By Ronnie Flores
The final July evaluation period wrapped up on Sunday with champions crowned in multiple divisions in 17U, 16U and 15U play in three main Las Vegas tournaments: Las Vegas Classic, adidas Super 64 and Las Vegas Fab 48.
With adidas holding its season-ending championship of the adidas Gauntlet tournament series at the Cashman Center, it was convenient all its top level teams were in one location to evaluate talent, but the matter of the fact is the events in Las Vegas were hurt by USA Basketball holding tryouts for its 2014 USA U17 club that will compete in the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship Aug. 8-16 in Dubai at the same time in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Thirty-three players are competing for 12 roster spots and the majority of them are highly-regarded NBA hopefuls and players draft fans would normally be excited to see and read how they performed for their travel club in Las Vegas.
With that in mind, here is a look at 10 of the top prospects we evaluated in Las Vegas July 23-27.
Isaiah Briscoe 6’3" 210 PG Roselle Catholic Roselle, NJ 2015
The top point guard prospect in the national 2015 class, Briscoe is basically unstoppable on the high school level with his combination of strength, size and confidence. Whenever Briscoe steps out on the court, he feels defenses can’t slow him down and he’s the best player on the court. His on-court demeanor compliments his unique scoring ability on the outside and around the basket. What makes him a bread winner is his ability around the basket. Briscoe can finish with either hand, from various angles and has a solid mid-range game. He also has a unique set of pump fakes that even elite high school defenders go for. He easily gets defenders off balance and if that doesn’t work, he’ll simply attempt to overpower them with his strong lower body and it’s usually an affective strategy. Where Briscoe has improved the most in the last year is his shooting consistency and physically conditioning. He is relentless in his attack and is an underrated on-ball defender. Once Briscoe tightens up his loose handle (unnecessary dribbles) and doesn’t get so engaged in one-on-one competition, he’ll be high on the radar screen for whichever draft he is eligible for.
Vance Jackson 6’8" 200 SF St. John Bosco Bellflower, CA 2016
Scouts and recruiting analysts have always wanted more from Jackson. Previously, he was a spot-up shooter with size, but over the last six months he’s gotten stronger physically (improved muscle mass) and become more assertive as a true three-level offensive threat. It all came together for this talented wing with a quiet disposition in Las Vegas. He shot a high percentage from 3-point range, but it was the improvement in other major aspects (rebounding, dribble drive game, finishing around the rim, and defensive engagement) that had scouts and college coaches buzzing. Of anyone this past week in Las Vegas, he also had the best signature performance that will catapult his mock draft positioning and national ranking among national recruiting services. For Belmont Shore against the New Jersey Playaz in what was the most intense and big-time atmosphere of any one game in the five days. Jackson finished with 32 points on 11-of-19 field goals, including 7-of-11 3-pointers. His nine rebounds might have been his most impressive statistic in that game. In addition to having the ability to hit 14 3-point shots in two games, Jackson displayed improved ability to score on the block and finish at the rim despite average first step explosion. Jackson also needs to improve his decision-making in the open court, but overall his marked improvement is a positive sign into developing into one of the best draft prospects from the 2016 high school class.
Chase Jeter 6’10" 220 PF Bishop Gorman Las Vegas, NV 2015
Now that he’s been fully healthy for a complete travel ball season, Jeter is finally stepping out of the considerable shadow of Bishop Gorman teammate Stephen Zimmerman. Jeter was dominant all week long, leading Dream Vision to the adidas Super 64 17U title game versus Indiana Elite. Jeter’s 24 points and 17 rebounds on national television was a glimpse of his overall performance in Las Vegas and of his ability. Jeter is active in the paint and has improved his ability to finish with either hand. Jeter has a quick second leap that allows him to corral rebounds other fours have trouble getting to. He loves to work around the basket and is a capable shot blocker because of his energy level. Where Jeter has improved is the ability to finish though contact because of increased strength and maturity and his passing on the block. Where he needs to improve is finishing against comparable length and using that passing ability to open up his game and not get caught driving into double teams. Jeter is also a year younger than most of the elite prospects in the 2015 class, which bodes well for his ceiling down the line.
Jalen Brunson 6’2" 180 PG Stevenson Lincolnshire, IL 2015
With it comes to feel and knack for the big play, there wasn’t a better guard in Las Vegas than Brunson. He was named MVP of the Las Vegas Classic 17U championship division by leading the Mac Irvin Fire to a 74-70 victory over Houston Hoops. He made big shots down the stretch in a 20-point performance and also led his travel team to a victory over Vance Jackson-Tyler Dorsey led Belmont Shore at the Fab 48 Tip-Off Challenge with 27 points. The Mac Irvin Fire had never won a major Las Vegas Tournament before and with some of the players that have recently come through the program (Jahlil Okafor, Jabari Parker, etc.), that speaks volumes about Brunson’s ability and intangibles as a playmaker and leader. Brunson is not the fastest player with the ball, but he has a unique feel for the game as a scorer on all three levels and has excellent change of direction ability. Brunson’s shooting ability is not what separates him from more athletic players, it’s his ability to create space and control space between himself and the defender and knowing when he should take the shot or swing the ball and look for a better one.
