Commentary

Knight, Rivers form impressive tandem

Originally Published: April 13, 2009
By Reggie Rankin | Scouts Inc.

HAMPTON, Va. -- The talent was plentiful at the Boo Williams Invitational. This Nike sponsored event was the premier place for teams and players this weekend Nike travel teams from across the country competed on eight courts in the beautiful Boo Williams Sportsplex. Boo Williams and his staff put on a first class event. There was high major talent on every court and the players rated in ESPNU's ranking for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 classes were well represented.

All Ohio Red beat Team Final 75-72 for the 17U Gold Division title. The New York Gauchos took care of Team Takeover 76-69 in the 17U Silver Division and the Bronze 17U crown went to the Georgia Stars 78-77 over Howard Pulley. In the 16U division The Playaz Club beat the St. Louis Eagles 76-63 and the Houston Defenders handled Takeover 66-58 in the 15U division.

One of the highlights of the tournament was watching 2010 ESPNU Super 60 PG Brandon Knight (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Pinecrest) and 2011 ESPNU Terrific 25 SG/PG Austin Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.) in the same backcourt for the 17U team Each One Teach One. It was a coach's dream to watch these two skilled and athletic guards play with such energy and dominance.

There were some amazing dunkers at this great event but, none better that 6-1 junior guard Brandon Peters (Birmingham, Ala./Erwin) of Houston Hoops and 6-3 junior guard Markel Brown (Alexandria La./Peabody) of Louisiana Select. Both of these high flyers provided entertainment in transition with explosive vertical slams over defenders.

Standout Players

Austin Rivers SG/PG (6-3, 180), Committed to Florida (Each 1 Teach 1)
2011, Winter Park, Fla.

Rivers has continued to improve and impress. He is confident, skilled and has a great feel for the game. He scores in transition with strong drives to the rim and floaters in the lane. In the half court, Rivers can create a shot off the dribble with his terrific ball handling in order to score in the lane with pull-up jumpers or acrobatic finishes through or around defenders. His jumper from behind the arc was more consistent; he knocked down open 3s on a regular basis. When his perimeter shot is falling, he can be unguardable in one-on-one situations because of his ability to attack defenders off the dribble. He is great at creating space to get off his midrange jumpers and will blow by all out of control closeouts with ease. Rivers also is unselfish and can drive, draw and kick to open teammates for easy scores. Rivers competes on both ends but must improve his on-ball defense and jump stop when the defense is set -- at times he will get out of control and draw a charge. Overall Rivers is a very complete guard who is loaded with talent.

DeShaun Thomas SG/SF (6-7, 225), Committed to Ohio State (Spiece Indy Heat)
2010, Fort Wayne, Ind. / Bishop Luers

Think Lamar Odom. This long and athletic lefty can score in bunches. In transition, he sprints the lane and can knock down deep jumpers before the defense is set. He rebounds on both ends and will go coast to coast and finish through contact at the rim. He thinks score on every catch and has NBA 3-point range off the catch or with a sometimes needed rhythm dribble. Thomas is active and plays with energy. He stretches the defense with his ability to make open shots and he can also shoot over small perimeter defenders with ease. Thomas can score in the post with power drop steps or elevate over the defense with a high arcing jump hook over his right shoulder. The mid range game is something Thomas must add before he arrives in Columbus in order for him not to be too charge prone. His game is based on 3s, post ups and transition opportunities. A midrange jumper will complete his offensive package and take his game to the next level. He also is a capable multiple position defender because of his great length and athletic ability.

Isaiah Epps PG (6-2, 170), Committed to Pittsburgh (Playaz BBC)
2010, Plainfield, N.J.

Epps is a lead guard with a tight handle and excellent floor vision. This lefty attacks defenders off the dribble and has the ability to blow by them with great speed and quickness. Epps can draw a second or third defender and find the open man on a consistent basis. He pushes the ball in transition and makes excellent decisions in traffic. Epps wants the ball when the game is on the line and can make a play at end of clock situations. He has 3-point range and can consistently knock down open jumpers from beyond the arc. When he is in the flow, it doesn't matter if the defender is in his face. Epps must add strength in order to defend and penetrate in the physical Big East. Still his talent, ability to pass and knock down shots makes him an impact player for the Panthers from Day 1.

