Missouri’s Kim English impressed once again on Friday. The wiry shooting guard (measured 6’3"3/4 barefoot,190.8 lbs, and with a 6’7" wingspan) found teammate Eric Griffin early on with a pinpoint post entry that led to an easy. English understands angles and spacing well in the half court – he pumped faked before putting the ball on the deck trying to find Griffin and eventually relocated below FT line extended to feed the ball down low, clearing out to give his Griffin room to operate after the pass. Another unheralded aspect of the game (moving without the ball) is one that English excelled in Friday. Being guarded by Iowa’s Matt Gatens (a scrappy, willing defender), English had to pick his spots carefully in order to avoid live-ball turnovers and forcing bad shots. Struggling to find his rhythm early on, English got an easy bucket by sneaking behind Gatens on a brilliant basket cut from the weakside. The other heady adjustment English made was taking the ball to the basket against slower defenders. Going 6-6 from the stripe for the night (shot a pedestrian 72.5% on the year), the NBA-hopeful showed a dimension to his game that wasn’t highly regarded coming into the event.
Friday at the PIT started out with a bang as Matt Gatens buried a straightaway 3 off a kickout with 4 seconds left to lift his Sales System Ltd. squad over Mike Duman, 87-85. Momentum seesawed back and forth throughout the second half as both teams went on notable runs after being deadlocked at 66 with 11:15 remaining. Breaking the tie, Pitt point man Ashton Gibbs outfoxed a bigger defender by luring him up in the air on a deft shot fake from distance and getting the foul critical foul call on a 3PA. Fooling Tulsa big man Steven Idlet in the same situation yesterday, Gibbs pulled what is becoming a routine rouse on Campbell F Eric Griffin in today’s affair. Finding the scoring column in a variety of ways today, Gibbs mixed in a finish at the rim after a blow-by (left hand/left side), long jumpers both inside and outside the arc, and a pull-up jumper coming off a solid ballscreen from teammate Travis Hyman (Bowie State) before victimizing Griffin yet again down the stretch at a crucial juncture.
With a few ticks less than two minutes remaining on the game clock and his Mike Duman team nursing a 5-point lead, the Big East guard knocked down a deep triple over the wiry 190 lb. forward to extend the lead to 8. Sales Systems, Ltd. wasn’t done fighting and sparked a furious comeback mere seconds later that included a couple of And-1s and key defensive stops. The most important TO was caused by Kyle Fogg as his tenacious face-guarding of Gibbs caused him to push off a little too hard and commit a dead ball charge. Fogg showed tremendous lift on his jumper and maintained outstanding straight up-and-down posture throughout his core and back whether shooting off the bounce, the catch, or off a dead stop. He consistently landed in the same spot he took off from, regardless of tempo/body positioning on his release. Unfortunately, his shooting elbow has a tendency to flare out a touch and his release is a little low. Form aside, Fogg built upon the solid foundation he laid for himself at the PIT on the defensive end in Sales System’s first contest by knocking down jumpshots from various spots. He finished with 9-15 from the field (3-3 from deep) for a team high 22 pts. and also reeled in 6 rebounds. His spacing/tempo/decision-making on the PNR with 6’11” Florida State C Xavier Gibson was a joy to watch.
The aforementioned Gibson was the most impressive performer in the game. Showcasing a feathery touch out to 18’ but did most of his damage on the blocks. His quick-hipped spin into the lane from the left post, finished off with a pretty half-hook over his right shoulder, reminded me of Elton Brand during his sophomore campaign at Duke. Backing helpless defenders down too deep to thwart his move, Gibson, like Brand, has a knack for laying the ball up on the rim softly. These are the guys that seem to always get the bounces just as some posts seem to never be able to hit the 4-8’ shot attempt of any variety. Gibson exploited the defense’s inability to rotate/recover on the PNR all game by planting himself squarely in the middle of the court at the top of the key. Without establishing a clear cut ballside/helpside, Gibson and Fogg toyed with the loosely organized group facing off against them. Slips, hard rolls, and pops were all pulled out by the big fella and my hunch is that some NBA exec. In attendance took note.
