Saturday, November 22, 2014

National Prep Showcase: Day 1

Each year the National Prep Showcase brings in the high school basketball season. A three day tournament held at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, CT brings many of the top prep powers together. College coaches gather in hope of finding an unknown prospect and talented players try to get that next offer. The 2014 kicked off with an overtime game won by Notre Dame Prep and continued with six more games throughout the day. 

Top Players:

Danjel Purifoy, 6’7”, SF, Hargrave Military Academy, 2015, Auburn
Purifoy was a man amongst boys in his first game of the Prep Showcase. Known for his physical strength and slashing abilities, Purifoy played to these attributes early on. With a powerful right hand dribble, Purifoy attacked the basket consistently. In the second half, he hit back to back deep three’s showing a new look to his game. Next year Purifoy will head to Auburn and there is no doubt that he will be an impact player from the get go. He finished with 29 points and 8 rebounds on 10-19 shooting and 4-7 from three.

Tremont Waters, 5’10”, PG, South Kent School, 2017
Waters put his name on the map at this tournament last year with clutch shooting. This year, South Kent School belonged to the older and more confident Waters. Despite just being a diminutive sophomore, Waters controlled the ball and the game for South Kent. Not the quickest of guards, Waters uses hesitation dribbles and constant pace changes to get into the lane for lay-ups or assists. In the first half he hit a three but also had a propensity to force shots at times with his increased role. He finished 1-7 from behind the arc and was a bit careless at times getting called for a carry in the second half. For the game Waters finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, and 7 turnovers on 6-19 shooting.

Trey Grundy, 6’8”, PF, Hargrave, 2015, UNC Wilmington
A strong and powerful forward, the UNC Wilmington commit put together a strong game with 21 points and 8 rebounds on 9-13 shooting. Grundy finished down low and also attacked the basket off the dribble from the high post. He was often over-shadowed in AAU play and that trend continues on a talented Hargrave team, but on Friday Grundy was a dominant force around the basket.  

Omari Spellman, 6’8”, PF, MacDuffie, 2016
A Kennedy Meeks look alike, Spellman put up 21 points and 8 rebounds in a losing effort. Looking slimmer than when he was at the Global Challenge, Spellman beat his man off the dribble several times in the low post for baskets. While his three point shot was off, his soft touch was on display when his coach selected him to shoot any technical fouls that came up throughout the course of the game. Spellman still gets winded a little too easy and just like Meeks, will need to continue to work on his body.

Kealen Ives, 5’9”, PG, Putnam Science Academy, 2015, Rider
In all of the Friday games, Ives was the best coach on the floor. He quickly picked up the opponents half-court and out-of-bounds sets and instructed his teammates where to go. He also stepped up his scoring in the second half with several crucial late baskets to push his team to a victory. Ives hit several pull-up jump shots from 15 feet and also added in a three off the dribble finishing with 14 points, 5 assists, and 0 turnovers. 

Andrew Robinson, 6’6”, SG, Putnam Science Academy, 2015, Quinnipiac
Robinson was lighting up the arc in the second to last game. He hit three first half three’s against IMG Academy and then added two more in the second half. Robinson preferred letting it fly from the wings and had range several feet beyond the arc. In addition, Robinson showed a great vertical when spotting up for the deep outside shots. He also proved much more than a shooter with athleticism and a quick first step to get to the basket. 

Quadree Smith, 6’7”, PF, IMG Academy, 2015
Smith used to play for Paul VI in Fairfax, VA and was a steadily improving big man on a talented team. Despite being undersized for his position, Smith has always used his body well to create space and has soft hands and light feet around the basket. Smith came off the bench for IMG and was a difference maker finishing with a monster double-double of 21 points and 14 rebounds.

