Sunday, May 31, 2015

Pangos: DeLaurier and Heron deliver
CARSON, Calif. -- It's not unusual at major events for players to fall into the trap of thinking that they have to go one on one to show they belong. Saturday at the Pangos All-American Camp, there was no shortage of players running the "do him" offense but rising seniors Javin DeLaurier and Mustapha Heron showed that sound basketball and high-running motors can be just as effective.

DeLaurier and Heron deliver

After spending the past few days in Colorado Springs at the USA Basketball 16U Trials, it was expected that the style of play at Pangos would be a bit more loose and less organized. That's just the nature of exposure camps. Luckily, just when things looked to be getting a little bit too loose, rising seniors Javin DeLaurier and Mustapha Heron were there to save the day.


DeLaurier's jump shot has improved significantly.
One of the fastest rising players in the class of 2016, the 6-foot-8 Montgomery showed why he will soon be making a big rise up from his current slot of No. 117 in the 2016 Rivals150. Already No. 22 in the class, Heron lived up to his billing as one of the top shooting guards in the country.

Since he's one of the hottest prospects in the country, we'll start with DeLaurier. Everything starts with his motor and relentless will to compete on both ends of the floor. He seems to always win 50-50 situations on loose balls, runs the floor and plays defense on every possession.

While his motor is certainly a strength, we have to be careful to not overlook how much DeLaurier's skills have improved. A forward who can play the four or the three, DeLaurier has significantly improved his jump shot, passes very well and is in constant motion when he doesn't have the ball.

There's still plenty of room to add strength to DeLaurier's lean frame and he doesn't seem to be anywhere close to reaching his ceiling. Thanks in large part to his play with Team Loaded Virginia during the two live periods in April, DeLaurier is now swimming in scholarship offers.

Texas, Florida, Baylor, Vanderbilt, Xavier, Cincinnati, Wake Forest, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech have all offered. He says that he will look to cut things down to at least eight after July and then decide on his five visits from there.

As for the style of play in camp, DeLaurier said that he didn't travel across the country to play pickup ball.

"I've been to a lot of camps like this and it can get a little out of control," DeLaurier said. "In that type of setting I feel like nothing gets achieved. There is no point in coming all the way out here to play like that so I make sure to play the game the right way."

Heron was also busy playing the game the right way.

Known since early in his high school career for his ability to overpower opponents, Heron is still a power player. The southpaw takes and delivers bumps while finishing plays and is always going full speed. Now, he's added a strong skill package to go along with his power and athleticism.

Heron says that he loves James Harden's game and you can see some similarities in style. He loves to pull-up for jumpers, is a crisp passer off the bounce and he hits the glass like a bigger player. Most notably, Heron has improved his game when heading to his off, right, hand and he seems to have much more trust in his jumper.

The way he played in April and the way he played on Saturday at Pangos, Heron is going to be under serious consideration for elevation to five-star status and his spot in the top 25 of 2016 will be safe when rankings get updated in the latter part of June.

McCoy not satisfied with improvement

The physical transformation of near seven-foot center Brandon McCoy immediately catches the eye of anybody who hasn't seen him in a bit. This time last year, the No. 36 player in the class of 2017 was all arms and legs.

McCoy is still lean, but he's added plenty of muscle and now checks in at a lean and mean 230 pounds.

Perhaps most importantly, McCoy hasn't lost any of his quickness around the rim and he can still run the floor like a smaller player. Now that he's stronger his power moves to the rim have a lot more impact and he's capable of pushing people out of position as a straight up defender and he can pick his way through traffic to block shots from the weak side.


McCoy has filled out and now weighs 230 pounds.
Though he has clearly improved, McCoy isn't at all satisfied with where he's at and thinks there's much more room for improvement.

"The strength helps me out tremendously," he said. "I feel like I still have a lot of room to get even stronger. My footwork has gotten much better but I think I have lot of room to improve in everything. People tell me that I'm getting better but I don't think I'm near good enough. I'm trying to be the best player in the country."

A native of the west side of Chicago who moved to San Diego as an 8th grader, McCoy listed offers from Arizona, UCLA, Oregon, Connecticut, Michigan State, Kansas and California. Though they haven't offered yet, McCoy said that Kentucky has been picking up its contact with his coaches.

More Saturday notes

Class of 2017 shooting guard Mitchell Ballock didn't let an injury get in the way of a good Saturday night showing. Playing with an injured left (his shooting arm) shoulder, Ballock went away from his jump shot and focused on making plays off dribble. He found teammates for shots, hit some floaters and still managed to make a few deep jumpers despite an altered shooting release.

