By Michael Lemaire
The talent level was kicked up a notch at the Spalding Hoophall Classic on Sunday, the event’s third day and second day of fielding the nation’s elite boys’ basketball programs. Here’s a look at how some of the top prospects did Sunday in Springfield, Mass.
C DaJuan Coleman, 6’10”, 280 pounds, 2011, Jamesville-DeWitt (N.Y.), Undecided
Andre Drummond or Coleman. Take your pick for who should be atop the rankings for the Class of 2012. Like Drummond, Coleman is an unbelievably athletic and skilled big man. In the first few minutes of the game he ran the fast-break, buried a 15-foot pull-up jumper, and threw a no-look pass for another easy score. Also like Drummond, Coleman doesn’t do enough to assert himself in the paint and took a number of fadeaway jump shots when he should have been backing down his opponent. He has huge, strong hands, and is difficult to hack because he often gets the shot up anyway. He is a force on the glass and throws excellent outlet passes. But he can be too timid protecting the rim, especially given his ridiculous wingspan and leaping ability.
G Nick Johnson, 6’3”, 185 pounds, 2011, Findlay Prep (Nevada), Arizona
Johnson’s best asset is his shooting ability. He has terrific form, a quick release, and deep range as well. He seemed to less involved in the second half when Findlay Prep started to pull away, but he still showcased a quick first step and continued to make good decisions with the basketball. He isn’t incredibly quick and was never really able to beat his man off the dribble. He is also definitely under-sized for a shooting guard and would probably benefit by adding muscle once he gets to Arizona. But he is a smart defender who uses good footwork to stay in front of his opponent despite his lack of quickness.
G/F Amir Garrett, 6’6”, 190 pounds, 2011, Findlay Prep (Nevada), St. John’s
Athletically, Garrett is blessed with a unique combination of speed, leaping ability, and sneaky strength. He was often charged with stopping Carter-Williams and did a good job of bothering him by using his length and sliding his feet. He is a good rebounder for a wing player, but he didn’t show a very polished offensive game. He seemed to realize his shooting limitations and didn’t try to command the ball very much. His mid-range game is a work in progress as well and when he drove to the hoop he kept the ball too low, allowing his defenders to knock him off his rhythm.
PG Myck Kabongo, 6’2”, 170 pounds, 2011, Findlay Prep (Nevada), Texas
Kabongo was the best true point guard in the tournament thus far and its not even close. A wiry 6-foot-2, Kabongo is bigger than most point guards, but there are few players in the country who can match his speed and court vision. He has a knack for finding the open man at the last second and he has the elusive second-gear that college coaches covet in a point guard. He has good form on his shot although his perimeter game remains unrefined. When he is interested, that speed and quickness translate on defense as well, but he sometimes looked as if he was leaking out on the fast break too soon.
G Michael Carter-Williams, 6’5”, 175 pounds, 2011, St. Andrew’s (R.I.), Syracuse
Despite the fact Carter-Williams was his team’s only true scoring option, Findlay Prep still had its hands full trying to guard the combo guard, who scored 24 points in a multitude of ways. He is an adequate perimeter shooter but he is really a slasher who is excellent at creating his shot in traffic. He also has ball-handling skills and court vision that are tough to find in scoring guards. He wasn’t particularly efficient, and occasionally forced shots he shouldn’t have taken. But he is also a pesky defender with active hands and feet who seems tailor-made for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim’s famous 2-3 zone.
C Andre Drummond, 6’10”, 275 pounds, 2012, St. Thomas More (Ct.), Undecided
Simply put, Drummond is one of the most gifted players in the entire country. He could probably add some muscle, and coach Jere Quinn said he would like Drummond to be more aggressive and dominant. But Quinn also said he has never had a player with Drummond’s combination of size, athleticism, and skills. At 6-foot-10 and 275 pounds, Drummond was impossible to move off the block, but he also showcased a deft touch, excellent court vision, and impressive endurance. The problem was that he occasionally drifted away from the basket, preferring to beat his man off the dribble when he should have backed down the smaller opponent. He has massive hands and catches anything that comes near him. He could have hogged the ball more. He finished with just 13 points on 12 shots, but it seemed like if he had been less concerned with setting up his teammates there would have been twice as many opportunities to score. Drummond said he doesn’t have a list of schools he is considering yet, but whoever does get him will get an immediate impact player.
G Damion Lee, 6’4”, 190 pounds, 2011, St. Thomas More (Ct.), Undecided
Initially committed to Towson, Lee reclassified in order to play for St. Thomas More and it is apparent that the prep year has done wonders for his game. He still doesn’t shoot particularly well and is ball-handling is suspect at best. But he is a max effort player who does most of his damage by using his quick first step and welcoming contact when he attacks the basket. Defensively his long and lean frame makes him difficult to get around. As with many aggressive players, he occasionally let his emotions get the best of him with some silly fouls and forced shots. But most mid-major programs would likely take his hard-nosed mentality along with the growing pains.
