Commentary

Youngsters steal show at NPSI

Originally Published: February 8, 2010
By Adam Finkelstein | ESPN Recruiting

KINGSTON, R.I. -- The annual National Prep School Invitational took place this weekend at the University of Rhode Island's Keaney Gymnasium. In total the event spanned four days with more than 30 teams competing and well over 100 Division I prospects in action. Kudos to tournament director Dave Maron for assembling another loaded field.

While the event featured some of the top postgraduate talent from around the country, it was the underclassmen who stole the show as a select few proved their worth against players two or three years their senior.

Standout players

Anthony Bennett (6-7, 230), PF
2012, Ontario, Canada/Mountain State Academy (W.Va.)
Bennett was the best player in the gym on Thursday, showing an inside-out skill set while playing with good intelligence and energy. He was at his best in transition, where he runs wings extremely well and finishes with explosiveness and power, elevating through contact. He isn't a prototypical creator in the half-court set but does have the versatility to be a major mismatch. He has a soft jump hook over either shoulder on the block and a very consistent midrange stroke. This weekend, he showed dependable 3-point range, although the flat trajectory of his shot leaves very little margin for error. Bennett has a big, strong body, rebounds the ball in high volume on both ends, and finishes consistently against contact. He plays hard on every possession and has a high basketball IQ.

Alex Murphy (6-8, 190), SF
2012, Wakefield, R.I./St. Mark's School (Mass.)
Returning to play in front of his hometown crowd, Murphy didn't disappoint. In fact, he took the game over in the final moments. It was a terrific display for a sophomore who obviously needs to continue to fill out his frame but already has the skill level, mentality and confidence to take over a high-level game despite being the youngest player on the floor. Though not necessarily an explosive athlete, Murphy showed an ability to create his own shot at will. He was deadly in ball-screen action, consistently drilling pull-up 3s off the dribble as his defender went under the screen all night long. Murphy, the younger brother of Florida big man Erik Murphy, used his length to his advantage in isolation situations. Although he rarely blew by his man from a standstill, he got to the rim when immediately attacking off the catch and has perfected his spin move when cut off. Murphy also ran the floor well to get some easy buckets in transition, defended the wing adequately in his team's 2-3 zone and rebounded his area.

Nate Lubick (6-9, 222), PF
2010, Southborough, Mass./St. Mark's School
Lubick was tremendously efficient in St. Mark's upset win over Winchendon on Friday and punctuated the performance with a buzzer-beating 17 footer to win the game. Typically what makes Lubick, a Georgetown signee, special is his versatility and ability to impact the game in so many different ways, but here he showed his underestimated scoring ability. He shot the ball consistently in pick-and-pop action (off both down screens and ball screens), scored with a variety of fundamentally sound post moves (drop steps and up and unders), and even faced up to score off the bounce (in isolations from the short corner or coming off the ball screen at the elbow). Lubick was equally effective defensively in the middle of the zone, rotating perfectly to shut down dribble penetration along the sidelines and body up with Winchendon's posts on the block. While Lubick continued to run the floor well and go hard to the glass, he'll need to increase his stamina and get in better shape before arriving at Georgetown.

Javarez Willis (5-10, 170), PG
2010, Dallas/Humble Life Christian Academy

Willis, a Texas Tech signee, changed the game on both ends of the floor all weekend long, scoring in bunches from behind the 3-point line and locking up defensively. Although he's a little undersized, Willis can get his shot off at virtually any time because of the amount of lift he gets. He made the defense pay any time he saw daylight, connecting on five 3-pointers in each game. Although his jumper was his first option, Willis also drove the ball to the paint when crowded and back-cut quickly when overplayed. He is also an exceptional on-the-ball defender, capable of pressuring the ball for 94 feet while still keeping the quickest of guards in front of him. While Willis will need to continue to get stronger to compensate for his lack of size, he plays with good physicality and understands how to compete on every possession.

