Commentary

Breaking down the best of the best

Every player can improve, but the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses

Originally Published: March 31, 2009
By Paul Biancardi | Scouts Inc.

The nation's finest prep basketball players will take the court in Miami on Wednesday night for the 32nd McDonald's All-American Game. Here's a quick breakdown of each player who will participate in the contest.

East Roster

Kenny Boynton, Jr. SG, Plantation, Fla./American Heritage
Position rank: 4
College: Florida (Signed)

Kenny Boynton
ReebokKenny Boynton's shooting ability will give Florida's offense a boost.
Strengths: He's an explosive athlete who can score at anytime from anywhere on the floor. Boynton loves the transition game and up-tempo atmosphere. He's also one of the best long-range shooters in this class, with range out to 24 feet. He can drill the 3-point shot off one or two rhythm dribbles or in a catch-and-shoot situation. Boynton has a nice low, wide stance that makes him a terrific on-ball defender.
Weaknesses: Boynton must improve his free-throw shooting at the next level. If he is going to be star player for the Gators he needs to hit his freebies at an 80 percent clip or better. That's what the great guards shoot. He has a decent midrange game that he needs to improve.
How he'll fit: Boynton will immediately give Florida a boost offensively. Playing with Nick Calathes, assuming he stays (he put his name in NBA draft but has not hired an agent), and Irving Walker will make for a highly potent outside shooting threesome.

Dominic Cheek, SG, Jersey City, N.J./St. Anthony
Position rank: 5
College: Villanova (Verbal)
Strengths: Cheek is a tall, long and athletic scoring guard who can elevate over defenders. He thrives in the open floor, and he's slender and athletic. He possesses a good pull-up jumper in the midrange area and can knock down 3s. Cheek has been taught well on the fundamentals of the game by Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley, Sr.
Weaknesses: Cheek needs to work on his ballhandling and become a better penetrator. He also needs to add strength and muscle in the weight room to really help elevate his game.
How he'll fit: Coach Jay Wright has always had great guards but what he has not had is a tall and long scoring guard and that's exactly what Cheek is. He will contribute both offensively and defensively and is a match-up nightmare for other guards. An outstanding fit for the Wildcats' four guard scheme and is reminiscent of Kerry Kittles.

DeMarcus Cousins C, Mobile, Ala./LeFlore
Position rank: 1
College: Memphis (verbal)
Strengths: Cousins can score from virtually anywhere on the floor. His skill set is extraordinary for someone his size and he could be the most talented big man in the class. He has the ability to dominate a game in the paint.
Weaknesses: Cousins has improved on his ability to focus and give a consistent effort, but he needs to continue to do so. He also needs to get in top-flight physical condition through strength and endurance training and commit himself to work like a star player. Calipari likes all his players to be long and lean athletes.
How he'll fit: If Calipari stays at Memphis, Cousins could play anywhere in his dribble-drive motion offense (behind the 3-point line, in the high post, in the paint) and he will develop and thrive. Calipari will put him in all these spots and he'll be a mismatch for opponents.

[+] EnlargeDerick Favors
Courtesy AdidasDerrick Favors has the skills to dominate the paint on both ends of the floor.
Derrick Favors PF, Atlanta/South Atlanta
Position rank: 1
College: Georgia Tech (Verbal)
Strengths: Favors is a strong, agile and athletic post player who is explosive around the basket. He can dominate in the paint on both ends with his ability to score with his back to the basket, his shot blocking prowess and his relentless rebounding skills. Favors continues to improve all facets and has a nice touch around the basket.
Weaknesses: Favors needs to improve his ballhandling away from the basket. He must also develop a go-to move in the post along with a counter move when the defense takes it away. Right now he relies purely on strength to score.
How he'll fit: Once Favors arrives the Yellow Jackets will be able to go back to more full court pressing because he can man the front of the press or hang back and erase shots. He'll be an immediate impact player on both ends of floor, primarily in the paint. Favors should be an automatic double-double player for coach Paul Hewitt, who does an excellent job in the skill development of his players.

