- Joel Francisco
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While trudging along in the tropical Las Vegas heat, began to visualize an exciting big-man matchup between Fabricio Melo (Florida Rams) and Louisville commit Michael Chandler (D1E Derrick Rose All-Stars). Unfortunately, due to their raw offensive games and lack of fundamentals, the showdown never materialized.
However, it became more clear throughout the game that 6-foot-8 Cady Lalane (Orlando, Fla./Oak Ridge) was the best player and possibly the most promising prospect in the game. This hybrid 4-man has a great feel for the game and the athleticism to match, making a number of high-level plays.
Not to be outdone was the outstanding 6-8 Jayvaughn Pinkston (Brooklyn, NY./Bishop Loughlin). From the opening tip to the final buzzer, Pinkston impacted the game on many levels. He was extremely tough to stop off the bounce and he utilized his brute strength to punish Dwight Powell and Tristan Thompson in leading his New Heights Blue squad over heavily favored Grassroots Canada Elite.
Pinkston has exploded onto the national scene during this week in Las Vegas. This burly, face-up 4-man is tough to handle inside and out. Although he can drop in a few 3-pointers during a contest, the strength of his game is attacking the rim. He is deceptively quick on the perimeter and does a nice job of utilizing his strong frame to ward off defenders while clearing a lane to the basket. In addition, he possesses a surprisingly soft touch and tossed in a couple of nifty floaters. He is an outstanding offensive rebounder and he has soft hands, to boot. Overall, Pinkston has the talent and frame to make an immediate impact at his chosen college.
Lalane is a prototypical 4-man for the high-major level. He has great length and bounce, and a very high ceiling. Although he is a power forward, he slides his feet very well and has very quick reactions on the perimeter. He has a smooth stroke out to the elbow, but his post game needs polishing. He can drop-step and elevate but his lack of strength is evident. In addition, he has solid perimeter skills and advances the ball very well in transition, demonstrating his savvy for this game. He plays physical at both ends and is a solid post defender, to boot. It would be a surprise if he doesn't end up playing at the highest level of college basketball.
West Coast notes
• Baltimore Assault 17s have a pair of high-major prospects in 6-7 Roscoe Smith (Mouth of Wilson, Va./Oak Hill Academy) and 6-2 Josh Selby. Smith is a hybrid 4-man who can take opponents off the dribble and finish with authority. In addition, he plays with great energy on the defensive side of the ball, is a great shot-blocker and possesses the lateral quickness to guard a wing. Selby, on the other hand, may be the most prolific in his class at his position. He is phenomenal off the dribble and has quite an arsenal at his disposal when trying to put up points.
• Indiana Elite Red big man Mitchell Patton (Vincennes, Ind./South Knox) demonstrated the skill, size and savvy to be a solid 5-man at the mid-major level. A 6-9 senior, he can step out and nail the jump shot at the elbow or maneuver in the paint for the easy bucket, despite not having a whole lot of bounce and mobility.
• Texas A&M got a good one in 6-3 junior Jamal Branch (Humble, Texas/Atascosita). He is a high-level point guard with blazing speed and quickness. He keeps his handle very low to the ground and he possesses a deadly runner. He'll need to smooth out his jump shot, but he appears to be one of the elite point guards in the country regardless of class.
• Besides Branch, Houston Swoosh Select has one of the better shooters in the class of 2011 in 6-5 junior Sheldon McClendon (Houston/Bellaire) and 6-0 junior Anthony Collins (Westbury, Texas/Christian). McClendon has a prolific shooting touch out beyond the 3-point stripe, while Collins is a cat-quick point guard who can get into the lane and locate open teammates.
• In addition to Pinkston, New Heights 17s Blue has a pair of 5/4 types in Ashton Pankey and Devon Collier who rebound and possess the necessary work ethic that translate into winning players. Both prospects attend famed St. Anthony (Elizabeth, N.J.) and have a real knack for rebounding and finishing around the basket.
• There may not be a better guard tandem than the Atlantic Celtics' J-Smoov duo of 6-1 Trae Golden (Powder Springs, Ga./McEachern) and 6-0 Ryan Harrow (Douglasville, Ga./Walton). Golden is quite good powering his way to the rim, while Harrow uses his slick handle to break down defenders.
• Grassroots Canada Elite received terrific performances from their guard combo of Texas commit Myck Kabongo (St. Benedicts) and Findlay Prep's Cory Joseph. Kabongo displayed an improved shooting touch to along with his dazzling handle, while Joseph hit a number of tough jump shots under heavy pressure.
Joel Francisco covers basketball recruiting for ESPN Scouts Inc.