Commentary

Guards steal the show at National Prep Showcase

Originally Published: November 25, 2008
By Paul Biancardi and Antonio Williams | Scouts Inc.

The National Prep showcase featured the some of the nation's premier prep schools. What made this event so enjoyable is that it had a rare combination of great teams, talented individuals and some of the best coaching at the prep school level. The well-run event, put on by by Adam Finklelstein who publishes the "New England Recruiting Report," was set up in a single game format where schools would play anywhere from one to three games against a different opponent. There were many outstanding performances and surprises as many college coaches attended this event.

Standout Players

1 .Rashanti Harris, PF, (6-foot-8, 240 pounds)
The Patterson School (N.C.)

No one played with more intensity. Harris featured a strong work ethic and played every possession like it was his last. He is a powerful, tough, athletic power forward who dominates the paint with his rebounding at both ends of the floor. On the defensive glass, he puts his body on people then secures the ball with two hands looking for the the outlet pass. Offensively he attacks the backboard as if every shot is off and attempts to put-back misses. His hands are extremely strong so as he powers the ball back up to the rim, he carries opponents with him and scores through the contact. On one play, Harris took an offensive rebound and went up with one step and dunked it over a defender his size. That just shows how strong and powerful he is. Because his tenacious style of play sends him to the free throw line often, he must make an improvement with his free throw percentage. He has a jumper that is solid from 15 feet and will drive the ball going to his right from there as well. At Georgia State, he should be a career double-double(points-rebounds) player.

2.Avery Bradley, SG, (6-3, 180)
Findlay Prep (Nev.)

Avery Bradley
ReebokAvery Bradley is one of three standouts in Texas' 2009 recruiting class.
Bradley has all the tools and instincts to be a big-time scorer. His wiry, strong, athletic frame allows him to finish on the break.This ultra-competitive scoring guard can produce in transition or in the half court. He pushes the ball in transition with good straight line speed as he attacks the rim or pulls-up on a dime for his consistent jumper from 17-19 feet. He can knock down the 3-point shot with strong elevation and a beautiful release. When the defense closes out on his 3-point shot, he utilizes his shot fake, dribble, pull-up to perfection or will go all the way and finish at the rim. Bradley possesses a quick first step and blows past his defenders and demonstrates good body control on his pull-up jumper. He shows great instincts of taking what the defense gives him and scoring, but not forcing the issue. All of his mid-range jumpers were either off the dribble or catch-and-shoot. Defensively he guards the ball well using his lateral quickness to to effectively level off his opponent. Bradley is a big-time scorer who makes his team win. That's a combination they're going to love in Austin, Texas.

3. Cory Joseph, PG/G, (6-3, 180)
Findlay Prep (Nev.)

This high-level scoring point can do it all. He scores when needed, dishes out passes that lead to baskets and rebounds from the perimeter on the defensive end. His range on his jumper is well out to 22 feet with accuracy. Joseph makes open or contested 3's consistently. His long-range shot displays a great economy of motion where there is very little wasted effort when he prepares and releases his jumper. In transition, he has the confidence and ability to stop behind the arc and knock it down or take it all the way to the rim with a strong finish. From his dribble penetration Joseph sees the assist on his way to the basket and delivers the ball where his teammates can easily catch it and score. He uses his excellent athletic ability and good size to be a staunch defender. Joseph is slowly converting his game from a scoring guard to a scoring point guard as he creates and distributes effectively for his teammates.

4.Mike Marra, SG, (6-5, 190)
Northfield Mount Hermon (Mass.)

A pure shooting guard with NBA range who will stretch out defenses. Marra has great size and has the ability to look over defenders while focusing on his target from deep. He demonstrates the ability to break open a game with his 3-point shooting as he will shoot it often and with confidence in transition or the half court. When you watch his jumper, you see how he gets good elevation from his lower body and finishes with a high release and freezes on his follow through. When his teammates penetrate he spots up to a passing lane along the 3-point arc. Using multiple screens is another way in which Marra gets his 3s. With such a lethal shot, he needs to learn to use his shot fake more into a dribble pull-up. Opponents who are trying to stop him must have two simple rules -- never leave him and make him dribble to a shot. He went 9-for-17 from 3-point range (53 percent) and that is simply remarkable. Louisville got itself a big-time shooter.

5.Vincent Council, PG/G (6-2, 180)
The Paterson School (N.C.)

Council emerged as a point guard who stood among a group of talented players. He takes an outlet pass and pushes the ball up the floor with speed and vision. In the transition game, he advances the ball with speed dribbles to the middle of the floor or uses the throw-ahead pass to put pressure on the defense. He can go all the way to the rim in transition and score as well as find the open man, which makes him very valuable. With his dribble penetration to the basket, he uses a clever change of pace dribble to go by his defender while reading the help defense and finds the open man. In the half court, he can set up the offense and run the show for the coach and deliver the ball at the right time to his teammates. Council scores by making 3s when left open and exhibits a strong middle game as he possesses a dribble, pull-up jumper or a floater with good body control in the lane. He does an outstanding job of utilizing both of those middle game shots in a moment's notice during the game. Defensively, he can extend the pick-up point for his team with his speed and lateral quickness.

