In early summer, 2012, Diamond Stone struck a resounding first impression. At the Nike Elite 100, colleague Evan Daniels cited Stone as "arguably the top overall prospect" at the event, which also included numerous elites from the older, Class of 2014.
By the fall of his sophomore season, Stone had drawn offers from Wisconsin, Marquette, Indiana, DePaul, UConn, Georgetown, UCLA and Texas A&M. He deposited himself among the top 10 prospects in the class and never lost his toehold.
Stone entered the 2013 travel season as one of the featured prospects in his class. He was one among many blue-chip big men to attend the LeBron James Skills Academy that summer, holding his own against his peers as well as those a class ahead of him.
He then took the court as a junior in 2013-14, leading Milwaukee (Wis.) Dominican to its third consecutive state championship.
That momentum carried into this past spring, where he showcased his ability with the Young Legends on the Under Armour circuit. He looked streamlined physically and appeared to be a touch quicker, enabling him to ascend to the No. 1 ranking in the class heading into summer.
Stone tripped up a little at the Reebok Breakout Classic, however, failing to generate the expected production. He recovered somewhat at the Under Armour Finals and, although he no longer sits at No. 1, he remains an easy call for the top five.
At one time Stone mentioned a close bond to guard Malik Newman and the two openly discussed a potential package deal, but that possibility has appeared to diminish this fall. As the signing period approaches, he lists Connecticut, Wisconsin, Maryland, Oklahoma State and Duke.
Stone is a 6-10, 255-pound center with a very high skill level. That's a mouthful and explains why he always was something of a sure thing in terms of major offers and exalted status within his class.
|Stone will make his presence felt on day one|
He has become leaner and faster over the past year, running the floor for dunks and chasing down opponents from behind to pin their layups off the backboard. Even more importantly, he's now quicker off the floor and explodes for straight-up slams, blocks and rebounds. I thought in 2013 that he lacked somewhat in that area, but his natural development as an athlete has made him a more effective overall athlete.
Stone's hands are anything but. He possesses sure mitts for tough catches in traffic and rebounds over the outstretched arms of opponents. Because he has high shoulders — his reach extends over nine feet — he plays even taller than you'd expect at 6-10. (For perspective, his reach is roughly equivalent to that lanky 7-0 freshman Myles Turner.)
He also scores via impressive footwork. Even at a young age he possessed an impressive drop step around which to build an interior scoring attack. Over time, he has added some face-up shooting range, although his release is a little low and flat.
His rebounding is outstanding almost by default, and as he gains focus and technique he should thrive even more than he does already. He utilizes his shotblocking ability to contribute as a defender, and thus he holds top-shelf potential for both ends of the court.
Whatever happened at Reebok, no one can quibble with Stone's production with the Young Legends. He averaged 22 points per game on 52 percent shooting, adding 11 rebounds and nearly four blocks per game.
Scouts and coaches have criticized Stone at times for lethargic play. While his production would seem to counter that, he certainly damaged his reputation in some marquee head-to-head matchups at Reebok.
This might be an appropriate time to note that the actual live period events — such as that camp — generate disproportionate impressions due to the coaches being on hand, and as such it's my view that Stone caught too much enduring flak for his play there.
Still, he can rev a little hotter than he does, and without question his college and NBA coaches will stoke the flames.
Otherwise, he's still an okay or slightly above average athlete, not really a skywalker or someone who will dominate games with his explosiveness. He's fine in that regard but more or less fits in among other professional-caliber big men.
He also attempts more threes at this point than he should. Stone fired up nearly three triples per contest for the Legends and converted on only 31 percent.
Stone projects as a one-and-done college player at whichever school he chooses for college. He has the size and skills to become an immediate force inside and a very high NBA lottery pick in 2016.
Because he's already somewhat polished, he should become a college weapon even in the likely scenario that he's a one-year player. Sure, he'll continue to improve as his career progresses, but he isn't one of these guys who's 4-5 five years away from being an impact scorer. He's ready now and should continue to thrive at all levels of the sport.