Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Georgetown Snags 4-Star Junior

At Georgetown, their annual Tip-Off event has become a valuable tool. It came through again on Saturday as four-star Marcus Derrickson committed after attending.

Marcus Derrickson has inside/out game.
Ranked No. 55 nationally in the class of 2015, the product of Fairfax (Va.) St. Paul is an interesting recruit both now and when projecting the future.
At 6-foot-7 and about 250 pounds, Derrickson has proven himself as a high end high school player. He exploded onto the scene as a freshman and then continued to show signs of brilliance as a sophomore.
When Derrickson has it rolling he is a high volume rebounder, tough interior scorer and a guy who can stretch defenses because of three-point shooting.
On the other hand, Derrickson has at times been out of shape and at other times he has spent too much time hunting jumpers on the perimeter.
Moving ahead, Derrickson certainly has the type of skill that John Thompson III covets in his his system. In addition to his ability to shoot he is a very good passer out of either the low or high post. It is just a matter of continuing to get into tip top condition -- he has lost 15 pounds since the summer's end -- and making sure that he uses his perimeter skill to supplement his interior game.
Derrickson is the Hoyas first commitment from the class of 2015.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Duke Midnight Madness Puts on a Show!

DURHAM, N.C. -- Freshman phenom Jabari Parker went coast-to-coast with rebounds, Rodney Hood slashed to the rim and Andre Dawkins knocked down 3-pointers.

During Duke's first public intrasquad scrimmage of the preseason, the up-tempo team barely resembled last year's group.

The scrimmage was the centerpiece of Duke's ''Countdown to Craziness'' celebration Friday - an annual night of frivolity before coach Mike Krzyzewski's team gets back to the serious business of preparing for the season.

Krzyzewski told the crowd during the scrimmage that ''we're trying to change the style of play'' and that ''we're going to play a lot faster.''

Parker had 16 points in one 15-minute scrimmage, then eight points, eight rebounds and a highlight-reel dunk in another one.

The first 10 points of the first game were scored by players who didn't see a minute of court time at Duke last season.

That includes two redshirts: Hood, who transferred from Mississippi State, and Dawkins, who sat out while continuing to deal with his sister's death when he was a freshman in 2009.

Dawkins received one of the louder ovations - along with Parker - during the one-at-a-time player introductions, and screamed ''I'm back, baby'' to the crowd.

Then, the first time he touched the ball, he buried a 3 over Rasheed Sulaimon on the right wing, prompting the Cameron Crazies to chant '''Dre all day.''

While the Blue Devils have been practicing for three weeks, this was the first chance for fans to get a look at the highly regarded freshman class - Parker, Semi Ojeleye and Matt Jones - in game situations

Parker and Dawkins led the Blue team during the first scrimmage while Hood and Ojeleye were on White. Dawkins hit two free throws with 0.9 seconds left in Blue's 36-34 win.

Then they switched up the teams, with four probable starters - Parker, Hood, Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson - on White. Parker had the move of the night, a reverse, one-handed slam that even had Krzyzewski hiding a smile in White's 33-30 win.

Krzyzewski has said this team will revolve around Parker and Hood, and that's a noteworthy change for a program that almost always is as good - or as bad - as its seniors.

Gone are three from last year - Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry - who all found spots in the NBA. They were the cornerstones of a team that finished 30-6 and reached the Midwest regional final before losing to eventual national champion - and future fellow ACC member - Louisville.

These Blue Devils enter the season as one of the favorites to make it at least one step further - to their 12th Final Four under Krzyzewski.

But there's plenty of time to worry about that.

For now, the focus was on having some fun before the games start counting.

As they do every year, the players entered the arena to the song of their choosing. Most opted for current R&B selections, but big man Marshall Plumlee went with ''Ain't Too Proud to Beg'' - and performed a full Temptations-style dance.


Five Star Package Deal?

Package deal?
Is there anything new on Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones? Do you think they will really end up at the same school? -- Aaron, Kansas City (via email)

I have to admit that towards the end of the summer and earlier this fall I was starting to doubt whether or not Okafor and Jones would end up attending the same school. After having the opportunity to speak with them both in person at USA Basketball a few weeks ago, they sure seemed awfully convincing and the package deal seems to be holding up quite well. So, where do they end up?