Surprise players

Dave Johnson, 5-9, PG
2009, Jackson, N.J.

Johnson, though small, makes up for any height that he gives up t the opposition by playing with a high level of effort and intensity. His high-octane style of plays serves as the ignition for his team's offense. Johnson has very good quickness and ball-handling skills, which he uses to penetrate into the lane, placing an immense amount of pressure on opposing defenses. His ability to craftily changes speeds off the dribble serves to keep defenders off balance as well in addition to enhancing his already good quickness. Johnson also possesses outstanding vision and passing skills, which he uses especially well off penetration, when he spots open interior players for easy lay-ins resulting from Johnson's drop-off passes in the paint. Johnson will make jumpers on the perimeter if left unattended, but he needs to improve his consistency from the outside. He has to continue to improve his decision-making with the ball in his hands as he has a tendency to over-penetrate and get himself into trouble amongst the trees inside. Johnson also leaves his feet to make passes and sometimes gets caught with no options which results in a turnover. Johnson will also have to add strength to his very thin frame to battle against teams that will look to take advantage of his lack of height.

Amath Mbaye, 6-7 SF
2009, Paris, France

Mbaye has very good touch and accuracy from the perimeter, easily connecting on jumpers with range that extends out to the 3-point line. He presents somewhat of a match-up problem due to his offensive versatility due to the fact that when guarded by smaller defender, he can shoot over them from the perimeter. He also has decent quickness and a nice first step, which allows him to take the ball to the bucket when teams try to guard him with a bigger, slower player. At this point, teams will have more success running Mbaye off the 3-point line and force him to put in on the floor, as he sometimes moves his feet before he puts the ball on the ground and travels. Mbaye also has a tendency to drive into traffic in the paint and will need to add a mid-range pull-up to his game, a tool that he should have major success with given his height and his good shooting stroke. Mbaye has a healthy mean streak which he exhibits throughout games, particularly on the defensive end when he guards a post player, constantly battling that opposing player and stopping him from establishing prime post positioning. Mbaye will become an even better defender once he becomes stronger.

Youssoupha Mbao, 7-2 C
2009, Dakar, Senegal

Mbao has a thin, wiry body, which he will have to improve on with added muscle and strength as he continues to develop for the next level. He possesses very good athleticism and dexterity, which allows him to change ends very well and become a serious factor in the fast-break game. Mbao has good length and blocks shots very well, especially as an on-ball defender. His ability to run the floor comes in very handy when he initiates a number of run-outs with his shot-blocking prowess. Mbao rebounds the ball relatively well on both ends, though having more strength and muscle will make him a great rebounder. He has a tendency to drift out on the perimeter at times, which serves to negate his impressive height and good athleticism, thus taking him out of position for easy scores close to the rim and rebounding. When he does get a rebound on the offensive end, he does a good job of using his length and relatively quick leaping ability to power up in traffic for finishes above the rim. Mbao's lack of strength causes him to sometimes get walked up the lane by stronger post defenders, forcing Mbao to operate from the mid-post. To his credit, he has solid foot-work and a nice turn-and-face move to drive to the bucket when he gets the ball in the mid-post area of the floor. Mbao has a tendency to let his emotions get the best of him during close games, causing his teammates to have to switch their focus from winning games to making sure that Mbao remains engages. He will have to alleviate this tendency for the next level as he will face tough competition of a daily basis in practice.

Danny Nieman, 6-3 PG
Post-Grad, Concord, N.C.

Nieman does not have elite quickness as a point guard, but he somehow finds a way to constantly disrupt opposing defenses by getting into the paint. When Nieman does put the ball on the floor, he looks almost exclusively to go right. Even if he starts out going left, he will ultimately come back to his right hand on his forays to the rim. Nieman will have to clean up the predictability in his game as college team will sit on his right hand and render his dribble-drive game ineffective. Nieman, if left unguarded on the perimeter, will connect on jumpers, but he favors to get into the paint or shoot jump shots off the dribble in the mid-range area of the floor. Nieman serves as the vocal leader of his team, consistently urging his teammates on, especially when his team suffers from lapses throughout the game. Nieman has good size and strength for a point guard, which he uses on both ends of the court to nullify his lack of lateral quickness. With his lack of quickness and good size, Nieman will benefit immensely from learning how to use his body and get defenders on his hip, then creating the separation that he needs with contact as opposed to blowing by defenders.

Maxie Esho, 6-7 PF
2010, Upper Marlboro, Md.

