting guard last year on the team that lost to Kentucky in the championship. He played a key role in the tournament, averaging double figures in the scoring column each game and prompting Bill Self to call him "their best player the last two weeks" around the same time.

Self had been waiting for Johnson to exert himself all season. By exert, I am not talking about just shooting the ball more. Johnson took plenty of threes. But Johnson rarely looked to take the ball to the basket and be aggressive. If that trend continues with Taylor gone, you can say goodbye to Johnson's stock, but his rise in the NCAA tournament provides hope.

Last year, Johnson struggled to start the season. In the first 24 games, he shot 36-131 (27%) from the 3-pt line. Every player goes in slumps, but Johnson continued to settle for that jumpshot. 131 shots in 24 games equates to him taking over 5 three pointers a game! This was when he couldn't buy a basket. If there was any time that Johnson finally started taking advantage of his physical tools, it should have been then. His lack of consciousness when taking threes mixed with his lack of confidence driving to the hoop is a bad combination.

Johnson is a good jump shooter and his jumper did start falling. He is very comfortable spotting up and doesn't hesitate to simply catch and shoot. Kansas likes to center their offense away from the corners and Johnson has problem taking the 3 from the top of the perimeter. He has good range and solid form. The problem is the amount of threes he takes and the fact that he never tries to get a better shot. He took a ridiculous amount of 3-pt shots with 20+ seconds remaining on the shot clock last year. Self had to yank him out quite a few times due to this trend. The big key for Johnson's game is he needs to stop settling. He has great athleticism yet acts like an nonathletic, stationary shooter 95% of the time.

Johnson has always been intriguing because of his physical abilities. High school recruiters were having the same discussions about Johnson 4 years ago that we are having today. He never owned the point guard position there either. But his body and explosiveness are exactly what are desired in NBA point guards. Johnson is listed at 6'4'' and 195lbs. He has long arms and is capable of guarding both PGs and 2-guards. He has good strength and is a very explosive leaper around the basket. He also has an explosive, long first stride and is very fast in the open court. He just needs to put these tools together and show them off more often.

Johnson lacks savvy. He is a very easy player to figure out at this stage. He is primarily a three point shooter who rarely looks to drive. For his ability and role in the Jayhawks offense, averaging 1.4 free throws per 40 minutes (adjusted for team pace) is beyond terrible. One could get a free throw a game at the end of the game going to the line or get accidentally fouled off the ball. Or fouled in transition - its not hard. The fact is, Johnson never drives. The only time he is getting to the hoop is in a transition opportunity.

Part of the problem appears to be his poise and confidence with the ball in his hands. He is always looking to get rid of it like its a hot potato whether it is a quick jumper or pass. Because of this, Johnson is actually a great ball mover - one of those guys who passes it around the perimeter and makes the "extra pass" to find a man open for three. But that isn't a result of him creating anything. Just another instance of him acting like a non-athletic shooter.

When Johnson gets a pick and roll opportunity, nothing ever comes from it. Johnson looks to get rid of the ball as soon as the help defender comes out to hedge on the screen. He will either pick up his dribble by instinct or flip a quick pass to the nearest teammate. His lack of ability to do ANYTHING on the pick and roll is a bad indicator for his NBA future. It is not like he is just being unselfish, Johnson has clearly developed a habit where his first reaction at the sign of pressure is to pick up his dribble. That won't be easy to break. In a perfect world, Johnson's speed would be devastating to defenders, and he has shown that in a select instances. Combined with his jumper, he could be a dual threat in these situations. But I don't think Johnson is close to becoming consistent in this area.

The good thing about Johnson's passing is he is willing to make the easy pass. Like I said, he swings the ball to the open man and did a good job getting Thomas Robinson touches in the post. He was able to average 4.3 assist per 40 minutes mainly because of those situation. He also did a good job in transition, including a clutch full court pass at the end of a game to Tyshawn Taylor. When Elijah Johnson did get into the paint, he tends to look for a big man to lob it to. Every single year Johnson's assist numbers have slipped. That should change his senior year due to his new role, but he needs to really change the way he achieves his assists.

Overall, Johnson's offense is strictly east and west to use a football term. Everything goes around the perimeter and nothing towards the basket.  His handles aren't as bad as his number make it seem, his poise under pressure and aggression are bigger problems for him.

We will have a chance to see Johnson run point all year and he could completely damage his stock under the spotlight. Or his combination of speed, size, and shooting could get him into the first round. Or both. He is getting first round mentions already while I still believe he is a long shot. He has way too many holes in his game. Johnson's worst fear would be if Ben McLemore took over the point guard spot and subsequently ruins Elijah's dreams of a NBA career.

Right now, Johnson may project better as a shooting guard. He still wouldn't be NBA quality and doesn't have as high of a ceiling there (which is why nobody projects him to play the 2), but his ability to space the floor with both his jumper and understanding of spacing on the offensive end make him a decent off guard. 

In 2011, Tyshawn Taylor missed two big 12 games and Johnson started at point guard in his place. Johnson only had 4 assists in those 2 games while scoring 20 points. 18 of those points came from 3-pt shots. After the first game, Johnson saw his minutes reduced by Mario Little, a marginal player at best.

All this negative talk about Johnson and we haven't even gotten to his defense. Johnson actually has a solid reputation on defense and has great tools, but once again, he is unable to fully take advantage of them. By zeroing in on him completely, Johnson doesn't look like an elite defender at all. In fact, his off ball defense can be quite comical. He seems to space out for a second at a time and lose his man, resulting in him frantically searching for him. He reacts very slowly and thinks way too much on defense. He has a terrible understanding of angles and defensive positioning. For some reason Johnson shades the 3-pt line instead of the paint, making him easy to cut against or drive by. Because of this, the one thing he does well is take away 3s. That would be effective if he was playing against other Elijah Johnson clones. His man to man defense is better than his off ball defense but his lack of awareness still shines through. His lack of defensive IQ really puts a damper on what appears at first glance to be a high defensive ceiling.

Character wise, Johnson seems to be a good kid and interviews well. Johnson has always been described as someone who looks out for others and his patience playing behind Tyshawn Taylor is a testament to his character within itself. While his hometown is listed as Las Vegas, Johnson grew up in the rough neighborhoods of Gary, Indiana and still has a quiet toughness to him. He is a mature kid and has been coached by his father in his youth. His godfather is LaTroy Hawkins, longtime MLB reliever.  There are no questions with his energy or work ethic. He shows plenty of passion on the court.

This is a make or break year for Johnson. The excuse of him not showing his talents because of Tyshawn Taylor's presence no longer exist. Johnson knows this too. Kansas should be very good and he is going to be looked upon as their go-to scorer. After 3 years of mediocrity, Johnson still has every chance to prove himself. Him and his fans amongst NBA scouts have shown patience, now it is time for results.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Scouting Report: Aaron Craft

Height: 6'2''
Weight: 195lb
Bday: 2/12/1991

Team: Ohio State
Class of 2014

Aaron Craft is back at Ohio State, once again assuming the role of point guard on the team favored to win the Big Ten. Craft has been an important member of the Ohio State team since his freshman year when he averaged 29.6 minutes per game.

When Craft first stepped on campus, he looked and played like a four year player who would go down in Ohio State history as a fan favorite. His defense, toughness, character, and unselfishness all are admirable characteristics. Craft also seemingly had plans of a four year college career and is on the path to become a surgeon.

ESPN recently wrote a feature on Craft after he finally had surgery to remove bone chips in his knee. The toughness of this kid is obvious as are the smarts. You can't ask for much more in the work ethic and "will to win" departments.

Aaron Craft initially earned his minutes purely off of his defense. He is currently regarded as possibly the best perimeter defender in the nation. While normally I don't like to use steals as an indicator of good defense, Craft's 3 steals per 40 minutes are different. Craft doesn't get those steals by gambling and playing passing lanes. Most of his steals can be attributed to being a pure pest on the ball. Craft has excellent lateral quickness to harass ball handlers, but most of all he has the toughness and determination. He also has extremely quick hands and you will see him on the floor for a loose ball at least once a game. He takes pride in his defense. He knows that is the number one thing he can bring to a team. Craft often stifles the opposition and forces them into bad decisions because quite frankly, nobody else in the NCAA pressures the ball like him. He does a great job of frustrating the opposition and flirts with the line of dirty play. The simple fact being that Craft will do whatever it takes to win.

In today's NBA, a good defending point guard can be very useful. Even though Craft's halfcourt press defense might not be as effective due to the speed of the NBA, he still has what it takes to be a very good defender. He also does a good job of getting through screens, something that is essential in the NBA game.

If you look at a team like the Pacers, they have Brandon Knight, Kyrie Irving, Brandon Jennings, and Derrick Rose all in their division.  That is 16 games against teams that rely heavily on their point guard to score and create offense. Craft could make himself could money pestering those kind of guys for 15-20 minutes a night.

If Craft once to get into games though, he may have to step up his offensive game. Right now he is more of a game manager - someone who can bring the ball up and initiate offense from the top of the key. Just like his lateral quickness on defense, Craft has a quick first step and can go to his right or left. The problem with Craft is not getting by his man, it is what follows after.

He has trouble finishing inside, as the one thing he lacks athletically is the leaping ability. The creativeness around the hoop also isn't there. Once Craft gets by his man, he is basically a straight line driver that is in trouble if there are shot blockers present inside. He has not shown much of an in-between game or the shiftiness require to overcome his lack of explosion near the hoop. He only got to the line 3.3 times a game while turning the ball over 2.2 times in the process. He actually improved on that a bit from his freshman season, but his offense game hasn't noticeably evolved.

