Thursday, January 12, 2017

Flying Under The Radar: Markus Howard

The current college basketball season has been billed the “Year of the Freshmen.” Lonzo Ball has brought basketball back in Westwood, De’Aron Fox and Malik Monk are wreaking havoc in transition, and Markelle Fultz is up in Seattle putting on a show despite a lack of talent surrounding him. One freshmen that did not receive any type of fanfare coming into the season and who is still managing to fly under the radar is Marquette’s freshman point guard Markus Howard.
photo from AZ Central

Howard did not score in his first college game playing just 11 minutes against Vanderbilt, but through four conference games in the Big East he is averaging 20 points a game and 3.3 assists, while shooting 55% from the field and an ungodly 70% from the 3-point line. In an easy win over Houston Baptist, Howard scored 13 points, which was his second double-digit scoring effort of the year. From that point on in late November, Howard has scored double figures in 9 of his last 10 games, including 15 points in a win against Georgia and 22 in a loss against Wisconsin. On the season as a whole, Howard is shooting 51% from the floor, 57% from the 3-point line (37-65), and 94% from the free-throw line. When looking at players that use at least 20% of their teams’ possessions, Howard ranks No. 11 overall in the country and No. 4 amongst freshmen with a 127.7 Offensive Efficiency rating.

When Howard committed to Marquette last April, had him ranked as the No. 50 prospect in the junior class (2017). Upon commitment, he decided to re-classify up to the 2016 class so that he would be able to start playing college this season. Entering Marquette, Howard was ranked him as the No. 77 player in his class by

During high school, Howard always managed to outplay his ranking so it is no surprise that this time he’s doing it again in college. In his first two years in high school, Howard torched the nets in the state of Arizona averaging 23 points per game as a freshman and then a state leading 32.4 points per game as a sophomore. Prior to his third season, Howard transferred to powerhouse Findlay Prep where he promptly led the Pilots in scoring at 18.6 playing top competition throughout the U.S.

Scoring has always seemed to come naturally to Howard, even when faced with stronger competition than what he saw in Arizona. In his lone EYBL season, Howard averaged 20.2 points per game outscoring players such as Monk, Harry Giles, and Jayson Tatum. He also finished second in scoring on the USA U16 gold medal winning team in the FIBA America’s and third on the gold medal winning U17 team.

While he is yet to generate the national buzz similar to other freshmen guards, the sharp-shooter is quietly putting together a stellar season, and one that should have him in contention for Big East Freshman of the Year come March.    

Thursday, June 9, 2016

USA U17 Preview

The USA U17 tryouts kick-off June 10 in Colorado Springs in preparation for the U17 World Championship’s held June 23-July 3 in Zaragoza, Spain. 39 players from the 2017 and 2018 classes will be in attendance as they try to secure a spot on the 12-man roster.

photo - USAB
The 2016 team will become the fourth team to represent the USA in the U17 World Championships with the event beginning in 2010. So far, the USA has won three gold medals while never losing a game. Head coach Don Showalter is 23-0 in U17 action winning games by an average margin of 37.7 points per game. The 2010 team defeated Poland in the gold medal game by 31 points and the 2012 team beat Australia by 33 points. Two years ago, the 2014 team matched up with Australia once again in the gold medal game and won by just seven points, which also happened to be the first time the USA did not win a game by double digits. Malik Newman took home the U17 MVP in 2014 following in the footsteps of Jahlil Okafor (2012) and Bradley Beal (2010).

Prior to the U17 World Championships, the USA U16 always competes in the FIBA America’s tournament the year before (2015 in this case). Last year, the USA team breezed through pool play and the playoffs leading up to the gold medal game with Canada. While the US team won by 17, they overcame a 20-point second quarter deficit as ESPN’s No. 1 rising sophomore, RJ Barrett was displaying his ability. Gary Trent Jr. and Jarred Vanderbilt led the way with 19 points in that game, with Trent Jr. winning MVP honors.

While the majority of the roster will stay in-tact, despite the 39 players in tryouts, there is always some upheaval from the U16 to U17 level. The 2010 team returned 67% of the players from the U16 team while the 2012 team returned 58%, and the 2014 team returned 75% of the players.

2015 U16 Roster:

Gary Trent, 2017, SG/SF, 16.8 ppg
Markus Howard, 2016, G, 15.0 ppg
Wendell Carter, 2017, C, 13.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg
Kevin Knox, 2017, SF, 10.6 ppg
Jarred Vanderbilt, 2017, F, 9.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg
Jordan Brown, 2018, PF, 9.4 ppg
Jalen Hill, PF, 2017, 8.6 ppg
Javonte Smart, 2018, G, 6.8 ppg
Robert Woodard, 2018, SF, 5.6 ppg
Tre Jones, 2018, PG, 4.6 ppg
Jaylen Nowell, 2017, G, 5.0 ppg
Connor Vanover, 2018, C, 3.8 ppg

The first round of cuts will occur on Sunday, June 12. The USA coaches are trying to form the best team, which means that a handful of 5-star prospects will be cut for players that might not be as talented from an individual perspective. In 2014, players such as Dennis Smith and Malik Monk did not make it through first cuts.