G/F Dez Wells, 6’5”, 2011, Hargrave Military (Va.), Xavier
Physically, Wells was very similar to his teammate P.J. Hairston. Hairston is probably the better shooter and Wells is stronger, but they are both athletic and dynamic wing players. Wells impressed by throwing down two thunderous dunks and getting to the hoop basically at will. He doesn’t have a great perimeter game, and his ball-handling could be better as well. But he is a hard-nosed player who is tough to stop when he goes to the rim without fouling. He has the chance to be an immediate impact scorer at Xavier next season.
G/F P.J. Hairston, 6’6”, 2011, Hargrave Military (Va.), North Carolina
Hairston was hampered by foul trouble in the first half and only played 16 minutes. But in that short stint he flashed plenty of potential. Hairston is 6-foot-6 and has a solid, muscular frame. He complements his impressive leaping ability and athleticism with good range and a fundamentally-sound jump shot. He got frustrated easily by some of the foul trouble and his body language was not great until Hargrave started to pull away.
C Kaleb Tarczewski, 7’0”, 220 pounds, 2012, St. Mark’s (Mass.), Undecided
Tarczewski, by his own admission, had a tough game offensively. He managed 11 points, but he missed a number of close shots and struggled to get the best of LaQuinton Ross. He is still a work in progress offensively as his moves are far from polished, and he could still add some muscle. But it isn’t hard to see why he is considered one of the best players in the Class of 2012. He is unbelievably athletic, runs the floor well, and is a good leaper. His length and positioning helped him block nine shots and he did a good job protecting the rim from the weak side. He is supposed to be a solid shooter, but he didn’t take any shots from outside ten feet, and struggled around the rim.
F Alex Murphy, 6’9”, 210 pounds, 2012, St. Mark’s (Mass.), Undecided
Like Tarczewski, Murphy struggled against Life Center Academy, but his ability is obvious. At 6-foot-9 and 210 pounds, Murphy could add muscle and become a true power forward, but he also has the athleticism and quickness to play on the wing. Murphy manuevers well going to the basket, is a good shooter, and knows when to pass. It just seemed he was rushing to create shots against Life Center Academy and it resulted in five turnovers. Defensively, he gave LaQuinton Ross too much space early and got burned for it, but his length and athleticism give him the ability to guard multiple positions.
G/F Nikolas Stauskas, 6’6”, 2012, St. Mark’s (Mass.), Undecided
Easily forgotten amongst his two more highly touted classmates, Stauskas showed he can be an effective player at the Division-1 level as well. The scouting report on Stauskas entering the tournament was that he was a good shooter but not much else. Against Life Center Academy, Stauskas showed his range — finishing 4-of-10 from behind the arc — but he also didn’t limit himself to the perimeter, and led his team in scoring with 24 points. A heady player with solid court awareness, Stauskas makes up for his lack of quickness and athleticism with solid defensive positioning, even if he does struggle to keep his man in front of him.
PG Kevin Zabo, 6’2”, 2014, St. Mark’s (Mass.), Undecided
Despite being just a freshman, Zabo has already made a name for himself playing on the loaded Lions’ squad. Reporters and scouts alike buzzed about how polished his game was for such a young player and he showed it against Life Center Academy. Many scouting reports questioned his shooting ability, but on Sunday Zabo seemed very comfortable shooting the ball and scored all fifteen of his points from behind the arc. He was the team’s primary ball-handler and displayed unbelievable poise and decision-making, especially running the fast-break. He clearly isn’t comfortable driving to the hoop, and he struggled to move his feet and stay in front of his defender. But he will definitely be one of the more sought-after players in the country before all is said and done.
F LaQuinton Ross, 6’8”, 2011, Life Center Academy (N.J.), Ohio State
In the first half of the game against St. Mark’s, there was no stopping Ross. He buried contested three-pointers, attacked the basket with ease, and consistently found the open man when the defense collapsed on him. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem nearly as active in the second half, and he scored just six of his 27 points after the break. He isn’t exceptionally quick, so he doesn’t beat people off the dribble. He isn’t particularly strong either, and he got flustered when St. Mark’s got physical with him. But he has good body-control when he is driving and has such a high release it is difficult to block his shot. On the other end of the floor Ross guarded Tarczewski, and even though he let the seven-footer back him down, he did an admirable job contesting his shots and his length clearly bothered the bigger player.