Craft really hasn't had to be pushed out of his comfort zone much at Ohio State. He isn't very good at creating offense, but he has always been surrounded by others who can. Even with Sullinger and Buford gone, Craft with have DeShaun Thomas and a host of talented sophomore that can help mask his deficiencies. As Craft's career moves on at Ohio State, his role has not. He is still able to concentrate on his defense. This may be good for him in college, but isn't helping his development for the future.  

Looking at his offense further, he doesn't make a lot of plays in the pick and roll. He seems to be more comfortable attacking the basket one on one, which he does with no fear. It is kind of weird that Craft isn't more effective in the pick and roll given his smarts, but he has shown some questionable decision making in key points of games. Craft is unselfish, but he is not brag worthy. He just gets the job down in that category.
The biggest thing that makes him a point guard is his leadership qualities. Due to this, he doesn't ever project to be a starting point guard.

His jumpshot is solid, but he rarely looks to shoot it. He averaged 1.6 3-pt attempts per game and I would be willing to bet most of them were open spot up chances. He doesn't look for his shot off his dribble and as stated early, his mid-range game is lacking. When he does get to the line, he is only a 72% FT shooter. Because he lacks the sniper mentality, a guy who is always ready to fire, I doubt Craft will be a 3-pt specialist type on offense. He will be solid there and will shoot when open, but he is not the second coming of Kirk Hinrich on offense.

Overall, Craft has a lot to improve on but his competitiveness, work ethic, toughness, smarts, unselfishness, and defense are all things that translate to the next level. His offense is what could keep him from making it. He's a lot better than say, Chris Kramer, but he isn't near as good as Kirk Hinrich or even Eric Snow. I know Chad Ford reported that there was one GM who said he would take Craft in the lottery and others who see him as a first rounder, but I think he is the quintessential second round pick. He may stay all four years, but whenever he is ready to declare, there will be plenty of teams willing to welcome his strengths with open arms.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Scouting Report: Trey Burke

Height: 6'0''
Wingspan: 6'5''
Weight: 185lbs
Bday: 11/12/1992

Team: Michigan
Class of 2015 (Sophomore)

Trey Burke stepped in his freshman year at Michigan with big shoes to fill. He had to replace Darius Morris at point guard who left early for the draft. Burke exceeded all expectations and not only filled Morris' spot, but arguably filled it better than Morris himself could do.

John Beilein runs a very team-oriented and complex offense in Ann Arbor. The aforementioned Darius Morris struggled his freshman year adjusting to it - only average 4 points in over 20 minutes of player. That is not unusual for a young player in such an advanced system. Morris eventually got the hang of it and showed remarkable improvement in his second year which led to him coming from nowhere to being an early entry candidate. 

Trey Burke isn't going to sneak up on anyone this coming year following a season where he averaged 15 points and nearly 5 assists. Beilein ended up trusting Burke so much that he added in plays for him that were more pro-style oriented as opposed to Beilein's usual strict offensive system. Burke responded by leading the Wolverines to a #4 seed in the NCAA tournament before being upset in round 1 by Ohio. That game cooled off Burke's stock and could be the main reason why he is back for a second go at college basketball. Burke has been busy this summer, participating in the LeBron James Skills Academy and drawing rave reviews as perhaps the best point guard there. And what may have helped him even more was that he was measured with a 6'5'' wingspan - which is solid for a point guard.

Burke's game is very mature for his age. As I touched on already, he has a very high IQ and learns quickly. He reads defenses well and has been very competitive dating back to the days where a pre-teen Jared Sullinger and him battled all day long in various competitions. The coaching by the elder Sullinger also helps explain why Burke already plays like a battle-tested senior.

All the intangibles with Burke are there. He plays tough and with a great motor. He enjoys trying to get rebounds and managed to get over 4 rebounds per 40 minutes when adjusted for Michigan's slowed down tempo.

Michigan's tempo is something you need to keep in the back of your mind when looking at Burke and the rest of the Wolverines. They don't get as many possessions per game which brings their numbers down to earth. But if you look at Burke's 40 minute pace adjusted stats, he averaged 17.7 points and 5.5 assists.

Scottie Reynolds
Terrell Stoglin
Kyrie Irving
Derrick Rose
Dominic James
John Wall
Nick Calathes

Those 7 names are the only guys who scored and assisted more than Burke during their freshman year at a Big 6 school (since 2001). Burke did this playing next to Tim Hardaway who can be hard to play next to as a point guard.

Burke creates his offense with deceptive quickness and a great understanding of the game. Burke does his best off the pick and roll. He is quick, but his first step isn't top notch so he does better when he has space to get a running start. After his first step, the following steps are elite. Not because of the speed of them, but because of the different ways he can attack. He stays under control and can easily pull up for a jumper or take it to the rim. Burke has great body control and has a body that is able to absorb contact. His mid-range jumper is good, although overall he tends to shoot his jumper on the way down. He does a great job shooting off the dribble. He likes to use one or two dribbles to get his feet underneath him and then pull up. With his size, he should quicken up his release some. He doesn't have deep range on his jumper, but did shoot 35% from the college 3 on five attempts per game. It will be interesting to see how that translates to the NBA line. I don't think he will step into the NBA right away and be a big threat from downtown with his current mechanics.

Burke is a good athlete, but not great and far from the elite tier of the Westbrooks, Walls, and Roses. The combination of his size and lack of elite athleticism will be his biggest red flag when it comes time for him to be drafted. It is a legitimate concern, but it is not a death sentence. Jameer Nelson, DJ Augustin, Isaiah Thomas, Jose Calderon, Darren Collison, and others have all overcome similar questions.

Burke is quick and fast once he gets up to speed, He is also strong and has arms that help make up for his short stature. He may also have the best basketball IQ of any of the aforementioned players, although Augustin and Collison both ran a team very well in college. He has the strength, smarts, and competitiveness that will help him overcome his size.

Although Burke doesn't get a lot of transition opportunities, Burke is equally good running the break as he is in the halfcourt offense. He can push the ball and is able to throw nice lead bounce passes to his bigs that get out and run. His lack of explosiveness makes him more of a passer in these situations as he isn't a one man fast break ala John Wall, but he is effective.

Burke is also extremely shifty in the halfcourt game to go along with his ability to change speeds and excellent body control. His play inside the 3-pt line is wonderful. He needs to finish better, but that is nitpicking. He tends to leave shots short on the rim. A deadly floater is a very realistic option for Burke. He will have to find other ways to finish amongst the trees and Burke's great control should allow him to develop the floater with more repetitio. He already uses one, but it isn't automatic. Also, part of what makes Burke a good driver is his fearlessness and relentlessness.

Burke is not scared of contact inside. He doesn't go to the line at a great rate though. He also is only an average free throw shooter, sitting on a 74% mark last season. Burke is able to find teammates off drives, but sometimes when he doesn't have a clear lane to the basket, he can dribble with his head down while looking to figure out a way to get to the hoop. That is part of Burke's relentlessness attitude, as he won't be denied penetration. I am not saying he forces things, but he will overdribble at times and lose the ball. And then there is the head down thing when he is trying to find a look at the rim.

Defensively, Burke should continue to add strength to his already solid frame in order to keep taller guards from posting him up. That shouldnt be much of a problem. His length and competitiveness projects him to be a solid defender, although his athleticism prevents him from being a plus defender and play maker. He willingly will help out on the boards.

Overall, Burke is a true point guard who is smart enough to adapt to the NBA game and figure out how to be successful. He has visible question marks that will prevent his stock from elevating to high, but I think he should find his way into the first round. Anywhere between 16-30 sounds reasonable. Michigan should be a contender with Burke and Hardaway in the backcourt and McGary and Morgan up front. They need to find some shooters too replace Novak, Douglass, and Smotrycz though. The biggest worry Burke should have is less floor spacing this year. That is something to look for as they lose three shooting specialists and replace them with Mitch McGary who operates strictly in the paint. Should be an interesting test. Without the upperclassmen, Burke will also have an opportunity to stand in as more of a leader, something I doubt he will have trouble with.

Burke tested the waters last year so it seems likely that he will declare with the intentions of staying in this season.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Scouting Report: Xavier Rathan-Mayes

I've had the chance to evaluate Rathan-Mayes about five times in person now and have seen him in a high school setting with Huntington Prep, at the Global Challenge with Canada, and playing AAU ball for CIA Bounce. 

Xavier Rathan-Mayes showed up big time in the premier matchup against Julius Randle's Texas Titans. He had 22 points on the night and really caught fire at the beginning of the second half. Rathan-Mayes is great at finding ways to shoot his jumper - maybe to a fault as he settles for a lot of jumpshots (he only shot 36% for the weekend). He has a nice crossover dribble, uses screens well, and will post up defenders around the 3-pt line to set up his shot. He also has a turnaround jumper in his pocket. With these moves, Rathan-Mayes can light up the scoring column when he catches fire. Even when his shot isn't falling, he remains very confident. The problem right now is he relies to much on his jumper. He takes too many inefficient long two pointers and is a very streaky shooter. His jumpshot is good, but he isn't elite in that area (31% from 3, 75% from the FT line) so he needs to remember to attack the basket.

It seems all Canadian guards are good with the pick and roll and Rathan-Mayes is no exception. He likes to shoot his jumper off of screens, but he also has the vision and dribble ability to find teammates. He does a nice job changing speeds and not forcing his dribble as well. His mid-range game is also able to shine through off on-ball screens.

