Six months ago, Makinde London was a lightly regarded forward at Spring Hill (Tenn.) Summit. He had some talent, sure, but he didn't hold a place in the national hoops psyche.
But he punctured that obscurity this past April during the spring evaluation period. He immediately surfaced on high-major radars and never flirted with dropping from them. We got our first extensive look in Chicago at the Memorial Day Best Buy event, where his combination of athleticism and versatile skill caught our attention as well.
And that was the backdrop as London traveled to Philadelphia for the Reebok Breakout Classic in July. Staged during the first leg of the summer evaluation period, he proved there that he warranted priority status for major programs.
He faltered slightly in Dallas during the second leg, but he recovered in Las Vegas to finish the month. After a couple weeks to sort through his options, he cut his list to five: Xavier, VCU, Miami, Mississippi State and Florida. All but the Gators had offered.
He committed to the Musketeers in September, citing a strong connection to Chris Mack. He also transferred to Montverde (Fla.) Academy to finish his prep career and prepare for Big East competition.
Just watching London move around the court in warmups, it's difficult to understand why it took so long for his recruitment to soar. He boasts a tremendous body type with long arms — resulting in a 7-3 wingspan — and obvious run/jump athleticism.
He certainly backs up that initial impression. He moves his feet very well both laterally and in a straight line, excelling in a fullcourt game and covering vast distances on the court side to side as well. He's at his best in a utility role, not necessarily working within structure but opportunistically making plays as a transition finisher, offensive rebounder and slasher.
His defensive versatility is what impresses most. With the move toward high ball screens in the college game, London's lateral mobility and length enable him to contest jump shots even under a screen and he's tremendous closing out on shooters. However Xavier chooses to utilize him defensively, he's likely to excel.
Offense isn't yet his calling card, but he does possess tools. Catch him at the right time, and you might see London fluidly handle the ball and create his own shot, or maybe he'll knock down a three. It happens in flashes, but he amasses just enough production for it to be meaningful.
Previous paragraph notwithstanding, those flashes have yet to congeal into a consistent scoring attack. London can look very awkward shooting and handling on the perimeter, yet he possesses essentially no offensive identity with his back to the basket. Constructing a scoring game for college looms by far as his top priority this season at Montverde.
He also must continue to get stronger. He's already 205 pounds and thus not emaciated by any stretch, but to be a true combo forward he'll likely need to reach at least 230 pounds. He may require a year or two at XU to make that happen.
I regard London more highly than most. For me, an ace defender naturally equipped to match up versus the college offense du jour warrants extra consideration. Even if his offensive game comes around slowly, he'll bring immediate value to the Xavier program.
And no one should disregard his long-term potential. Though there's hardly a guarantee he'll ever become a major scorer, his coordination and moments of excellence give him a shot to become an impact player in the Big East.