Bennie Boatwright 6’9" 210 SF Village Christian Sun Valley, CA 2015
It’s hard to find a player anywhere in the country with a combination of size, length, and deep range shooting ability that Boatwright possesses. His offensive talent isn’t what has come into question in the past, it’s been his motor, shot selection and zeal on the defensive end. He played with a competitive disposition in Las Vegas and that was good to see in his development. Boatwright still have lapses in his defensive positioning, but he was engaged in the action and that was not always the case in the past as he floated when he didn’t have the ball in his hands. He also improved his shot selection, but in his defense, when Boatwright is on, he can continue to step back and shoot a solid percentage when the defense extends. Boatwright also has an awesome 8-to-10 foot floater in his arsenal that he uses regularly that is not easy to convert for a majority of elite players. Bottom line is Boatwright has loads of potential for the next two levels because he’s already a prototype scoring wing and if he continues to get taller, he’ll be a major matchup problem as a face-up four man.
Tyler Dorsey 6’4" 185 CG Maranatha Pasadena, CA 2015
There has always been a question whether Dorsey is a lead or a shooting guard, but at the end of the day he’s a quality basketball player and it’s hard to deny his impact on high level games. At his size, Dorsey puts more pressure on defense than any other elite guard in the country with his ability to push the ball in the open court, with his pull-up game, or ability to draw contact. Dorsey absolutely lives at the free throw line and he’s also good and drawing fouls on offensive rebound put backs and loose balls. Dorsey is a streaky shooter, but he makes up for his lack on consistency with relentless penetration. Dorsey tends to go back to his right on his drives, and it’s one main area that will have to be improved for the next level. Dorsey is also a capable defender on the ball, but must his improve his awareness away from it. Bottom line, he’s getting big and strong enough that it doesn’t matter if he plays the lead or shooting guard position and he excels enough in other aspects of the game (i.e. rebounding) that any lack of true point guard development won’t keep him from quickly making an impact at the next level.
Perry Dozier 6’6" 185 SG Spring Valley Columbia, SC 2015
This silky-smooth athlete has successfully recovered from an ACL injury suffered in September 2013 that he actually played on for quite some time. He is a versatile athlete capable of playing multiple positions on offense and, more importantly, defending all three perimeter positions. Dozier has a solid handle, a better than advertised crossover and is a good passer, especially in the drive-and-kick game. Dozier can finish well despite a thin frame and gets excellent elevation on his jump shot. Where he needs to improve is being assertive in crunch time with an alpha dog type mentality. He’s actually too unselfish at times, which is a better problem to have than being a team killer.
Stephen Zimmerman 7’0" 225 PF Bishop Gorman Las Vegas, NV 2015
"Big Zimm" has been in the spotlight as an elite player in his class for so long, his game is micro critiqued as much as any player in the country. It might come off as a negative, but if he didn’t have any skill or potential, the critics wouldn’t be around. Zimmerman can score from both the high and low block and must be accounted for as a threat no matter where he is on the court. He doesn’t get pushed around as much as some national scouts evaluate it, but he doesn’t always relish contact. On his drives, Zimmerman has a tendency to fall away rather than finish to the rim or through contact and that must be rectified. Zimmerman also must work to avoid cheap fouls or become frustrated by lesser skilled post players who try to take him out of his element. With his shooting and passing ability, Zimmerman is a prime pro prospect, he just needs to continue to exert his will and remain active and engaged on the boards when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands.
Carlton Bragg 6’9" 225 PF St. Joseph Cleveland, OH 2015
Athletic four-man has all the necessary ingredients to be a big-time player on the next level, and with some development in specific areas, a surefire prospect for the pro level. Bragg is an excellent rebounder, especially on the offensive end. He runs the floor well and is an excellent finisher in transition. He doesn’t lose much leverage going up against traditional bigs, either, and that is a plus because we evaluated plenty of high major four-men this past week whose production fell dramatically going against travel teams with true college size. Bragg does need to work on his offensive game, including his triple threat in half court situations, but his perimeter shooting has improved and that is a good sign. Bragg has good feet and long arms and is reminiscent of former Notre Dame and NBA forward LaPhonso Ellis. His ceiling is to develop some of the attributes of a young Antonio McDyess i.e. improved face up offense threat.
De'Ron Davis 6"9" 240 PF Overland Aurora, CO 2016
This skilled physical specimen has trimmed down and it has helped his overall game. Davis can run the floor well for a prospect his size, but he needs to develop a more consistent motor in order for his game and NBA Draft prospects to go to the next level. Davis has solid shooting touch and form and uses an effective baseline spin move. For a player his size, you really have to like Davis’ ability to score and being competitive despite a calm demeanor. His disposition on the court helps him from getting in foul trouble or out of his element when things are not going well. Davis is a rim-level player and not possessing great lift hurts him in the rebounding department because he doesn’t get prime position on the defensive block or rebound out of his space well. Overall, he does have some work to do but he has some time to shore up those weaknesses.