Dion Waiters SG/PG (6-3, 195), Committed to Syracuse (Team Final)
2010, Philadelphia / Life Center Academy

Waiter is a strong guard who punishes defenders with his big body. He dribbles through contact to draw fouls or finish at the rim with his long arms over the defenders outstretched hands. Waiters is an excellent ball handler; he uses a variety of dribble moves to beat his man before he physically overpowers him. He has excellent court vision and can drive, draw and kick to the open man. He loves to pass with one hand off the dribble. He displayed good leadership skills, decision making and basketball IQ throughout the game. He also did a great job of not turning over the ball when he aggressively attacked the basket. He is an improved three point shooter as well. He spots up and can knock down the open jumper with time and space. Waiters must continue to improve his perimeter shot, but the talent and toughness are present. He may remind some of the Orange fans of Pearl Washington with his ball handling and ability to breakdown the defense and get to the rim.

Brandon Knight PG (6-3, 175) (Each 1 Teach 1)
2010, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. / Pine Crest

Knight has continued to improve. He looks to have added strength to his upper body. His arms and shoulders are bigger and more defined. He plays with great energy and effort on both ends of the floor. He jumper was the best that I have seen it. He knocked down the open three by spotting up on ball reversal and he also shot well as defenders went under on ball screens due to them fearing his dribble penetration. Knight pushed the ball in transition with great pace and did a great job of dribbling through contact and drawing fouls. His handle is strong and tight and he is a willing passer when he draws a second and third defender. Knight can finish through contact and also knock down the mid range jumper off the catch. On defense he is a terrific on ball defender that can turn up the heat and shut down the other team's best scorer. Knight plays in a low defensive stance and has great lateral foot speed and quick hands. At times he reminds me of New Jersey Net guard Devin Harris because of his speed and quickness with the ball.

Kendall Marshall PG (6-3, 175), Committed to North Carolina 2010, Arlington, Va. / Bishop O'Connell

Every player in the country would want to play with Kendall Marshall. This lefty completely dominates the game by passing the basketball. He is the best passer that I have seen in the class of 2010. Marshall has great size, a strong handle and unbelievable court vision. He makes excellent decisions in heavy traffic and he delivers the ball to teammates while they are open not after the defense recovers. In transition he advances the ball up the floor on the pass or dribble. He plays with an open mind as he probes the defense and makes it pay as soon as he recognizes a mistake. He has leadership skills and the basketball IQ to run the team. He understands how to get open by using his size and providing the passer with a target hand when being denied. He passes over and around traps and double teams and he is great at using pass and shot fakes to move the defense out of position. He scores on mid range pull ups and slashes in the lane. He must work to improve his perimeter shooting but can make an open shot with needed time and space. At the end of the game he wants the ball in his hands and has the confidence and toughness to make late game free throws. He is an average athlete and not the speedy lead guard that Carolina fans are accustomed but his feel for the game make him a special player. He will have an opportunity to average double figure assist with the talent he will play with in Chapel Hill. He reminds me of former NBA point guard Mark Jackson.

Harrison Barnes SG/SF (6-6,190) (Howard Pulley)

2010, Ames, Iowa

This very talented wing is long and athletic. He has great size and skill on the perimeter. Barnes is smooth, not fancy just affective. He can score in bunches in transition or in the half court. Barnes sprints the lane and can knock down the deep three off the catch or dribble. He also can bounce into a high arcing pull up jumper with ease. He has an excellent release and follow through as he elevates over defenders. He started slow but that changed quickly after three 3's and mid range pull in the lane. He can also score coming off screens or spotting up on ball reversal. He is a good ball handler and even displayed the ability to feed the post and drive draw and kick. He can pass over the defense and he can shoot over smaller defenders like they are invisible. He is a good perimeter shot blocker and is tough enough to take a charge. He can defend both wing positions and can also rebound both ends and start the break. He must add strength but Barnes is a combination of talent, size and skill and an immediate impact player on the college level.