Milton Jennings, SF, Summerville, S.C./Pinewood Prep
Position rank: 2
College: Clemson (Signed)
Strengths: Jennings impresses with his ability to step away from the basket and easily knock down jump shots with range out to the 3-point line. He opens up the floor with his skill because he's always a threat to score. His outside shooting stroke makes him a perfect fit in a pick-and-pop situation. He will also thrive working out of the high post.
Weaknesses: At times, Jennings gravitates to the perimeter too often. He needs to play the game as an inside-out threat. He also needs to make his presence felt rebounding and blocking shots because of his great athleticism and size. Needs to get stronger to take his skills and utilize them all over the floor.
How he'll fit: Clemson loves to press and with his long athletic body plus his quickness Jennings will fit perfectly in coach Oliver Purnell's scheme. He can change the game quickly. He will also turn defense to offense quickly by converting turnovers into two or three points because he shoots it so well.

Ryan Kelly, PF, Raleigh, N.C./Ravenscroft School
Position rank: 4
College: Duke (Signed)
Strengths: Kelly displays a skill set that separates him from most in this class. He's a European-style, face-up 4-man with a great feel for the game. His ability to consistently knock down shots from 15 to 18 feet combined with a deadly 3-point shot allows him to stretch defenses. Kelly's an excellent passer and is overall fundamentally sound. In time, being 6-foot-10, he will also be able score inside more.
Weaknesses: Kelly needs to be a better rebounder due to his frame. He also must develop a go-to move in the post. Getting in the weight room and working on his total body strength is also a must for Kelly.
How he'll fit: Kelly is an excellent fit for the Blue Devils as coach Mike Krzyzewski always likes to have as many shooters on the floor as possible. In Duke's motion offense Kelly's face-up skills will help the team space the floor and stretch defenses. With the nucleus of the Blue Devils' frontcourt returning next season, Kelly will provide needed depth.

Alex Oriakhi, C, Lowell, Mass./Tilton School, N.H.
Position rank: 5
College: Connecticut (Signed)
Strengths: Oriakhi's physical presence in the paint is what stands out the most. On the defensive end, he rebounds and blocks shots consistently. Offensively, he has the ability to finish around the basket, usually powering up to the rim. He's an overall active post player.
Weaknesses: Oriakhi needs to improve his jump shot from the high post (12-15 feet), as well as his scoring facing the basket and with his back to the hoop. He must continue to polish his post moves which have definitely improved over the years.
How he'll fit: UConn is expected to lose so much next season with the imminent departure of Hasheem Thabeet and the graduation of Jeff Adrien that Oriakhi will get his opportunity right away. He gives the Huskies what they need -- a big, strong front court presence.

Mason Plumlee, C, Winona Lake, Ind./Christ School, N.C.
Position rank: 2
College: Duke (Signed)
Strengths: Plumlee is a skilled post player who is long and athletic. He has the ability to play in both the high and low post. He has good size, skill and athletic ability. He can shoot the ball consistently to 19 feet. He could definitely play for pay one day with added strength.
Weaknesses: Plumlee needs to get stronger, which should occur once he enters a collegiate weight training program. He also needs to become more assertive and aggressive. He is talented, but sometimes is too passive.
How he'll fit: Duke style fits Mason's game. He can play the low or high post in the Blue Devils' offense. He can shoot the ball with range and can score in the low block. Once he gets stronger his career should take off.

Lance Stephenson, SG, Brooklyn, N.Y./Abraham Lincoln
Position rank: 3
College: Undecided (Considering Kansas, Maryland, St. John's)

Lance Stephenson
Doug Steinbock for ESPN.comLance Stephenson's physical style of play will be a boost for any program.
Strengths: Stephenson is a strong and physical guard who beats opponents with a straight-line dribble drive to the bucket. Few defenders can keep him out of the lane. He's competitive and tough and is one of the best in the country at finishing through contact. Stephenson possesses a good mid-range jump shot off the dribble. He asserts himself on the glass at both ends and because of his strength can be an excellent on-ball defender.
Weaknesses: Stephenson needs to improve his 3-point shooting consistency. He must also improve his shot selection as he gets caught hunting down some ill-advised shots. At times he gets out of control with the dribble and too often shows his frustration on the court.
How he'll fit: Stephenson will bring a physical game and an ability to score to whatever program he decides to play for.

