Commentary

C Johnson impresses at Nike event

Originally Published: May 26, 2009
By Mike LaPlante | Scouts Inc.

SUWANEE, Ga. -- The Bobby Hussey Nike Memorial Day Classic, featuring the majority of the elite Nike-sponsored grassroots club teams, was a tremendous success. The event was very well organized and the games were highly entertaining while pitting some of the top basketball prospects in the country in head-to-head competition. The highlight of the tournament was Sunday's slate of U-17 quarterfinal games; the gym was buzzing with excitement as three of the games went into overtime and the fourth was decided by two points.

In the U-17 championship game, California Supreme outlasted Team Stat (Fla.) in a thrilling 81-80 victory that was decided by a 23-foot 3-pointer from 6-4 shooting guard Tyler Lamb (Los Angeles/Mater Dei) with less than a second remaining on the clock. Point guard Brandon Knight (Coral Springs, Fla./Pine Crest) missed a free throw that could have tied the game and sent it into overtime. The winners were led by 6-9 junior center Kevin Johnson (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra) and Lamb with 17 points apiece. Johnson also dominated the backboards with 13 rebounds. Team Stat was paced by 6-3 sophomore point guard Austin Rivers (Winter Park, Fla.), who had 24 points to go along with Knight, who added 23 in the hard-fought loss.

In the 16-under division, which featured future high-level prospects from the Class of 2011, the Arkansas Wings defeated the Southern Kings (Ga.) in overtime 66-62. The 15-under division was won by the Georgia Stars over BABC (Mass.) 57-43.

Standouts

Kevin Johnson (6-9, 240, C/PF)
2011, Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra

Johnson catches your attention as soon as he walks on the floor; he has a man's body and instantly passes the look test. He is a surprisingly good athlete for a young kid of his size and has developed into a more explosive player. He has great hands and good feet that allow him to post and catch in traffic. He uses his body well in positioning for rebounds, loves contact and is not afraid to bang to gain real estate. His desire to rebound the ball has as big of an impact on his team as his scoring. When he catches the ball deep in the post with a defender on his backside, it's over. He shot it at a high percentage the entire weekend and also gets himself to the charity stripe at a good rate. He is improving defensively; Johnson fights for position instead of allowing his man to catch it on the block and then trying to block the shot. He still has a high ceiling and will be highly sought-after as he continues to develop.

Austin Rivers (6-3, 180, P/SG)
2011, Winter Park, Fla., committed to Florida

Rivers showed why he is one of the top players in the Class of 2011. He was out of sync playing with Brandon Knight in the first couple of games, during which it seemed both players were trying to assert themselves as the alpha dog. Once everything settled down, Rivers began to dominate the opposition with his scoring and playmaking ability. When he started looking to set up his teammates, his unselfishness became contagious and the team got on a roll. He still settled for the 21-foot jumper, which he can make at times, too often without any passes when the defense sagged. He has a great in-between game -- as good as any prospect in the nation -- shooting floaters over the big guys. Rivers can get to the rim, draw contact and finish. He is impatient, at times, on defense and gambles, which gets him into foul trouble. He understands the game -- as you would expect from Doc Rivers' son -- loves to compete and is fearless in tight situations.

Harrison Barnes (6-7, 200, SG)
2010, Ames, Iowa

One of the more impressive outbursts of the weekend was the first game of the tournament in which Barnes went off for 30 points in an 8 a.m. contest against a high-powered Boo Williams team. Although Barnes' outmanned team lost by four points, he was clearly the best player on the floor amongst a host of future ACC stars. He is very patient letting the game come to him. Barnes rarely takes a poor or forced shot, but when it is crunch time he knows how to put his team on his back and carry the load. He is a very sound all-around player who can play three positions (SG, SF, PF) and dominate. He rebounds his position and is a terror on the offensive glass. He gets out on the break and it just as effective spotting up for a 3 or attacking the rim and bringing down the thunder. He is a great teammate who is unselfish, has a great feel and intelligence for the game and is not afraid to do the dirty work in order to win. He reminds me of a Grant Hill-type kid.