Surprise Players

Marquis Teague PG (6-2,170) (Spiece Indy Heat) 2011, Indianapolis/ Pike

This young lead guard is the real deal. I heard he was good but he was better than I expected. Teague is a scoring point that can take over the game with his ability to score in transition and in the half court. He also is a long armed big time athlete that will finish above the rim with a clear path and posterize the late help defender. He pushes the ball with great pace thinking score first. He is great at changing speeds and directions to beat his defender along with a quick and deadly left to right crossover. He can be in the lane in the blink of an eye. He has a terrific mid range pull up after one or two explosive dribbles. He has a smooth stroke and is at his best when scoring on the move. Teague can knock down the open three and when he gets it going the defender is at his mercy. He will also look to advance the ball down the floor and on the pass or dribble and is a willing passer will the defense surrounds him. He has the ability to run the offense but making scoring plays is his strength. He must add strength but Teague is a good on ball defender and passing lane anticipator. The younger brother Wake Forest's Jeff has a bright future and is a treat to watch dissect the defense.

Luke Cothron PF (6-8, 190) (BWSL, Boo Williams)
2010, Red Springs, N.C. /Flora Macdonald Academy

Cothron is a long and lean athlete that affects the game in a variety of ways. He is active and aggressive on both ends of the floor with ability to rebound and block shots. He lacks strength but makes up for it with effort and intensity. He rebounds at rim level and runs the floor extremely well. He finishes drop off passes above the rim with a clear path. He has great shot block timing on and away from the ball. What he does not block he changes. He scores in the lane with athletic moves where he elevates over defenders with good touch and body control. He also is a tip dunk threat on the offensive glass as well. He has good hands and active feet. He lacks perimeter skills but can put the ball on the floor one or two dribble and get into the lane with minimal ball pressure. If Cothron improves his ball skills and expands his shooting range from outside the lane he will elevate his game to the next level. This kid's a big-time athlete with ton of upside and a pleasant surprise on a loaded Boo Williams team.

Jacob Thomas SG/PG (6-3, 175) (Howard Pulley)
2010, Columbia Heights, MN. / Columbia Heights

Thomas is a long combination guard that has taken his game to the next level. He is more of a shooting guard but has the ball handling and passing ability to help run the team in a pinch. Thomas can score quickly from beyond the arc or off the dribble. He can knock down the three off the catch or dribble, he has a mid range game and can get to the rim where he has the size to score over smaller perimeter defenders. He hits open jumpers on spot ups and coming off screens. He is a good athlete that can break open the game with a scoring spurt. He is a decent defensive rebounder in his area as well. He sprints the lane in transition, rebound and start the break and will pull the three ball without hesitation if not picked up in time. He is capable of defending all three perimeter positions because of his athletic ability and basketball IQ. He has the confidence, size and skill to be an excellent wing on the college level.

Will Barton SG/SF (6-5, 170) (Baltimore Elite)
2010, Baltimore, Md. / Heritage High School at Lake Clifton

This thin wing can score in a hurry. His is rail thin with a scorer's mentality. He reminded me of a young George "Iceman" Gervin because of his body type and ability to put the ball in the hole. He shoots the deep three in transition, spots ups and coming off single and double baseline screens. He has good shot preparation, great confidence and needs very little space to get it off. He plays with energy and urgency entire time he is on the floor. He constantly puts pressure on his defender because he can also get to the rim off the dribble. He can score in the lane with athletic moves. Barton has great touch and body control around the rim. He is a good defensive rebound and fast break initiator. He does a great job of stretching the defense. He competes and once he adds strength he will be a more consistent scorer through contact but this kids upside is off the charts.

Nick Johnson SG/PG (6-2, 175) (Drew Gooden Soldiers)
2011, Gilbert, Ariz. / Highland

Johnson is a big time athletic combination guard. He has excellent size and strength for his age. He can sprint the lane in transition or rebound and start the break with ease. He is an improved three point shooter that shot extremely well. He can knock down the open three off the catch or he can dribble up to the line and knock it down off the dribble. His release and follow through look good and seems to have confidence in his stroke. He is a good ball handler and passer as well. He can beat his man and shoot the mid range jumper in the lane. Johnson is also an above the rim finisher in transition with a clear path. He is also a lob catcher on the break. Johnson is more of a shooting guard but his point guard skills are developing rapidly. He does a great job at finding the open man in drive, draw and kick situations. He is also strong enough to finish through contact once he gets deep into the lane. Johnson is a terrific all around guard with a bright future.