Dexter Strickland, SG, Rahway, N.J./St. Patrick
Position rank: 6
College: North Carolina (Signed)
Strengths: Strickland is an explosive athlete who thrives in the transition game. He finishes with ease above the rim, while displaying excellent body control on his forays to the basket. He's a solid ball handler and can defend all three perimeter positions.
Weaknesses: Strickland must improve his 3-point shooting to where he can knock it down consistently. This will really take his game to another level and complement his off the dribble scoring ability.
How he'll fit: Strickland is a perfect fit for Carolina's up-tempo system. His ability to press, trap and defend and convert defense to offense are his main strengths.

Dante Taylor, PF, Greeburgh, N.Y./National Christian Academy, Md.
Position rank: 6
College: Pittsburgh (Signed)
Strengths: Taylor is a good rebounder and scorer in the low block. He is a solid athlete and very productive. He is one of the best low post players in the 2009 class.
Weaknesses: Taylor is a great low post player, but his game is limited to scoring inside 12 feet. That may not be such a bad thing but increased range would definitely make him a much harder player to stop.
How he'll fit: Taylor should be a great fit at Pitt. He can either backup or take over Dejuan Blair's role in the low post, depending on whether or not Blair leaves for the NBA. Taylor is an active scorer and rebounder on offense. He is also a good low post defender and while he's not a great shot blocker, he is solid and will get his share.

Maalik Wayns, PG, Philadelphia/Roman Catholic
Position rank: 3
College: Villanova (Signed)
Strengths: Wayns is a fierce competitor who his tough and skilled. He plays the point with unselfishness, always trying to get his teammates involved. He can also score when his team needs it as his mid-range jump shot has really improved. Wayns places great pressure on defenses with his dribble penetration and has the rare ability to score or find open teammates when taking it to the hoop.
Weaknesses: Wayns plays the game at one speed and needs to learn how to change speeds to keep defenders off balance. With his quickness, he could become even more savvy as a floor general. He also must improve the range and consistency on his jump shot.
How he'll fit: Wayns is the next in a long line of great Philly point guards. He will be a part of the 'Nova rotation next year and in time, because of his infectious personality, high character and floor presence, will be the leader of the team.

West Roster

Avery Bradley, SG, Tacoma, Wash./Findlay College Prep, Nev.
Position rank: 2
College: Texas (Signed)
Strengths: Bradley is the most complete shooting guard in the Class of 2009. He is one of the few elite players in the country who is an excellent on- and off-ball defender. He has a terrific mid-range jump shot and an improving 3-point shot. Bradley has the instincts to become a big time scorer. He also is great at letting the game come to him and not forcing things.
Weaknesses: Bradley has greatly improved his stroke, but he now needs to extend his range. His shot is very potent in the mid-range area, but beyond the stripe it's not nearly as consistent. In addition, he is very good in a catch-and-shoot set, but he needs to get better putting the ball on the floor to create offense, especially going to his left.
How he'll fit: Bradley should be one of the few freshman in the country who will contribute immediately at a high level both offensively and defensively. Texas loses a lot with the graduation of their go-to guy, A.J. Abrams. Although no one can replace Abrams right away, Bradley will give the Longhorns something to be excited about.

Abdul Gaddy
ReebokAbdul Gaddy is a true point guard who makes everyone around him better.
Abdul Gaddy, PG, Tacoma, Wash./Bellarmine Prep
Position rank: 2
College: Washington (Signed)
Strengths: Gaddy is the consummate point guard. Although he doesn't possess great speed or quickness, he's exceptionally adept at running the show and finding the right man at the right time, whether it's in transition or in the half court. He has a terrific floater in the lane as well as a consistent 3-point shot. Overall, a savvy, pass-first point guard with a strong basketball I.Q. who can score when his team needs it.
Weaknesses: Gaddy needs to work on making the simple play in transition as he tends to try for the spectacular. He also needs to add some more strength so college guards don't knock him off the ball. He could also do well to become a deadly 3-point shooter.
How he'll fit: The Huskies will have the luxury of playing two point guards at the same time with Gaddy and Isaiah Thomas. These are two players who can think, score and run the offense. It also allows Thomas to come off screens and knock down shots off feeds from Gaddy.

