There's no need for much preamble in tonight's report. Pool play continued at each of the three tournaments, with playoffs still another day or two away, depending on the event. Let's get right to the top players.
D.J. Hogg, WF, Texas Titans — Hogg may have pieced together the most impressive performance I observed tonight at the Peach Jam, and he definitely erupted for the best shooting performance. The Titans fell behind by 17 points (at least) in the second half to the New York Lightning, but they began to pressure and received clutch bombs from Hogg. He scored 26 points on 9-18 shooting and 5-10 on threes, including several highly contested attempts that could have been and-ones. He definitely needs to rebound better and improve his defensive technique — which goes for just about every high school player — but he's also a talented passer who found teammate Tyler Davis with several impressive entries. And his shooting stroke is pure with range to 23 feet, a calling card that could propel him to a lengthy career in the sport. He's a potential McDonald's All-American for good reason.
Mickey Mitchell, WF, Texas Titans — There's no sugarcoating the fact that Mitchell hasn't enjoyed a successful 2014 travel circuit, and an injury he suffered last week has affected him here. And yet, despite a three-point, five-rebound effort tonight for the Titans, he played his way onto this page due to a spirited effort in his squad's comeback. His competitive energy — manifested into rebounds and steals, along with the game-winning dunk — spread to the rest of the team and lifted them to a winning effort. He was the player who received the most congratulations from his teammates after the game, always a sign of respect. The future Ohio State Buckeye must develop an offensive identity before he's ready to log big minutes for the Buckeyes, but as a locker room presence he should pay off immediately.
Jalen Adams, SG/PG, Mass Rivals — This explosive combo guard removed his name from the recruitable list a few weeks ago, pledging to reigning national champion Connecticut. He should play immediately for the Huskies, given his ample athleticism, dangerous three-point shot with ideal rotation, penchant for dazzling passes (he loves flip passes) and potentially outstanding defense. Adams creates his own shot with aplomb and carries a sturdy frame as well. He exudes confidence and pieces together combinations, such as drives into the paint that he finishes after a tight spin and explosive leap for a dunk. He has big-time potential for the Huskies.
Quinndary Weatherspoon, WF, Jackson Tigers — The Tigers fell handily to the Arkansas Wings at the Peach Jam, but we at Scout remain very high on Weatherspoon despite a poor shooting night. He's a good player when Malik Newman joins him on the wing, but in Newman's absence (as is the case here this week) he's usually even better. Weatherspoon possesses the scoring tools — slick three-point jump shot, athleticism, nimble feet, solid frame — be a one-track player, but he's a total competitor and rebounds and passes like a guy who can't score as well as he does. He needs to improve his ballhandling and mid-range game, but even those areas aren't deficient. He'll make some collegiate program very happy.
KeVaughn Allen, PG, Team Penny — A Florida commitment, Allen looked the part on Thursday night. He was Team Penny's most effective player in a resounding victory over the Southern Stampede, using his fullcourt burst to race past defenders and score at the rim. He also buried jump shots — that's the aspect of his game I questioned after last month's NBPA Top 100 Camp — to the stripe and on the move from 15 feet. He possesses top-notch speed but also plays under control, the sign of a mature player. Given his lean strength and quick feet, he should become a fine defender for the Gators as well.
Kerry Blackshear, PF, Q6 All-Stars Elite — After toiling for years in relative anonymity, Blackshear finally has begun to receive his long-overdue national acclaim. A spindly power forward who's perhaps a touch stiffer through his legs than one would prefer, he nevertheless makes a lot of positive plays thanks to size, skill and (overall) athleticism.
|Blackshear's popularity has spiked big|
Blackshear's lunchtime outing occurred against a wildly overmatched foe, but he showed off what he's capable of doing. He has long legs and high hips, strong physical traits for a basketball player. He also posts up with admirable consistency and showed a knack for finishing inside at various angles. I'd like to see him compete against superior athletes who would pose a greater threat, but he's been plenty vetted by others. Along with that, he has attracted a growing list of high-major scholarship offers and is worthy of every single one.
Drew Edwards, SG, Maryland 3D — Edwards appeared far more comfortable in a team setting than he did at last week's Lawson/Oladipo camp. The solidly built wing has excellent ball skills to play on the wing, and he's a fine long-range shooter as well. He fired shots in with much more assertiveness on Thursday than he did at camp, taking advantage of the greater familiarity with his teammates and enhanced structure. He doesn't blow you away with athleticism and sometimes isn't as productive as you may prefer, but what he does well absolutely will translate to the next level.
Prince Ali, WF, Southern Stampede — The Stamped unhappily found themselves underfoot Team Penny in the final round of games this evening, but Ali clearly did his part to keep the club competitive. He boasts one of the best first steps of any senior wing, and his strong body enables him to finish through contact. To wit, he attacked to the right baseline and exploded off one foot for a slam through the body of a defender. Many one-footed leapers are gliders, but Ali is a power one-footed guy — definitely an uncommon attribute. He's also a pretty good medium-range shooter, but he needs to get more loft on his flat, hard threes. On the whole this former UConn pledge has cemented himself within the blue-chip range among his peers.
Scott Spencer, WF, East Coast Fusion VA — At the minimum, Spencer should be on his way to mid-level Division I offers. The 6-5 forward at Suffolk (Va.) Nansemond River is an above-average athlete who wields a nice looking three-point stroke and also is a solid wing passer. He also knocked in a contested 6-foot fadeaway that was heavily contested. He played his way onto this page and had quite a coaching audience at the Peach State.
Malik Monk, SG, Arkansas Wings — For pure, uncut basketball fan joy, here's a resounding endorsement to go watch Monk while it's still very cheap to do so. He's one of those guys whose athleticism becomes clear just watching him run, as he has springs in his natural stride that tell you a lot about his ability to run and jump. He'd collect a couple shoeboxes full of high-major offers based on his physical qualities alone, but his skill game also has achieved elite level. Yes, he plays with excessive sizzle at times, forcing passes and shots that lead to turnovers and bricks respectively, but he has all manner of time to eliminate the bad plays. And already, the great plays carry the day. He drills threes pulling up on the break or creating in the halfcourt, and no one is going to dissuade him from attempting to finish over the top. He spent much of the second half of tonight's game seeking avenues toward an emphatic slam, and eventually he discovered one. Monk loves to slice into the paint and explode off two feet, and he caught a defender by surprise when he elevated and then switched hands for a crushing dunk with his left hand. He's also a sure dribble and very talented passer, and he already shoots comfortable on the move from the baseline. He's one of the best the 2016 class has to offer.
Jordan Bruner, PF, Upward Stars 16s — Don't look now, but Bruner appears to be growing into the promise upon which he first hinted last year. He struggled massively at times in the spring, but he may have grown another inch to 6-8, and not only that, he appears to have grown into his body some in terms of athleticism and coordination. Bruner always has possessed some ball skill, but the pieces are beginning to fit more neatly and a couple of quick baselines drives today that suggest a very promising future as a face-up forward. His jump shot isn't beautiful but doesn't look terrible, either, and now he mostly needs to get stronger and improve his spotty left-handed dribbling. But his progress over the past four months is clear and highly encouraging.
Faces in the crowd
It would be pedantic to list every major head coach who circulated through the veins of the three Augusta/Aiken events, but as a sampler: Mike Krzyzewski, Bill Self, Roy Williams, John Calipari, Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan, Steve Alford, John Beilein, Bo Ryan ... you get the picture.