Team USA Predictions:

The Locks from U16’s
Wendell Carter – Dominant big man that will be the inside force for the U17’s
Kevin Knox – Got his start last year at the U16 tryouts and now is a Top 10 player
Gary Trent – The U16 leading scorer
Markus Howard – Zone buster. Last USA experience before heading to Marquette
Jarred Vanderbilt – Pogo stick that will help with a variety of defensive sets

Highly Probable:
Jordan Brown – Came off the bench for the U16’s, top 10 in the 2018 class
Javonte Smart – Talented guard from the 2018 class, tough to stop off the dribble
Tre Jones – Continues the Jones’ USA connection

Austin Wiley – Another big body to play behind Carter
Naz Reid – Cut from the U16 team, can he impress this time around?
Cameron Reddish – Smooth shooter from 2018 that was cut last year
Troy Brown – Makes his first USA appearance

2014 U17 Tryout Memories:

The tryouts occurred during the third live period in July and college coaches were allowed to watch the second day of practice. Almost all of the big time names were in attendance.

Chatting with Jim Calhoun during the first practice and listening to some wild recruiting stories

Harry Giles starting to look like the Harry Giles of old on Day 2. Pull up jumpers and one-hand dunks as his confidence grew

Derryck Thornton putting together a perfect floor game in front of Coach K, Capel, and Scheyer. After that, the full-court press was turned on in Thornton’s recruitment.

Henry Ellenson was cut from the U16 team, but one year later he was one of the most impressive players in practice. Now, he is expected to be the top draft pick from the 2015 players that were in attendance.


Friday, June 3, 2016

UAA LA Recap

Under Armour wrapped up their third and final edition of league play this past Memorial Day weekend in Southern California after previously making pit stops in New York and Indiana. With each team playing four games over a two-day period there were multiple players that showcased their skills.

Top 17U Team To Watch: Team Charlotte

Team Charlotte, led by head coach Jeff McInnis went 4-0 over the weekend winning their games by an average of 15 points. With their four wins, Charlotte finished with the top overall record in the UAA regular season at 11-1. They play a frenetic pace that makes opponents uncomfortable in a hurry. Junior point guard Devon Dotson helps set this pace as one of the quickest guards in the country. Standing at just 6’0”, Dotson has a quick burst and can finish aggressively around the rim. For the weekend he averaged 16 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. Meanwhile, the team’s leading scorer, Tyshon Alexander put together another quietly stellar performance averaging just over 16 points a game while going 53% from the three-point line. Creighton certainly got a steal in Alexander.

Top 16U Team to Watch: Team Rio

This distinction probably should go to Team Thad who actually beat Team Rio in their last game of the tournament and finished 11-1 overall, but I was able to watch more of Team Rio over the course of two days. Team Rio is coached by former Rutgers coach Mike Rice, and they are led by two of the top rising sophomores in the country in Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis. Both Antoine and Lewis are 6’5” athletic guards that come from the same high school (Ranney) in Jersey. While Antoine was responsible for bringing the ball up the court, both guards are true scorers. Antoine went for 30 points in his first game and then went 3-7 from three in his third game scoring 19 points. Lewis had a weekend high of 16 points against Team Charlotte. Both guards can attack the rim and are threats from the perimeter with a high ceiling going forward.


Senior guard Jalek Felton averaged 21.3 points and 5.8 assists putting together three out of four extremely strong performances. He also shot 64% from the floor and 40% from three, despite a 1-10 performance to start the second day. Felton’s passing skills were on display early and often as he was threading the needle with one hand passes and throwing others that most guards wouldn’t dare attempt. Tyler Ulis, Ben Simmons, and Lonzo Ball have been the top passers in the last three high school classes and now Felton will join them from the 2017 class. While his vision has never been questioned, it was nice to see Felton scoring the ball at a high clip. With a quick first step, Felton can beat most defenders off the dribble, but he is sometimes content to hang beyond the 3-point line.

Five-star guard Trevon Duval had an up and down two days in California. In his Saturday night and Sunday morning performances he averaged 19.5 points per game, but fell off at the end with just five points in a blowout win. Despite the uneven scoring performances and three-point shooting, the main takeaway from the weekend was the upper body strength gain made by Duval. It had been since August when I last saw Duval in person, but his svelte physique was immediately noticeable, one which he used to punish smaller guards with on several occasions.