Esho, while not nearly a finished product, has an incredible amount of upside and room for development. His long frame has the capacity to add a significant amount of muscle, which will make him even stronger as he matures. Esho runs the floor well and can finish off the break very effectively and above the rim, given his length, athleticism, and good leaping ability. Esho also handles the ball well and when guarded by a bigger, slower opponents, Esho will put the ball on the floor on his way to the rim and will finish with authority, even in half-court sets. He does a very good job of using his length, hops, and big hands to grab rebounds in traffic, both in as well as out of his area. Esho's ball-handling-skills allow him to play as a combo-forward or face-up 4-man at this point of his career. He will have to continue to add strength to his frame, which will make him a better finisher in traffic when he cannot dunk the ball. Esho will also benefit from adding range and consistency to his perimeter jumper. With his impressive length, Esho should alter/block more shots than he did during these games.

Notes
• D.J. Richardson (Findlay Prep, Nev.) continues to improve. He had a very good summer for his AAU team (Illinois Warriors) and showed why he will be an immediate factor for Illinois next season. He shoots the 3 only when open, but has a terrific dribble, pull-up that is money from 15-17 feet. He has a quick first step to the basket and can get to the rim and score. What makes him really special on the offensive end is his ability to find the open teammate from his dribble penetration. Defensively, he tries to contest his opponents' jumpers while keeping his man out of the lane.

•  This event had 18 high-level teams that all have very talented players. After watching three days of basketball (21 games in all), it became apparent how poorly the free throw shooting was for young players. There were a total of 681 free throws attempted and only 420 were made. That's just 62 percent. Players need to spend more time before or after practice working on this basic skill and coaches need to emphasize it without going overboard as well.

• One should look no further than 6-10 C Kevin Laue (Pleasanton, Calif./Fork Union Military Academy), a post-grad prospect, when in need of a major inspiration boost. Laue's left arm, due to a complication at birth stops approximately one inch below his elbow, but make no mistake about it, Laue ranks as a serious interior prospect that could instantly help a number of low-major Division I programs. Laue has very lively legs, which allows him to change ends very well in transition. Laue has very quick leaping ability and good length which makes him a threat for tip-ins and put-backs on the offensive boards. He also does a very good job of contesting shots and battling opposing post players for position. Laue takes up space and plays very good position defense in the post.

• SG Laurent Rivard (Saint-Bruno, Quebec, Canada/Northfield Mount Hermon) has a very effective stroke, connecting with great regularity from well beyond 3-point land. He does a good job of passing the ball and has the versatility to initiate the offense as well as knock down shots. Rivard ranked as one of the better shooters throughout the event.

• G/F Martino Brock (Memphis, Tenn./Maine Central Institute) has good quickness which makes him an offensive force off the dribble. Brock will have to improve the accuracy and the rotation on his perimeter shot, but he puts pressure on defenses with his solid middle game. Brock also does a good job when he focuses on defense, but he needs to keep his attention on defending for the entire game.

• PF/C Hassan Whiteside (Gastonia, N.C./Patterson School) has a very nice skill-set, with the ability to score in the paint as well as step away for jump shots. He needs to get stronger to become a better scorer with his back to the basket, but he runs very well and has good length, which makes him a very attractive post prospect.

• SG Freddie Riley (Ocala, Fla./Hargrave Military Academy) makes incredibly difficult, contested shots at a very high rate, due to his quick first-step and relatively good athleticism. However, he has to alleviate his tendency to take those difficult shots at a high rate, which would serve to take away some of the streakiness in his game.

• PF Thomas Robinson (Washington, D.C./Brewster Academy) struggled to demonstrate his diverse offensive game and convert shots on the offensive end. He also battled foul-trouble throughout game action, but to his credit, Robinson continued to display his impressive rebounding skills and ferocious tenacity to control the glass on both ends.

• C Rashad Wright (Agawam, Mass./South Kent School) did a very effective of using his size and length to control the glass when he saw game action. He did a very good job of contesting shots when he played. Wright has good athleticism and changes ends very well. He just needs to continue to remain focused and engaged whenever he steps on the court and keep his effort level consistent.

Antonio Williams is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He previously worked as an NBA scout for Marty Blake Associates.
Paul Biancardi, who spent 2007-08 as an assistant coach on Rick Majerus' staff at Saint Louis University, is the national recruiting director for ESPN Scouts Inc. He has 18 years of coaching experience at the Division I level. He was an assistant at Boston University, Boston College and Ohio State before becoming the head coach at Wright State, where he earned Horizon League coach of the year honors in the 2003-04 season. He is a member of the selection committees for the McDonald's All-American Game and Gatorade Player of the Year award.

Paul Biancardi

Basketball Recruiting

Antonio Williams

Basketball Recruiting
Antonio Williams is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He previously worked as an NBA scout for Marty Blake Associates.

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