- Joel Francisco
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Each year, the basketball fans of West Virginia brave the cold temperatures to take in the Mountain State Coal Classic, an event held in Beckley, W.Va., that draws some of the top local talent as well as some nationally ranked teams. This year's event was headlined by Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.), the No. 2 team in the ESPN RISE FAB 50, led by top 15 prospect Keith Gallon. Local favorite Mountain State Academy, another team that has gained national attention recently, had a chance to showcase some talented players of its own, including top 20 prospect Deniz Kilicli and Super 60 guard Noah Cottrill.
However, Oak Hill High School of West Virginia (not the formidable Oak Hill Academy) stole the show in a spirited contest against Wyoming East, another solid program in the state of West Virginia. These two teams battled in what easily amounted to the most entertaining, hotly contested game of the event with Wyoming East surviving a late charge by Oak Hill High School to come out with the victory.
Dante Taylor, PF, 6-9
Senior, Greenburgh, N.Y./National Christian Academy (Md.)
Taylor impacts the game most effectively when he does not venture too far away from the basket. When he stays near the rim, Taylor uses his athleticism to make plays for his team. When he makes quick moves in the paint, Taylor has the ability to score with his back to the basket, though he needs to continue to improve his footwork and post moves, preferring to post almost exclusively on the right block. He has a decent jump hook using his right hand while turning over his left shoulder. Taylor needs to improve his ability to finish while taking contact in traffic, which he will usually encounter in the paint. He also needs to utilize his explosiveness in the paint, sometimes making himself smaller by releasing shots on the way down or at odd angles, instead of powering up strong. Although he's a right-hander, Taylor can finish near the rim with his left hand. He will try to use his quickness to play on the perimeter at times in an attempt to drive past slower post defenders, however, Taylor has to improve in this area. He has a tendency to try to do too much, which usually results in turnovers coming from his weak ball-handling skills. He also needs to improve his shooting range and form; he shoots the ball with his elbow out too far. Taylor hits the boards well on both ends and uses his quick second jump to grab offensive rebounds and score. He runs the court well, but he has a tendency to jog back when he misses a shot or turns the ball over.
Brett Ervin, PF, 6-7
Clarksburg, W.Va./Robert C. Byrd
Ervin does not have elite athleticism or quickness, but he plays the game very effectively using his impressive feel for the game and high basketball IQ. He shoots the ball from the perimeter with great consistency, and his shooting touch will allow him to have his most success on the next level as a face-up power forward. Ervin has range that easily extends out to the 3-point line and he has a very high, rather quick release. He tends to miss only when he does not finish his shot by holding his follow-through. Ervin will try to work off the dribble, but he needs to improve his ball-handling skills as well as his lateral quickness; he tends to have problems when he puts the ball on the floor to score. Ervin excels as a passer and has excellent court vision, especially from the high post, easily delivering passes down low to posting big men. He has the ability to score almost at will on his current level of competition, but Ervin does not force shots. In fact, he tends to turn the ball over attempting to force passes to teammates. He does a decent job of running the floor despite the that he does not possess outstanding speed. His athleticism also hinders his rebounding ability; he does not rank as a great rebounder or shot-blocker despite the fact that he has good length. Ervin will benefit from adding strength that will allow him to finish in traffic as well as resculpting his body and improving his stamina, which will allow him to play better defense.
Jack Flournoy, SF, 6-6,
Freshman, Oak Hill, W.Va.
Flournoy has a thin, rangy frame that has the capacity to develop significantly over the next few years. However, his lack of girth does not mean that he does not have strength; the wiry strong Flournoy loves to mix it up inside. He has good athleticism and solid length, willingly contesting shots in and out of his area, using his good leaping ability to block or contest shots. He plays an active brand of defense and also will move his feet on the perimeter defensively. He rebounds the ball in traffic on both ends of the court and will score off the offensive boards. Flournoy plays an efficient offensive game and does not work too hard to score, instead opting to take only good shots. Despite the fact that he does not receive the ball much -- although he ranks as the best player on his team -- Flournoy maturely does not become frustrated and force the issue offensively. He has good range on his jumper and will connect from 3-point range. Flournoy has good vision and passing ability, easily locating open teammates for shots.
Chase Fischer, SG, 6-3
Sophomore, Ripley, W.Va.
Fischer has a thin body and would benefit from adding strength and muscle to his wiry frame. However, his lack of strength does not interfere with his effort; he plays hard on both ends of the court -- though his lacking bulk does sometimes hurt him when defenders play him physically on the perimeter and Fischer cannot get into the paint due to his lack of strength. Fischer does not have elite athleticism or quickness but he can work off the dribble for scoring chances. He also has range that extends to the 3-point line on his jump shot and has a nice follow-through on the shot. Fischer has good vision and passing ability, easily spotting open teammates. He has to alleviate his tendency to overdribble, which sometimes causes him to miss open teammates or over-penetrate into trouble.
Doron Lamb, SG, 6-4
Junior, New York/Oak Hill Academy (Va.)
Lamb has good, but not outstanding, quickness. He does a good job scoring off the dribble; Lamb utilizes his good length and understanding of angles to score with an assortment of floaters and running one-handers. He also can score around the hoop using these one-handers and floaters with high arc, making it difficult for big interior defenders to block the shot. Although he's thin, Lamb has enough strength to finish at the rim while taking contact from defenders. He has the frame that will allow him to develop potentially into a big combo-guard as he adds strength and muscle. Lamb will become devastating if he continues to improve his perimeter shooting consistency. He also does a good job of defending on the perimeter. With added strength, he has the length to become an outstanding perimeter defender.
