In the 17-and-under group of the top five players in camp (IMO of course) two are strong Hog recruits... Brandon Rush and Marcus Walker, teammates on the powerful Rocktown team.
Rush, of course, is on everyone's radar... a jump-out-of-the-gym athlete who, unlike many athhletic types, has plenty of game to go with his athleticism.
Arkansas stands as good a chance as anybody of getting him, but don't get too excited, as by next Spring he's expected by many to be a lottery pick. Like so many his already well-rounded game would get much better faster with a couple years of college ball, but we know that scenario all too well.
Walker had just a tremendous tournament. He's a strong 6'1" combo guard whose forte is getting to the basket. He has as good penetration skills as anyone I've seen and is equally adept at both finishing and dishing to his big men, of which there are several on the Rocktown team... a new affiliation for both Rush and Walker.
Walker brings tremendous energy, a better-than-average 3-point shot, and good defensive quickness and foot movement. He's a 3-sport athlete at O'Hara High School in the Kansas City area, playing football and running the dashes in track.
His dad told me he loves Coach Heath and really enjoyed his unofficial visit here last winter. He said the Hogs, Marquette and Missouri are probably his top three at this point, but I got the impression that the Hogs lead at the moment. He'll make an official visit either in the preseason or to take in a game and get a chance to play a little with our guys.
Another of the top five here, IMHO, is a lightning-quick 6'6" guard, Ray Brown. Brown showed an excellent 3-point shot which he releases quickly and which he has the maneuverability to get off even outside of the offense. Probably a 2 or 3, he has the handle to play the point as well if necessary, and has a Brewer-like feel for the game.
He's from Richfield, MN and is being recruited by Minnesota, Wisconsin, several Missouri Valley schools and according to his assistant coach, "nearly everybody in the Big 12."
The assistant told me, though, that he's wide open and is one of those kids who might like to get away from home and see a little bit of another part of the country. (Rob, Oronde and Ronny, are you listening?)
Two players with the Jackson Panthers that JacksonHog has been high on were here... Terry Martin who, a day or two before the tournament gave a verbal to Bob Knight, and 6'9" PF Cyrus McGowan.
Martin had a terrible gane the first time I saw him play... must have had half a dozen turnovers and though he scored about 13, he took a lot of shots to get them.
McGowan showed some really strong rebounding and good post maneuvers.
But in the games I saw them play these two players were outdone by their less heralded teammates, 6'2" point guard Jeremy Wise, who knocked down a number of 3's in his 30-point effort the first game I saw him play and 6'5"wing player Roderick Ollie from Indianola Cty High School. Ollie scored well both inside and out in both of the games I saw him play.
H-Squad, the eventual tournament champions, had two tremendous players. They didn't submit a roster and so I didn't pay any attention to them until they won their pool and only got to see them play in the championship game.
The California-based team had two really outstanding players... a willowy 6'9" combo forward, who played mostly center in this tournament, but showed great athleticism, speed and maneuverabiliity. His name is Davon Jefferson. This team also had a powerhouse point guard, guessing about 6'2", 195#, named Wellington. Both kids are from California.
Another of the better players was 6'9" power forward Leo Criswell who is a dynamite player when he wants to get after it, but tended to float a bit in the games I saw. He's an athletic, Sprewell-type player.
This was a terrific tournament for point guards. I've already mentioned three... Walker, Wellington and Wise.
There were two others that I have seen mentioned in connection with the Hogs and both had excellent tournaments.
Henry Dugat is a 6'1" quick-on-quick kid from Dayton, TX who I saw play three times and he had good games each time. In fact I was ready to go lobby the Hog coaches to sign him up... until I saw Walker (and he'd still be an excellent choice if we don't get Walker or some other point guard that I may know nothing about.)
Like Walker he's a good penetrator who can finish with either hand, has a good 3-point shot, and is terrific at finding the open man on the break. One of Dugat's teammates on the excellent Houston Select team is Obi Ikeakor, a 6'8" forward who I believe I read has already committed to someone.
Another point guard who may be of some interest to the Hogs is 6'2" Antonio Hanson from Liberal KS, a teammate of Leo Criswell on a good Kansas City Pump'nRun team that also had good success in the tournament.
In addition to the usual point guard skills Hanson showed an excellent 3-point touch. He drew accolades from Hoopmasters' on-site reporter who called his opening night performance the best of the night.
Another team of note was the excellent Texas Top Prospects team which ended up playing the H-Squad in the finals. But I get ahead of myself.
One of the better games, which at the time I thought might be the championship game, matched them with the Rush/Walker Rocktown team.
Rocktown, still obviously feeling the effects of four games on Saturday (many of the teams started on Friday night but Rocktown's first game was scheduled for early Saturday a.m. and their last game ended about 11:45 Saturday night) got off the mark slowly.
In fact the TopProspect team surprised with a very effective full court press and ran off the first six points. Then when outstanding guard Marquez Haynes and a teammate each knocked down a three TP had a 12-4 lead and looked to be off to the races.
However, Rocktown, behind a great effort from Rush and Walker rallied and even though playing without sophomore star-to-be Casey Smith, (a 6'9" 230# power forward from Detroit, playing at the Mt. Zion prep school in North Carolina who injured his back the previos night and was only able to play about 5 minutes in the Saturday morning semi-final game) mounted an 8-point lead and looked on their way to the finals when Walker had to go to the bench to repair an injured toe.
During his absence the Rocktown team lost about half of its lead. Then when he returned he was still hampered and just not able to take charge of the game the way he had previously (and in other games).
As a result Rocktown ended up losing 80-76 and robbed fans of the opportunity to see what would have been a great point guard duel between Walker and Wellington in the finals.
As it turned out the Top Prospects team left it on the court against Rocktown while H-Squad coasted through its semi-final game.
As a result the H-Squad team, in the finals after about an hour and a half for both teams to catch their breaths, managed an easy 20-point win behind Devon Jefferson's dominating 31-point performance. Haynes managed about 20 for the losing Top Prospects to wrap up an excellent tournament.
Those of you who follow recruiting closely (as so many of our board members do) really ought to take in one of these AAU tournaments. It's amazing how many skilled players there are out there.
In the meantime I think Dudley - who is headed to the Nike All-America Camp July 6-10 - is planning to attend the 17-and under Nationals and I'll cover the 16-and under Nationals in Houston.
Maybe we'll both be in Vegas to catch some of the three tournaments (one sponsored by each of the big three shoe companies at the same time) there in July.
o o o
One of the things I can't help but notice is the quality of the kids that seem to end up on Stan's recruiting lists. I'm sure it's no accident. Marcus Walker is a very nice young man... a "yes, sir, no sir, thank you, sir" kind of kid with very interested and congenial parents.
Henry Dugat appears to have great leadership skills (as does Walker) and shows great enthusiasm for the game. Ditto Rush and Hanson. Saw none of the "Look at me" behavior that characterizes some of the players exhibited by any of the Arkansas prospects.
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