Kentavious Caldwell SG (6-5, 170) (Georgia Blazers)
2011, Greenville, Ga./ Greenville

Caldwell is a scoring guard who can really make his mark from behind the arc. He has deep 3-point range off the catch or dribble and a quick confident trigger. He shoots the ball with a high release and follows through. Caldwell has great length which allows him to shoot over smaller perimeter defenders with ease. He runs the lane in transition and can also get to the rim off the bounce or pull up. Caldwell likes to shoot the deep ball from the low wing and deep corner. He stretches the defense when he spots up on the same side of dribble penetration. Caldwell is very thin and needs to add strength but has a great offensive skill package. He is also athletic and a competitor on the defensive end of the floor as well. Caldwell has great anticipation in the passing lanes and plays with great energy and intensity when defending the ball. Caldwell reminds me of former Georgetown shooting guard Eric "Sleepy" Floyd.

Ricardo Gathers PF (6-6, 230) (Louisiana Select)
2013, Reserve, La. / Reserve Christian

The young power forward is a work in progress skill wise but he has an NFL body right now. Gathers plays with great energy and passion. He runs the floor and finishes over, around or through defenders with ease. He is so powerful he just takes defenders up with him. He sets rock solid screens and seals his man in the lane on post ups like upperclassmen. He rebounds on both ends and is a threat to score on the offensive glass on a regular basis. He power drop steps in the post and attacks the rim we he receives drop off passes created by guard penetration. He's an unbelievable athlete with the physical gifts to be special. It should be a treat to watch this young player develop.

Notes

• Ohio State Commit 6-8 PF 2010, Jared Sullinger (Columbus, Ohio/ Northland) continues to be a load in the lane. He simply wares down defenders during the course of the game with his big body and physical low post scoring ability. 98/HM+ (All Ohio Red)

• Class of 2010 prospect JD Weatherspoon (Columbus, Ohio/ Northland) is a 6-6 combo forward that has continued to improve. His skills are developing nicely as he now hits the mid range jumper with time and space and can get to the rim on one or two dribbles from the wing. He has off the charts athletic ability and a treat to watch play above the rim. This long and thin lefty reminds me of former NBA player Stacey Augmon.

• 6-10 PF, 2010, Adriean Payne (Dayton, Ohio/ Jefferson) is the definition of upside. This extra long athletic forward runs like a deer, blocks shots and finishes above the rim. He has underrated skill because he is so athletic. He has improved his low post scoring and he now steps out and knocks down three's with time and space.

• Class of 2011, Johnny O'Bryant (Cleveland, Miss./ Eastside) is a high energy 6-10 power forward that plays both ends of the floor. He can score in the post or face up knock down the mid range with time or get to the rim off the bounce. On defense he plays in a stance and has great lateral foot speed and active hands. 96/HM (Jackson Tigers)

• 2011 PF/SF James McAdoo (Norfolk, Va./ Norfolk Christian) is a developing small forward. He has improved his ball handling and can know hit the open mid range jumper off the catch. He has also taken his body to the next level with and muscle and strength. A terrific young prospect.

• 2010,SF Travis McKie (Richmond, Va./ John Marshall) is a 6-6 active small forward that plays more like a power forward at times. He is active on the glass on both ends and a lob catcher in transition. He has improved his ability to make the mid range open jumper but his energy and effort make him an attention getter.

• Bishop Daniels (Raleigh, N.C./ Word of God) is a class of 2011 point guard that excels in transition. He can pass, handle and knock down the pull up jumper and competes the entire game. One to watch!

Reggie Rankin was an assistant coach at seven schools for 13 seasons, most recently at Dayton. He played at Ohio University from 1986-1990 and was an all-MAC first teamer his senior season.

Reggie Rankin

College Basketball Recruiting