Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hoops Festival: Fultz makes his name
Rivals.com Basketball Recruiting Analysis

HYATTSVILLE, Md. -- Held on the campus of DeMatha High School, the two day National High School Hoops Festival has become a must stop event over the years. Saturday, the 2014 edition kicked off with several five-star players taking the floor. Terrance Ferguson, Antonio Blakeney, Jayson Tatum and more big names had big outings as expected. However, junior shooting guard Markelle Fultz made a name for himself during host DeMatha's win.


Fultz finished with 16 points, six rebounds and three assists.
Fultz makes his name

Saturday's nightcap at the National High School Hoops Festival was highly anticipated and the battle between host Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha and St. Louis (Mo.) Chaminade lived up to the billing. Thanks in large part to junior shooting guard Markelle Fultz, the host Stags survived 24 points and eight rebounds from Chaminade's star junior, five-star wing Jayson Tatum.

Fultz's numbers weren't outrageous in the 55-54 win, but they were impressive. The 6-foot-4 scorer finished with 16 points, six rebounds and three assists and he did so in a variety ways. After the game, Fultz said that his pull-up jump shooting was only the second most dangerous part of his offensive game behind his ability to get to the rim. Make no mistake, Fultz is quick and bouncy and can get to the rim. But, it's his ability to create and make mid range scoring opportunities with just one or two dribbles that stands out.

"At first I wasn't really making shots so coach told me to get in the lane and start getting going," said Fultz. "So I started doing my one dribble pull-up and that started going for me and I think that went pretty well for me."

Though late-bloomer isn't a fair description for a high school junior, Fultz has seen his recruitment really take off since the fall. He says that Georgetown, Wake Forest, Washington, Maryland, Xavier, Towson and DePaul are among the programs that have offered and he has already seen Georgetown, Maryland and Xavier unofficially.

Fultz -- who looks like a lock to enter the rankings in the four-star range in the spring -- says that he will probably look to set up official visits beginning in January and hopes to make a decision by May. Until those visits start, though, he is letting the attention he's earned through hard work sink in.

"I'm just enjoying it right now, I'm really enjoying it," said Fultz. "From having no scholarship offers to having over 14 scholarship offers has been overwhelming."

Blakeney shrugs off slow start

It wasn't a vintage performance from five-star senior shooting guard Antonio Blakeney, but it was a strong one all the same.

The No. 13 player in 2015, Blakeney shook off a poor start and made the plays that Orlando (Fla.) Oak Ridge needed him to make to score a hard fought 75-72 overtime win over the St. James (Md.) School.

A 6-foot-4 shooting guard, Blakeney arrived in the D.C. area just an hour or so before tipoff after taking the ACT in Orlando on Saturday morning. Looking a little rusty, he struggled to make just 3-of-11 from the field and picked up three fouls in the first half.


Carter made eight of his 10 shots on Saturday.
After regrouping at halftime, Blakeney was a different player in the second half. He got his pull-up jumper going from between 15 and 22 feet, made some key defensive plays and provided just enough offense to keep his team within striking distance before he made game winning plays in overtime finishing with 33 points (12-28 FG, 4-10 3PT) in a 75-72 win.

On the recruiting front, Blakeney is still in a holding pattern. He has one official visit left to use and he'll pick from N.C. State, North Carolina and Oregon for that while Kentucky, LSU and Missouri continue to give chase as well.

West Charlotte duo dominates

In the day's second game, senior teammates Simeon Carter and Isaiah Blackmon put on one heck of a show as Charlotte (N.C.) West rolled over Potomac (Md.) High 83-54. A three-star power forward, Carter made 8-10 shots while scoring 17 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Not to be outdone, Blackmon was even more efficient. The six-foot tall combo guard made all 14 of his field goal attempts while scoring 31 points, grabbing three rebounds and dishing out four assists.

