- Antonio Williams, Basketball Recruiting
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AKRON, Ohio -- The parity among the top teams at the 2008 King James Shooting Stars Classic resulted in a number of close games. The tournament was a showcase of some of the most highly regarded players in the country and some very talented prospects who have just started to develop into household names on the national recruiting scene. Some undeclared 2008 players also participated in the event.
The championship game in the 17-and-under open division pitted BABC from Boston against the Rising Stars of Chicago. BABC was guided to a championship by the leadership and skills of explosive 5-foot-9 PG Phil Pressey (Ashburnham, Mass.). Pressey has incredible athleticism and quickness, which makes him a terror in the open court. He gets the ball up the court in a hurry, and with his great vision, he easily spots open teammates filling lanes on the break. If defenders underestimate him because of his small stature, he will rise in the air quickly with the ability to finish over bigger players with a dunk.
In the half court, Pressey handles the ball well enough and has the quickness to create offense for himself and his teammates. When the shot clock dwindles to its waning moments, he has the ability to make nothing into something. If the defense sags, Pressey can hit the jumper with range well beyond the 3-point line, but he needs to become more consistent from the outside. However, he impresses most with his disposition and temperament, which make him perfectly suited for the point guard position. His demeanor rarely changes, but he has become more vocal with teammates, and they feed off the confidence he exhibits. Pressey's awareness and basketball IQ continue to improve, both important aspects for a point guard.
The Rising Stars rode the hot shooting of 6-foot-6 SF Nik Garcia (Skokie, Ill.) to the title game. He has an effortless stroke and will pull from well beyond 3-point land in an instant. He has very little wasted motion on his shot and a nice follow-through, shooting as well as any perimeter prospect in this tournament.
Although Garcia shoots the 3-ball with a high rate of consistency, he tends to shoot it almost exclusively, sometimes ignoring his off-the-dribble game. Once he improves his midrange game and adds a pull-up jumper to his arsenal, he will keep defenders off-balance, which will free him up for more long-range bombs. Also, doing more work off the dribble will get him to the free-throw line, giving him more opportunities to score points and gain confidence if his perimeter shot abandons him at times. He rebounds the ball well from the guard spot and plays decent defense. He will become an even better defender and rebounder with added strength.
Garcia probably will make a decision on where he will play his college ball in September; at this time, Southern Illinois and Iowa lead the way. However, with his increased level of play, more schools have started recruiting him. Illinois State, Minnesota, Marquette, Georgia Tech, Alabama, Michigan and Penn State have all expressed interest.
2009 prospect 6-foot-7 PF Thomas Robinson (Washington, D.C.) played with an incredible amount of passion and exuberance on the floor. He runs the floor very well, initiating many fast breaks for his team with either a defensive rebound or blocked shot, then running the floor for the finish at the other end. Robinson has good footwork in the post and can finish with both hands. His quick leaping ability, coupled with his never-ending motor, lead to a number of offensive rebounds. He plays with a healthy chip on his shoulder. As his body fills out, he will become an even more intimidating inside presence. Currently Robinson has no favorite; he lists Georgetown, George Washington, Kentucky, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Virginia Tech as his schools of interest at this point.
Power forward Alex Oriakhi (Tilton, N.H.) has the ability to dominate a game on both ends of the court. However, he has to keep his emotions in check and not quit on the defense end -- even when he does not get the ball as much as he wants on offense. When dialed in, Oriakhi, through quick leaping and reaction skills, controls the boards on both ends of the court and shuts down the lane on defense through blocking and contesting shots, which will make him a great success at the next level at the University of Connecticut. His offensive post game continues to improve; he just has to motivate himself to play up to his vast potential whenever he steps on the court.
Another 2009 UConn commit, 6-foot-6 SF Jamal Coombs-McDaniel (Tilton, N.H.), had a strong tournament. He shot the ball well, particularly from the perimeter, throughout the event. He has a strong body and good size for the small forward position and needs to continue to take advantage of smaller defenders. Coombs-McDaniel has good body control when he goes to the basket, but he has a tendency to adjust in the air to avoid blocks too much instead of using his good size and strength to sustain contact and finish. He always communicates on the court and will have to keep his defense intensity up; he allowed his man to beat him off the dribble on occasion.
2010 prospect 6-foot-3 SG Gerald Coleman (West Roxbury, Mass.) has the ability to score in a variety of ways. This lefty has range on his jumper that extends out to 3-point territory, but he has to become more consistent from the perimeter. As he matures, he will become more consistent with better shot selection. Coleman really excels driving to the basket with his quick first step. At the basket, his leaping ability and length help him finish effectively. Although he is slight in build right now, this 2010 prospect has very broad shoulders, which means he has the frame to fill out considerably. Coleman will enroll at Tilton in New Hampshire and should start garnering attention from major programs in the near future.
Small forward Titus Robinson (Charlotte, N.C.) has an impressive, diversified offensive game. He can hit the perimeter shot from deep and take defenders off the dribble; Robinson can go all the way to the rack or pull up for the nice midrange jumper. Robinson has very good leaping ability and a quick first step. As he adds more strength and muscle to his frame, he will become very tough to defend. Robinson will take his smooth offensive game to Buffalo next season, where he has the potential to develop into a program-changing player.
2009 perimeter prospect, 6-4 SG Eric May (Dubuque, Iowa), plays the game with a high level of intensity. May, a high-major football recruit, brings his football mentality to the basketball court, initiating contact from the perimeter. May skillfully works off the dribble, creating shots with his quickness and physical approach from the guard spot. He can also pull up for a midrange jumper off one or two dribbles. He gets to the free-throw line a great deal because of his ability to initiate contact. Although May can make his own shot almost seemingly any time he wants, he stays within the offensive most of the time and passes willingly. He never takes a play off, exerting relentless aggression on every possession. May wants to play basketball in college and could start hearing from high-major programs for basketball very soon.