Rathan-Mayes does need get his teammates more involved and work on doing the little things to help his team win. He has been able to be Wiggins' wingman, but he hasn't picked up on some of the hustle things that go along with that. Part of it may be that Wiggins is a unique superstar and does many of the little things himself while Rathan-Mayes compliments him with shooting. Still, Rathan-Mayes needs to show more effort and mix it up more inside. That includes both on drives and on the glass. I think his driving game has more potential than what he has shown thus far - he definitely isn't strictly a shooter offensively.

He measured with a 6'5'' wingspan at the LeBron James camp so in the future, he may need to move to point guard. That may be too much to ask of him, but it would be realistic to see him as a scoring combo guard off the bench in the NBA one day.

Rathan-Mayes has a lot of talent but right now projects as an inefficient volume scorer at the next level who doesn't make his teammates better and is undersized. Luckily he has plenty of time to grow and I fully expect he will. He kind of reminds me of a rich man's Adrian Oliver or even a Willie Green.

Rathan-Mayes has interest from around the country and a wide open list. I could see him following Wiggins to Florida State or even Kentucky if they were to eventually offer him. Other than that, where he winds up is anybody's guess.

He compares his game to Chauncey Billups and you can see that with some of his offensive moves. He plays under control and has been working on posting up smaller defenders. Rathan-Mayes also cite Billups toughness as something he sees in himself.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Peach Jam Recaps: Boo Williams and Team Final

A Boo Williams vs Team Final matchup allowed me to check out Rondae Jefferson, Austin Colbert, Cat Barber, and Troy Williams again. I also got to see top 100 guards Allerick Freeman, Jaren Sina, and Davon Reed for the first time. I caught Boo Williams later on that day as well, but this was my only look at Team Final.

In this one look, Rondae Jefferson did more than enough to land solidly on my radar. I liked his defense and intensity at the Nike Global Challenge, but getting to see him in a team setting like this was special. He led Team Final to a 66-60 win against Boo, who most would agree has more talent. It was especially tough for Team Final when Cat Barber decided he would shut down Jaren Sina the entire game.

After that, it was up to Jefferson to take over. Sina couldn't get it over the halfcourt line thanks to Cat's defense, so Jefferson took over ball handling duties. While he plays with two top 100 guards in Davon Reed and Jaren Sina, Jefferson appeared to be the best point guard on the team. This rang true the entire event as Jefferson finished the weekend tied for fourth in assists. The only guys he was behind? Tyus Jones, Joel Berry, and Wesley Clark.

Jefferson is an unselfish player who has uses his size to see over the defense to make passes. He is a good driver that combines a solid skillset with a good first step. He can drive and dish as well as make tougher passes to 3rd read guys. His 3-pt shot has a long way to go, but he knows this and chooses to avoid taking long range jumpers. He prefers to catch the ball around the foul line extended area and go to work from there. He is a solid free throw shooter and does a great job getting to the line. He can finish with contact - finishing is a big strength of his.

Fortunately, I was able to see his man to man defense in Alexandria because Team Final didn't dare "d" up Cat Barber with man to man defense. You could still see Jefferson's intensity out there and he managed to get a block and two steals, but it would have been hard to tell just how much he brings it on that end of the court. He is a very well-rounded player. It is great that he gives equal energy on both ends of the hardwood.

The 2-3 zone that they ran stifled Barber and the rest of Boo Williams and other teams took after their strategy. I saw Team United slow down Cat the same way. The Oakland Soliders tried to man up against them for awhile, allowing Boo Williams to hang into the game until halftime, but smartened up and zoned it as they pulled away in the second half.

Barber struggled against the zone, showing my concerns about his ability to operate in a halfcourt offense, but he did show some good things that I didn't see at the Global Challenge. The first was the jumper. Barber was comfortable spotting up for three, which I knew, but I finally saw him hit a three off the dribble. And he was hitting mid-range jumpers off the drive as well. His jumper looked good - good form and nice rotation. Barber ran this team much better than the East squad. You could tell he felt more comfortable taking ownership of this group of players. He gave off much more of a leadership and mature persona. He still doesn't appear to be a top notch leader, but it is far from a negative.

More than that, Barber lled by example with his effort on defense. He completely shut down Jaren Sina. Barber has elite lateral quickness and great length for a point guard. He also plays the passing lanes extremely well. Sina finished the game 1-4 with 4 points, 1 assist, and 4 turnovers. The 4 points came at the beginning of the game...after that Barber decided to put him on lockdown and man was it impressive.

Barber still struggled to make plays, often deferring to Al Freeman, but the energy and maturity in his game I saw is promising for his development given his excellent physical tools. 

Troy Wiilliams continued to be an enigma. Maybe Barber looked much more mature this time because I was comparing him to Troy. Troy gave little effort on defense - even Cat's mom was getting on him from the stands - and when his coach tried to address the situation after a man blew right by Williams, Troy answered back with an excuse. This is common for Williams and his body language tells the same story as his mouth does.

At times, Williams can be impressive on defense. Boo Williams will employ him at the top of a modified 1-3-1 zone and have him create havoc. With his long arms and ability to move laterally, Williams is great at deflecting passes when he tries. He likes to create a disruption so he can get out on the break for an easy basketball.

In transition is where Williams shines the most, as his athleticism is put on full display. He has great speed and excellent leaping ability. He looks like a young Tracy McGrady athletically when he is soaring through the air. Williams also shows quick moves in transition, displaying crossovers that guys at his size shouldn't be able to do. He also likes to do a spin finish like a point guard.

Troy Williams has some nice, quick, moves with the ball in his hands but when he tries to use them in the halfcourt offense you either see a spectacular play or a turnover. Williams struggles to control his body once he gets going and his moves are often too drastic for him to maintain control of himself and the ball. When he does, its a highlight reel at the rim waiting to happen. Williams isn't good at setting up his teammates and his inability to slow his game down is a big factor. Right now he is a huge with a negative assist to turnover ratio and while that is more common in AAU ball, I doubt it will change for Troy in college.

Troy loves to drive, but he also has no problem posting up in the corner and jacking up 3-pt shots. He has a very quick trigger and never hesitates to put one up. He gets great elevation on his jumpers and makes them at a promising rate. With his shooting ability and athletic ability present, it is a recipe for a lottery pick. The only problem is the rest of his game. And while everyone would like to believe that Williams can improve, the scouts that have seen him for years seem to have more doubt. That is why Williams has dropped in the rankings. So while people late to the scene may drool over his potential, high school recruiting analysts may be moer weary to buy into it.

Allerick Freeman has a good body and skillset for a guard. He likes to score, but he makes smart decisions with the ball and does run some point even when Cat Barber is in the game. He is in between positions right now, but if he transform into a full time point guard, he is worth keeping an eye on. He should end up at a high level program.

Jaren Sina is a very good shooter and a smart passer. He appears to be good setting up his shots behind a screen as he can shoot off the bounce. His ball handling moves are slow and doesn't allow him the ability to get much penetration. He has a solid frame for a point guard, although his arms aren't especially long. His athleticism is below the NBA standard. He is heading to Northwestern and should fit their offense well.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Peach Jam Recaps: Texas Titans and Howard Pulley

My first full day at the Peach Jam was Friday, where I had no problem getting up for the 9am matchup between Howard Pulley and the Texas Titans. Highlighting this match were the names Tyus Jones, Matt Jones, Damian Jones, Akolda Manyang, Anders Broman, and of course Julius Randle. I already covered Randle's Peach Jam experience so check the link if you are interested in him.

The Texas Titans had Randle, but Howard Pulley had a top 10 player for his class as well in Tyus Jones. Jones is regarded as the #1 point guard of the 2014 class and only bolstered his stock here. He shot a tournament best 67% from 3 (10-15) and also led all participants in free throw percentage at 89% (31-35). Jones silenced any remaining doubters on his shooting ability here, and as you can see, it is actually a strength of his.

While shooting is a strength, it is his handling of the rock that makes him an elite prospect. Jones is very skilled and what stands out the most is that he plays completely mistake free basketball. He doesnt force anything and lets the game come to him. Jones is a very good ball handler and can finish with both hands. Combined with his shooting prowess and decision making, Jones is about as efficient as a guy who acts the the main facilitator and scorer can be. He has a confident swagger about him too.

His physical profile isnt the best and he isnt really flashy. Part of why he is so efficient is he makes the right plays and doesnt try to make the highlight reel play. Also, you don't see him connecting on alley oops on breaks because he is surrounded by shooters. Instead of him setting up nice plays at the rim in transition, he is usually just finding a man for an open 3. He gets his teammates great looks and has turned Anders Broman into a legitimate prospect by allowing him to showcase his beautiful 3-pt stroke.

Joneses' defense will never be anything special. He gives good effort and moves his feet well, but hes not a playmaker on that end. He gets comparisons to Chris Paul, but I think his ceiling is slightly lower than that. The good thing about Jones is that he should have a very high floor. He already does a lot of valuable things very well. He can pass, shoot, run the pick and roll, play smart and unselfishly. I just don't think he is an equal athlete in comparison to a Chris Paul. The CP3 smoothness is there, however.

Tyus Jones and his Howard Pulley squad won the game against the Titans 74-65, and although it was closer than the scorer indicated, it was an impressive win. The Titans overmatched them size wise and had 3 highly rated 2013 prospects as opposed to the 2014 Jones being the only major prospect on his team. Pulley's team is well coached and very unselfish. They didn't settle for bad shots, shot 10-25 from 3, and slowed down Randle by fronting the post.

