- Antonio Williams, Basketball Recruiting
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The Spring Fling offered a chance to see some top-notch talent very early in the daunting AAU circuit. This event featured strong play from teams, despite the fact that they have not practiced together very long because the prep basketball season just came to an end.
During the championship game for the 17U division, the New England Playaz -- led by co-Most Valuable Players Nate Lubick and Austin Carroll -- outlasted DC Assault, who was led by fellow Duke recruits Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton. This hotly-contested battle featured a rarity on the AAU circuit: great team defense. In the ultimate gut-check game, the New England Playaz came away with the overtime victory, due to help from some timely buckets by guard Denzel Brito.
Josh Hairston, 6-foot-8 (PF)
2010, Spotsylvania, Va./Courtland
Hairston plays with a great deal of energy and effort, when engaged in the game. He has a versatile skillset, which allows him to dominant games when he tries. He has to alleviate his tendency to drift, especially offensively, when his team needs a critical bucket. This face-up 4-man has very good quickness and athleticism, which he uses to drive past bigger, slower defenders. Once in the paint, Hairston will finish with his left or right hand at the basket. He can also stretch defenses with his ability to connect on jumpers, with the occasional 3-pointer falling, but he needs to improve his perimeter consistency. He will also post up on the block and he demonstrates solid footwork with his back to the basket. As Hairston gets ready for the next level, he will have to add strength and muscle to his frame, which will make him a better finisher and rebounder on both ends of the floor. He also needs to continue his improvement on the defensive end, an area in which he said he needs better for college. Hairston plays an unselfish brand of basketball and readily accepts coaching. This young man, with his good character, should flourish throughout the summer and become a very good player at Duke, when he enrolls in the fall of 2010.
Nate Lubick, 6-8 (PF)
2010, Southborough, Mass./St. Mark's School
Lubick played with an incredible amount of passion and zeal, while leading his team to the championship, despite battling through an illness. He has very deceptive athleticism and quickness, easily running the floor to finish on the break. Lubick has a very nice feel for the game, really excels as a passer and when coupled with his ability to knock down perimeter jumpers, he works as a perfect fit in the high spot in high-low offensive alignments. His shooting ability will draw opposing bigs away from the rim due to the fact that Lubick has range that extends out to the 3-point line. Lubick also finishes off a number of plays above the rim, when he receives the ball from penetrating guards and will also use a little jump hook with his right hand, turning over his left shoulder.
Isaiah Epps, 6-1 (PG)
2010, Plainfield, N.J./Plainfield
Epps, a lefty, has range that extends out to the 3-point line and will connect on 3-point daggers in transition, though he sometimes depends on this shot a little too often. He excels when he has a chance to get into the transition game, due to his quickness and passing ability. Epps easily spots open teammates filling lanes on the fast break and gets them easy shots at the rim in transition. He must continue to improve his ballhandling skills and work on his middle game, by adding a mid-range, pull-up to his offensive arsenal. Epps has good-sized hands, therefore he should have no problems tightening up his ballhandling skills. He would also benefit from using a floater when he gets into the paint, because he struggles to get all the way to the rim for lay-ins. Epps has a tendency to relax a little on the defensive end and needs to use his lateral quickness to hound and harass opposing ballhandlers more often, especially since he sets the defensive tone for his squad as a lead guard.
Austin Carroll, 6-3 (SG)
2009, Bedford, Mass./Worcester Academy
Carroll absolutely excels as a spot-up shooter with virtually unlimited range. When he gets his feet set, Carroll will drill jumpers from well-beyond the 3-point line, which opens up driving lanes for his teammates. He has a very efficient stroke and has no wasted motion on his jumper. He tends to miss from the perimeter only when he does not finish his shot and hold his follow-through, instead, he will sometimes start running back on the other end right when he releases the ball. Though he does not have exceptional quickness and struggles some when he puts the ball on the floor, he does a good job of using his strength when he gets a guy on his hip and will finish at the rim or draw the foul, which usually results in two points due to his touch at the free throw line. Carroll has good ballhandling skills, plays a tough brand of basketball and gets the most out of his ability. Carroll makes his teammates better and passes the ball well as a shooting guard and can play some point guard in a pinch.
Taran Buie, 6-3 (SG)
2010, Albany, N.Y./Bishop Maginn
Buie has very good quickness and good leaping ability, which makes him a nightmare for opposing guards to contain off the dribble. Buie's quickness and electric athleticism can sometimes get him into trouble because it gives him supreme confidence and he believes that he can get his shot on anyone at anytime, which causes him to attempt some very difficult, contested shots. Buie has range that extends out to the 3-point line and uses his leaping ability to elevate over defenders for mid-range, pull-up jumpers. As he improves his shot selection, he could become a very dangerous scorer. Buie has good length and good-sized hands, which allows him to handle the ball very well. With his length and lateral quickness, Buie defends at an elite level when he focuses on defense. Though he seems better suited for the 2-guard, Buie has enough vision and passing skills to play the point for stretches during games.