Shooting guard Jarrell Eddie (Concord, N.C.) can score from just about anywhere on the court. Eddie has a smooth stroke, easily connecting with good range on his jumper. If defenders push up on him, Eddie has the quickness and athleticism to drive past them. He also has a nice pull-up, midrange jump shot, which makes him tough to guard. Eddie has a tendency to get out of control and should pass a little more. However, he can score on most defenders. He also plays good defense, bothering guards with his length -- he stands at 6-foot-6 -- and quickness. At this point in his recruiting process, Eddie has no favorites. He does, however, list Clemson and Georgia as schools of interest.
Combo-forward Reece Uhlenhopp (Urbandale, Iowa) has the ability to score from the perimeter or in the paint. Standing 6-foot-7, he often surprises big, slower defenders with his quickness and dribbling skills. He also has a left-handed jump shot that extends out to the 3-point line. He can take smaller defenders to the block, but he should do that more instead of relying on his jumper so much. Uhlenhopp plays decent defense and gives good effort on the floor.
Six-foot-11 PF Mason Plumlee (Arden, N.C.) has a very impressive skill set for a big man. He has the dexterity and ballhandling skills to take his man to the basket from the perimeter. Plumlee also has range on his jumper and can hit the 3-point shot, runs the floor very well and has good leaping ability. As a turn-and-face, finesse big man, Plumlee should have success at Duke.
Another talented 2009 big man, 6-foot-10 PF/C Mouphtaou Tarou (Woodstock, Va.), has emerged on the national scene as a rapidly improving post prospect. He can hit the 12-foot jump shot, but he excels around the basket with his solid back-to-the-basket game. Tarou has decent post moves, but he can add a few more as he develops in that area. He has good athleticism and runs the floor relatively well. He has a decent body and can increase his rebounding output as he gets better.
Six-foot-7 SG Khris Middleton (North Charleston, S.C.) has an undeniably quick release on his lethal jump shot. He can connect from 3-point land whether under duress or when left open. Middleton also can score off the bounce, though he prefers shooting from deep. To continue to improve, Middleton needs to work on his midrange game and add strength to his frame.
2009 prospect 5-foot-10 PG Carl "Tay" Jones (Garfield Heights, Ohio) can flat-out score. Although he's small, he does not fear going into the paint among the trees, relying on a good floater and his ability to adjust in the air for layups. Jones has great quickness and causes problems by getting into the teeth of the defense. He also can nail the jumper on the pull-up or from 3. He has supreme confidence in his scoring ability, which sometimes causes him to force shots. Clemson, Iowa, Penn State, Oregon State, Saint Joseph's, Texas Tech and a host of other schools have shown interest in Jones.
Six-foot-11 center Zeke Marshall (McKeesport, Pa.) continues to make strides as a big man. He has unbelievable shot-blocking ability, using his great length, jumping ability and closing speed to block shots out of his area. Marshall has to get stronger in the upper and lower body to keep from getting pushed up the block when he posts up on offense. As he develops his body and post moves, he should dominate on the offensive end in the same manner in which he dominates defensively.
Dan Jennings, a 6-foot-8 center (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), has the motor to develop into a dominant force in the paint. He has a ton of room for offensive improvement -- he needs to add post moves to his game. He attacks the rim with purpose, attempting to dunk anything and everything around the basket. Jennings plays actively on defense by contesting all shots, which sometimes results in foul trouble. He runs the court very well, will finish on the break and hits the boards on both ends. Jennings has a very developed body and does not mind throwing his weight around in the paint.
Six-foot-11 center Jordan Henriquez (Port Chester, N.Y.) gets out in transition and finishes on the break. He has good leaping ability and timing, which helps him to block shots effectively. Henriquez can step away from the basket and connect on the jump shot from 15 feet. As he adds weight, strength and improves his post moves, he could make a huge impact at a high-major school.
Shooting guard Maurice Creek (South Kent, Conn.) has a sweet perimeter game, smoothly scoring off the dribble in the midrange area. He can hit from 3-point territory, but he needs to become more consistent from outside. Creek also gets to the rim, but he needs to add more strength and muscle to become better equipped to handle the contact in the paint and still finish. Creek passes the ball very well and has good vision. He also plays good defense using his length to bother guards.
C.J. Harris (Winston Salem, N.C.) is a 6-foot-2 point guard who can create offense off the dribble effectively. He has a quick first step and good ballhandling ability, which helps him put pressure on the defense. He also has good leaping ability and can finish above the rim with ease. Harris has a decent jumper, but he could improve in that area. On the plus side, he does a good job creating shots for his teammates.
Six-foot-6 SG Reggie Bullock (Kinston, N.C.) has nice length and a good body, which helps him slash to the basket consistently. He struggles a little when forced to shoot from the perimeter. Bullock plays the tough, in-your-face defense many elite prospects seem to shy away from playing. He has a tremendous amount of room for development and will get better as he matures.
Six-foot-5 SF Tashawn Mabry (Rocky Mount, N.C.) has a nice inside-outside offensive game. With his developed body and good strength, he can score on the block and surprises defenders with his left-handed finishes. Mabry also shoots the ball decently from the perimeter, but he needs to continue to improve his perimeter game. Mabry plays with a high level of energy and has very good leaping ability, which helps him block shots very effectively for his height. He can become a very physical defensive presence on the perimeter as he develops as a wing player.
Antonio Williams is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He previously worked as an NBA scout for Marty Blake Associates.
Guard Phil Pressey led Boston-based BABC to the title at the 2008 King James Shooting Stars Classic, writes Antonio Williams.