During the summer, Carter showed flashes of potential and the 6-foot-8 four man is putting it all together. He is relatively lean, but has wiry strength, runs the floor and he is very quick off the floor. Once he adds some weight in a college weight room he is looking like a guy that could help out on the high major level. Not surprisingly, Carter reports that he is now getting recruited at that level. SMU has offered and had Larry Brown and an assistant on hand to see him and he also claims offers from Virginia Tech, Maryland, Georgia, Nebraska and South Carolina.

Quick and elusive off the dribble, Blackmon is wired to score and can be a real pest on the ball. So far, he only has an offer from Old Dominion (who was there watching him) but he also reports some interest from High Point and Western Carolina. He sure looks like a guy that regional mid majors should be taking a look at and it's surprising that none of the low to mid major programs in his home state have offered a scholarship.

More Saturday notables

Make no mistake, 2016's No. 4 player Jayson Tatum from St. Louis (Mo.) Chaminade is one highly skilled wing player. Now pushing 6-foot-8, Tatum handles the ball like a point guard, can make shots off the bounce, has post game and has a pretty complete game on the offensive end. On Saturday he went for 24 points, eight rebounds and three assists and he did so with his pull-up jumper and newfound strength that lets him finish around the rim. Because he is so talented, there are times that his teammates tend to just stand around and watch him and wait for him to make something happen. When that happens, the Chaminade offense can bog down a bit and it limits Tatum's opportunities to find cutters and the result is a few forced shots. Tatum's best play on the evening came at the end of the third quarter when he drove the middle of the lane heading to his right and found four-star junior teammate Tyler Cook for his only bucket of the game with a sweet no look dish to Cook who came flying in along the baseline for a big dunk.


Bacon has solidified himself as a legitimate McDonald's All-American candidate.
Arguably the best individual performance of the day came from 6-foot-6 junior shooting guard Terrance Ferguson. The product of Dallas (Texas) Prime Prep who ranks No. 8 in the class of 2016 went off for 33 points and five rebounds in a loss to Centereach (N.Y.) Our Savior. Long and athletic with deep range, Ferguson connected on eight three pointers and had a couple of high wire finishes around the rim -- including a nasty straight up leap for a tip dunk -- while playing aggressively. Much of his ranking has been based on obvious potential but Ferguson has sometimes been a bit too passive. For now, it looks like he's coming out of his shell and that's a scary thought for defenders.

At this point we don't need to spend a bunch of time describing the game of Florida State bound five-star prospect Dwayne Bacon. The No. 22 player in the class of 2015, Bacon is pushing for a bump in the final rankings and has solidified himself as a legitimate candidate for the McDonald's All-American game.

For much of the spring and summer, three-star point guard Justin Robinson battled injury and the Virginia Tech signee just missed the cut for the Rivals150. When the 2015 rankings get finalized, though, Robinson is looking like a pretty safe bet to make the final list. The southpaw looked terrific scoring 31 points and dishing out five assists in front of his future head coach Buzz Williams. He is an attacking guard, can make some shots and leads his team vocally.

Robinson's junior teammate Craig LeCesne also had some nice moments in St. James loss to Oak Ridge. A 6-foot-7 combo forward who has started to fill out, LeCesne can stretch defenses with his shooting and the three-star prospect now has the strength to bang some on the interior. He made 8-of-11 shots and finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.

Our Savior big man Cheick Diallo looked a little more comfortable on the floor this weekend than he did last weekend in Kentucky as he makes his return from injury. . Currently ranked No. 6 in the class of 2015, Diallo played hard, ran the floor and looked a bit stronger as he made 9-11 shots to score 22 points while grabbing five rebounds. Pittsburgh signee Damon Wilson chipped in with 18 points of his own and the four-star looks like he should be a nice wing scorer in college. Wilson plays some point for Our Savior, but he seems most comfortable off the ball where he can be a secondary decision maker and focus on getting his offense.

Seven points and four rebounds doesn't really jump out on you when looking at the stat sheet, but the contributions of 6-foot-7 power forward Thomas Bruce were huge in DeMatha's win over Chaminade. A steal for Binghamton, Bruce controlled the lane with his willingness to play physical and athleticism and he nearly shut out Chaminade's four-star junior power forward Tyler Cook who had just three points and one rebound before fouling out.

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