Will Barton (6-5, 170, SG)
2010, Baltimore/Lake Clifton

[+] EnlargeWill Barton
Stephanie Yelder-Stovall for ESPN.comBaltimore product Will Barton is headed to Memphis.
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Barton was dominant the entire weekend. He is a high-energy guy who impacts a game in a lot of areas. He is wiry strong and not afraid to mix it up. He showed the ability to rebound the ball, bust it out of the pack, take it coast to coast and finish at the rim (usually some form of nasty dunk). He is a tough matchup; his size, length and bounce give him a great advantage over most shooting guards and he finds ways to score without having to always be set up. He is a great transition player who fills the wings for a 3-pointer and can be electrifying as a finisher on a lob. What separates him from most other top-level players is the passion and energy he plays with on the defensive side of the ball. He envelops his opponent with his long arms and quick feet, making it very difficult to execute offense. He has a great attitude, is mentally tough and coachable. Barton already is fairly well-regarded as a prospect, but he should continue to climb to elite status with more showings like this on the summer circuit.

Andre Dawkins (6-4, 190, SG)
2010, Chesapeake, Va./Atlantic Shores, committed to Duke

I kept waiting to see Dawkins turn it loose and show the traits of a top-10 player, but during the first day he kept settling for 3-point jumpers and wasn't assertive on either end of the floor. Day 2 was a different story; he came with an attitude and was dominant the entire day. During the quarterfinal game, in which his team lost in overtime, he took over and made big-time play after big-time play. He is a gifted scorer who stuck deep 3s, attacked the rim in the half court and finished with a couple exclamation marks on the break. He rebounds his position and is a threat for a putback dunk if his defender misses a block-out. He created multiple turnovers with his anticipation and quickness off the ball and also was very good at pressuring on the ball. He is a fierce competitor who elevates his game when the pressure is on. He will fit in very well in Coach K's team-first system at Duke.

Terrence Jones (6-8, 210, S/PF)
2010, Portland, Ore./Jefferson

Jones has a great body and is a versatile forward who scores inside and out. He has a nice stroke from behind the 3-point arc and can also play with his back to the basket or out of the high post. He is skilled playing with his face to the basket and can put the ball on the floor and create his own shot and has a good feel passing the ball out of the post. He is a great offensive rebounder who is quick off the floor and pursues the ball relentlessly. Jones is a smart player; he sees the floor well and understands the game. He plays under control and doesn't force the action. On the defensive end, Jones gives good effort, and he can guard all five spots. He has the ability to be a shutdown defender if he puts his mind to it. He is clearly one of the top players in the Class of 2010.

Biggest Surprises

Ricardo Gathers (6-6, 235, PF)
2012, Reserve, La./Reserve Christian

Gathers, a genetically gifted 6-6 man-child, exploded on the scene at the Bobby Hussey Nike Memorial Day Classic. He is an explosive athlete who dominates around the basket and can consistently knock down a 15-17 foot jump shot. He has a very mature game for a young player and was able to compete very favorably against players two classes ahead of him. Gathers showed great hands and was a terrific rebounder who was able to get to balls out of his area, controlling the boards for his team. He played very good position defense and did not shy away from fighting for position in the low post. He's a tough kid who challenges everything and has a great motor. Gathers has a good stroke from the free throw line, knows how to post his man deep and has advanced low-post moves with a defender on his hip. If Gathers grows a few more inches while continuing to develop as a player, he will easily be one of the top prospects in the 2012 class.

Tim Hardaway Jr. (6-4, 185, P/SG)
2010, Palmetto, Fla.

Hardaway, who has obvious basketball bloodlines, displayed high-level ballhandling and passing ability at both guard positions. He is an excellent athlete who uses his quickness and length to his advantage. He showed he is a threat from 3 if the defender backs off. He was very good in transition pushing the ball up the floor and is a great finisher at the rim. He had a good feel for using ball screens and also could create off the dribble. He was able to get into the paint for a midrange jump shot and did a nice job drawing the defense and kicking out to an open teammate. Defensively, he is a smart, fundamentally sound player who understands angles and has above-average lateral quickness. He still has upside and is developing some point guard skills. As his body continues to mature, Hardaway should blossom into an excellent college player.