Another powerful point guard was the 6’3” Paul Scruggs from Indiana who helped his Indy Hoosiers go 4-0 with four double-digit scoring performances. To go along with his muscular frame, Scruggs sports a long wing-span and decent quickness which allows him to attack the basket and convert inside the paint.

Five-star center Austin Wiley made his debut this weekend after being plagued with injuries throughout his high school career. Given his size and build, Wiley had a post advantage against most opponents. He averaged 10 points and just over 10 rebounds a game.

DC Premier is another team that went 4-0 to finish at 10-2 in the season. They were led by a three-headed monster of 2018 guard Prentiss Hubb, 2017 combo Naji Marshall, and 6’8” big man Nate Watson. Marshall impressed with his size and ability to attack the basket averaging 15 points per game. Hubb displayed his speed and vision getting baskets in the open court while also averaging 6.8 assists per game. Finally, improving big man Nate Watson from Bishop O’ Connell averaged 12.3 points and seven rebounds a game including an 18 and 11 performance to kick the weekend off. Watson has a powerful base to go along with a good set of hands. Most of his baskets came at the rim, but at one point he did knock down a 12-foot jumper off of the pick and roll. With his play in the spring Watson has received interest from Kansas, Maryland, Providence, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Marquette, Miami, and UNC and he plans on taking a few unofficial visits in June with Maryland being a definite visit.

Josh Anderson, a 6’5” guard from Louisiana was easily one of the top players over the weekend as he averaged 20 points a game including a 28-point performance against Duval’s We R One team. Anderson used his athletic ability to attack the rim and was able to score or get to the line on a consistent basis.

The Houston Defenders were another team that went 4-0. 6’5” Trevor Moore put on a shooting display Sunday morning knocking down five three’s in the first half. Point guard Cameron Mack is a bit on the under-rated side as he used his explosiveness to get into the lane at will and finally highly ranked Jaedon Ladee came off the bench and used his length to corral rebounds while finishing explosively around the rim.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Pre Combine Mock Draft Comparison

The NBA Draft is more than a month away, but with Mock Draft websites changing everyday it's time to compare the rankings of two well-established websites, DraftExpress and prior to the NBA Combine in Chicago. A lot of changes will occur over the next month, but as of right now there is a large discrepancy in draft pick opinions.

Starting with the No. 1 pick, DraftExpress has Brandon Ingram atop their board while Ben Simmons has been holding steady in the top spot for For the record, has Simmons as a -225 favorite to become the No. 1 pick. 

The top 10 picks are all relatively clustered together with Dragan Bender, Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield, and Jaylen Brown all taking top spots. Where a difference starts to initially occur is with the No. 8 and No.9 selections. has former Gonzaga big man Domantas Sabonis going No. 8, while DX has him going at 18. Vice versa for Henry Ellenson who DX has No. 9 and NBA has 17.

Once you start moving out of the lottery, there is a wide discrepancy on players. DX has a higher opinion on American players such as Demetrius Jackson and Wade Baldwin, while NBA is much higher on Dejounte Murray, Malik Beasley, Brice Johnson, and Malachi Richardson.

Another stark contrast compares when projecting the draft spot of international players. Dragan Bender and Furkan Korkmaz are slotted relatively in the same range, but it is obvious that DX thinks much more highly of the international prospects than Timothy Luwawu, the French swingman is a projected lottery pick per DX, but is only slotted in the late first per Also, players such as Ivica Zubacand, Petr Cornelle are projected first rounders per DX and not even listed on Finally, Chinese big man Zhou Qi sits at No. 28 in the DX first round.

Overall, the opinions between the two mock draft websites have a large variance. Once the lottery order is set and teams start hosting players for workouts the discrepancies will start to narrow.

Brandon Ingram12-1
Ben Simmons211
Dragan Bender330
Kris Dunn46-2
Jaylen Brown57-2
Jamal Murray651
Buddy Hield743
Jakob Poetl89-1
Henry Ellenson917-8
Skal Labissiere1012-2
Deyonta Davis11110
Marquese Chriss12102
Timothe Luwawu1325-12
Demetrius Jackson1435-21
Wade Baldwin1537-22
Denzel Valentine16160
Furkan Korkmaz17134
Domantas Sabonis18810
Tyler Ulis1933-14
Ivica Zubac2061-41
Taurean Prince2122-1
Damian James2226-4
Ante Zizic2345-22
Malik Beasley241410
Pat McCaw25241
Juan Hernandez2655-29
Petr Cornelle2761-34
Zhou Qi2846-18
DeAndre Bembry29272
Brice Johnson301812
Dejounte Murray311516
Chieck Diallo32239
Diamond Stone332112
Guerschon Yabusele34295
Stephen Zimmerman352015
Thon Maker392811
Caris Levert433013
Malachi Richardson531934