Tyus's statline (29 points on 11-19 shooting, 8 assists, and only 2 turnovers) was particularly noteworthy considering he had Duke commit Matt Jones covering him all game. Jones acted as his team's defensive stopper all weekend, always covering the oppositions best perimeter scorer. I saw him try to lockdown both Jones and Andrew Wiggins in one day. In this particular game, Jones didn't show much offensively. He was so quiet, I thought he might have been nursing an injury.

With Matt Jones, you get a very smart player who is lethal from three (11-26 at Peach Jam) and has the length and fluidity to play great defense. He plays team basketball and fits the Duke image to the tee. He has no problem being a role player and has played second fiddle all summer next to Randle. He can be an Arron Aflalo type player in the league. He can handle the ball a bit and rarely turns it over. While he is great at catching and shooting, Jones separates himself from other shooters because he can put the ball on the floor and create his own 3-pt shot. He showed this multiple times in the game against CIA Bounce, where he avenged his measly 4 point performance from his earlier game against Howard Pulley.

Even after seeing Jones have a quiet game in my first ever look at him, I wasn't down on him. He just didn't really impose his force on the game. In the night cap and one of the most anticipated games of the event though, Jones shined. Randle was struggling so Jones knew he had to step up. And he did. He showed his competitive side and motor by defending Wiggins while dropping 26 points (and zero turnovers!!!).

Matt Jones won't post ridiculous numbers at Duke, but I'd take him on a NBA team anyday of the week when he eventually comes out. He has all the tools to be a great role player. He is one of those guys that goes mid-late first round and has no problem carving out a niche.

Damian Jones was another guy that drew a lot of attention last weekend. Jones is quickly rising up top 100 boards. He is very athletic and big, making him an extremely good and versatile defender. He has all the tools physically. NBA scouts will have an eye on him as a potential lockdown defender type, but I am not sold yet. For a guy like him to succeed, he needs to also be a great rebounder. Randle hogs a lot of the rebounds on this team, but I didn't like what I saw from Jones in terms of his hands and toughness inside. He is a little fragile, seemingly both mentally and physically. He had to be encouraged a few times after blown layups and fumbled catches. He plays efficiently on offense as he knows his role, but he is not a good finisher in traffic nor does he have much of an offensive skill set. Right now Jones is all potential. He seems like a good kid who will do what his team needs to win, but he needs a few more years to develop before we re-evaluate where he is at.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Peach Jam Player Recaps: Bluff City Legends and CP3 All-Stars

Getting to see Theo Pinson again, one of the most exciting player at the Nike Global Challenge was a must. Plus, I didn't get a good read of Nick King the first time I saw him so I wanted to focus on his game. King was joined by JaJuan Johnson on the wing and Pinson teamed up with Ja'Quel Richmond.

Theo Pinson didn't disappoint. He looked great on his way to 14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals and the win. I pretty much covered his entire game in my earlier report (see link), but being able to see him put together solid outings consistently is great reinforcement. He really has a great feel for the game. In the second matchup I saw him play, against Justice Winslow, he was outplayed in the 4th quarter, but Winslow is a special talent in his own right. Both are arguably top 10 players of the class of 2014.

Pinson's teammate Ja'Quel Richmond played well in my first look at him. He had 13 dimes and shot the ball well. He played really solid, just a point guard that you can count on that also provides some upside.

Seeing Nick King again allowed me to finally figure him out. In the game against Pinson, he really struggled. He tried to force his way to the basket, but King just isn't explosive enough to get there at will. He ended up shooting 2-13 from the field with only one 3-pter. Most his shots were awkward shots that were a result of not getting all the way to the basket.

I got another look at King against Marcus Lee and Cal Supreme though, and he played better. He had 13 points in 23 minutes while leaving 6 points at the charity stripe (he only went 2-8 from the FT line). King got the to basket, but struggled converting his free throws. It is weird considering he is a good 3-pt shooter, but it helps confirm my suspicions that King may be a trained 3-pt shooter and less of a pure shooter. He does like to catch the ball in that area though, operating out of the high post. Against Marcus Lee, this turned out to be effective  He took advantage of Lee playing off of him and hit some face up jumpers. He prefers to get to the hoop though, where he does a great job keeping his dribble alive and trying to force his way to the rim. King has a solid body, but he isn't a guy Id considering an imposing physical force or a great athlete. He is determined and displays great footwork and body control to find his way to the hoop. Overall, King isn't as impressive as some of the other wings I have seen.

JaJuan Johnson came out very aggressive in the game against Theo. King was struggling and he took over. Johnson showed some spot PG skills, bringing the ball up and being able to drive and dish. Johnson is a pure SG though, as he is the definition of a slasher with an eye to score. I love his ability to finish around the rim. He is very springy. He packs a lot more explosiveness then you would expect out of his slender frame. Creativity is the main name of his game, perhaps learning from his cousin Lou Williams. Johnson has a nice motor and will attack the glass and defend. In the second game I saw him in, he was a lot less aggressive for some reason. He could have just been tired, or he didn't feel the need to impose his will since Nick King and company were doing just fine against Cali Supreme. Either way, I am sure positive that Johnson generally is a very aggressive scorer and I like his mentality.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Peach Jam Player Recaps: Mokan Elite and Houston Hoops

The second game of the event I saw was Mokan Elite vs Houston Hoops. Clayton Custer got my attention off the bat by leading the scoring barrage for Mokan. I came to see Semi Ojeleye take on Justise Winslow, but got wrapped up in Custer.

Custer is a nice little player, but I was really surprised when I looked him up to see him ranked amongst the top 60 recruits for 2014 and garnering interest from the likes of Kansas. I was watching him thinking he could be a nice scoop for a mid-major, not a big time school. Regardless, Custer shot the ball really well and played with great intensity. He has a high basketball IQ and encouraged his fellow teammates. Right now he doesnt have the ability to get all the way to the hoop and struggles to create for others, but he can shoot off the catch and bounce. He also has a quick release which allows him to get his shot off without it being blocked. Custer looks like your average kid. He is just barely 6 feet tall, counting his hair, and skinny. He isn't a great athlete, neither fast or explosive, and ESPN accurately dubbed him a "top of the key point guard" meaning he mainly just brings the ball up and initiates offense. He isn't making plays. His defense is also a sign of concern at the next level but he has quick hands, gives good energy, and has excellent instincts. He knows when to double players in the post and is great at stripping the ball. He stays low defensively. Custer is definitely not a NBA guy, but he is a fun player to watch. I am surprised that he is ranked as high as he is, as I think he is more of a mid-major guy, but I imagine some teams see him as a nice bench guy. Coaches should love him. He got more out of his perceived talent and physical tools than anyone else at the EYBL finals.

Semi Ojeleye struggled from the field shooting 2-9 in the first game I saw him in. In the other game I saw him play, against the Wings, he had a more efficient day. In both matchups, Ojeleye had no problem getting to the line. Ojeleye has a college ready body, perfect size for a SF and good mass. When he gets the ball, he squares up his defender and looks to attack. He uses a jab step and operates from triple threat mode, although he is best when driving. Driving to the hoop, Ojeleye has a solid first step, but he is especially good at drawing contact. He uses that strong frame to help him finish inside. He is a good athlete, but not an elite athlete on the level of some other small forwards there. He plays under control and plays within his team's game plan. He is obviously a well-coached player and its obvious to see why Coach K is after him. He looks like a Duke player. He is a good all-around player and gets after it on defense. I think in college he is capable of playing a variety of roles, from lead man to a super role player. He will be a core member of whatever high major he chooses, should he go that route, and definitely has the ability to play in the NBA in the future with hard work and production. Ojeleye is a winner.

You have to understand that Mokan appeared to be overmatched in many games, but they found ways to win. They went 4-1 in pool play and advanced to the semi finals. All of their players played great team basketball and they had good role players. Semi is their star, but Custer runs their offense, Austin Ruder shoots the lights out, and Laurawls Nairn relishes his role as the sparkplug off the bench. Rodney Perry was the most impressive coach in North Augusta in my mind and you could tell he has college coaching experience.

Justise Winslow might have been the most impressive player I saw that wasn't at the Global Challenge. He has a very high ceiling. He has some Dwyane Wade in his game. He already has a grown man's body and he is only heading into his junior season in high school. Winslow is listed as a small forward, but can and does run the point a lot. He has a tight handle and is a top notch driver. He has a nice crossover to combine with an explosive first step. Add to that that he has the ability to finish explosively at the rim and a body build for contact and you have a recipe for a superstar. Winslow doesn't only have the physical attributes of a superstar, he plays like one. He plays with great effort, putting his body on the line, showing great hustle. In the fourth quarter of a game against Theo Pinson's CP3 all-stars, he stepped up and locked him down while leading his team offensive as well. He completely took over the game on both ends of the court. He blocks shots very well for a wing too. His jumper is a little flat, but I do like the elevation he gets when shooting. He can get hot from the field, but his jumper looks to be his biggest weakness right now. The sky is the limit for Winslow.

I saw Justin Jackson at the Global Challenge and I finally saw him hit his first three pointer in the third game of his I watched. I made sure to check out his stroke this time in warm ups though, due to prior experience. You see, Jackson is labeled as a great shooter, but that isn't all he is. He doesn't stay posted up in the corner strictly looking for 3s and he definitely doesn't settle for the jumper. The lanky Jackson instead likes to use his 3-pter as a threat. His shot is always in the back of defenders minds and Jackson knows this and has mastered the shot fake. He loves to show the ball and then drive into the lane. His touch from outside carries over inside where he likes to finish with a rainbow floater. Jackson is still very skinny and struggles to finish with contact so his floater is a good option. His mid-range game is advanced. His driving ability is good enough to get to the basket, but he is not a one on one type of player. Jackson is a very smart and unselfish player. He rebounded the ball more here than in Alexandria and made hustle plays.

