Commentary

Detroit event a Midwest showcase

Updated: December 31, 2009, 11:44 AM ET
By Reggie Rankin | Scouts Inc.

BEVERLY HILLS, Mich. -- Detroit Country Day High School was the host of the 15th annual Motor City Roundball Classic. This event attracts standing-room only crowds and many of the top boys and girls teams from the state of Michigan and bordering states. Directors Randy Williams, Mal Parker and Country Day head coach Kurt Keener did a terrific job scheduling high-level single games and two four team tournaments that were loaded with Division 1 prospects. The Top Roundball Classic highlight was the head-to-head match up between future Michigan State Spartan combination guard Keith Appling and Southern California point guard Maurice Jones. Jones exploded for 49 points and Appling scored 38, leading Detroit Pershing over Saginaw Arthur Hill 103-95. Madison Memorial and Marquette signee SG Vander Blue put together a big night as well scoring 22 point and grabbing 22 rebounds in a 64-59 win over Detroit Renaissance, but the most talented player of the event was 2011 SF prospect Branden Dawson who electrified the crowd with his high-wire act in transition not to mention his skill and versatility.

Standout players

Branden Dawson, SF (6-6, 205)

2011, Gary, Ind./Lew Wallace

Dawson is a strong, athletic and skilled wing who is a highlight waiting to happen in transition. He can finish above the rim, over or around defenders. He has a great midrange game as well. Dawson can knock down midrange jumpers off the catch or dribble with a smooth stroke and great elevation off the floor. He is an excellent ballhandler who likes to slash from the low wing or baseline where he uses his good first step to beat his defender and score at the rim with a dunk or an acrobatic layup. Dawson also attacks the glass on both ends of the floor. If not boxed out physically and aggressively, he is a tip-dunk threat on offense. On defense, he will take it coast to coast. Dawson is not only a tough competitor, but he seems to be a good teammate. He often encouraged his teammates when they made mistakes. Dawson is also capable of defending both wing positions. At times Dawson will force some shots but this young wing has all the tools to be a special player. What a treat to watch.

Keith Appling
Scott Stewart/ESPN RISE MagazineKeith Appling could be a major contributor from Day 1 for Tom Izzo's squad.

Keith Appling, SG/PG (6-1, 180)
2010, Detroit/Pershing, signed with Michigan State

Appling is a terrific scorer who attacked the rim both in transition and in the half court -- especially along the baseline. He did a great job finishing through contact and drawing fouls on which he made the defense pay by knocking down free throws. Appling also made his presence felt on the offensive glass. He had a couple athletic put-back baskets in traffic. On the defensive glass, he is a good area rebounder who has the ballhandling ability to go coast to coast or draw and kick to an open teammate after he explores all possible ways to get his shot off. Appling hit a deep, contested 3 and did a great job creating space for a couple midrange, step-back jumpers. Appling plays with toughness, energy, urgency and confidence, especially on the offensive end of the floor. He is a good athlete who is capable of defending both guard positions. Appling will provide the Spartans with a player that has a knack for scoring.

Maurice Jones, PG (5-7, 150)
2010, Saginaw, Mich./Arthur Hill, signed with USC
Although it was a losing effort against Pershing, Jones had the crowd on its feet with his ability to score, pass and block shots -- yes, block shots at 5-foot-7. Jones is an explosive athlete. He went above the rim in transition and blocked two layup attempts. Jones is a confident stick of dynamite who can explode for big numbers. He is a highlight waiting to happen in transition; he pushes the ball at high speeds, with a tight handle and excellent court vision. Jones loves to throw the home run ball and did a good job completing those passes. He will take chances with the ball at times but you love his aggressive approach. Jones takes on all comers when he attacks the rim where he can finish through contact and make acrobatic shots look easy. He has questionable shot selection at times but can hit deep 3s without hesitation. Jones is a big shot taker and maker. He is exciting and fearless. His heart is as big as his body, and he competes every second he is on the floor. Jones will be a pain in the neck for opponents in the Pac-10, a conference that has had successful small point guards who can also score -- Jerome Randle of California and Tajuan Porter of Oregon come to mind.

Ray McCallum PG 6-1, 180
2010, Beverly Hills, Mich./ Country Day

McCallum is a rock-solid lead guard who understands the game and makes excellent decisions with the ball. He has deceptive quickness and athletic ability and does a great job displaying it in transition with acrobatic finishes around or past defenders. McCallum can also finish above the rim when ahead of the pack on the break. He can penetrate and kick; he does a good job of accelerating to get deep into the lane. He is an excellent ballhandler and heads-up passer who makes the simple play to get the ball to open teammates. He is a streaky shooter. He can make or miss two or three in a row but is good enough to maintain the defenses attention. McCallum, at times during the game, showed excellent leadership by directing and making verbal points to teammates. He understands and runs the offense but needs to be better at end-of-clock scoring and creating for others, which he is very capable of doing. At times, he is charge prone on drives and must be jump stop conscious but these plays are few and far between. On defense McCallum plays with energy and works to pressure the ball -- although, at times, he rushes at the ball handler and gets beat off the dribble. Once he gets a better understanding of distance from a live dribble, he can solve this problem. McCallum competes and will be able to run a team and contribute as a freshman on the college level.