Keith Gallon, C, Houston/Oak Hill Academy, Va.
Position rank: 4
College: Oklahoma (Signed)
Strengths: Gallon is a wide body with an impressive set of skills that the opposition should not underestimate. He has exceptional hands and nimble feet. He uses his body to get position in the paint to score or he can step out and hit 3-point shots. "Tiny" is an solid passer for a big man and has an excellent feel for the game.
Weaknesses: Although he has improved his physical makeup, Gallon needs to continue to work on his conditioning. Strength and endurance training must be a part of his daily routine. He needs to do a better job in the low post defensively of not allowing his man to receive deep catches for easy baskets.
How he'll fit: With the likely departure of Blake Griffin, Gallon will have a chance to play and produce right away. With his exceptional ability to score the Sooners will rely on him for frontcourt production.

Xavier Henry, SG, Oklahoma City, Okla./Putnam City
Position rank: 1
College: Memphis (Signed)
Strengths: With size, power and strength, this lefty guard has a consistent, long range stroke behind the arc. When pressured, Henry demonstrates the ability to drive to the hoop, and with a good first step and a strong body he carries defenders to the rim. He can also take smaller defenders into the post and punish them.
Weaknesses: Henry has proven he can hit 3s and drive to the basket. Now he needs to develop a more consistent middle game. He must also develop more of right hand with his ball handling and when he finishes at the rim.
How he'll fit: With the possibility of Tyreke Evans going to the NBA combined with Antonio Anderson's graduation, Xavier will take his perimeter game to Memphis and impact the Tigers immediately. Assuming Calipari doesn't leave for Kentucky, Henry will fit in well here because Calipari gives his guards space and freedom to operate. Henry will fill Memphis' perimeter scoring needs right away.

[+] EnlargeJohn Henson
Kelly Kline John Henson is the top player in UNC's 2009 recruiting class.
John Henson, PF, Tampa, Fla./Sickles
Position rank: 2
College: North Carolina (Signed)
Strengths: Henson combines a power forward's body with a small forward's skill level. His talent is off the chart as he can make 3s, take his man off the dribble or go coast-to-coast off a defensive rebound. Henson makes good decisions with the ball and is very unselfish. Defensively, he uses his length and timing to change shots.
Weaknesses: Henson's only weakness is the strength factor. He is long and very lean at only 195 pounds.
How he'll fit: Henson is perhaps the best recruit with the most ability of any in North Carolina's top-ranked class. He can start UNC's lethal fast break with a blocked shot and converting turnovers into offense, which is what the Tar Heels are all about. With the graduation of Tyler Hansbrough, Henson will provide immediate front court help.

Wally Judge, PF, Landover, Md./Arlington Country Day School, Fla.
Position rank: 5
College: Kansas State (Signed)
Strengths: Judge's greatest strength is his potential. He is good offensively with nice hands and feet. He has solid range on his shot out to 15 feet. He can also put the ball on the floor a little and create offense. Judge is versatile in that he can play both the 4 and 5 positions in college. He is a solid scorer in the low post where he either uses his superior athletic ability or overpowers his opponents.
Weaknesses: Once Judge becomes consistent and learns to play hard all the time, the sky is the limit. Sometimes he can be his own worst enemy when he does not control his emotions, but Judge has the tools to be special.
How he'll fit: Judge is a great fit for K-State and could become the next Michael Beasley. He is talented enough. He just needs to learn how to harness all of that talent and turn it into consistent production.

Tommy Mason-Griffin, PG, Houston/James Madison
Position rank: 5
College: Oklahoma (Signed)
Strengths: Mason-Griffin is a scoring point guard who has NBA range on his jump shot. He has great strength and elevation in that shot. Mason-Griffin does an excellent job of attacking the defense in transition and is a willing and accurate passer in the lane. He changes speeds and direction well which helps his dribble penetration game.
Weaknesses: He has a tendency to over-penetrate at times, resulting in turnovers. He also has trouble finishing in traffic among taller players. Mason-Grffin could also be a better defensive rebounder which would eliminate the need for an outlet pass. He would be able to push the ball himself rather than wait for the pass.
How he'll fit: Mason-Griffin can arrive at Oklahoma and continue to learn his position from one of the best in the business, coach Jeff Capel. The ball should be in his hands from Day 1 in Norman and with Willie Warren next to him, it will make for a lethal backcourt.