Langston Galloway, (6-2, 175, PG)
2010, Baton Rouge, La./Christian Life Academy

Galloway is a player I like more each time I see him; he went head-to-head all week against some of the top point guards in the Class of 2010 and each time demonstrated that he can play with anybody. He led his team to the semifinals, defeating teams loaded with higher-level talent along the way. He is a very good athlete who is rangy and has very good ball quickness. He is able to get by his defender with a quick first step, is long and bouncy and is very crafty on his way to the basket. He has good range on his jump shot and is able to make a step-back 3 and he is consistent from the free throw line. This kid is a winner who competes until the buzzer sounds.

Alex Kirk, (6-10, 250, C)
2010, Los Alamos, N.M.

Kirk was impressive all weekend; he made plays that don't show up in the box score. He is a space-eater who clogs the paint and is difficult to score over. He is an average athlete, but makes up for it with hustle and intensity; he is built for more of a half-court style game. Kirk consistently owned the boards and did a great job banging down low to gain position; he has great hands and didn't lose too many balls once he got control. He is a position defender who is fundamentally sound and plays the percentages; he blocked a few shots, but that is not his strength. He scores most of his points around the rim, muscling his way to the basket and trying to draw contact. He understands how to get big and wide in the post and is solid with his back to the basket. For his size, Kirk has a good stroke at the free throw line. He is a great teammate who plays the role of enforcer.

Aaron Bright (5-10, 160, PG)
2010, Bellevue, Wash.

Bright is a skilled, heady point guard who sees the floor well and is an effective passer with both hands. He knows how to use ball screens and plays with a good pace. He is a deceptive athlete with the ability to change speeds and direction and get by his defender. He is consistent from behind the 3-point arc, shooting off the dribble or using a screen to free himself. He is a high-percentage decision-maker who has a good feel for when to push the tempo and when to pull it back and get some ball movement. He attacks the rim without fear and scored with either hand. He gets up in his opponent's face and does a nice job pressuring the ball.

Notes

• Small forward Cameron Clark (Sherman, Texas) showed why he is considered one of the best in Texas. He, along with lighting-quick 5-10 point guard Phil Pressey (Dallas/Episcopal), led Team Texas Elite throughout the event.

• Baltimore Elite, one of the deepest teams at the event, boasted at least five high major level players on its roster. Barton; 6-3 combo guard Josh Selby (Baltimore/ Lake Clifton); 6-8 bookend forwards C.J Fair (Baltimore/City College) and Jordan Latham (Baltimore/City College); and 6-10 center Baye Moussa Keita (Mouth of Wilson, Va./Oak Hill) give Baltimore Elite a group that most colleges would covet.

• BWSL (Boo Williams Summer League) was another team that is always loaded. It features a group of rising seniors who are headed to the ACC, but the most impressive player on the roster is Class of 2011 6-8 power forward James McAdoo (Norfolk, Va./Norfolk Christian), who may have been the best player in the gym regardless of class.

• The tournament champions, California Supreme, showed that kids from California can be just as hard-nosed and scrappy as the East Coast teams. Lamb, Johnson, 6-2 point guard Gary Franklin (Los Angeles/Mater Dei) and 6-5 Keala King (Long Beach, Calif./Dominguez Hills) all showed that they can hang and bang with anyone.

• Albany City Rocks were led during the weekend by 6-8 combo forward Tobias Harris (Dix Hills, N.Y./Half Hallow Hills), 6-3 shooting guard Taran Buie (Albany, N.Y./Bishop Maginn), 6-9 power forward Will Regan (Buffalo, N.Y./Nichols) and 6-8 power forward Hippolyte Tsafack (Albany, N.Y./Miller School). • The New York Gauchos were carried by 6-4 shooting guard Doron Lamb (Queens, N.Y./Oak Hill), 6-5 small forward Jason Morris (Augusta, Ga./Hotchkiss School) and 6-6 small forward Shane Southwell (New York/Rice).

• Seattle Rotary Select relied on the inside-out tandem of 6-9 center Josh Smith (Kent, Wash./Kentwood) and 6-2 sharpshooter Gary Bell Jr. (Kent, Wash./ Kentridge). Class of 2011 6-4 combo guard Tony Wroten Jr. (Seattle, Wash./Garfield) was explosive at the point and made his usual high-level plays in transition.

• Team Stat (Fla.), which lost in the championship game, was led by 6-3 point guard Brandon Knight (Coral Springs, Fla./Pine Crest), Rivers and 6-6 power forward Justin Jackson (Montverde, Fla./Montverde Academy).