Smith continues preamble toward elite status
We'll update our Class of 2016 rankings in late June, but one secret I'll go ahead and reveal is that Dennis Smith will rise from his current perch at No. 25.
Smith obviously already enjoyed national prominence and earned an early ranking at Scout.com, but he has improved dramatically over the past year. He showcased upgraded athleticism at the CP3 Camp last August, then carried that momentum into his sophomore season.
He performed in truly sensational fashion at the HighSchoolOT Invitational last December, proving on the national stage for the first time that he just may belong among the elites.
His trajectory next took him to early spring events, including the Southern Jam Fest where at times he appeared to be the best overall prospect in attendance. He lit up Dallas at the first Adidas event and performed well — albeit not spectacularly — in his one EYBL event with Team United.
Smith has been outstanding here this weekend. His legs have stood up to a very heavy slate of games and his budding confidence as a star continued to grow roots. He nailed a 35-footer at the buzzer on Friday en route to an eventual overtime victory for Team Loaded, and after a desultory first half on Saturday versus the Northwest Panthers he exploded in the second half.
All the usual elite point guard stuff is there: quickness, speed, dribbling and passing. And Smith also stands a legitimate 6-2, possibly even 6-3. But his utter, overwhelmingly dazzling quality is his ability to slice into the paint and hang in the air to make difficult finishes easy. He takes low percentage shots and turns them into high percentage attempts, and takes high percentage attempts and converts them into and-ones.
Smith's claim as the No. 1 point guard in the class may enter into direct confrontation with Kobi Simmons (profiled below), along with possibly others of course, and that saga won't achieve its end for nearly another two years.
— Rob Harrington
Simmons taking next step
Kobi Simmons (pictured, above) is already regarded as a five-star recruit and is ranked among the top 20 players in the 2016 class, but if his play on Saturday was any inclination, he's due a bump next time rankings are updated.
Up against a talented Stackhouse Elite squad on Saturday, Simmons, a 6-foot-5 long, lean guard, dismantled their defense going for 27 points on 10-for-18 shooting, including a trio of three-pointers.
Simmons began the game with mid-range pull-ups and strong moves to the rim. As the game wore, he made plays in transition, consistently finished off plays at the rim and worked in long-range jump shots.
Long term there's a lot to like about the Alpharetta (Ga.) St. Francis standout. Simmons is versatile and capable of playing either guard position. He's effective with the ball in his hands, as he's a talented passer that sees the floor well, but he's also clearly an equipped scorer from all three levels.
Simmons has an especially quick first step and is a tricky ball handler. Once by defenders, Simmons uses his elite body control and impressive finishing ability to complete plays at the basket.
With the spring Simmons' has put together, it's time to start discussing him in the conversation for top point guard in the 2016 class.
— Evan Daniels
Leaf making statement
Over the course of his high school career, there's been clear progress in the game of 6-foot-10, 205-pound El Cajon (Calif.) Foothills Christian power forward T.J. Leaf.
Entering the AAU season, it's not that there were any real questions how the 2016 prospect would respond by playing up against older competition, but you still never know until you see it.
If there were any doubts, Leaf has quickly silenced them. He has the size, athleticism, ability to score inside and out, vision, rebounding and motor of an elite prospect and displayed all of those tools on Saturday.
"It's been a lot of fun playing up this year; I think I've been playing pretty well," Leaf said. "I feel like I was ready all high school season and even last AAU season so this has kind of been my coming out party."
|Leaf boasts expansive skills|
It hasn't taken Leaf long to pick up a lot of recruiting attention, with elite programs already prioritizing him.
At this point, four schools have done the best job recruiting the five-star prospect.
The earliest that Leaf could make a decision?
"January," Leaf said. "I want to take an official or two. Maybe if something good came up and I felt it, yes, but there's no timetable."
— Josh Gershon
Evan Daniels, Josh Gershon and Rob Harrington contributed to this report