Sunday, September 29, 2013

John Lucas Invite: Friends then Foes

On the first day of the John Lucas Midwest Invitational in Louisville, the event's organizer, legendary trainer John Lucas, showed that he can still do what he has been doing for years. Lucas took the top talent from the 2015, 2016 and 2017 classes, prospects from all over the country, and put them together in one gym. Then, in typical Lucas fashion, the campers were subjected to one of the most grueling sessions of drill work that they've ever experienced.

After the drill work, teams each played two games, as scouts on hand got a chance to see what some of the players were capable of doing in full-court, five-on-five settings. For the most part, the cream rose to the top, as many of the more highly acclaimed players coming into the event were among those who stood out on Saturday.

However, just like in most fall showcases, a few new and exciting faces established themselves as players to watch in their respective classes.

Here's a look back at Saturday in Louisville, and some of the top performers at the John Lucas Midwest Invitational.

Ali showcased his passing abilities on Saturday.
Friends then Foes

Usually when class of 2016 five-star power forwards Thon Maker and Edrice Adebayo take the court together it is as teammates on the AAU circuit with their Boo Williams team. However, on Saturday, the two had to go head-to-head in the first game of the event, giving the scouts the matchup that everyone was dying to see.

In a physical and intense competition, Adebayo and Maker collided physically on every possession, with Maker trying to use his long arms to create space and Adebayo trying to use his powerful lower body to wedge Maker out of the lane.

The results of the matchup were about even, with each player shining in different moments on both the offensive and defensive end. Perhaps the most impressive part about the five-star duel was that both players gave their best effort on every possession, something that both sophomores have long been known for.

At 7-foot, Maker's skill-set on the offensive end is terrific, as he used his ability to shoot the mid-range or turn around for an over the shoulder hook to combat Adebayo's attempts to beat him up physically in the paint.

On the counter end, Adebayo used his excellent leaping ability to jump over Maker and finish plays around the rim. With both players being excellent floor-runners, and the game being played at a high-speed, camp style, pace, highlight plays became the norm.

After the game, Adebayo, who goes by "Bam," listed interest from North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland, Wake Forest and Georgetown.

As for Maker, the power forward has early offers from Virginia, Virginia Tech, Georgetown and interest from nearly every top program in the country.

La Lumiere Effect

Always known as one of the top prep schools in the country, especially in the Midwest, the coaching staff at La Porte (Ind.) La Lumiere Academy were faced with a difficult challenge in replacing some of last season's graduated talent.

However, after working the phones the staff received two valuable transfers in class of 2015 four-star combo guard Jalen Coleman (an Indianapolis native) and four-star class of 2015 small forward Joseph Toye (a native of Chicago).

Both Toye and Coleman were already among the most high profile names in the Midwest heading into John Lucas camp. However, by the end of the day both had also increased their stock in the eyes of most scouts.

The 6-foot-3 Coleman has proven that he is one of the quicker and more dominating athletes in his class among combo guards, while also developing better touch on his outside shot. With the ability to play either guard spot offensively, and the mindset of a lockdown defender on the other end, the No. 36 prospect in the 2015 Rivals150, is looking more and more like a priority for the Big Ten schools that surround the La Lumiere campus.

Michigan State, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Memphis were some of the schools that Coleman mentioned as having stopped by the school to see him this fall.

For Toye, his transformation was about proving that he is more than a 6-foot-6 athlete but also a complete and skilled ballplayer. Part of that transformation is complete, as the No. 64 player in the 2015 Rivals150 shot the ball superbly from the three-point line, showed a willingness to put the ball on the deck and pull-up with confidence and also displayed a high level of energy on the defensive end like Coleman did.

Dixson was dominant from beginning to end on Saturday.
Toye mentioned Xavier, Illinois, Memphis, Iowa, Creighton, Providence and Vanderbilt as schools that he has had recent contact with, adding in that he would like to hear more from Indiana this season as he continues to progress.

Prince of Passing

Sagemont (Fla.) class of 2015 shooting guard Prince Ali established himself long ago as one of the premiere scorers in the junior class. A powerful 6-foot-3 athlete who can glide past his man and to the rim whenever he wants, Ali is a smooth ball-handler that can score at will from inside of about fifteen feet.

However, one thing that he has added to his game now is the ability to make his teammates better. On Saturday, Ali put a premium on passing, constantly kicking it out to the open man in drive-and-kick situations against help defense. With opposing coaches knowing who Ali was, and sending help his way on every drive, the four-star wing racked up assist after assist both in the half-court and transition.

That isn't to say that Ali didn't score, however, as he powerfully exploded around the rim for layups through contact, hit floaters over defenders and finished a few athletic dunks on the fast break as well.

Ali is quickly establishing himself as one of the most sought after underclassmen in the entire Sunshine State, and mentioned schools like Georgetown, UConn, Illinois, Florida, Miami, Indiana and Nebraska as those who are working the hardest to recruit him right now.

Welcome to the Big Time

Before Saturday, hardly anyone without a strong knowledge of prospects in the state of Kentucky had heard of class of 2015 small forward Dikembe Dixson. But after today the 6-foot-7 wing from Bardstown (Ky.) Thomas Nelson will be in consideration for every list of player rankings put together by any scouting service in the country.

Dixson has come a long way in the last year, including moving from Ashland (Ky.) to Bardstown (a bigger city located between Lexington and Louisville) for a chance at more exposure and opportunity.

Now that he has the spotlight on him, Dixson shows no signs of wanting to let up. The 6-foot-7 junior was absolutely dominant from beginning to end on Saturday, scoring off the dribble with his length, athleticism, smooth handle and total aggressiveness on every possession.

Dixson is a fluid player that really thrives in transition and understands how to use dribble moves, and especially hesitation, to create space and attack his defender on his way to the rim. He's a willing passer, plays hard on the defensive end and is even capable of knocking down a fair amount of outside shots. He'll have to work on his left hand, but the potential that Dixson displayed, combined with the production that he's already capable of, was significant in Louisville on Saturday.

Thanks to some basketball experts from around the Louisville area, the word on Dixson is starting to leak out, as schools like UConn, Memphis, Oregon, Iowa State, West Virginia and Illinois have all stopped by Thomas Nelson High School in the last few weeks to check him out.

As he continues to refine his game and gain more exposure, look for Dixson to be one of the class of 2015 players who could really make a splash, potentially even earning his way into the Rivals150 at some point.

Note: John Lucas Camp continues to Sunday, where will have more coverage, including a look at some of the more underrated prospects at the event that are making a name for themselves.

Corey Albertson is a basketball recruiting analyst for You can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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