Upcoming visits to Kansas and Duke will be big for Jones (pictured) and Okafor.
It may sound simplistic, but I think how the duo's upcoming round of visits to Kansas and Duke go over the next two weekends should determine the outcome. But, we should still discuss what the latest speculation is heading into the visits.

Let's start with Jones. Ranked No. 5 nationally, the general public and behind the scenes perception has been that the point guard from Apple Valley (Minn.) High is leaning towards Duke and that he has been doing so for a while. Along with Kansas, his other finalists are Baylor and Minnesota. Both Jones and Okafor reported that the Baylor visit was strong and the Bears have been all over him. For now, Minnesota looks to be a serious longshot. The Jayhawks, though, are holding out hope that they can flip Jones in their direction and have been considered by many to be running a close second. Jones himself continues to deny that he has any leader.

Next we have 2014's top player Okafor. The Chicago (Ill.) Whitney Young center is also considering Kentucky along with the previously mentioned Baylor, Duke and Kansas. Like Jones, Okafor has continually denied any leader throughout the process. The behind the scenes talk on Okafor of late, though, has been that if he does have a leader that it is likely Kansas by a slight margin.

One way or another, something has to give and based on recruiting trail talk it is looking like the package deal is most likely to take place for either the Jayhawks or Blue Devils. The good thing is that both plan to sign early and the time for speculation can soon come to an end. Kansas gets their crack this weekend -- and it's no surprise that they've added an open to the crowd practice to the agenda for this weekend -- while Duke gets to make the last pitch next weekend when they host their season opening festivities
Future for Bluiett
What do you think will end up happening with Trevon Bluiett?-- Scott, Indianapolis (via email)

A four-star prospect who ranks No. 45 nationally, Bluiett somewhat surprisingly backed off of his UCLA commitment a few weeks ago. Now, the Indianapolis (Ind.) Park Tudor star is taking visits and trying to determine who fits him the best.

Last weekend he was at Memphis and he is currently on an official visit to Michigan State. The other players are Xavier and Butler. Purdue has also been mentioned as a possibility but appears to be on the outside looking in.

One of the chief reasons given by Bluiett for his decommitment was distance and it is likely to play a strong factor when he chooses the second time around. Things can still change, but as he heads down the homestretch of his recruitment the feeling is that Xavier holds the edge and will be looking to fight everybody else off to nab the talented shooter.
Aztecs team to beat for Cheathem?
Where will Zylan Cheatham end up? Is San Diego State still the team to beat and where would their class rank nationally if they landed him?-- Jason, San Diego (via email)

Washington and New Mexico are making strong plays for Cheatham.
For the bulk of Cheatham's recruitment, the general thought has been that the Aztecs have led for his services. Now, the worm has started to turn a bit and both Washington and New Mexico are making strong plays for the four-star prospect at Phoenix (Ariz.) South Mountain.

Part of the reason that the others have made up ground is that SDSU has been so successful on the recruiting trail. Cheatham very much wants to play on the wing in college and with the commitments of Trey Kell and Malik Pope along with Winston Shepard and Dakarai Allen already on the roster, the wing may be a little crowded in Aztec country. At least, that is what Lobos and Huskies coaches are hoping Cheatham thinks.

The 6-foot-7 forward who ranks No. 73 nationally takes his final trip this weekend and he is likely to have a decision shortly after that. But, at this point it appears to be a very open race. San Diego State may very well land him, but they shouldn't be considered the lock many have thought them to be for a while now.
Different and special
My question is what makes Malik Newman so different and special compared to other two guards that are slightly undersized? Also do you see any O.J. Mayo in Malik?-- Bigcel4477 (via RivalsHoops message board)

This is something that was covered on the message board but it is a very good question. In the original question, the poster also talked about how there were many other two guards that are in the 6-foot-4 range with strengths similar to Newman who currently ranks No. 1 in the class of 2015.

While there are plenty of 6-foot-4 shooting/combo guards that can do things similar to Newman, there aren't many who do it at the level he does. Newman is an elite shooter, has a great frame, a lighting first step and he is quite skilled as a mid range and at the rim scorer. Much of the time, it simply boils down to a case of defenders having to hope he misses his shot because he's so tough to guard. Over the last year, Newman has also improved his ball handling and passing.