Russell Smith, 5-10 (PG)
2009, Briarwood, N.Y./Archbishop Molloy
Smith has the ability to score points in bunches. He has very good range on his jumper and will connect on consecutive 3-point shots, which ignites scoring runs for his team. Though he has the size of a point guard, Smith remains in attack mode on the offensive end and seems much more comfortable when he can score the ball and not worry about initiating offense for teammates. He has good quickness and can get into the paint, but he needs to add a floater to his offensive repertoire to help him score when he gets to the paint. Smith also needs to do a better job of involving his teammates. He also has a tendency -- especially when he gets hot -- to force shots, which he will need to alleviate. Smith needs to add more strength to his small frame. He has good lateral quickness and needs to use this quickness to harass opposing ballhandlers on the defensive end.
Cedrick Lindsey, 6-0 (SG)
2010, Washington, D.C./Gonzaga College High School
Though he's the size of a point guard, Lindsey plays better off the ball as a shooting guard. He has a very reliable jumper with range that extends out to the 3-point line. He has a very quick release and often releases the ball before defenders can run him off the 3-point line. He also possesses enough quickness to get to the rim when opposing guards press up on him. He will improve his offensive game by adding a mid-range, pull-up jumper to his game as well as creating more offense for his teammates. Lindsay plays a very tough brand of basketball and defends very well, placing good pressure on opposing ballhandlers.
J.J. Moore, 6-5 (SF)
2010, Brentwood, N.Y./Brentwood
Moore has very good leaping ability and athleticism. He utilizes his natural gifts most often on the offensive end, playing with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, though he does a good job of remaining active on the defensive end of the floor as well. Moore has a very quick first step and can get to the rim with relative ease. Once in the paint, he ranks as a threat to finish above the rim at any time, due to his leaping ability. Moore also rebounds the ball well, particularly on the offensive end. He excels in the transition game, where he will handle the ball and take it to the rim. Moore will shoot the 3-point shot, but he needs to improve his accuracy in that area as well. He needs to add a mid-range pull-up to his game and improve his shot selection because it will make him a more efficient scorer.
Anthony Ireland, 5-10 (PG)
2009, Waterbury, Conn./Crosby
When he focuses on involving his teammates, he does a very good job of locating them for shots. He has the ability and the quickness to break down defenders and get into the teeth of the defense. Once at the rim, Ireland has more than enough strength to finish at the rim. As he cuts down on his turnovers and tries not to do as much, he could develop into a very nice point guard. Though small, Ireland has good leaping ability to go along with his long arms and big hands for his height. He will connect on jumpers from the perimeter and Ireland has good lift and a nice, high release on his jumper. He must continue to improve his shot selection and do a better job of understanding when a point guard should involve others. He also needs to continue to enhance his ballhandling skills.
Ryan Arcidiacono, 6-2 (PG)
2012, Langhorne, Pa./Neshimany
Arcidiacono plays with an incredible amount of poise and rarely displays emotion. In fact, the only time he shows any emotion is when his coach takes him out of games. He ranks as the ultimate competitor and plays a fearless brand of basketball. He never folds when facing a challenge, though he does not take his team out of their concepts by engaging in one-on-one battles. Arcidiacono does not have elite quickness, but he does a great job of using his size at the point as well as changing speeds, which serves to keep defenders off-balance. He also uses a nice in-and-out curl dribble to get past opposing guards on the perimeter. He has range that extends well beyond the 3-point line and he will also connect on jumpers off the bounce, but he needs to continue to improve in this area. Arcidiacono needs to also use his length to pester opposing guards on the defensive end and as his body matures, he will become a defensive force on the perimeter. Arcidiacono has a very good understanding of how to run a team and get his teammates shots.
• Junior Tyler Thornton (Washington D.C./Gonzaga College High Schoo) is a 6-2 SG headed to Duke, who plays a very non-descript offensive brand of hoops at times. However, he defends very well and does a number of things that do not appear in the box score to help his team win games.
• Eighth-grader Kris Jenkins, a 6-4 PF out the Washington D.C. area, plays as an absolute man in the paint. He also has good touch from the perimeter and as long as he exhibits more maturity on the court, he could become a devastating force in the paint.
• Naadir Tharpe (Worcester, Mass./Brewster Academy), a 5-11 PG, has impeccable vision and passing skills. As long as he does not over-dribble, Tharpe should develop into an outstanding point guard.
• Six-foot-five SG Shane Southwell (Bronx, N.Y./Rice) has very good vision and passing skills. With his size, he can see over smaller guards on the perimeter, easily locating open teammates for scoring chances.
• Skylar Scrivano (Holicong, Pa./Central Bucks East), a 6-9 PF, has very lively legs and does a great job of contesting shots. If he adds strength and improves his offensive game, Scrivano could become a nice post prospect in college and has a great deal of upside.
• Kadeem Jack (Bronx, N.Y./Rice) plays with a great deal of energy, contests shots on the defensive end and takes ownership of the paint. He also does a good job of contesting shots and has immense upside.
• 2010 6-2 SG Denzel Brito (Groton, Mass./Lawrence Academy) always plays within himself and rarely forces the issue offensively. He needs to find the balance between remaining aggressive offensively and not passing on good shots, which hurts his team at times.
• Six-foot-five inch sophomore PF John Raymond's (Newtown, Pa./Council Rock) build should not fool you. Though he has a very thick body, Raymond excels shooting the ball from the perimeter and could develop into a nice face-up 4-man.
Antonio Williams is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He previously worked as an NBA scout for Marty Blake Associates.
The New England Playaz AAU club showed off its talented roster during the Spring Flinig, writes Antonio Williams.