WASHINGTON D.C. – While the focus of the high school basketball
world centered on Madison Square Garden and the Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday,
another shoe company was offering its own exhibition of high-major recruits. The
Reebok All-American Weekend featured 43 players from all around the country, each
going to Division 1 programs.
For full rosters, check out http://www.ballercircuit.com/?page_id=383.
In the first game, which featured mostly lesser-known players, things heated up
for a very close affair. The favorites, Team Create could not handle a mostly
local squad, Team Finish, with a final score of 102-96.
The featured game had some jaw dropping plays and great excitement. And after
falling behind early, a different Team Finish managed to make a late run on a
high-powered Team Create, only to eventually fall 134-131.
Rather than going player by player, here are the 20 guys that stood out to me
the most this weekend, in practice and in the games. List is ordered from best
PF Dante Taylor – 6-9,
220 lbs. – National Christian (Md.) – Signed to Pittsburgh
Taylor finished with 26 points and 9 rebounds en route to being named a game MVP
for the second game, playing with Team Finish. The big man consistently showed
the ability to play on the blocks and from the wing, run the break and start it
with outlet passes. Additionally, his rebounding and defense were outstanding,
and the kid really never stopped hustling. He was clearly the best player on the
court. After the game, Taylor said he doesn’t view himself as a true post player,
but he should be a big help to Jamie Dixon in replacing DeJuan Blair.
SG Rodney McGruder – 6-4, 195 lbs. – Arlington Country Day (Fla.) – Signed to
McGruder was a local favorite, having hailed from Maryland, and he proved exactly
why from the minute he stepped onto the practice court. His smoothness, length
and athleticism allow him to play significantly bigger than his thin 6-4 frame,
and he’s got the kind of all-around game that could produce a top-caliber scorer
for Frank Martin and the Wildcats. McGruder finished with 24 points and 7 boards,
sharing MVP honors with Taylor for Team Finish.
SG Ari Stewart – 6-7, 205 lbs. – Wheeler HS
(Ga.) – Signed to Wake Forest
Stewart turned things up a notch for the second half, playing the largest role
in keeping Team Finish in the game until the very end. The lanky scorer looked
like he was built to put the ball in the hole, shooting long-range 3-pointers
with confidence and driving to the basket effectively, including a few really
nice dunks. Stewart finished with 22 points and a consolation prize of an MVP
trophy for the losing squad, but he also showed some true NBA potential. He would
fit in very well with what the Demon Deacons need if Jeff Teague comes back for
a third season.
PF Thomas Robinson – 6-8, 215 lbs. – Brewster
Academy (NH) – Signed to Kansas
Of everyone in the building, there was no better NBA prospect than Robinson. Known
as a rebounder, the future Jayhawk did plenty of that. But he also scored 14 points
for Team Finish in all sorts of ways. Along with being a freakish athlete, Robinson
showed the ability to handle the ball, even playing point-forward from time to
time in half court sets and on fast breaks. Additionally, he showed throughout
the weekend a developing jump shot. Robinson admitted after the game he recognizes
his rebounding earned him a name in the recruiting world, but he views himself
as an all-around player and has worked on developing his wing game. Still, the
super-athletic dunker did seem a little careless in practice, joking around and
not always paying attention to what drill he was expected to do. If he can keep
his head on straight and work on his wing play with the Jayhawks, he could be
a VERY special talent down the road.
SG Maurice Creek – 6-5, 190 lbs. – Hargrave Military Academy (Va.) – Signed to
No player started the weekend off better in Thursday practices. Creek has an outstanding
natural feel to the game, and his jump shot seemed nearly infallible. I didn’t
see him miss a shot all practice, and in the game, he finished with 18 points
and three steals, being named an MVP for Team Create in a losing effort. Creek
could easily crack Tom Crean’s starting rotation from Day 1 in Bloomington, Ind.,
and he has enough natural ability to one day warrant a spot in the NBA if he learns
to create for himself a little better.
G Lorenzo Brown – 6-3, 186 lbs. – Centennial (Ga.) – Signed to N.C. State
Few players looked as comfortable with the ball in their hands as Brown. He’s
listed as a shooting guard, but I full believe he could take over the reigns as
a point guard, and not even just a scoring point. He finished with 13 points and
a number of really nice passes, as well as penetrating more often and easier than
just about any player in the game. His play down the stretch aided Team Create
in keeping things close as much as anyone.
SG John Jenkins – 6-5, 205 lbs. – Station Camp HS (Tenn.) – Signed to Vanderbilt
Jenkins, along with coming across as one of the most down to Earth guys at the
event, showed he’s more than just a shooter. The nation’s leading scorer drove
effectively and overcame a rough start to finish with 12 points, even without
making a 3-pointer. He’s a gifted shooter, and that was evident in practice. But
he also has all the tools to become an NBA shooting guard, and even though he
wasn’t at his best this weekend, I have all the faith in the world he will do
PG Mfon Udofia – 6-2, 180 lbs. – Miller Grove
HS (Ga.) – Signed to Georgia Tech
The lightning-quick future Yellow Jacket made his presence felt down the stretch,
getting to the basket and getting fouled as he pushed Team Finish to recovery
from a double-digit halftime deficit. He finished with 19 points. Udofia clearly
attempted to carry his team farther than he is capable of, and there is little
doubt he has yet to develop the abilities of a go-to player. But the score-first
point guard should make for a very nice role player in Atlanta, teaming with Iman
Shumpert to give Paul Hewitt a solid backcourt of the future.
C Talib Zanna – 6-8, 220 lbs. – Bishop McNamara (Va.) – Signed to Pittsburgh
The stand out star of the preview game, Zanna finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds.
