Commentary

Chicago PG Starks has strong showing

Originally Published: April 20, 2009
By Antonio Williams | Scouts Inc.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The Real Deal on the Rock had an absolutely impressive collection of teams stocked with a number of highly regarded individual talents. Formerly played in Fayetteville, this event offered a substantial amount of hospitality in addition to the great collection of talented teams and players who made this event a pleasure to scout. The tournament offered a good number of upsets as well as some traditional powers navigating their way through a stacked field on their way to a championship.

The upstart Dallas Heroes used energy and their ability to spread defenses through their very accurate long-range -- led by 6-3 SG Trae Golden (Powder Springs, Ga./McEachern) and 6-0 PG Ryan Harrow (Marietta, Ga./George Walton Comprehensive High School) -- shooting to upset the J-Smoove Celtics in the semifinals. The Heroes rode the interior contributions of Mike Groselle (Plano, Texas/Plano West) and the shooting of 6-1 SG Tanner Milson (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill) to the championship round. In the other semifinal, the Illinois Warriors followed the Heroes blueprint of success, by using the shooting exploits of 6-3 SG Brandon Spearman (Chicago/Simien) and Ahmad Starks (Chicago/Young) to upset the New York Gauchos en route to the title game.

In the championship tilt, led the Warriors to a win in a very spirited contest over the Heroes that came down to the wire. For his efforts in the title game, as well as throughout the tournament, Starks garnered MVP honors.

Standout Players

Tristan Thompson, Combo-forward (6-9), Grassroots Canada
2010, Findlay Prep/Brampton, Ontario, Canada

Thompson continues to develop on the offensive end of the court in impressive fashion. This lefty looks more and more comfortable operating in turn-and-face situations, using his lateral quickness and long strides to drive past slower bigs. Thompson will shoot the pull-up jumper in the midrange, using one or two dribbles, very effectively -- though he needs to continue to develop his touch from the perimeter. Currently, he shoots more of a line-drive jumper with little arc, due to his tendency to get on top of the ball as opposed to under it. However, Thompson has a textbook, high release and when combined with his incredible length, it's extremely difficult for defenders to alter or block his shot. He will also drive the ball to the rim and will finish with his right or left hand. Thompson also uses his incredible pro-hop in the lane, where he covers an enormous amount of ground and generates power to finish in traffic. He will also finish in the paint in traffic with power and authority, in addition to his body control, despite his somewhat thin frame. Thompson draws number of fouls through his aggressive offensive play. He also rebounds his position very well and will start a number of fast breaks with his shot-blocking and rebounding prowess, only to run the floor easily and finish above the rim. Thompson also leads the full-court press with his length and lateral quickness and causes turnovers and keeps smaller guards from seeing the floor for passes.

Brandon Knight, PG (6-3), Southeast Elite
2010, Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Pine Crest

Knight has very good size for the point guard position and he has developed a strong upper body over the years. He has to continue to develop his lower half and make sure he does not get too bulky and lose some of his very good quickness as a lead guard. Knight has to learn to use his size and strength to his advantage, not allowing smaller point guards to speed him up into turnovers. He has to learn to clip smaller point guards with his hip and drive by them, using the contact to get them off balance and negate their quickness and aggression. Knight also needs to get to spots on the floor without using so many dribbles, which he would accomplish by using his size and strength and improving his ability to dribble and drive to his left -- he prefers to go right off the bounce. Knight has big hands and good length and will absolutely destroy defenders with his ability to hit 3s in transition. He will rattle off consecutive treys from deep, providing momentum-building daggers for his squad. Knight relies too much on his shot; he needs to get into the midrange with more regularity. Knight also has a tendency to kick his leg out on jumpers, which keeps him from squaring to the bucket when he misses jumpers. When he drives, he also has enough strength to take contact at the rim and still finish off the hoop. He looked for his own offense a little too much, but when Knight decides to involve others, he has impeccable vision and passing skills -- especially when he gets into the open court. Knight, in addition to improving his ability to go left effectively, also needs to learn to change speeds off the bounce and not play at such a fast pace all the time, which would help him to cut down on driving into crowds. When he makes the commitment, Knight can use his size and good lateral quickness to lock down opposing point guards.

Ahmad Starks, 5-9 (PG) Illinois Warriors
2010, Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young

[+] EnlargeAhmad Starks
Doug Steinbock for ESPN.comAhmad Starks, left, has committed to Oregon State.