Brian Bridgewater is another nice player who has a strong frame and a good stroke from 3. His frame and leaping ability has turned him into a top wide receiver football prospect, but should he stick with hoops, he as schools from big conferences as willing suitors as well.

Keith Frazier is an elite prospect who I didn't focus on as much as I need to in order to give an in-depth scouting report. He looks the part and was on fire from 3 at times. He has a great stroke and ideal size for a shooting guard. Frazier may have been the star of Houston, but Winslow was beginning to take over the alpha dog role and by Saturday, it seemed like the team was his.

Peach Jam Player Recaps - California Supreme and Arkansas Wings

Bobby Portis vs Marcus Lee

The first thing on my schedule Thursday was a matchup between these two power fowards, two guys I was really impressed with at the Nike Global Challenge. Lee is a great defender and Portis had been showing improvements to his offensive game. In this game though, Lee and California Supreme held Portis to a quiet night. Portis was 2-7 from the field with 9 point and 8 rebounds. Marcus Lee did a great job on defense, but even without Lee on him, Portis was quiet. He didn't get a chance to operate in the post much and didn't hit the glass hard to create his own opportunities. I saw Portis one other game this weekend and he had a similar quiet performance.

Marcus Lee turned in an efficient night, scoring 11 points on 4-4 shooting in only 19 minutes. He ran the court like a gazelle, blocked shots, and held his own strength wise in the post against Portis. He didn't get many touches, but showed some nice passes when he did. His offense is still very raw. Lee might have been the most impressive physical speciman I saw all weekend. He was noticeably longer and taller than Portis.

In another game I saw Lee play, Supreme made it a goal to get the ball inside to him in the post. When he gets position on the low block, he likes to fake right and finish on the left side with his left hand, but he mainly looks to pass. He is a great facilitator out of the post, always ready to find the open man as soon as the double comes. Lee's offensive game still needs a lot of work and he struggles mightily to finish through contact. I think he can develop a jumper down the road, his shot doesnt look too bad.

His brother or advisor was in the stands acting as the coach for Lee. Lee seemed very coachable and listened to what he had to say. His brother/advisor seemed like a very smart and articulate basketball mind just like Lee is. He seems to be in good hands. Lee also coached up his fellow big men, telling them to get their hands up in the post to deny the entry pass. He is a very calm, level headed individual. He keeps the ball up at all times where the defense can't strip it. He rarely brings the ball below his waist. 

While Portis was quiet on the court and didnt lead his team in the huddles, Moses Kingsley seemed to carry both roles. He was very impressive. Kingsley battled hard on the glass, drew fouls, and finished strong. He anchored the defense with 3 blocks. Tough kid. He played with great intensity and was the Wings' vocal leader. Kingsley should be getting more attention on a national level. There aren't many center prospects out there that are ready to step in and be a big player defensively like him.

Kingsley went up against Torren Jones on day one, who Id classify as a pre-game all star. He has a nice, strong build and is explosive. He has a swagger to him and legit size for a big man. Once the game started, Jones was out of control at times and lacked the fundamentals. He possesses a low basketball IQ and seems a little immature, but not someone who is a cancer or trouble maker. He plays hard though and is being recruited by big conference schools.

Nigel Williams-Goss ran the point for California Supreme. He has good size and strength for the position. Lorenzo Romar was in the stands for each of his games and he had to be impressed by his maturity and leadership. He is very poised and its hard to believe he is just going into his senior year of high school. On the court, he is able to use his body to get into the mid-range area where his game is the best. He is a tough cover for the small point guards we see in the AAU circuit. He has nice touch in the mid-range area and stays under control. He does a nice job changing speeds and using his body. While his first step isnt great, he doesnt need much to get the defender on his side as he is great at using his body for leverage. His explosiveness is also average, but he has really nice footwork when driving and is able to slow his body down to elevate a floater over the defense. He has the Euro step down. When he tries to finish amongst the trees, he can struggle but his frame helps handle contact. He isn't a true pure point guard, but he is smart and a good leader. Point guard is definitely his position through college and in the pros.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright played his sidekick yet again. He looks like a middle schooler out there. He wasn't spectacular like Aquille Carr is, but he plays hard and does the small things. He is a smart player and will be able to show his true point guard abilities in AAU next year with Nigel gone. He is a good passer and scrappy. Good kid. His quick hands and size make him great at stripping the ball from bigs and perimeter plays alike.

Dayshawn Watkins was also an impressive player for the Wings. He is an athletic point guard that knows how to score. He should start getting more mid-major offers after his weekend in North Augusta.

Jordan Matthews and Kris Yanku also looked good for the Supreme. Yanku has a strong frame and handles the ball well. He keeps his head up and can shoot and get to the hoop.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

NBA Scouting Report: Julius Randle

While at Peach Jam I had the opportunity to see Randle play twice in person, including the much hyped matchup against Andrew Wiggins. The first matchup was against Howard Pulley and Tyus Jones, where Randle's team lost in a close game.

In that game, Randle was by far the biggest player on the court. Howard Pulley is a team of guards and shooters that doesn't have any bigs that are near Randle's size or strength. Randle would post up from anywhere on the court, as deep as the foul line, and demand the ball. He bullied his way to the hoop and had no problems getting his jumper off either. He showed some simple posts moves when he got good post positions, moves that are predicated on his strength.

Randle is an absolute beast in the post and impossible to contain for most high school athletes. He can simply rely on his strength most of the time. Combine that with good ballhandling skills, excellent body control, and a solid, yet flat, jump shot, and you have a dominant force on the circuit.

When you look at his offensive game as a whole, he gets called an unselfish player due to his passing. Randle is a good passer and can find the open man off double teams. But just because a player passes the ball doesn't mean he is unselfish. Randle demands the ball each time down the court and shows terrible body language when he doesn't get his way. He stands out behind the three-point line just waiting for the ball to come to him, giving his team little option but to give it to him. Because of this, Randle hasn't shown the ability to move without the ball. Randle either hangs outside until he gets it, or uses his size and strength advantage to create a passing lane to himself in the post. Randle also refuses to come out of games and expects his coach to cater to him.

The negatives become more evident when he's asked to set picks. He makes no attempt to provide a detour to the man covering the ballhandler. He also refuses to roll off the pick or even pop. He just waits for the ball handler to give up, which he will due to the terrible pick, and then call for the ball at the top of the key so he can make his own play.

Once he gets the ball, Randle can drive from anywhere on the court. He is a very good ballhandler for a power forward and attacks the basket aggressively. For a small forward, his ballhandling abilities wouldn't be as good, but at this level he uses his size and off arm to shield defenders from the ball and send them flying back off contact.

Randle looks to drive every time. This was especially true going up against Wiggins in the overtime loss to CIA Bounce. Him and Wiggins battled all game, and Randle finished the first-half with zero points on two shots - one of which was blocked by Wiggins. Randle continued to try to bully Wiggins all the way to the hoop from the three-point line each possession and he turned it over a lot in the first-half. He set up his teammates for a few solid kickouts as well, but he was always looking for his shot.

And when that wasn't working, Randle didn't change up his game. He went right back to the drive and bully in the second-half. He should no signs of a pull up jumper from mid-range and didn't take Wiggins into the post at all. It seemed he had an agenda and that was to prove he can play on the perimeter against the top player in the world at his age.

Eventually, things started to go more in Randle's favor as Wiggins became worn down. Wiggins had to cover Randle while scoring 28 points and Randle went at him each time. Quite an exhausting task. Not to mention he was taking a beating everytime Randle drove at him. Everyone who has played basketball knows that one of the most tiring things to do is to cover a guy who gets the ball each time and uses his superior strength against you.

Randle in the meantime, used defense to take breaks. He covered one of the weaker CIA players. Randle isn't an imposing force on defense anyway and he has never been a great shotblocker. He has a short six-foot-10 wingspan, even with his broad shoulders. His strength and athletic ability can project him to be a solid power-forward on defense, however, if he chooses to put in the effort. I do not see Randle as a small forward at all and defense is only half of the reason why. Beckley Mason did a nice job for ESPN explaining the intricacies that go into defending small-forwards in the NBA. I can't imagine seeing Randle running through all those screens and guarding guys on the perimeter. He is a power forward through and through and even on offense I think he is better off there. Randle was, by a wide margin, the best rebounder at Peach Jam.

Randle eventually fouled out in overtime of the game against Wiggins. He had a few charge calls go against him and a lot of calls were really tough to make deciphering between an offensive or defensive foul. Randle was using his off hand and body each time while driving, but at the same time, he was getting swarmed and hacked himself. On one play late in the game, Randle was quadruple-teamed and somehow got the bucket and the foul. Randle does have great touch around the rim and is very good at finishing through contact.

A lot of Randle's strengths can be attributed to his size and strength advantage and in the NBA, he won't have such a distinct advantage. The other areas of his game don't show the kind of hope I'd like to see to believe he can adopt. Randle may have been a unselfish, good kid when he first bursted onto the scene. But by now, the accolades have gotten into his head and he has a prima-donna attitude. He isn't the first guy that has suffered from the hype getting to him and he won't be the last. But it is time for scouts to realize that Randle has changed from the guy who they first fell in love with when he first garnered national attention.

Randle is still a beast in high-school and AAU ball and should dominate college, just like Michael Beasley did. But just like Beasley, he thinks he is a small forward and lacks the energy on defense to be successful there. You can compare Randle to small forwards all you want, but he is a lot more of a young Zach Randolph or Beasley than he is Caron Butler or Carmelo Anthony. And that includes the character issues.

