Many of the country's senior wings are the finesse types, very skilled and smooth perimeter scorers. But not Francis, who isn't remotely slick or cold — he's 100 percent fire.
He grew up hot. Francis hails from the Dominican Republic and from there transferred to Jacksonville (Fla.) Arlington Country Day. He caught our eye at the Adidas Superstar Showcase, where he arrived with ample billing from the Dominican. For the next year, however, his recruitment treaded very softly around the hoops landscape. He simply didn't have the profile or visibility his talent demanded. Yet.
He proved talented and highly versatile this past April. At various events we've listed him as a point guard, shooting guard or wing forward, ultimately settling on shooting guard. He possesses attributes for each and, bottom line, will be effective at any position his coach implements him.
Francis' strong play earned him MVP at the Adidas Invitational, leading Florida Elite to the title, and he followed that up with stirring play at the Adidas VIP event and at the Chicago Classic.
By June, two schools had begun to separate themselves from the field: Louisville and Florida. The national champions clearly had a great deal to sell, and the adopted home-state Gators also play at Francis' ideal tempo. When the Cardinals scored a pledge from JaQuan Lyle late that month, Francis followed suit almost immediately in favor of Florida.
He performed impressively throughout July, including at the Adidas Invitational and at the Super 64 in Las Vegas. His efforts have placed him into darkhorse consideration for postseason All-America honors, and he projects to accomplish big things for Billy Donovan's Gators.
Power and aggression. Francis is very strong and brings a bowling ball element to penetration. Though not truly elite in terms of explosiveness, he's plenty athletic and, like a good tailback, seems to run on a downhill. His linear, brutal style draws frequent trips to the free throw line, and he's also prone to rack up and-ones.
He also possesses outstanding body control and is a reliable finisher off the glass and on pull-up jump shots. Even if he doesn't finish above the rim on a given occasion, he carries other tools at his disposal to complete the job.
Francis has drawn wing forward consideration because of his strength and tendency to play big — he has demonstrated flashes of terrific rebounding — and he receives point guard consideration because he's such a fine passer and handler. He sees the entire court, keeps his head up and can handle against pressure to a reasonable extent.
He mostly scores going hard off the bounce, but he appears to have improved at least slightly as a jump shooter. Progress in that realm will make him very difficult to stop.
Here we might as well stay with his jumper. Some craftier defenders will invite him to shoot from deep, and by and large that hasn't been a strength of his game. He's much better from the middle areas, but at the three-point stripe he tends to be erratic.
Francis also can be wild with the ball and force passes into turnovers. He slots as a good secondary and relief handler, but he doesn't process the game like a true point guard. He's best as a scorer who also has playmaking capabilities, rather than the opposite.
I said at the top that he burns hot, and he must be careful to guard against excessive trash-talk and dialogue with the officials. He's young and that should be easily manageable, however.
Francis is one of those guys who projects to be very good college and perhaps even better in the NBA. He has excellent strength and shot-creating abilities, and along with that he's a very intense competitor who continues to improve and thrive against national opponents.
The biggest question remains his perimeter jump shot. If eventually can knock down shots consistently, basketball ultimately could take him very far.