Moving ahead, Newman will be pushed if he wants to keep his top ranking. He does lack ideal size for a high end, next level shooting guard he doesn't appear to be developing into a point guard, at least not at this time. Important to his development will be improving shot selection and adding strength.

As for an O.J. Mayo comparison, that's not a bad one at all. Others that have been thrown around include Eric Gordon, Ben Gordon and even Monta Ellis. He's a little different than each of them, but they are all good examples of shooting/combo guards his size who have been productive NBA players.
Room to improve
I recently read in your article about Sam Cassell, Jr. committing to UConn how he will receive heavy consideration to be upgraded from 3* to 4*. Would you be able to explain a little more as to what you are looking for from Cassell during his freshman year at Chipola to improve his status? Just curious what you have to say.-- Tom, Coventry, Conn. (via email)

Good question and one that I'll be happy to take a stab at. Keep in mind that Cassell was a Rivals150 player coming out of high school and somebody whose development was on a steep incline. What I really like about him besides his crafty play and ability to play at the one or the two is that he will show up at UConn with loads of maturity and three years to play. Unlike most JUCO transfers who only have two years, Cassell will have three because he redshirted at Chipola. With that redshirt and him taking a prep year, he'll be the age of a typical senior during his sophomore year. Theoretically, that should allow him to be physically and mentally ready to make a contribution. To move to a four-star, I'd like to see a little more consistent shooting and I'm curious to see how sharply developed his point guard skills are. Reports I've gotten on him have been good and because of that he's somebody that I think we need to keep a close eye on for a potential move from three to four-star status .

Monday, October 14, 2013


COLORADO SPRINGS -- Headed into last weekend's USA Basketball Developmental Team October minicamp, the loaded roster of players expected in Colorado Springs and the type of competition that USA Basketball events inspire made it hard not to set the bar of expectations high. Throughout the weekend, the assembled five- and four-star players not only met but cleared that bar with their play. Here's a look at What We Learned.
The way things are looking, 2014 stars Rashad Vaughn and Kelly Oubre have a chance to be one of the most devastating wing duos the high school ranks have seen in quite some time when they team up at Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep. Ranked No. 7 and No. 12 nationally headed into USA weekend, Vaughn and Oubre backed up their lofty status.
Rashad Vaughn is the top-rated shooting guard prospect for 2014.
Given that he is the higher-ranked prospect of the two, let's start with Vaughn. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Minneapolis did nothing to hurt his status as the No. 1 prospect at his position in the class of 2014. Since the summer, he has added strength to an already strong and powerful frame and his game has expanded.
A bit of a streak shooter from deep, Vaughn is never shy to pull the string on a deep jumper, but that is only one aspect of his game. What makes him so difficult to defend is that he can score at the rim and from midrange, and he is adept at creating his own shot off the dribble. He is too strong for defenders to take away his dribble often, he reads screens well and he is exceptional going to his left. With his explosive athleticism and ability to finish in the open court, Vaughn has every tool you would want out of a big-time shooting guard prospect and he looks like a future NBA player.
Like Vaughn, Oubre -- who committed to Kansas on Tuesday -- has ended up at Findlay for his senior season, only he arrives from the Houston area. A lefty who is pushing 6-foot-7, he is coming on strong and looks like he has taken a big leap in his development since Rivals.com last saw him during July.
The No. 2 shooting guard in the class, Oubre has always shown glimpses of greatness but at times lacked consistency. Consistency wasn't a problem in Colorado Springs, though, and his play matched the rumblings emanating from Las Vegas about him this fall. Oubre shot the ball at a high level from deep, he used his strong frame to bully defenders on his way to the hoop, and he showed more midrange game and consistency than he has in the past. All in all, he made a strong case to be moved into the national top 10.
Also important is that Vaughn and Oubre will have a very capable playmaker in the backcourt with them. Derryck Thornton, the No. 22 player in the class of 2016, was tremendous at USA Basketball. He is a clever playmaker who can penetrate and dish, and he'll see outstanding assist numbers as long as he is feeding those two.
Kentucky and Michigan appear to be the leaders for James Blackmon.
When Marion (Ind.) High shooting guard James Blackmon was elevated to five-star status and No. 23 overall in the 2014 Rivals150, some raised their eyebrows and wondered if he is really that good. The answer is yes, Blackmon is that good.
The 6-foot-2 senior was a flat-out assassin with his jumper in Colorado Springs, and he showed that he can do plenty of other things as well. He drove to the rim for finishes more athletic than some have thought he was capable of making. He made plays for others off the dribble while showing some combo guard skills, and he did it all while being incredibly efficient.
That efficiency is what really stands out about Blackmon. He never seems rushed, he always seems ready to shoot, and he rarely seems to make a mistake by forcing the issue. He should be a serious candidate for the McDonald's All-American Game.
There is a pitched battle going on to land the shooter. Blackmon says Indiana (where he de-committed), Kentucky, Michigan, Kansas, Michigan State and Louisville are under consideration but his recruitment is starting to shape up as a two-, possibly three-horse race between the Wildcats and Wolverines, with the Hoosiers hoping they can bring him back to Bloomington.
Wherever he ends up, he's going to score a lot of points.
Whitefish Bay (Wis.) Dominican junior Diamond Stone and St. Louis (Mo.) Chaminade sophomore Jayson Tatum rank No. 4 nationally in their respective classes. With their play in Colorado Springs, they are putting the heat on the three in front of them not to slip because they are looking to make a move up.
Diamond Stone has a high basketball IQ and a high skill level.
A 6-foot-10 center, Stone is a throwback player who dominates with his skill and basketball IQ and not because of freakish athleticism. Very well rounded and versed in low-post play, Stone has a full offensive repertoire. He is comfortable operating on either side of the lane. He scores with either hand on jump hooks, has great hands and has become a reliable shooter in pick-and-pop situations. Stone rebounds well, runs the floor and has been getting more athletic as he matures physically. In terms of pure skill level, he is second only to 2014's top overall player, Jahlil Okafor, when it comes to post players in the high school ranks.
Then there is Tatum. A long and lanky 6-foot-7 wing, he looks like he is primed to follow in the footsteps of previous Chaminade stars such as David Lee and Bradley Beal. He is a wing player with all types of versatility and lots of skill. Tatum can run the show for you on one possession and then post up on the next. He has always had good ball skills and above-average passing ability, but in Colorado Springs he showed an improved jump shot and much better athleticism than in the past. The mid-post game he is developing is virtually unstoppable, and he doesn't seem like he's done growing, judging by the big shoulders he's starting to fill out. He's gotten a little bigger each time we've seen him over the last year.
How much further each of these guys can climb remains to be seen, but it is clear they are looking to make a move up the rankings, meaning the guys ahead of them had better keep improving.

Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

5-Star Oubre heading to Kansas

Last weekend, five-star senior Kelly Oubre was a busy kid. He took an official visit to Kansas before heading to Colorado Springs for USA Basketball.

Kelly Oubre is ranked as the No. 12 prospect in the nation.
The No. 12 player in the country was dominant at the camp and said that he still planned to visit Kentucky. Instead, the 6-foot-7 shooting guard from Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep decided to go ahead and end his recruitment.
Oubre scrapped his plans to officially visit Lexington and announced Tuesday that he had seen enough by committing to Kansas.
"Blessed to say that I have committed to Kansas," tweeted Oubre.
During an interview over the weekend, Oubre sang the praises of his Kansas visit and the impression that Jayhawks fans left on him.
"Late night in the Phog was great," said Oubre. "When we walked in it was a standing ovation and there was a lot of good vibe in there. They love their team, they love their city and they love everything about Kansas. I just liked that feeling."
After announcing his decision, Oubre said via text that Kansas head coach Bill Self and the family atmosphere left a big impression on him.
"KU is a family and Bill Self is the Godfather," Oubre texted Rivals.com. "Nobody is bigger than the team."
After landing three five-star prospects in the class of 2013, Oubre is the Jayhawks first from the class of 2014 and he brings plenty to the table.
Oubre's size and strength stand out immediately. Not only is he big and powerful, he can shoot with deep range and the southpaw is a fine athlete capable of finishing above the rim on the break or in transition.
He has worked hard to improve his game off the dribble and in Colorado Springs he showed that and an overall consistent game. The Jayhawks should have an opening on the wing as long as Andrew Wiggins leaves for the pros as expected and Oubre has the tools to step right in and help.
 By Eric Bossi