Randle stated he wanted to play for a coach "who lets me be me and will push me to be the best I can be." That is fine if you take it word for word, but what it really means is Randle wants full control of a team and to have complete free reign. He is not very coachable. He is who he is and wants to play that way.

Once he inevitably goes one and done next year after a stat-padding season, he most likely will be pegged a lottery pick. But I will be one person who won't stand fully behind Randle. It is time we recognize Randle's flaws.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Peach Jam Thursday Viewing Guide (Starting at 6pm)

Starting with 6pm when I arrive...

6pm - California Supreme vs Arkansas Wings

This match up pits two future NBA big men against each other - Bobby Portis and Marcus Lee. Both have great potential and play two difference styles. Lee is a better athlete, but he may have a tough time handling Bobby Portis's size. We also get to see how Parker Jackson-Cartwright handles finishing inside against a NBA sized frontline.

7:30pm - Boo Williams vs Team Final

This matchup is so good I am going to check it out on Thursday and Friday.

"Boo Williams is led by Anthony "Cat" Barber and Troy Williams, two guys I saw in Alexandria, and have another top 40 recruit for them playing on the perimeter. Allerick Freeman (#36) is what you call a power wing player and will have his best success in college. He holds offers from Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, UCLA, and Villanova. They will be going up against Rondae Jefferson's Team Final team. Jefferson against Troy Williams is the matchup I really want to see. Both are super athletic, long, and get after it on both ends of the court. Team Final also has a smart Northwestern commit at point guard, Jaren Sina (#74), that will attempt to stay in front of Barber. Good luck with that. Devon Hall  (#99) may be better for the job, another top 100 point guard heading to Virginia."

9pm Oakland Soldiers vs Team Final

My first look at Drew's younger brother, Aaron Gordon (#4) will be against another legitimate big man in Austin Colbert. Colbert is a project, but his length and athleticism should provide a decent test for Gordon. We also have a nice wing matchup to key in on - Rondae Jefferson's defense against the likes of Stanley Robinson (#27 of 2014) and Shaqquan Aaron (#35 of class of 2014). Keep an eye out for Davon Reed (#52) who may draw the tough cover on Jabari Bird (#11).

Peach Jam Friday Viewing Guide

9am - Texas Titans vs Howard Pulley

Start off your morning with future Duke shooting guard Matt Jones (#19) going up against Class of 2014 point guard super recruit Tyus Jones (#3). I have yet to see either play and really want to see Jones, the best point guard prospect of his class who is compared to Chris Paul. Jones need to finish better and work on his shot, but he is described as the purest of point guards. Matt Jones has ideal shooting guard size and is an excellent shooter. Both are the best prospects on their teams by a decent margin so expect a battle between the two. Matt Jones has more help with power forward Damian Jones (#70). He is young for his class and very smart.

10:30am Boo Williams vs Team Final

Boo Williams is led by Anthony "Cat" Barber and Troy Williams, two guys I saw in Alexandria, and have another top 40 recruit for them playing on the perimeter. Allerick Freeman (#36) is what you call a power wing player and will have his best success in college. He holds offers from Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, UCLA, and Villanova. They will be going up against Rondae Jefferson's Team Final team. Jefferson against Troy Williams is the matchup I really want to see. Both are super athletic, long, and get after it on both ends of the court. Team Final also has a smart Northwestern commit at point guard, Jaren Sina (#74), that will attempt to stay in front of Barber. Good luck with that. Devon Hall  (#99) may be better for the job, another top 100 point guard heading to Virginia.

12pm CIA Bounce vs Mac Irvin

I was mainly looking for great position battles when picking out games, but you can't pass up the top two players of 2014 doing battle. This game pits Andrew Wiggins up against Jahlil Okafor (#2) and although they play different positions, you can bet Okafor will be out to prove he deserves to be number one. We do have a nice point guard matchup here. CIA Bounce has a trio of ball handlers who all played together for Team Canada - Tyler Ennis, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, and Kevin Zabo. One of the youngest players in the tournament, Marcus Lovett Jr (#5 Class of 2015) will be given the difficult duty of hanging with CIA Bounce's guards. He could earn major points if he leads his team to a win here. He does have help though, as Billy Garrett is also on the team. Garrett really caught my attention with his performance at the Nike Global Challenge.

1:30pm to 6pm will be 16U teams.

6pm Bluff City Legends vs Arkansas Wings

The matchup to watch here is ironically not on the wings, but inside. Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley team together just like at the Nike Global Challenge to form a defensive force inside. Johnathan Williams III (#19), who could possibly join Portis at Arkansas, is going to be expected to go up against him at power forward in this game. Williams III gets some Odom comparisons. The combination of him and Nick King, who should get some minutes at the PF, will really challenge Portis' lateral quickness. And if the Legends can score inside, it will be a big statement from Williams III and King. Shooting guard JaJuan Johnson is also in this game playing for Arkansas and could be the edge the Wings need to win this game.

7:30pm California Supreme vs Houston Hoops

This matchup should easily be the best of game of the 7:30 starts, although Kennedy Meeks vs  Trey Lyles should garner some attention. Both these teams are loaded, Supreme has Nigel Williams-Goss and Parker Jackson-Cartwright in the backcourt. Hopefully this time Jackson-Cartwright gets to be the playmaker. They also have Marcus Lee, who is a big time prospect at power forward. Big man Torren Jones is the perfect compliment to him inside. All four guys played at the Global Challenge. Houston won't be intimidated though, as Keith Frazier and Justin Jackson also received invites to the prestigious event in Alexandria. Along with Justise Winslow (#11 Class of 2014), they may prove to be too much on the wings. Derrick Griffin, who is headed to Texas A&M, can provide Lee with a tough matchup with his strength.

9pm CP3 All-Stars vs Mokan Elite

It will be tempting not to watch Boo Williams again as they take on the Oakland Soliders, but there will be better matchups to see Aaron Gordon in. Assuming he makes it through Friday healthy. Mokan Elite can be a one man show at times with Semi Ojeleye (#33), who now has a Duke offer on the table. He will be pitted up against Theo Pinson, so we could have a nice back and forth between the two. If Pinson shuts him down though, we could have a blowout. CP3 All-stars have more talents, including SF Greg McClinton (#81) and point guard JaQuel Richmond (#41 in Class of 2014).

The Harrison Twins Friendly

I had the opportunity to watch the Harrison twins and their Houston Defenders squad take on Baltimore Elite in what was dubbed an "exhibition". Luckily for me and the rest of the spectators, the players treated this like a playoff game and put on an entertaining game. The Defenders pulled away in the fourth quarter to win 79-66, but for most of the game, it was very close.

This game had a ton of Maryland flavor. Of course you had Baltimore Elite, who have Kameron Williams, a Maryland target. But the reason everyone showed up was the Harrisons. And the reason the Harrisons showed up was family. The Harrisons father grew up in Maryland and the majority of the Harrison family still resides in the Baltimore area. The Harrison twins have grown up in Texas their entire life, but Maryland holds a close place to their heart. That is why they were in Baltimore to begin with - to visit family after finishing up a AAU tournament in Philly. They had one day in between to kill before they headed up to Milwaukee so they figured they'd spend a day in Maryland playing basketball.

For Maryland fans, hopefully it is something they can get used to. One thing is for sure, hoops fans in Maryland made a nice showing, flooding the community college gym to capacity. The Harrisons surely noticed the dearth of diehard basketball fans that infest the city of Baltimore. The Crimestopper, Aquille Carr, is already and city legend and Maryland would more than welcome perhaps the best package deal in the history of recruiting.

The other thing Maryland has going for them in this recruiting war with Kentucky, SMU, Villanova, and Baylor is Coach Turg. Rarely could a Maryland fan say this in the days of Gary Williams when going after a top recruit. While Gary was a likeable coach, he was never on the top of the list for any big name prospect. Turgeon on the otherhand, started recruiting the Harrison twins early when they were both in Texas. Turgeon was coaching Texas A&M at the time his recruit Tobi Oyedeji died. The way he handled that situation behind the scenes caught the twins father's attention and earned Turgeon lifelong respect from the family.

It may be the perfect storm for Terp fans now, with both the local connection and Turgeon connection. Its almost like they have the Harrisons cornered. Maryland has to share the favorite spot along with Kentucky, who will always be a serious threat. The twins often cite their desire to go to a program that can prepare them for the NBA and Calipari does it like no other. However, the twins will have no problem making the league with or without UK. In fact, they may be better off staying away from the dribble drive offense.

And since there are two players in this deal, they both need to be sure they will get 30+ minutes a game and start. I imagine they can do that at any program, but Maryland is much more of a sure deal than Kentucky. At Maryland, the Harrison twins will be able to fully lead the team just like theyve done throughout their high school careers. Another underrated fact is that their AAU teammate, Shaquille Cleare has already committed to Maryland and will be playing this season for the Terps. They have a good relationship and that should be another added bonus to coming to College Park.

I have managed to take myself into Maryland being the favorites, and while I am biased, I think it all adds up. And as Connor Letourneau pointed out over at The Baltimore Sun, the twins are always quick to mention Maryland when listed the teams they are interested in. I would give Maryland at least a 50% shot to get the twins. Call me hopeful.