[+] EnlargeAmir Williams
Stephanie Stovall Amir Williams has major upside.
Amir Williams C (6-10, 220)
2011, Birmingham, Mich./Country Day
Williams is a long and lean post who runs the floor extremely well. He displayed good hands. Williams is a decent rebounder, but he should be better based on his length and athletic ability. He rebounded better offensively than defensively and had a couple nice put backs. In the post, he went to his jump hook over his left shoulder that, at times, was stiff. He mostly scored on dunks from drop-off passes created by guard penetration. When doubled in the low post, Williams did an excellent job passing out to the open man. Defensively, Williams played with his hands up and did a good job staying between the offensive player and the basket. Williams has off-the-charts-potential and upside, but, at times he does not play with enough energy and urgency, which affects his production. He is a work in progress and, in most cases, young post players like him develops at a slower rate, but he is definitely a high major recruit. How good can he be? Time will tell.

Vander Blue SG/PG (6-3, 195)
2010, Madison, Wisc./Memorial, signed with Marquette
Blue displayed great explosiveness in transition and along the baseline in the half court. He beats defenders with a quick first step and can finish above the rim before the help side can react. Blue is quick with the ball, slashes to the basket and strong enough to finish through contact. He must learn to keep his dribble alive when he comes off on ball screens because, at times, he stops his attack prematurely. He also has a nice midrange pull-up and can knock down the open 3 when set -- although he is streaky and must continue to work to improve in that area. Blue seems to be able to get in the lane at will and is a willing and able passer when the defense collapses due to his deep penetration. On the glass Blue must be boxed out because he is a threat for an athletic tip in and can defensive rebounds and lead the break. Blue has a great motor and plays with urgency. Defensively, Blue can easily defend both guard positions. He has great lateral foot speed and quick hands. He competes, but, at times, will force shots. This high major guard will be fun to watch when he suits up next year for the Golden Eagles.

Surprise player

Bryan Coleman SF (6-6, 175)
2010, Southfield, Mich. /Southfield Lathrup
This long and lean lefty has good skill and great potential. Coleman is a versatile wing who must add strength but can score in a variety of ways. He can get to the rim on the break or from the wing in the half court with an excellent first step on which he scored on pull-up jumpers and floaters. Coleman can shoot and finish over defenders with his great length. He has touch, body control and displayed the ability to score with either hand around the basket. He must work to tighten up his handle under intense ball pressure, but he can make a scoring play from a couple quick attacking dribbles. Coleman can make the open 3 off the catch when set and can hit a step-back jumper on which he does a good job creating space. He can get it going on the offensive end when he is in rhythm. He is also a good area rebounder on both ends of the floor. On defense, Coleman is capable of defending both wing positions because of his length and athletic ability. At times, he is not as aggressive as he should, be which hurts his overall production, but he could be an excellent sleeper prospect.

Notes

• Two forwards in the class of 2011 who were very impressive were Tommie McCune (PF/SF, 6-7, 205, Saginaw, Mich./ Saginaw) and Michael Henry (SF, 6-6, 205, Chicago/Orr Academy). Both have size, skill and are very talented offensive players. Both will be heard from on the travel circuit in the coming months. McCune and Henry both graded out at as high-major prospects with a chance to move up with consistent performances.

• Western Michigan signee Juwan Howard Jr. (6-5, 200, Detroit/ Pershing) displayed the ability to slash to the basket along the baseline, hit the open 3 when set and rebound in his area on both ends of the floor. The son of the former University of Michigan "Fab Five" member was aggressive and played very well.

• Roy D. Marble (Southfield, Mich./Southfield Lathrup) is a smooth and athletic shooting guard with great length. He scores to the arc and finishes above the rim in transition and along the baseline with a clear path. Marble will take his game, which is loaded with potential to the University of Iowa next year. His father was a star for the Hawks in the 1980s.

• Class of 2011 combination guard Juwan Moody (6-0,165, Pontiac, MI. / Pontiac Consolidated) can get to the rim on the break but what makes him special is his ability to make open shots with range beyond the arc. Moody wants to score on every catch and can get it going when he is in rhythm. Moody plays more like a shooting guard in a point guard's body.

• Senior Sharpshooter Joshua Herbeck (Ann Arbor, Mich./Gabriel Richard) has a quick trigger as he spots up in transition or comes off screens. He has range beyond the arc and can be considered a specialist. He simply makes open shots on a consistent basis.

• Junior point guard Chris Fowler (6-0, 170, Detroit/ Country Day) plays in attack mode on both ends of the floor. He is the team's best perimeter defender. Fowler is a good open-court passer and can make open 3s when set. Fowler's intensity, energy and effort take his game to the next level.

Nyles Evans (6-0, 155, North Canton, Ohio./Hoover) is a junior point guard who lacks strength but can handle, pass and shoot the ball. He attacks, defenders off the dribble where he can get into the lane for his floater that he shoots with great touch and body control. He can make open 3s when set and he competes the entire time he is on the floor.

Reggie Rankin was an assistant coach at seven schools for 13 seasons, most recently at Dayton.

Reggie Rankin

College Basketball Recruiting