Left Wanting More:

Steven Enoch, 6’8”, PF, St. Thomas Moore, 2015, UCONN
Talented big man Steven Enoch blew up in the spring and summer and didn’t take long committing to his hometown UConn Huskies once the offer came. In his early afternoon game, Enoch started the game with a pretty three from the right wing. Showing good body control and agility it looked like Enoch was set to dominate throughout the game. Unfortunately foul trouble and a shortness of breath hampered his ability. Not in tip top shape, Enoch was forced to come out for continuous breathers when he wasn’t in foul trouble. He certainly has the size and skill to dominate, but Enoch did not perform up to his high potential on Friday. He’ll have another shot as St. Thomas Moore has the first game of the morning on Saturday. 

Biggest Mismatch:

Northfield Mount Hermon vs. Lee Academy
The fifth of seven games was over just a few minutes in. Northfield Mount Hermon jumped to a quick 15-2 lead which was stretched to a 41-16 halftime lead. It didn’t matter that senior forward Josh Sharma (Stanford) was out with a fractured wrist as the four out one in offense flowed seamlessly. Northwestern bound Aaron Falzon rained three’s from well beyond the NBA arc and the two powerful guard in senior Jashanti Allen and senior Dequon Ervin penetrated at will. 6’10” Collin McManus (Penn) also got into the action with a fundamental left hand hook shot. 

Other Notes:

Leroy Butts, from the DC area has landed at Elev8te prep in Florida after stints at Bishop O’Connell (VA) and Riverdale Baptist (MD). In the first half, Butts hit a nice one footed fade-away over a smaller defender but was relatively quiet after that. Butts lives in the mid-range and while he caught several passes in the high post he didn’t affect the game as expected. 

Future Ole Miss guard JT Esobar isn’t afraid to let the outside shots fly. The 6’0” guard from Florida scored 18 points in a losing effort and was more than just an outside shooter as he crashed the boards on numerous possessions. 

Junior guard Christian Vital from South Kent finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds and was the spark plug off the bench in a win. His defensive intensity also frustrated the opposing guards. 

Kamau Stokes from Fork Union Military Academy led the way on Day 1 with 33 points on 9-14 shooting.

Friday, November 14, 2014

2014-15 ACC Preview

ACC preview brought to you by Sean Moran and Stephen Kalayil:

Stephen Kalayil's Predictions

1. Louisville: In the toughest conference in college hoops, the Louisville Cardinals are my top team by the slimmest of margins. Replacing a player the caliber of Russ Smith is a tall order for most teams, but with budding sophomore star guard Terry Rozier and defensive ace, Chris Jones, the Cards backcourt might be better than last year. Obviously, the leader and preseason ACC POY Montrezl Harrell will be the key to this team. Harrell, known for his rim rocking jams and defensive intensity has added a mid range game to his arsenal. With that addition, I don’t see a big man in the country outside of Jahlil Okafor and Frank Kaminsky that could guard him one on one. Two big keys this season are the production of Wayne Blackshear in his senior season and the development of redshirt sophomore center Mangok Mathiang. If Blackshear and Mathiang pan out, the ACC better watch out. 
2. Duke:  Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones were just what Duke needed to become national title contenders. Okafor is projected as the #1 overall pick in the next NBA draft and Tyus Jones along with Quinn Cook will help from one of the best backcourts in the country.  Marshall Plumlee, Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson along with Quinn Cook look to be the sage veterans that can mentor the freshman duo. Watch out for fellow freshman Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen to be solid contributors this year on a deep Duke squad.

3. UNC: Marcus Paige is easily the best scoring guard in the nation and will lead UNC to be a title contender. Paige averaged 18.7 PPG and had some of his best performances against high profile teams (Louisville, Kentucky, Duke, Syracuse).   The incoming class of Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson will make an immediate impact and help ease the loss of James Michael McAdoo and the memories of the mercurial PJ Hairston.  The big keys to UNC’s season are the development of uber athletic forward Brice Johnson and the ultra skilled Kennedy Meeks. Both players had their moments last season, but need to be consistent for the Tar Heels to succeed. Also, if Isaiah Hicks can live up to his potential, UNC will have all the weapons to win it all.  

4. Virginia: The defending ACC champs will be returning the majority of their Sweet Sixteen team and will be able to make a run at the Final Four under Tony Bennett. I think UVA has the experience and great coaching to be considered with Louisville, Duke and UNC, but I do think the losses of Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell are going to hurt much more than most think. Look for Malcolm Brogdon, Justin Anderson and Mike Tobey to step up and lead UVA to a deep tourney run.  