Nobody is ever going to have to push 2017 point guard C.J. Roberts to be aggressive. A strong, fast and athletic six-footer, Roberts tries to get his feet in the paint off the dribble as often as he can. Capable of taking bumps and finishing at the rim, Roberts also showed off a floater and hit a few jumpers.

Things have really started to pick up for class of 2016 wing De'Riante Jenkins. The South Carolina native who plays his high school ball in Florida has solidified himself as a Rivals150 player and deserves consideration for a bump from three to four-star status. A slashing, off the dribble attacker with 6-foot-5 size and athleticism, Jenkins was making plays at the rim all night. Jenkins said that he picked up an offer from Indiana right before he left for Pangos. Other recent offers have come from Utah, Charlotte and Rhode Island. Clemson and USF are also onboard with offers while programs like Providence, Texas, Arkansas, Florida, and South Carolina are closely monitoring his progress.

Arizona commit T.J. Leaf looked like the top 10 prospect that he is in the class of 2016. The 6-foot-10 stretch four man was very aggressive attacking the basket and finished on several athletic, twisting shots in the paint. He can stroke the jumper, has a body to build on and looked like he was having a lot of fun in the up and down setting.

Often times the guy feeding Leaf the ball was point guard Bryce Aiken. The No. 130 player in the class of 2016, Aiken might even be a bit smaller than his listed 6-foot and 160 pounds, but he doesn't play like somebody who lacks size. He's a tough kid who shared the ball and knocked home open looks.

Class of 2017 shooting guard Ethan Thompson is a smooth operator. The 6-foot-3 sniper from Gardena (Calif.) Bishop Montgomery backed up his No. 49 in his class ranking and then some. Thompson has deep range on his jumper and even better he focuses on taking smart shots. A skinny kid, he's deceptive off the bounce because of changes of speed and willingness to take a bump. His older brother, Stephen Thompson, finished at No. 50 in the class of 2015 and is on his way to play at Oregon State where their father is an assistant coach. Nothing is certain in the recruiting world, but the Beavers would appear to be the team to beat for the younger Thompson as well.

There will be more focus on 6-foot-7 forward Mario Kegler on Sunday, but the glimpses Rivals.com got on Saturday were impressive. Kegler has really gotten into great shape and has elevated his skill level to match his strength and athleticisim.

Speaking of strength and athleticism, 2016's No. 26 player Rawle Alkins had way too much of it for anybody trying to guard him. The 6-foot-4, 210 pounder got to the rim at will and threw down one dunk after another. He might have taken a jumper or two but it didn't seem like he ever had to finish from outside of two feet of the rim.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Kansas nabs shooting guard Vick
For the past few weeks, one of the hottest names on the circuit has been shooting guard LaGerald Vick. After an official visit to Kansas during the middle of the week, Vick has picked Bill Self and the Jayhawks. A 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Memphis (Tenn.) Douglass who recently backed off of his commitment to SMU, Vick heard what he needed from Self and his staff during his visit to Lawrence.
LaGerald Vick is headed to Kansas.
Vick's summer coach, Norton Hurd of Team Thad, broke down the commitment. "I don't know if it was so much the visit, but things have gone fast over this short time and coach Self has made him a priority," Hurd told Rivals.com. "He really feels like he can do good things under the coaching staff." Long and athletic, Vick is quite adept at creating for himself via the dribble. He has a dangerous mid-range game, can finish above the rim in traffic and is fine-tuning his stroke from deep. The Kansas coaches compared him with one of the best shooting guards that they have had in their program. "They told him that as athletic as he is and as well as he can score, as soon as he learns coach Self's system and plays hard they could see him making a good impact his first year," said Hurd. "Then he could maybe be a Ben McLemore type in his second year." Currently ranked No. 137 in the class of 2016, Vick has had a tremendous spring with Team Thad on the Under Armour Association circuit and is poised to make a healthy jump into four-star territory when the rankings are next updated. However, there is a good chance that Vick could actually enroll as a class of 2015 prospect, in which case he will be elevated to four-star status but not included in the 2015 overall rankings because those rankings have already been finalized. If Vick remains in the class of 2016, he will be the Jayhawks' first commitment in the class. Should he move to 2015, he will join five-star big men Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg in a class that already ranks No. 14 in the team recruiting rankings. A decision on whether Vick will remain in the class of 2016 or enroll as a class of 2015 prospect should be made within the next two to three weeks.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Gibbons Tournament: Talent on display
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ATLANTA -- The Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions always seems to attract some of the best travel teams from all over the country, and this year is no different. The tournament goes straight into bracket, so there is no room for error for teams trying to win the championship. It showed in the intensity of the games on Saturday, and brought out in the best in several players.