Renardo Sidney, PF, Los Angeles, Calif./Fairfax
Position rank: 3
College: USC (Verbal)
Strengths: Sidney has extraordinary size, skill and displays surprisingly good instincts as well as a a prolific passing ability for someone that big. The strongest part of his game is his ability to play facing the basket. Sidney has a smooth stroke with the skills to put the ball on the deck and blow by defenders his size.
Weaknesses: Sidney has improved his approach to the game, but he must continue to do so. It's imperative he continue to work on his body and keep a consistent level of body fat percentage so he can be lighter on his feet and more effective. Year round conditioning and good eating habits are a must.
How he'll fit: Sidney becomes an immediate impact recruit for coach Tim Floyd. The level of his effectiveness lies in his ability to be coachable. Floyd has coached in the NBA and knows how to get him there, but Sidney must prove himself as a difference maker at USC.

Peyton Siva, PG, Seattle, Wash./Franklin
Position rank: 4
College: Louisville (Signed)
Strengths: Siva has excellent speed and quickness with the ball. He pushes the ball in transition with the pass and/or dribble. Siva's a threat to go coast-to-coast and finish with a dunk. He has exceptional athleticism and at 5-11, 180 pounds reminds you of the Knicks' Nate Robinson. Overall, a rock solid floor leader with a great understanding of how to run a team.
Weaknesses: Like most small guards, he occasionally over-penetrates and gets himself in trouble and is prone to turnovers at that point.
How he'll fit: Coach Rick Pitino likes a team full of athletes and Siva fits that description. Louisville's trademark pressing, trapping style will allow him to excel. He is the Cardinals' point guard of the future and will be the proverbial extension of the head coach on the floor.

Michael Snaer, SG, Moreno Valley, Calif./Rancho Verde
Position rank: 9
College: Florida State (Signed)
Strengths: Snaer is a tenacious competitor and can knock down the jump shot out to 23 feet. Along with his long range prowess, he has a quick first step and is not afraid to initiate contact as he finishes at the rim. Although his forte is scoring, Snaer is one of the better passers in the country, especially in a drive-and-kick situation.
Weaknesses: At times he takes some ill-advised shots, particularly beyond the 3-point line. Snaer can get caught up in one-on-one battles with his opponent, which can lead to poor decisions.
How he'll fit: With the departure of Toney Douglas, Snaer will have an opportunity to get major minutes on the perimeter for FSU. This was a terrific pick up for coach Leonard Hamilton.

David Wear, PF, Huntington Beach, Calif./Mater Dei
Position rank: 13
College: North Carolina (Signed)
Strengths: David Wear has a strong face-up game from 15-17 feet. He has a really high basketball I.Q. and is a rugged rebounder and terrific passer. He has a good instincts and is particularly strong in the high post. Wear is also a willing defender in the low post.
Weaknesses: He needs to get stronger and become more aggressive inside in order to be more effective.
How he'll fit: When Carolina plays the half court game, Wear will excel facing the basket in the high post. Inside, he is a threat on turnaround jumpshots or passing out to the perimeter jump shooters.

Travis Wear, PF, Huntington Beach, Calif./Mater Dei
Position rank: 14
College: North Carolina (Signed)
Strengths: Just like his brother, Travis Wear has a terrific I.Q. for the game. In the low post he possesses strong footwork and scores with the jump hook. He also shoots the mid-range shot very well and his shooting ability can stretch the defense out to the 3-point line.
Weaknesses: Although he has been more aggressive, Travis Wear needs to become more physical as a rebounder and defender.
How he'll fit: Like David, Travis can play outside and inside. He's a versatile player that will give an already loaded Carolina front court even more depth and skill.

Paul Biancardi

Basketball Recruiting