The 7 o’clock game (won by Portsmouth Sports Club, 76-74) featured another tantalizing look into Chace Stanback’s potential. His final stat line will not wow the casual observer – finishing with 11 points on 5-12 shooting and 3 rebs. – but the way in which he went about it was noteworthy. The lone three he hit was with no hesitation. In the half court, he crab dribbled his way into a baseline fadeaway in the early going that seemed too smooth and effortless for the Churchland High gym and the PIT in general. His lack of production in the rest of the box score is alarming and cause for a deeper look at his senior year stats. His averages other than points and rebounds (1.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.4 bpg, 45% FG%) may cement his reputation as a one dimensional player, but his .45 3P% (on 176 attempts) is outstanding. With the body to produce much more and one skill that’s definitely NBA ready, Stanback may claw his way onto an NBA roster in the next couple of years if he proves to be a low-maintenance guy off the court.
Another interesting prospect in the contest was Temple’s Ramone Moore, an A10 All-Conference performer for Fran Dunphy’s Owls this past season. Fearless taking it to the basket, Moore also showed no hesitation in pulling the trigger on his jumper (4-6 3PA). The key intangible in Moore’s game will be how hard he’s willing to work off the ball in order to get open looks in the future. His slow delivery starts from a little below his waist and will need an overhaul and repetitions galore for him to be viable catch and shoot guy coming off screens. His handle looks proficient in the open court, but whether he can turn the corner on elite level athletes with either hand in the half court is still up in the air.
Greg Mangano (All-Ivy League) had a nice night finishing with 13 points on 3-5 shooting behind the arc. The 6’10” gunner seems to understand his niche and will need to pick and choose when to let it fly (and shoot well when he does) over the coming months when auditioning for teams at various levels. If he can prove to be a capable defender on the block and a legitimate rebounding presence (averaged 9.6 a night as a senior), he’ll play for money for a long time. With his poor overall shooting percentage and even poorer shot selection, I’m not convinced any of that money will be made in the NBA.
The last game of the evening, a 20-pt. blowout in favor of ultimate tourney winner Roger Brown’s, was devoid of any magical performances. That said, it did feature a couple of prospects that impressed in different ways. Firstly, Alabama’s JaMychal Green found a home at the FT line by bulling his way into the paint and drawing fouls consistently. The active 6’7.5” F got his hands on everything and converted from the stripe when given the opportunity (10-10 FT). How one defines ‘long’ is subjective – but a good rule of thumb to go by is if a guy’s wingspan is > 3 inches more than his height, he’s long. Well, Green’s wingspan (86.5”) is a full 7 inches longer than his 79.5” height – he’s long. What that means is that it’s not surprising to see him put up double-digit rebounding numbers (or close to it) against bigger foes like Ricardo Ratliff and Garrett Stutz. His career rebounding averages at ‘Bama never eclipsed 7.6 but never dipped below 7.2, which indicates a consistent effort level. The 10-10 FT numbers are encouraging in such an up and down pace and are a marked improvement over his .690 FT% as a senior.
Terrance Henry put up another solid line Friday night going for 13 points, 6 boards, 3 assists, and a block. Shaking off an early airball, Henry knocked down a 3 and dazzled scouts with his long strides off the bounce when attacking the paint in the half court. One of the few players in attendance listed within a half inch of his actual height, the Ole Miss SF (officially measured at 6’8.5”) almost flaunted his versatility at times by simply going over defenders to get his shot off. Had the prettiest move of the night on a fundamentally sound shot-fake, 1-dribble pull-up move in which he ate up 6-7 ft. of floor space on the lone dribble. Taking better care of the ball in Portsmouth than he did in Oxford (averaged 3.4 TO/gm this year), Henry showed the ability to pass up a decent shot for a better one. One of the top 5 prospects at the P.I.T.