Byron Allen, SG, 6-3
Junior, Upper Marlboro, Md./Oak Hill Academy
Allen currently plays as a combo-guard but he resembles a shooting guard the more that he plays. He has good quickness, which allows him to get the ball to the paint rather easily. Allen uses his good strength and his body to create space between him and perimeter defenders, making it easier for him to get to the rim. He scores using an assortment of running one-handers and works off the dribble to get midrange pull-up jumpers. As a perimeter shooter, Allen has to improve his accuracy -- though he will stick jumpers with range that extends to the 3-point line if left unattended by the defense. He could improve his jump shot accuracy if he works out the kinks in his form, including squaring his shoulders to the basket, as he turns his upper body a little too much when he shoots jump shots. Allen plays with a great deal of energy and willingly plays good pressure defense with a competitive zeal and passion that inspires his teammates.
Davis Martens, 6-9, C
Senior, Lenoir, N.C. /Patterson School
Martens does not have explosive athleticism or leaping ability, but he has good strength, which he uses to positively affect the game for his team. He has a physical style of play and leans on opposing post players, making it more difficult for them to score inside. Martens also has to improve his ability to score with his back to the basket, by honing his footwork in the post. He needs to become a better finisher in traffic, especially given his good strength. Martens has to improve his feel for the game, which should come with more experience, and enhance his ability to catch passes in traffic. Martens has good shooting ability and will connect on jumpers out to the 3-point line, which makes him a perfect fit for pick-and-pop situations and as a trailer on the break for jumpers. He needs to significantly improve his passing skills and his ability to pass out of the high post. Martens does a good job of crashing the boards on both ends of the court.
Senior, Lenoir, N.C. /Patterson School
Coulibaly does not have great quickness and athleticism, but he has enough to make plays on the offensive ends. He does not have outstanding lateral quickness with the ball in his hands, therefore he struggles a little attempting to create shots off the dribble when facing tough defensive pressure. Coulibaly does not have great strength or muscle, which also makes it tough for him to score off the bounce. However, he has good range on his jumper and will connect on 3-point shots with ease if defenses allow him time to load up from the perimeter. He does have good length and with more strength, Coulibaly could become better off the dribble.
Cody Schuler, 6-1, SG
Senior, Winfield, W.Va./Winfield High School
Schuler has a thin frame, but his frame does not accurately indicate his level of activity and effort on both ends of the court. Schuler brings his lunch bucket to the court as he battles inside for rebounds and uses his quickness to get to the bucket off the dribble. Once at the rim, he usually converts on his drives to the rim. Schuler has range that extends out to the 3-point line on his jumper in addition to his very good pull-up jumper in the mid-range area. Schuler has good lift on his jumper, making it extremely difficult to block by opposing defenders. He has to work on his ball-handling skills which would make him even better off the bounce. Schuler plays an active brand of basketball and works hard on the defensive end.
Ryan Powers, PG, 5-9
Senior, Beckley, W.Va./Woodrow Wilson High School
Powers, though small, can score from practically anywhere on the court. He scores with the same efficiency as current Davidson standout Stephen Curry. Powers has textbook form on his jumper, equipped with good lift and a nice follow-through and his range extends to the 3-point line. He has good quickness and changes speeds off the bounce, making it difficult for opposing perimeter defenders to keep him out of the lane. Once in the paint, Powers will lay the ball in amongst the trees or he will resort to his reliable floaters in the paint when he cannot get all the way to the rim. Powers plays with a healthy chip on his shoulders and attacks the rim fearlessly. He does a good job of applying ball pressure on the perimeter. For the next level, Powers has to improve his ability to run a team and become more of a point guard.
• Top 20 prospect Deniz Kilicli has the ability to dominate a game whenever he chooses, given his rare combination of skill, size and strength, However, his effort on the boards as well as defensively tends to fluctuate and he needs to improve dramatically his focus in these areas in order to realize his vast potential.
• Ayodeji Egbeyemi, a 2010 player, has tremendous scoring ability, using his athleticism and strength to get to the paint at will. He efficiently gets to the paint by covering a great deal of ground with his lightning first step. With improved passing and shot selection, as well as a more consistent jumper, Egbeyimi will become virtually unstoppable from the perimeter.
• 2010 SF Shaquille Thomas has the potential to develop into a dominant wing prospect. He possesses good leaping ability, which makes him difficult for opposing wing defenders to cover off the dribble. However, he has to learn to use his gifts to place his fingerprints on game consistently, not just in spurts.
• Deandre Leonard (Oak Hill, W.V./Oak Hill High School), a 6-0 sophomore shooting guard, has the potential to develop into a solid backcourt prospect. However, he has to improve his jumper in addition to focusing more on defense and creating shots for his teammates to realize his potential and making the transition to more of a point guard for the next level.
• Kaliff Wright (Oak Hill, W.V./Oak Hill High School), a 6-5 sophomore power forward, has a solid frame which allows him to get the ball in the paint whenever he posts hard. Wright can score on the low block as well as hit the medium-range jumper. He has to improve his ability to finish in traffic as well as rebound the basketball in order to dominate inside.
Antonio Williams is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He previously worked as an NBA scout for Marty Blake Associates.