Javonte Smart should be one of the more highly recruited 2018 guards.
Sexton steals the show

The Southern Stampede 16U team fought their way into the semifinals on Sunday morning after winning two highly competitive, tight games down the stretch on Saturday. They did so in large part due to the play of lead guard Collin Sexton, a class of 2017 prospect out of Hillgrove High School in Powder Springs, Georgia. After an up and down sophomore campaign with his high school team, Sexton seems to have hit his stride during travel season. At 6-foot-1 with arms with long arms and elite quickness, Sexton could not be stopped getting to the rim all day on Saturday. He lived at the free throw line where he rarely missed. To complement his ability to get to the rim, Sexton also possesses a deadly stroke from the perimeter and is capable of hitting shots with defenders closely contesting. While he took on more of a scoring role on Saturday, Sexton's long-term position will likely be point guard. In an afternoon win over New Orleans Elite, Sexton was constantly harassed by scrappy guards, but took great care of the ball and made very good decisions for the most part. What really stands out when watching Sexton is the confidence and swagger he plays with. He's one of those rare players that can talk a little smack with opponents and is able to feed off it. Sexton certainly looked like a high-major guard on Saturday. He says offers are already in from Ole Miss and Tulane with interest from Georgia, Virginia, Clemson, Stanford, South Alabama and others.

Big day for Ballard, Georgia Stars

The Georgia Stars 16U team is loaded with players that will play college basketball at a high level someday, but one prospect in particular stood out above the others today: three-star wing DeAndre Ballard.A 6-foot-6 wing, Ballard is wired to score and that's what he did all Saturday. In an afternoon victory over Florida Elite, Ballard went for somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 points for the Stars. He didn't score quite that many in the quarterfinal win over Juice All-Stars, but still made plays and helped the Stars cruise to an easy victory. He had the perimeter stroke rolling and made several crafty moves to finish at the rim. He's not the smoothest looking athlete around, but he always seems to find a way to score. Ballard was far from the only top performer for the Stars. Daniel Lewis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, also put up big numbers in the scoring column and, like Ballard, did it in a variety of ways. Chuma Okeke, who recently added an offer from Georgia to go along with a Florida State offer, is a 6-foot-8 versatile forward that you could argue is the most important player for the Stars because of his unselfishness.
Robert Baker was recently offered by Oklahoma State.
Ikey Obiagu, a 7-foot-1 center, continues to get better every time out. Right now, he's mostly a defensive presence, but he's truly an anchor in the paint who makes it difficult on other teams to score in the paint.

One to watch

Each One Teach One took a tough loss to the Southern Stampede in the 16U quarterfinals on Saturday, but Silvio De Sousa, a 6-foot-7 forward in the 2018 class, emerged as somebody to keep an eye on moving forward. A native of Angola, de Sousa just arrived in the United States a few months ago and enrolled at Montverde Academy in Florida. If Saturday night is any indication, Kevin Boyle, the head coach at Montverde, is going to enjoy coaching him over the next few years. De Sousa opened up the game with a pair of put-back dunks. He possesses the type of athleticism where his teammates can throw the ball up somewhere near the rim and trust that he'll go up and make a play on it. Going forward, de Sousa will need to continue to polish up his skill set and learn to become a more consistent player, but there is little doubt that he has the natural ability that will get college coaches excited about his long-term potential.

More Saturday night notes

Robert Baker has been receiving high-major offers almost daily for the past couple weeks, and it's not hard to see why. At 6-foot-9, he's got a pure stroke and a great feel for the game. Oklahoma State is Baker's most recent offer, but Butler, Georgia and Georgia Tech also recently entered into mix.

Javonte Smart will be one of the more highly recruited guards in the 2018 class in the Southeast. At 6-foot-4, he's very athletic and just makes plays with the ball in his hands. He's carried his Elfrid Payton Elite team into the semifinals on Sunday morning.

There aren't many kids around that shoot the ball as well as Heat Check guard Jordan Lyons. In only a few minutes of seeing him play, the 5-foot-11 guard hit a contested mid-range jumper and followed that up with two NBA-range three-pointers that looked effortless. Mid-majors will be all over him this summer.

Keon Clergeot has been a hot name at the mid-major level lately, and for good reason. The Florida Elite point guard is super quick and scrappy, but probably even more important, he's an ultra competitive kid.

2016 standout Jermaine Matthews of the River City Reign is uniquely gifted at playing with his back to the basket at such a young age. The 6-foot-8 post player isn't blessed with elite athleticism, so he uses a combination of ball fakes and great footwork to find angles to score in the paint.

Florida Elite 16U lost by a pretty big margin, but Nate Patrick was a bright spot. The 6-foot-3 guard opened the game with a pair of three-pointers and followed it up with some crafty finishes in the paint over the Georgia Stars long, athletic front-line.
Dan McDonald is a basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.