Lexington hosted top players who could potentially play their college ball in the bluegrass state. The showcase consisted of four games featuring five elite teams. Arizona State, Louisville, Kentucky, and Indiana were some of the teams in attendance. Here are a few players that stood out.
Deandre Ayton – 7’0 Hillcrest Academy 2017
Ayton started the first game of the event knocking down back to back threes. He would set an on ball screen almost every play against Victory Prep, then he would pop to the open spot on the three point line. His shot could use more arc, but he gets great rotation on it, shooting 3-7 from three. While he stayed on the perimeter a lot, he would sprint to the paint to crash the offensive glass after nearly every shot. There were two plays where he finished with a dunk, where it was obvious no one could contest with him. He finished with 18 points, while sitting the majority of the second half with a comfortable lead. Ayton matched up against Thon Maker in the second game, and it lived up to the hype. Ayton is very mature in his approach to the game, understanding when to post up, hedging on screens, taking blame for his mistakes, and is patient within the offense, never forcing or letting the game get away from him. He is constantly talking throughout the game and directing traffic. The game came down to a controversial ending, where Ayton fouled Maker which would have fouled Ayton out of the game, and Maker would have had a chance to tie. The ref said the contact was after the final buzzer went off. Ayton finished with 24 points, 19 rebounds, and four blocks, while shooting 4-7 from three.
Thon Maker – 7’1 Athlete Institute 2016
Maker had a great showing over his two games, the best I had seen in the multiple times watching him. The first matchup against Wilbraham & Monson Academy, the game was played at a fast pace and Maker looked very comfortable in that setting. He was able to get a lot of points off of put backs and in transition, where he would finish with authority. He also looked comfortable defensively getting help side blocks and jumping the passing lanes to lead the break. Maker finished with 24 points in the loss to Wilbraham & Monson. The next matchup was against Hillcrest Academy, where he continued his excellent performance, not showing any intimidation f facing Ayton. Maker finished with 29 points and 15 rebounds in the 71-69 loss. Maker shot well from three; shooting with confidence and hitting them in critical moments when his team needed them. Despite the fight Athlete Institute put up both games, they went 0-2 over the weekend.
Wenyen Gabriel – 6’10 Wilbraham & Monson Academy 2016 (Kentucky)
Gabriel posted 24 points and ten rebounds in his only game of the showcase. The 6’10 versatile forward played hard but looked fatigued trying to match Athlete Institute’s up-tempo pace. He slashed well from the perimeter, showing aggression when taking it to the rim. He can shoot from behind the line, but only made one three-point attempt in the game. Gabriel took home the MVP award playing in front of Kentucky fans, giving Big Blue Nation a taste of what’s coming next year.
Rawle Alkins – 6’4 Word of God Christian Academy 2016
The 6’4 shooting guard has great upper and lower body strength. He has a great combination of power and finesse. He has natural scoring ability but his midrange game still has room for improvement. He looked more comfortable shooting from three than pulling up from midrange or shooting free throws. His range comfortably extends to the NBA line. Alkins is also strong on the defensive end; Word of God was in the driver’s seat the majority of the game playing a full court zone defense, making it difficult for Victory Prep to get the ball up the court. He is a great athlete but knows he can muscle his way to the basket, usually choosing to finish through defenders rather than over them. Alkins finished with 51 points, earning MVP in Word of God’s only game of the showcase.
Jarred Vanderbilt – 6’8 Victory Prep 2017
Vanderbilt scored 30 of his team’s 72 points but it wasn’t enough to get the win to start the showcase against Hillcrest. His passing was on point and he rebounded well too. He shows no hesitation to drive to his right, but he can’t consistently finish with his right hand yet. There was a stretch where he committed to the defensive end, showing his potential as a defender with his length and his ability to get low and move so quickly at his height. Vanderbilt did it all in his second game against Word of God, finishing with 35 points, 17 rebounds, and ten assists. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, leaving Victory Prep 0-2 over the weekend.