And hopeful definitely could be the word because what I saw against Baltmore Elite was nothing short of perfection. I put off writing this article because there was literally nothing bad I could say about the twins. They play off each other perfectly - Andrew being the passer and Aaron the shooter. They have legit size at a near 6'5'' and are well built. They have range out to the 3-pt line and make everything look so effortless. Then there is the great court vision. The competitiveness. In this exhibition, they played all out and showed a great will to win. They were professional with the officials, looking much like a NBA player. When a call occurred they didn't like, you could see Aaron walk away, breath deeply, and then go talk to the ref quietly during the free throws. They play like NBA guys already. And while they would be a great get for Maryland, they won't be in college for long. Andrew especially could challenge first a top 5 pick.

Aaron had 35 points before the night was over while Andrew dropped 14 points and 7 dimes.

Kameron Williams is on the Baltimore Elite team, a guy who I recently saw at the Nike Global Challenge. He had 16 points in the game, but was kept quiet in the second half after the Defenders draped a bigger man on him who was about 5 inches taller. Kameron fought tirelessly around ball screens trying to get open, but he struggled to get shots off in the second half. His effort was enough to draw a few fouls, but when he isn't getting open looks at the basket, he isn't a big help. It surprised me that he didnt defend the Harrison twins much at all.

Jamel Artis, who is down to LaSalle and Pittsburgh, was very impressive to me compared to his 74 grade on ESPN. He has great size for a small forward, and really could play power forward at a school like LaSalle. He is strong and not afraid of the post, but in this game he tried to do too much off the dribble. He does have some handles, but he appears to be a big man transitioning to the perimeter. He has natural playmaking skills and I think he will make the transition to full time small forward, but he needs to stay within himself. I was first drawn to him after he made a sick move to free himself up and then stopped to pull up for the mid-range jumper. The presence of a mid-range jumper at this stage is big for him. It could be his bread and butter in college. Pittsburgh is smart for offering him and he would fit in very well there.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

NBA All League Pass Teams

Its early, but this is an exercise Ive been wanting to do. The NBA offers a choice package for league pass where you get 7 teams as opposed to the entire league. It is a little cheaper, and if you are smart, you can still see plenty of teams play. The key is avoiding teams that are on national TV all the time and spreading out your picks so you have a team in each division. That will lesser the frequency where you have two of your choices playing against each other.

Here are my early picks for next season:

The pick for the Central Division is an easy choice. The Bulls are without Derrick Rose, but should still get plenty of time on National TV. I've seen plenty of their entire roster over the past few years and the only intriguing addition is Marquis Teague.

The Pacers are basically bringing back the same team from last year and added perhaps the most boring first round pick possible, in Miles Plumlee. I can wait to watch them in the playoffs.

I thought about the Pistons, but they can be painful to watch on offense. I am not sure how long I could deal with a Stuckey/Knight backcourt with Maggette only trying every third Sunday. Also, I would like to avoid a situation where I'd be faced with an opportunity to watch Charlie Villanueva play. The Drummond/Monroe frontline should be interesting and Id love to follow Drummond's first season, but Ill catch him some other time when his supporting cast is better. Singer is one of the few other good watches on the team. I would follow Kim English's twitter account though.

The Cavs are a team of 2nd rounders and guys who didnt get drafted and to be honest, I am starting to get tired of summer league basketball. An Irving and Waiters backcourt can't come close to making up for the rest of the snorefest of a roster.

By process of elimination, that means the Bucks are my choice. The Jennings/Ellis backcourt will be back in full force, two of the fastest and most exciting guards in the league.  I also need to do a year long study on their frontcourt and formulate definitive opinions on the likes of Larry Sanders, John Henson, and Ekpe Udoh. I want to fall in love with one of them and hate another. I also like that they have a defender in Mbah a Moute who can lock down some of the league's best players, so there is always that to watch. Watching Tobias Harris find a niche in the NBA also intrigues me and I look forward to watching Doron Lamb, one of my sleepers in the draft this year, crack the rotation.

For the Southeast, the Wizards should be the hands down favorites. A Wall/Beal backcourt in Wall's all important 3rd year lead the way with young athletic forwards Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton providing more excitement. No longer do you have to put up with the idiotic play of Andray Blatche, Javale McGee, and Nick Young. Nene and Okafor sharing the post together will also be an interesting watch.

The Heat are also out of the running for me because they are on TV all of the time. Although with the remaining choices, the Heat were tougher to eliminate than they should be. I like great basketball and domination at times and in the Big 3's third year, they should be near unstoppable in a lot of games.

The Bobcats have MKG, but will also be out of the playoffs by game 3. I can't endure an entire season of pointless basketball. There is a reason the Bobcats have no fans.

That leaves the Magic and the Hawks, and I will go with the Hawks assuming Howard gets traded for scraps. The Hawks have a loaded backcourt with Teague, Harris, Lou Williams and 3 lockdown shooters in Morrow, Korver, and Jenkins. Josh Smith is one of the most exciting defenders in the league and with Al Horford, I'll be able to watch a skilled big men everyday since I won't get that from the Bucks. I do have the Wizards to fall back on and see divisional games already, so it is not a necessity to pick a team out of this division.

Jumping to the Northwest, Minnesota is in my permanent rotation due to Ricky Rubio. If he doesn't recover from his nasty injury though, I want my money back. The return of Brandon Roy also will be closely monitored. As will Derrick Williams progress heading into his sophomore season.

The other teams in the Northwest all offer some interesting potential as well. Luckily, I have seven teams because I may have to come back to here. I really like what the Nuggets are putting on the court.  Faried, Lawson, Andre Miller, and Gallinari are all guys I love to watch. And I really like to watch them play together as a unit. Some of their lesser known players will be great to watch as well as they fight for minutes. The recently signed Anthony Randolph is a bonus. Quincy Miller still recovering from his ACL tear will also be under my microscope. Evan Fournier was their first round pick and Euros are always interesting to get a grasp of and it makes it better that he will battle Jordan Hamilton for minutes. The Nuggets are making a strong case to enter my personal rotation!

Oklahoma City is eliminated because they are on TV too much. They used to be a permanent fixture for "must watch" up and coming teams. I could delve into how I was a fan of them before everyone else, but hey, I dont want to be considered a hipster.

Portland plays a boring brand of basketball and have a lot of "meh" names around the perimeter. And Im not a huge believer in Lillard of the bat. 

Utah could be fun, especially to follow Burks ascension into one of their leading scorers. They are jammed pack inside and Ive always been in favors of Favors. Jefferson is a true post, Mo Williams provides exciting scoring streaks, and Millsap is a beast. Carroll, Jeremy Evans, Kanter, and Hayward are other guys I like watch. Ironic that the boring, old, Northwest is the place to be for the most exciting basketball this coming season.

A full season of Nash and Kobe with a possibility of Dwight is hard to pass up, but you know they will be on TV plenty regardless. Same goes for the Clippers and their exciting roster. The Suns have a favorite of mine, Kendall Marshall, but I wouldn't be surprised if he struggled this year. The rest of their roster is unspectacular.

The Warriors and Kings both have talent and could be good choices. The Warriors are my pick, though, since they have a better shot at making the playoffs. They have a rock solid starting 5 with a young core and Jenkins, Ezeli, Green, Tyler, and Jack all on the bench. They will be fun to see even if Bogut and Lee go down with their annual injuries.

In the Southeast, its a tough competition as you can tell since I am willing to eliminate Anthony Davis' Hornets right away. The Grizzlies haven't changed much and Id prefer to catch them in the playoffs. Wroten and Selby are interesting watches, but I am making sure to get my fix of them in the summer league. The Spurs dont have a deep roster of exciting talent and while I can never watch Duncan enough, Ill have all playoffs to watch him when he steps up his game.

The Mavericks and Rockets both can make a strong argument. However, the addition of Jeremy Lin last night helped make this a less stressful choice. Royce White is a super exciting player, very unique, and any other player they can put on the floor at power forward is young and talented. Chandler Parsons is a personal favorite of mine, they have the speedy Ish Smith, Donatas Motiejunas, and Jeremy Lamb learning from Kevin Martin. The roster is stacked with good players to follow. Even down to Greg Smith, Jerome Jordan, Shaun Livingston, and the bruisers Leuer and Brockman. The Rockets will be a must watch in 2012 and could get even better with possible trades.

I saved the Atlantic Division for last to pend over the decision some more. The Celtics, Nets, and Knicks should all be on TV a decent amount. The Knicks are the most intriguing with their star talent and veteran players. Nets dont have anyone intriguing past their top guys and the Celtics have been a mainstay on National TV for years.

Right now I am decided on the Rockets, Wolves, Bucks, Nuggets, and Warriors. Based on those choices, I guess I am in for some late nights.

I definitely need to add a east coast team and I have chosen all the non-national TV teams that I like already. It is time to just add a team that I know I will enjoy watching. The Knicks have made a lot of noise this offseason, but the moves of Prigioni, James White, and Chris Copeland oddly enough may have pushed me over. Prigioni has been a blessing to watch overseas his entire career, White is a human highlight reel, and Copeland is a hustle guy with a good story. Of course, it doesnt hurt that they have star talent as well and some knock down shooters in Novak and Kidd.

One more team left and I am leaning towards going with a team that is going to get exposure anyone. That means Lakers, Clippers, Mavericks, and Heat are all on the board. Who would you take to finalize your league pass roster?

Do you like the quantity approach I went with or would you prefer quality and go with a league pass line up of the Lakers, Clippers, Heat, Knicks, Thunder, Spurs, and Boston?

Let your thoughts be heard in the comments section and vote in the poll to the right of your screen!