[+] EnlargeJJ Moore
Reebok J.J. Moore is the latest product of Pitt's New York pipeline.
J.J. Moore (6-5, 200), SF
2010, Brentwood, N.Y./South Kent School (Conn.)
Moore went for 30 points on 11-of-21 shooting from the floor to lead South Kent to a hard-fought, one-point victory over Canarias Academy. Moore's versatility stood out the most; he was equally effective making athletic plays off the dribble or in the open floor as he was getting his shot from the perimeter. While he may have settled for 3s too often (4-of-11 from behind the arc) Moore has no doubt developed himself into a consistent shot-maker with range well beyond the college arc. He's equally effective pulling up off the dribble; he can stop and pop quickly and elevate above the defense to get the shot off anytime he wants. Physically, his frame has continued to get stronger this year while he remains an incredible athlete who is a phenomenal finisher in transition. While Moore must rebound the ball more consistently, he has otherwise continued to expand his game at a rapid rate with no signs of leveling anytime soon. Moore has signed to play his college ball at Pitt.

Player to watch

Andrew Wiggins (6-6, 200), SF
2014, Toronto, Canada/Christian Faith Academy (N.C.)
Listed as a 9th grader in the program, Wiggins is actually a 13-year-old member of the Class of 2014. The impact that such a youngster is already able to have against postgrads is staggering, but his long-term potential is even more jaw dropping. Wiggins is an explosive athlete who bounces off the hardwood to finish, rebound, or block shots. He scores around the basket with both hands, has solid footwork inside the paint, creates off the dribble with a quick first step and equally tight crossover, goes hard to the offensive glass and is already a capable threat at the 3-point line. Physically, at 13, it's unrealistic to think his body would be nearly as developed as those around him in this game. Still, he has the solid frame, long arms and sturdy legs to suggest his body will catch up with the rest of his game sooner rather than later. Williams is an absolutely incredible young talent. His biggest challenge will be staying humble and continuing to work hard. If he can do that, his upside in this game is unlimited.

Surprise player

Patrik Auda (6-9, 225), PF
2010, Brno, Czech Republic/Canarias Academy

The Canarias Basketball Academy had college coaches captivated. Its roster featured several prospects with intriguing combinations of size and skill. Auda was tops among them with a sturdy 6-foot-9 build, great energy and physicality and a well-developed lefty skill set from the perimeter. Auda shot the ball consistently to the 3-point line and was very productive attacking off the dribble from the perimeter, where he has a good handle and efficient economy of motion, taking big strides through the lane. He is extremely physical and even a little mean inside the paint, banging defensively, diligently going to the glass and taking smaller defenders to the low post offensively. While he consistently made plays, his footwork was his most glaring weakness -- he was called for numerous traveling violations throughout the weekend. Physically, Auda has good muscle mass, coordination and agility, but he appeared to be only an average athlete.

Notes

• While Andre Drummond (Hartford, Conn./St. Thomas More School) has a higher ceiling than any other prospect in 2012, he is far from a finished product. However, he is making great progress at St. Thomas More. He had his head on the rim all weekend long but what was just as impressive was watching his mental progression on the defensive end. His communication, knowledge of how to defend ball screens and understanding of when to rotate to contest shots are all far ahead of where they were just a few months ago.

Michael Carter-Williams (Hamilton, Mass./St. Andrew's) dropped 36 points on Westwind on Friday, showing a super smooth skill set. He has great size and length for a guard and excels at creating space to get off his smooth jumper. As he gets stronger physically and learns to balance his own scoring ability with responsibilities of running the team, his position in the Class of 2011 will surely rise.

• Mountain State point guard Jabs Newby (Toronto) turned in a gutsy performance, playing with a heavily bandaged right wrist. While he was obviously limited offensively, he led the way on both ends of the ball, cutting the head off the opposing offense with his ball pressure and running his own team on the offensive end.

Kelvin Amayo fed James Frazier for a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to lead NIA Prep over Brewster Academy for the second time this season on Friday morning.

Adam Finkelstein is a freelance contributor for ESPN Recruiting.