5. Syracuse: The Orange are going to be tough this season with senior big man Rakeem Christmas and sharpshooting Trevor Cooney leading the way.  The big factors are if talented freshman Chris McCullough and Kaleb Joseph are able to step in and contribute immediately. One interesting player to keep an eye on is Indiana transfer Ron Patterson. Patterson has a versatile game and could be able to contribute immediately.      

POY: Montrezl Harrell (UofL)

Freshman of the Year: Jahlil Okafor (Duke)

Montrezl Harrell (UofL) (F)
Marcus Paige (UNC) (G)
Jahlil Okafor (Duke) (C)
Olivier Hanlan (BC) (F)
Jerian Grant (Notre Dame) (G)

Surprise Freshman: Xavier Rathan-Mayes (FSU)
Surprise Player: Angel Rodriguez (Miami)

Most interesting thing you are looking to learn about the conference.  I’m interested to see the slugfest between Louisville, UNC, Duke and UVA. All of those teams have the tools to not just get to the Final Four, but to cut down the nets in March. Okafor vs. Harrell, Rozier vs. Paige, Paige vs. Tyus Jones are all individual matchups that I’m hyped to see.  Also, I’m curious to see who emerges from the middle of the pack of the ACC. Florida State, NC State, Pitt, Notre Dame and Miami are all excellent teams that can cause problems and make the NCAA tourney.  

Sean Moran's Top 5 Questions:

1. Will the ACC as a whole be any good?
Yes, yes, I know the ACC is now the “top” conference in college hoops with prestigious programs such as Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, and Louisville in the mix. Add in a Top 10 UVA squad and have some serious competition. I am talking about the other part of the ACC. The part that was pretty much god awful last year outside of four to six programs. Last year Miami, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, BC, and Virginia Tech were all pushovers. Three of those schools got new coaches and Miami and Notre Dame welcome back returning players (Jerian Grant) or talented transfers. For the ACC to truly be the top conference in the country the pushovers will need to step their game up.

2. Will Virginia lose a home game in conference play?
The Cavaliers have gone two straight years without a loss in conference play while playing in John Paul Jones Arena. That’s 17 straight games which covers last year’s ACC championship winning season and the 2012-13 NIT season. The Cavs last lost in late February and early March of 2012 when they fell to UNC 51-54 and then Florida State 60-63. The first big test will come on Saturday, January 31 with a home game against Duke. The Cavs then head to Chapel Hill before returning home to play Louisville. 

3. How will Louisville cope in the post Russ Smith era?
The last three years were good to Cards fans. A final four, a championship, and a sweet 16 performance with Russ Smith leading the way. Last year he averaged 18.2 points per game and took a team high 481 shots (100+ more than the next closest starter). Sure, the Cardinals have a lot of returning pieces to work with including Montrezl Harrell and projected first round pick in Terry Rozier, but the loss of a three year beast cannot be understated. Add in a move to the ACC and how will the Cards fare in their first year without Russ.

4. Which player will surprise?
Last year Malcolm Brogdon was the conference surprise. He was UVA’s most consistent scorer and finished on the second team all-conference list. Who could surprise this year? Let’s stay with the Cavs for a minute. I think Anthony Gill has a legit shot at making first team all-ACC. The athletic power forward really came on at the end of the year scoring in double figures for six straight games before a sweet 16 loss to Michigan State. If he didn’t get hurt in that game, the Cavs might have won. With more playing time, the former Top 100 recruit will certainly surprise some people. Other possibilities include Isaiah Hicks of UNC and Michael Young of Pittsburgh.

5. Can N.C. State replace the POY?
Last year N.C. State went 9-9 in conference play and snuck into the NCAA tourney. TJ Warren led the way as he pretty much carried the Wolfpack with 24.9 points per game on 52.5% shooting. This year some of the younger players will need to step up. Cat Barber has the keys to the car with the transfer of Tyler Lewis and Trevor Lacey is a key transfer. Can Kyle Washington, Beejay Anya, and Abdul-Malik Abu handle things down low?