Starks has very good quickness and solid ball-handling skills, which makes him an absolute terror in the open court. This score-first lead guard looks to get his own offense before involving his teammates, an aspect of his game that needs some improvement. Starks has enough vision and passing skills to create offense for his teammates and when he does this, Starks becomes a very good point guard. For his development for the next level, he will have to learn to balance between scoring and creating for his mates. On his jumper, he has range that extends out to the 3-point line. Although he does not have ideal height, Starks has a nice mid-range, pull-up jumper. He has to improve his shot selection as well for the next level. He has decent length and big hands for his size, which gives him the good ball-handling skills. Starks can slither into tight seams on the floor and get to the paint, for a floater or to drop off to open teammates in the paint. He can also finish at the rim with his right or left hand and has good body control. On the defensive end, Starks can use his low center of gravity to get under opposing ball-handlers and disrupt them, but he does not do it nearly enough. He can also get steals in passing lanes given his very good quickness.

Joe Jackson, PG (5-11) Memphis Magic Elite
2010, Memphis, Tenn./White Station High School

Jackson has incredible quickness and gets to the paint in hurry. He excels in the open court and can knife through traffic to get to the paint. Jackson also has outstanding leaping ability and will look to finish above the rim with dunks, especially if he gets a chance to get in transition. If Jackson gets to the rim, but cannot dunk the ball, he will finish either his right hand or left hand. He will hit 3s as well as the occasional pull-up jumper in the midrange, but he needs to continue to work in this area. Jackson has good vision and passing skills, but he does not look to create for his teammates enough, preferring to score the basketball instead. Jackson also needs to improve shot selection, which would cause some of his streakiness to dissipate. He also needs to look to use his lateral quickness to harass opposing ball-handlers on the defensive end.

Ryan Harrow, PG (6-0) J-Smoove Celtics
2010, Marietta, Ga./George Walton Comprehensive High School

Harrow has elite quickness and electric leaping ability, which allows him to finish above the rim, especially in transition or in alley-oop offensive sets. This score-first point guard relies on a crafty change of pace dribble to break down opposing defenders to get into the teeth of the defense mostly for his own scoring opportunities. Harrow also likes to use the crossover dribble going from left to right to get to his dominant hand to get into the paint. He relies heavily on his right and would add more variety to his off-the-dribble game by enhancing his ability to go left, in addition to making his scoring opportunities off the bounce easier as opposing defenders can sit on his right hand. Improving his left-handed dribble will also cut down on his tendency over-dribble. Harrow, for the next level, will have to continue to develop his point guard skills and involve his teammates more. He has good length for his size and would benefit immensely from making frequent trips to the weight room over the next year in preparation for college. Harrow also needs to give more attention and focus to the defensive end of the floor.

Surprise players

Cameron Clark, SF (6-7) Team Texas
2010, Sherman, Texas/Sherman

Clark has explosive scoring ability and can put a high number of points on the board in a flash. He has very good leaping ability and a quick first step, which allows him to get to the rim with ease. Clark does not shy away from contact and will look to finish strong in traffic off the dribble. His next step in his progression should see him learn to simplify his game, learning to use his quickness to get to spots on the floor with less dribbles, as he has a tendency to over-dribble at times, thus bringing his team's offense to a halt at times, in addition to leading to turnovers by Clark. Clark has range that extends out to the 3-point line and he will also hit on the mid-range pull-up jumper, but he needs to improve his form just a tad, as he cradles the ball a little bit, putting the ball behind his head a little, and ending up on top of the ball, but his follow ends up in the right place. He also needs to improve his shot selection and his understanding of not turning down easier shots for more difficult ones. He also shoots a set shot at times and his accuracy suffers when he does not elevate on his jumper. Clark runs the floor very well and also gets hustle points in transition and will take his game to the next level once he fully grasps how to play off his teammates and create shot opportunities for them. He also needs to continue to devote energy to the defensive end of the floor.

Ian Miller, SG (6-3) Atlanta Xpress
2010, United Faith Christian Academy/Charlotte, N.C.

Miller has the quickness and the mentality that fuels his ability to score almost at will, regardless of the level of defenders. He believes that he can score on anyone and generally that sort of thinking proves him correct. Miller has range that extends out to the 3-point line and he will connect on a good amount of attempts from the land of 3. He also has enough quickness to get to the paint and finish at the tin. Miller excels in the open court, due in large measure to his quickness, and can skate to the rim when he has the ball in his hands in transition. He also handles the ball well enough in transition to not turn the ball over too much despite playing the game at very high speeds. Miller also plays an energized brand of basketball and leads his team through his effort and intensity.

