- Joel Francisco
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The 2009 GBOA Challenge of Championships, held at Henderson International School, was a one-day event that included many of the top prospects in the country, including PF Tristan Thompson (Henderson, Nev./ Findlay Prep), PG Joe Jackson (Memphis, Tenn./ White Station), PF Dwight Powell (Montverde, Fla./ IMG Academy) and PF Joshua Smith (Kent, Wash./ Kentwood).
Although many of the aforementioned prospects had their outstanding moments, it was forwards Terrence Jones (Portland, Ore./Jefferson) and Jelan Kendrick (Atlanta/Westlake) who were a cut above the rest, in terms of dominance and progression. Jones put together a scintillating performance at both ends to lead his I-5 Elite squad over D-One Sports while Kendrick showed dramatic improvements in many different areas of his game.
Jones showed why he is considered one of the elite level players in the country. He is a unique player with a versatile game and a lengthy frame. The strong lefty loves to dominate the ball and can execute a number of different skills. He can drain the 3-point shot, take defenders off the dribble and is a solid passer. He uses his strong frame to finish off the dribble, but he isn't a big-time athlete (not overly quick). He uses the pump fake and jab step very well to get to the rim and has a nice floater. However, at the next level, Jones will need to learn to play the game without the ball. He has a tendency to force the issue off the dribble, and if he doesn't have the ball, he just stands around. Overall though, Jones is a major talent and is a nightmare matchup because of his unique skill set.
Kendrick has been gaining notoriety this spring and deservedly so. He has improved immensely since I saw him last at the 2008 Pangos All-American Camp. Due to his wiry frame and extraordinary long arms, his game has a Chris Douglas-Roberts (New Jersey Nets) feel to it. He is quite slick with the ball in his hands and is a very smooth scorer. He has a swift crossover to separate from defenders, and he can finish with either hand around the basket or nail the pull-up. His jump shot is consistent out to the stripe and his release is feathery. Kendrick needs to get stronger and not hunt for his shot so often, but he is certainly one of the top prospects in the country with a high ceiling.
Illinois prospects impressing
Full Package Athletics has a trio of intriguing senior prospects in 6-foot-11 Brian Fabrizius (Arlington Heights, Ill./ Hersey), 6-3 Charles McKinney (Des Plaines, Ill./ Maine East), and 6-5 Remy Ndiaye (Burr Ridge, Ill./Lake Forest Academy). Fabrizius is a lengthy left-hander who can stroke the 3-point shot, while McKinney and Ndiaye are high-level athletes who are tremendous in transition.
He doesn't have a true position just yet, but 6-4 junior Branden Dawson (Gary, Ind./ Lew Wallace) is a basketball player. He is one of the most explosive players in the country -- a Dequan Jones (University of Miami) clone -- and he can guard a 2 or a 3 at the next level.
The New York Panthers have quite a guard tandem in 6-0 junior Sterling Gibbs (Scotch Plains, N.J./Seton Hall Prep) and 6-1 senior Deshawn Wiggins (New York/Wings Academy). Gibbs is a steady point guard with solid quickness and speed while Wiggins is very tough to stop off the dribble.
Playaz Club Gold put a whipping on Team Odom behind the outstanding play of 6-2 senior Isaiah Epps (Plainfield, N.J.) and 6-7 senior Shaquille Thomas (Montclair, N.J.). Epps did a nice job of distributing, especially in transition, while Thomas put on a hire-wire act that was comparable to Dwayne Polee (Los Angeles/ Westchester).
Future Blue Devils on display
Duke recruiting has been in question the past few years (in terms of top-notch talent) and if the Blue Devils don't land Harrison Barnes, the Cameron Crazies might start getting worried about when their next Final Four trip will happen. We saw a few other Duke recruits today. Joshua Hairston (DC Assault) is a solid 4-man for the highest level, but 6-3 Tyler Thornton (DC Assault) doesn't possess the talent to be an impact player in the ACC.
Boast of the West Coast
I-5 Elite has two major West Coast stock risers in 6-5 Garrett Jackson (Portland, Ore./ Westview) and 6-9 Jordan Railey (Beaverton, Ore.). Jackson is a wing type with an excellent frame and an improved shooting stroke while Railey is one of the most improved players on the West Coast. His body has begun to fill out and he has a smooth shooting touch out to the elbow.
Wroten runs wild
In the most talent-laden game of the day, Seattle Rotary Select held off Memphis Magic behind the spectacular play of 6-5 junior Anthony Wroten (Seattle, Wash./ Rotary Select). He still needs to learn how to manage a team, but his passing prowess is the best in the country, regardless of class.
Jackson looks the part
Joe Jackson, a 6-0 dynamo out of Memphis, Tenn./ White Station, is the closest thing I've seen to Allen Iverson at this level. His game has steadily improved over the years and he is now conceivably one of the top 10 players in the country. He has blinding quickness and speed and his jump shot is quite good.
• DeAndre Daniels, a 6-8 junior out of Woodland Hills, Calif./ Taft, played less selfish against Grassroots Canada, yet put on a versatile scoring display with his feathery shooting touch and deceptive driving game.
• Texas Blue Chip had an interesting wing prospect in 6-5 Jaron Johnson (Tyler, Texas/John Tyler). He has a willowy frame as well as a nice shooting touch out to the 3-point line.
• If 6-5 Keala King (California Supreme) can continue to develop his jump shot, especially in the mid-range area, his game will go to another level. He is a slick ball handler and passer, but he does have a propensity to overpenetrate when the lane isn't there. By adding a consistent pull-up, that should open up his driving game even more.
• Although many pundits across the country are adamant about labeling 6-1 Gary Franklin (Santa Ana, Calif./ Mater Dei) as a point guard, I beg to differ for a couple of reasons. His ballhandling is shaky (no left hand) and he lacks the savvy to manage a team in a half-court set (shot-hungry). On the other hand, I could see him playing at the high-major level as a spot-up shooter (deadly).
Joel Francisco covers basketball recruiting for ESPN.com.