Past the Boxscore: Diante Garrett

Ive been inspired to do a few features on some summer league guys that aren't getting enough attention. Plenty of recognition has been going out to "me-first" point guards that have scored in bunches in summer league, but most of them can't add much to a real NBA team. The guys I mention will be veteran players who at least deserve a NBA look because they can play a role. The first installment of this series will be on former Iowa State point guard Diante Garrett.

I familiarized myself with Garrett's game when he was playing at Iowa State with Craig Brackins and Marquis Gilstrap. I tuned in for Brackins, but the 6'5'' point guard stole part of my attention. He was a pass first guard who put up numbers across the board and made guys like Brackins look like NBA first rounders. He even fooled me into thinking Marquis Gilstrap was a possible second round prospect.

I was a bit surprised to see him go undrafted. He had the numbers and outstanding size. Plenty of scouts saw him play since they were watching Brackins. At a pre-draft camp, his wingspan measured at 6'9.5''. A guy like Julyan Stone was intriguing enough to teams last year to go in the second round and he couldn't even score. He had the same wingspan and his size and vision were the two components that resulted in him being drafted. He made the Nuggets roster and now looks like he could be their backup point guard soon.

So with seeing Stone's relative success, I really believe Garrett deserves a chance. With Kendall Marshall still unsigned for the Suns, Garrett did get a chance on Sunday. And while I watched that game, it brought back memories from his Iowa State days and inspired me to write this.

Since he graduated from Ames, Garrett has taken his game overseas. He didnt get a shot at summer league last year since there was no such thing. Garrett was a rotational player in the top French league in his first pro season, which is nothing to sneeze at. He posted the top FG% for a point guard while there at over 55%, which was good to see since he was around a 40% shooter in college.

What you get with Garrett is a true point guard who can make his teammates better. Garrett runs the pick and roll beautifully and has the natural ability to get the ball to the open guy no matter where they are on the court. He makes passing look easy. He will come off of a pick into the lane and miraculously get the ball to the open man at the 3-pt line before anyone can react. Garrett seems to be able to pass the ball with little effort at all, being able to send a bullet pass to a teammate without telegraphing it. When he comes around a pick with the ball, you can almost guarantee Garrett is going to find a man in at least halfway good position to score. Its like he has eyes in the back of his head. Rarely does he dribble the ball around just for the sake of dribbling. Every move is calculated. He is a great drive and kick guy and has no problem handling the ball in either hand. He has a effective crossover. He can throw all kinds of passes, including a nice bounce pass.

Garrett is pretty quick with the ball in his hands, but he isnt a guy you point to and call an excellent athlete. Plenty of point guards are faster than him, but he does a better job of working his way to foul line extended area than a majority of them. The reason for this is his somewhat jerky dribbling, his ability to change speeds, and his great size to shield off defender.  He is a good ball handler but could do a better job of keeping his dribble low. Its one of the disadvantages of being his height and he does turn the ball over more than you would like.

Garrett's shot has never been something he has leaned on, and it is a bit unorthodox, but he has tinkered with it enough so that it fits in his game. Garrett struggles getting all the way to the hoop, only averaging 2.5 free throw attempts his senior year in college, but his mid-range game has gotten much better. This is due to the fact that he now has established a mid-range jumper. It isn't pretty, and its actually much like his passes. He shoots it on the fly, rarely getting his feet set, and it leaves his hands very quickly. At his height, the ability to get a clean look at the hoop from around 15 feet out makes the shot easier, even if it doesn't look pretty. He does a great job creating space for his shot. Its mainly due to his quick shot than it is flashy dribbling. His 3-pt shot, still has a long way to go. He has the same form that he uses on his mid-range shot, but you just cant shoot consistently like that from behind the line. His 3-pt shot doesnt hold him back much, but in the NBA, you need every weapon you can get.

Of course, it would be nice if Garrett could get to the line more. He has became a better free throw shooter over the years, shooting over 80% in his final college season and his first year in the French league. He gets to the line so infrequently though, that you could almost credit it to a small sample size. To get to the line more, the one thing Garrett can do is add more strength. He will never be the fastest or most explosive, so he needs to compensate for that. It has also hurt him that he is so tall and lanky. He doesn't do a good job of protecting the ball inside the paint. Strength right now is the biggest thing holding him back, and the area it effects him the most is on defense.

Defensively, Garrett should be solid. He is smart and has outstanding length for a point guard. With his slight frame though, opposing coaches force him to run throw picks where he does a poor job fighting through them. He also is very jumpy defensively. He doesnt use his feet to slide laterally, but instead kind of hops around. It makes him very prone to getting crossed up and falling for fakes. With his size, teams can afford to have him guard two guards to avoid as many pick and roll situations, but then again that opens him up to being posted up and ran through screens as well. His length of strength is really apparent when a defender drives at him. Garrett isnt very fundamentally sound to make it even worse, as he gives way by backpedaling too often, but the slightest contact can send him back 5 feet.

Garrett has a decent amount of upside if he finds a good strength program to do and stick to. His offensive game is NBA ready, but upon close evaluation, its his defense that is holding him back. He will probably head back overseas and continue to improve. He is a good professional and his dad played in the NBA. If he stays in the United States this year, he is a D-Leaguer who could knock on the door of a call up all year. I will continue to keep tabs on him to see if he improves on the things he lacks. He is still intriguing to me because he can run the point so well.

Monday, July 16, 2012

USA West Prospect Report

Stevie Clark - Clark played a lot of minutes for the West team and I really don't understand why. He played 38 minutes in the overtime game against Lithuania while going 2-12 from the field and 1-7 from deep. The worst part is Clark is a pure shooter and doesnt offer much else. Dont get me wrong, I really like Clark's character. He has turned himself into the player he is today through countless hours in the gym and may be the biggest basketball fan on any USA team. But when he isn't on from the field, he isnt an effective player. Hes an undersized SG right now. I was standing right next to him and he was maybe an inch taller than me which would put him at 6'1''. Clark is definitely not a serious NBA prospect right now. I dont like to count anyone out in the future, but without being a point guard or having great athleticism or size, the shot is all he has to fall back on. And he is going to need more than that.

Justin Jackson - Jackson was another shooter who didnt get it going from beyond the arc on Saturday, a common theme for USA ballers. Jackson did look good out there though, with his sleek frame, long arms, and fluid athleticism. He didnt even have to shoot, you could assume by looking at him that he could light it up from deep. Jackson didnt get any 3-pt shots off this game, partly due to him playing PF most of the time. I overheard his coach telling Jackson to set picks for the ball handler to set up pick and pop opportunities, but when he got the ball, the defender took away the though and Jackson had enough faith in his driving game to take what they gave him. Thats a good sign - hes not strictly a shooter. He has good touch inside and can finish with his length. He isn't too creative or an explosive finisher, but he is plenty good enough to keep teams honest. Jackson does lack strength and it is a bit alarming that he had zero rebounds in 30+ minutes. That needs to improve and he isn't much of a playmaker. If/when he goes to the NBA though, he is mainly going to be asked to make shots. I think he can do that very well. He can probably enter the draft at any stage and go in the first round simply because of his length/size and shooting ability. He's a nice player who I wish I got to see when he was on from deep.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright - Didnt get to see much of the class of 2014 youngster. Perhaps the coach wanted to let his older players get most of the minutes. When he was in the game, he played off the ball. Not much else to report on him. Disappointing because I was really looking forward to see him run the point, but there is always next year for him.

Marcus Lee - Lee was very impressive. He was the tallest player for the West and probably the tallest on any USA roster. He played very smart and his offensive game is showing signs of life. I loved how he would get rebounds and keep the ball above his head. Not many bigs his age have the presence of mind to do that. Even a guy like Bobby Portis who I liked, would put the ball on the floor after a board. Lee understands his limitations and sticks to what he does best. Hes a smart, energy player right now but has a ton of upside. He also passed well. The seven block shots werent too shabby either, easily the most explosive big man in Alexandria. Lee is going to be very fun to watch in college and has lottery potential. He needs to put on weight badly and is a bit of an enigma, but I mean that in the best way possible.

Kennedy Meeks - The West played 5 guys over 30 minutes so it was tough to evaluate the rest of their team. Meeks only saw 11 minutes of action. He is a big dude, or kid might fit better. He looks young and super chunky. There have been lots of guys his size head to big schools though, that have gotten in shape so Im not too worried about that. He is a post player, offensive first guy, who can pass out of the post and score with solid moves. He struggled a bit passing the ball Saturday, but it was a real small sample size. If he were to able make the NBA, it wouldnt be in the next few years.

SinDarius Thornwell - Thornwell was a beast and one of the best players at the event. Id feel comfortable saying he had the best game out of anyone on Saturday. Thornwell was in straight attack mode, having no problem getting to the rim. He lived up to the scouting report I wrote in the preview, but I feel obligated to mention how strongly he crashed the boards. That was the most impressive thing to me. He grabbed 13 boards and his motor was always running. His toughness on the glass translates directly to his toughness finishing inside. He does both so well. There is no reason why he can't be a good NBA player when he decides to head to the draft.

Nigel Williams-Goss - I dont see what all the hype is about Williams-Goss. He isn't a true point guard, although he was more conscious at the position than some other guys at the event. He was inefficient, shooting 5-15, because he only has average athleticism and had trouble getting to the basket and finishing. An average point guard mixed with average athleticism isn't too intriguing when you are looking at him from a NBA prospective. He is also just an average shooter and not a spectacular ball handler. His size and consistency looks to be the two best things he has going for him. Williams-Goss should turn into a good college player, but his NBA future looks a little dim. Washington has been churning out guards lately, so lets give him some time to develop farther in colllege. He at least is a willing passer.