Luke Cothron, PF (6-8) Southeast Elite
2010, Flora MacDonald Academy/Red Springs, N.C.

Cothron can score the basketball in the paint with his good touch around the basket with a high level of success. He sometimes shies away from contact and would alleviate that problem if he improves his level of strength as well as add muscle to his frame. Cothron also has problems handling passes in traffic at times, but getting stronger would help that problem. He has decent footwork with his back to the basket and will score using the little jump hook with his right hand. Cothron has to improve his touch around the hoop and getting stronger would also help in that department. He has enough quickness to put the ball on the floor, but his lack of strength causes him to get knocked off balance when faces on drive attempts. Cothron also negates his length at times by adjusting in the air and makes himself smaller in the process. If he keeps the ball high when he receives it in the post, he will also help to make himself bigger and not negate his advantage. Cothron runs the floor and can score in transition as well as an offensive rebounder, but adding more strength will allow him to become a better defensive rebounder. He also will block shots as a help-side defender as well as an on-ball defender.

Mike Groselle, PF (6-7) Dallas Heroes 2009, Plano, Texas./Plano West Groselle does not have outstanding leaping ability or explosive athleticism, but he more than compensates with his effort and physical style of play. He has to continue to improve his counter moves in the paint to negate his lack of leaping ability, but he does a great job of turning over his left shoulder on the right block for scoring chances. Groselle does not shy away from contact, in fact, he goes through defenders when the try to guard him. He also does a good job of using his body to create space in the paint. Groselle will finish with his right or left hand in the paint and can come over to block a shot. He has to continue to hold his position for rebounding. Groselle can change ends and should not have a problem keeping up in the transition game. He has good hands and can handle passes in the paint. He also does a good job of carving out space for position in the post and needs to do that for rebounding on both ends of the floor.

Tarik Black, PF (6-7) Memphis Magic Elite
2010, Memphis, Tenn./Ridgeway High School

Black has very good leaping ability and gets off the floor with great quickness, which makes him a very good offensive rebounder as well as a shot blocker. He has the ability to alter/reject shots as a weak-side, help defender as well as an on-ball defender. His length also helps him to snag boards on both ends of the floor as well as deter shots. In addition to his shot-blocking prowess, Black also plays decent position defense in the paint. His hops and his strength allow Black to finish above the rim in traffic, if he needs to dunk with bodies hanging on him. He has decent footwork, but needs to improve in that area. Black can also make a living as a pick-and-pop big man with his impressive ability to hit jumpers consistently from the 15-feet range. Black has amazing upside and has the capacity to get stronger and uses his length and big hands to do yeoman's work in the painted area. He also has the ability to drive past defenders in turn-and-face situations.

Notes

• Former Arkansas great and NBA shooting guard Todd Day made an appearance in Little Rock. He now roams the sidelines as coach of his own version of the Hogs, as in the Memphis Hawgs AAU programs.

• Sophomore Adonis Thomas (Memphis, Tenn./Melrose High School), a 6-5 SF, has the ability to score in a very fluid manner. He has a very good build and skill-set for a youngster. Thomas has more than enough upside to develop into a special player in the next couple of years and will continue to garner interest from a number of high major programs throughout the country.

• Junior Jelan Hendrick (Westlake, Ga./Westlake), a 6-6 SG, can score in a variety of ways. He needs to continue to involve his teammates as well as make more of a commitment on the defensive end as he readies himself for the next level.

• 2010 player Tanner Milson (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill), a 6-1 PG, has great range on his jumper. He gets rid of the ball very quickly and will also drive past defenders with his surprising amount of quickness if they look to push up on him in efforts to take away his lethal jumper.

• 2010 prospect Terrance Lafayette, a 6-2 SG (Humble, Texas/Christian Life Center), has the ability to defend at the highest level. As long as he continues to develop his decent jumper, he could play at the highest level as a lockdown defender that could absolutely harass elite point guards.

• Freshman Jason Carter (Houston/Fort Bend Marshall), a 6-8 PF, has a very mature game for such a young player. He will score in the paint as well as take you away from the bucket for 3s. As he gets more mature and stronger, he should become a very good, highly recruited combo-forward.

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

Antonio Williams

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