Surprise predictions:
Anthony Gill makes first team All-ACC and Justin Jackson gives Okafor a run for his money in freshman of the year voting. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

How Many Five-Star Recruits From 2011 Are Left?

Rating high school players is an in-exact science. Just look at the recruiting rankings for 2011. In total gave 27 players a five-star ranking and as we get set to enter the 2014-15 college basketball season there are only six of those five-star players remaining. Anthony Davis was the No. 1 ranked recruit and he certainly lived up to the billing leading Kentucky to a championship during his only season in college and is now an elite player in the NBA. Teams spent high draft picks on other members of the 2011 draft class with varying degrees of success including Andre Drummond, Bradley Beal, Austin Rivers, and Cody Zeller. Other five-star players were not so lucky. James Michael McAdoo went undrafted after three years at UNC and Marquis Teague is out of the NBA after getting drafted in the late first round in 2012. After 27 players were deemed five-star recruits just 11 are in the NBA (including Quincy Miller who was recently waived by the Nuggets) while 10 are out of the league (or in the D-League), and 6 are still in college. For the remaining college players, they still have one season left to impress NBA scouts. 

No. 9 - LeBryan Nash, 6’6”, SF, Oklahoma State

The highest rated prospect of the 2012 class still in college. The athletic wing expected to be a one and done player, but is now a senior for the Cowboys. He spent part of his freshman season injured and averaged 13.3 points and 5 rebounds per game. His field goal attempts have decreased each year and his efficiency has risen. As a junior Nash averaged 13.9 points and 5.5 rebounds with a 109.5 ORtg. He had some big games in league play including a 29 point performance against West Virginia, but Nash only managed to score 6 points in a first round loss to Gonzaga last year. Heading into his season year, Nash was named Honorable Mention All-Big 12.

No. 14 – Branden Dawson, 6’6”, SF, Michigan State

Last year Dawson was the third leading scorer for an underachieving Spartans squad. This year he will be “the man” for a relatively inexperienced Michigan State team. Despite missing nine league games in a row last year, Dawson scored in double figures as Michigan State cruised to the Big 10 tournament title. The athletic wing had monster games in the tournament against Harvard and Virginia but struggled mightily in a low scoring loss to UConn in the Elite 8. Dawson finished his junior season averaging 11.2 points and 8.3 rebounds to go along with a 123.3 ORtg. Dawson received votes for the AP preseason All-American team, but he was not named to the All-Big ten first team. In his three year career Dawson is 0-9 from the three point line. Will he hit his first as a senior?

No. 17 – Wayne Blackshear, 6’5”, G/F, Louisville

Blackshear has a championship to his name, but he has not experienced the type of career that many expected coming out of the Windy City. He lost most of his freshmen year to injury and then played 20.1 minutes a game as a sophomore and 19.6 last year. He averaged 7.6 points as a sophomore and 8.2 points last year. With Russ Smith no longer in the line-up will Blackshear become a consistent double-digit scorer for the Cardinals?

No. 21 – Rakeem Christmas, 6’9”, Power Forward, Syracuse

Christmas has been one of the anchors in Syracuse’s 2-3 zone over the last two seasons averaging almost two blocks per game. As a freshman Christmas averaged 11.5 minutes and just 2.8 points per game. His playing time doubled; however he only averaged 5.8 points and 5.1 rebounds a game as a senior. With the loss of three starters, Christmas will be expected to steady a Cuse team in the beginning part of the year.

No. 24 – Kyle Wiltjer, 6’10”, Small Forward, Gonzaga

Wiltjer spent his first two years at Kentucky. The first winning a championship in minimal minutes and the second with a first round loss in the NIT. The Oregon native averaged 10.2 points and shot 37% from behind the arc during his sophomore season. With a much ballyhooed freshmen class arriving in Lexington, Wiltjer decided to transfer back to the Pacific Northwest. After sitting out a red-shirt year, he will join an extremely experienced and talented Gonzaga team that is ranked No. 13 in the nation by the AP voters.  