Yes, that’s right – Pittsburgh has drawn the top player in each game. Zanna looks
to have the ability to complete a nice four year career for the Panthers and maybe
play high level European ball. Zanna made his living around the basket, grabbing
rebounds, getting put backs, and scoring in the post. He should compliment Taylor
SF Terrell Vinson – 6-6, 200 lbs. – St.
Frances (Md.) – Undeclared
Easily the top undeclared recruit here, Vinson got an opportunity to show his
all-around game and thrived, scoring 18 points. He was getting some hype in the
practices, where he also showed a good nature and cracked some jokes. Yes, he’s
a rail-thin post player. But his wing abilities are developing, and he’s capable
of bringing the ball up. If he improves his jump shot and learns to dribble penetrate
more, he could become a nice player for whatever team he ends up on. If not, he
may struggle because he clearly lacks the size and strength of a college power
forward. Recently committed to UMass.
PF Erik Murphy – 6-8, 210 lbs. – St. Mark’s (Mass.) – Signed to Florida
Murphy was steadfast in the post, scoring 13 points for Team Finish in the premier
game. He needs to gain some weight, but his energy was obvious. He’s the type
of player who fights right into what Billy Donovan looks for in a big man, and
he could definitely help replace Alex Tyus, who is transferring. Murphy’s potential
is limited, but his ability to shoot and work the boards should make him a very
good college player. And if he develops his ability to bring the ball up court,
which he showed occasionally on fast breaks, he could perhaps make it to the next
PF Andrew Fitzgerald – 6-8, 265 lbs. – Brewster Academy (N.H.) – Signed to Oklahoma
Playing alongside Keith Gallon, who was at the Jordan Classic this past weekend,
Fitzgerald will make his own name at Oklahoma for years to come. This kid works
hard, knows how to bang down low, and seems to relish contact. He was crucial
for Team Finish down the stretch in the premier game, finishing with 12 points
and showing he could easily replace Taylor Griffin as Gallon hopes to follow in
Blake Griffin’s footsteps.
SF Brian Oliver – 6-7, 225 lbs. – William Penn (Del.) – Signed to Georgia Tech
Listed at power forward, Oliver was clearly a swingman in every sense of the word.
He finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds, showing off some very nice dunks and
3-pointers and an overall balanced game. He’s not the greatest of ball-handlers,
but he should be a nice player down the road for Paul Hewitt.
SF Mike Moser – 6-8, 205 lbs. – Grant HS (Ore.)
– Signed to UCLA
Few players go to an all-star game and put up a quieter 18 points. Moser showed
nice athleticism on a few dunks and a solid shot. He looks to be ready to contribute
on the wing, and I consider it a good thing that he didn’t need the ball in his
hands to make things happen. Few high school players possess that ability.
SF Jamal Olaswere – 6-5, 210 lbs. – Springbrook (Md.) – Undeclared
Olaswere looked like an early front-runner for MVP honors in the preview game,
coming out with 11 points in the first half. He settled down a lot in the second,
finishing with 13 for Team Finish in a win. But it’s tough to deny he looks like
he could be a real steal for some mid-major team. He doesn’t have the size to
play his style of basketball at the high-major level, but he rebounds well and
feels very comfortable around the basket.
SF Isaiah Armwood – 6-9, 200 lbs. – Montrose
Christian (Md.) – Signed to Villanova
I’m not sold on Armwood being 200 lbs. But as skinny as he is, the kid showed
he’s more than just a dunker and natural post player this weekend. He made some
nice layups and seemed just comfortable enough on the wings to convince me he
could transition full time to the small foward position for the Wildcats. Armwood
finished with 13 points for Team Create in the premier game. He’s a project, but
his athleticism is blinding and, with time, he could be a very solid player.
SF Raphael Putney – 6-7, 170 lbs. – Woodbridge Sr. (Va.) – Signed to UMass
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone as skinny as Putney. He seemed straight up
anorexic, but he made his impact felt in the preview game. Putney had a number
of incredible dunks and blocks that showed his leaping ability. He also displayed
decent handles, though his awkward lankiness could be a problem. I also worry
about his body.
PG Junior Cadougan – 6-1, 200 lbs. – Christian Life Center (Canada) – Signed to
The stocky point guard showed great strength and hustle, along with surprising
quickness. He never really got things going offensively, finishing with just 7
points for Team Finish. But he was a rock-solid ball handler. At the same time,
I do question his frame. It appears some conditioning is in order. Marquette is
baron in the backcourt, though, and he should make an impact down the road.
PG Ray Penn – 5-9, 160 lbs. – Travis HS (Texas) – Signed to Oklahoma State
To put it bluntly, Penn is too short to score on the same level he did in college.
But he’s still a lightning quick guard with the ability to penetrate and dish
at a high level. It’s just that, he’s not going to draw very much respect from
opposition, and he didn’t show the ability to separate as well as he needs to
with his limiting height. Still, he probably should have been playing in the premier
game, not the preview game.
SF Richard Howell – 6-8, 235 – Wheeler HS (Ga.) – Signed to N.C. State
Howell was one of the most impressive players in practice Thursday, showing great
hand-eye coordination and the ability to produce in the post. But in the game,
he came out flat, scoring just 6 points. I like where he could be, even if he’s
not there yet. He has the potential to bulk up a little bit and become a very
nice post player, or work on his perimeter skills and make a mark as a swingman.
NOTES: North Carolina recruit Dexter Strickland pulled out at the last minute.
… Kansas 5-star point guard recruit Elijah Johnson began to feel sick in the
premier game, and didn’t return for the second half. … In the preview game,
Givon Crump, a Baylor recruit, was still overcoming a pendicitis, according to