No. 27 – Dorian Finney-Smith, 6’8”, Small Forward, Florida

Finney-Smith was the biggest name recruit to sign with Virginia Tech and he decided to leave Blacksburg after his freshman year. The talented small forward sat out the 2012-12 season and played 25.8 minutes per game for the Gators who were ranked as the top team in the country for most of the year. With his role expected to increase as a junior, Finney-Smith will need to improve on his 37% field goal percentage. As a sophomore he averaged 8.7 points and 6.7 rebounds a game. 

RankSchool, HometownHgt / WgtSchoolYrs in NCAA?NBA?Notes
1Anthony Davis6-9/190Kentucky 1YNo. 1 pick, soon to be NBA All-Star, Avg 24.4 pts, 12.8 rbs, 4.4 bpg
2Andre Drummond6-11/265Connecticut 1YNo. 9 pick, Avg 10.4 rbs per game for Pistons and 10.8 ppg
3Austin Rivers6-5/180Duke 1YNo. 10 pick, averaging 21 minutes and 7 ppg, struggled in first two years.
4Quincy Miller6-9/195Baylor 1YNo. 38 pick, recently waived by Nuggets, interest from Lakers
5James Michael McAdoo6-8/220North Carolina 3NCut by Golden State after going undrafted
6Michael Kidd-Gilchrist6-6/190Kentucky 1YNo. 2 pick, 9.4 pts and 5.6 rebounds in third season
7Brad Beal6-3/180Florida 1YNo. 3 pick, Currently injured, shined in playoffs last year for the Wiz
8Marquis Teague6-1/165Kentucky 1NNo. 29 pick, cut by Nets, selected 9th in the NBA D-League draft
9LeBryan Nash6-6/210/13.6Oklahoma State 4CSenior at Oklahoma State
10Adonis Thomas6-6/190Memphis 2NWaived by Pacers, played a total of 6 games in the NBA
11Myck Kabongo6-2/170Texas 2NUndrafted, plays for Fort Wayne Mad Ants in the D-League
12Kentavious Caldwell-Pope6-6/175Georgia 2YNo. 8 pick (2013), Avg 13.4 ppg for Pistons, but just a 10.0 PER
13Cody Zeller6-10/210Indiana 2YNo. 4 (2013), 23 minutes and 9 pts per game in 2014
14Branden Dawson6-6/210Michigan State 4CSenior at Michigan State
15Khem Birch6-8/210Pittsburgh --> UNLV3NUndrafted in 2014 draft
16Josiah Turner6-3/175Arizona 1NLos Angeles D-Fenders D-League
17Wayne Blackshear6-5/215Louisville 4CSenior at Louisville
18Jabari Brown6-5/200Oregon --> Missouri3NUndrafted, Waived by Lakers
19Tony Wroten6-4/170Washington 1YNo. 25 pick, playing for worst team in the NBA, but avg's 22.5 ppg, 7 apg, and 4.5 rpg
20Jarnell Stokes6-8/250Tennessee 3NGrizzlies assigned to Iowa Energy - D League
21Rakeem Christmas6-9/230Syracuse 4CSenior at Syracuse
22P.J. Hairston6-5/230North Carolina 2YPlayed in D-League last year and drafted by Hornets in 1st round in 2014.
23B.J. Young6-2/160Arkansas 2NUndrafted, plays for the Delaware 87ers D-League
24Kyle Wiltjer6-9/225Kentucky --> Gonzaga4CJunior at Gonzaga
25Chane Behanan6-7/240Louisville 3NRio Grande Valley Vipers D-League
26Rodney Hood6-7/185Mississippi State --> Duke3YRookie with the Jazz. Averaging 15 minutes and 4 ppg.
27Dorian Finney-Smith6-7/190Virginia Tech --> Florida4CJunior at Florida

Oh yeah, let's not forget about players that have outplayed their high school ranking. Some players that played above their four-star ranking out of high school included Nick Johnson (#29), Otto Porter (#30), Michael Carter-Williams (#35), Ryan Boatright (#77), and Trey Burke (#94).