Senior vs. soph headlines action
The local teams not surprisingly generate most of the crowd buzz, but the locals warmed quickly to an afternoon matchup between Cheick Diallo (pictured above) and Our Savior vs. Mohamed Bamba and Westtown.
You know all about Diallo. The top-10 senior is an accomplished star who has succeeded against every imaginable elite opponent yet doesn't alter his energy level down to an inferior opponent. Thankfully, that wasn't even an issue on Saturday.
Diallo's performance included numerous violent dunks, aggressive work on the glass, commendable defensive energy and relentless pursuit of open court opportunities. He didn't showcase much halfcourt offense in this matchup, but he did use a fake and drive for a dunk, perhaps showcasing his future offense.
Diallo remains unsigned and will continues to be elusive in terms of projecting his recruitment. Regardless, he should push for an immediate starting spot wherever he lands. In this game he finished with a workmanlike 18 points and seven rebounds, shooting an efficient 9-13 from the floor.
As for Bamba, the sophomore center caught our attention last weekend as colleague Evan Daniels described. Bamba's top attribute is extraordinary length — he made Diallo look average in reach by comparison. Bamba alters shots without even meaning to, and he dunks effortlessly around the rim. In terms of length and body type he reminds of former Florida State star Solomon Alabi, but with more perimeter skill.
Having said that, he mostly did his work with dunks versus Our Savior, banging in 6-7 from the field for 12 points to accompany five rebounds.
He'll need to gain weight and become more physical, but this 2017 stud is destined for a high ranking and overflowing pursuit from college programs.
Chris Clarke, WF, Cape Henry — Watching Clarke on the AAU circuit versus the high school season brings to surface all of his strengths and weaknesses. He looks slightly less polished with Cape Henry and the greater structure of high school play, but nevertheless his athletic, warrior attributes shine through as well.
|Energy and aggression always are a given for Clarke|
Clarke is an excellent passer and always a relentless competitor, so the goal for him early at Virginia Tech will be to slow down just a touch and to continue working on his jump shot. To his credit, he has worked on his body and looks stronger since the summer. He finished with 17 points (3-3 FG, 11-17 FT), 11 rebounds, five assists and seven turnovers. All told, he's an ideal fit for a Buzz Williams program.
Dennis Smith, PG, Trinity Christian — This North Carolina native definitely did not enjoy his finest outing in a loss to Morgan County (Ga.), but I can't say I was too displeased for one reason: Smith now will go head to head against Seventh Woods on Monday. The two junior guards brought out the best in each other last winter, and despite being a losers bracket game, hopefully they'll do the same on Monday. For his part, Smith will try to shoot better than he did versus Morgan County (5-16 en route to 16 points) and perhaps pick up the pace a bit earlier. Despite the subpar outing, however, he still made several one-of-a-kind plays to reinforce his elite status within the class.
Damon Wilson, PG/SG, Our Savior — The slender, Pittsburgh-bound southpaw enjoyed a tremendous outing for victorious Our Savior versus Westtown. Wilson lofted in three-pointers and used his superior, 6-4 height to pass over the defense and against pressure. I also love his defensive versatility, as he forced at least one five second call and generally harassed the opposing ballhandlers. Wilson can enhance himself even further by adding more offense between the three-point line and the rim, but he easily looked the part of top-100 prospect on Saturday. His statline included 17 points on 5-10 shooting to go with seven rebounds and seven rebounds.
P.J. Dozier, PG/SG, Spring Valley — A local hero will suit up for hometown South Carolina next season, Dozier and his mates dropped a disappointing contest to Wando (S.C.). Dozier didn't score consistently, but based on his improved play during the summer, it's clear by now that his game scales along with the talent of his teammates.
|Dozier's versatility could make him an advanced stats darling|
The more good players surrounding him with the Gamecocks, the more he'll be able to show off his multi-faceted talents. He's a very gifted handler and passer for 6-6, has long arms, rebounds and defends, and is a good transition finisher. He didn't shoot threes well on Saturday and needs to upgrade his jump shooting overall, but there's little question that he'll make an immediate impact for Frank Martin's program.
Brandon Ingram, WF, Kinston — The Vikings are a powerhouse within their division in North Carolina, but they fell to a bigger opponent in Arlington Country Day. For his part, Ingram struggled big-time with his jump shot — 3-12 from the floor, 0-5 on threes — to finish with 14 points. That said, he made several gorgeous passes to finish with six assists, and he also notched seven boards and three blocks. Ingram is in dire need of strength, to the point that it could prevent him from starting next season for whichever school lands him. Still, he brings such unique length to the table from the wing, you just never know. He made one drive to his right, featuring a contorted, twisting finish over two big men that you can see him making that same move at the NBA level. He may require several years to get there, but there’s a reason heavyweights such as Duke, UNC, Kentucky, Kansas and others chose to get involved.
Mario Kegler, WF, Arlington Country Day — Unlike Ingram, this junior is a powerhouse who’s physically ready for college basketball right now. He needs to keep working on his jump shot — his form looks reasonable, but he missed a few badly in his 1-5 on threes — but makes some beastly post moves and is a fine handler and passer for 6-7. He also sports a big-time list that he doesn’t plan to cut anytime soon. More on that later.
The most visible of the head coaches in attendance as Frank Martin. Not at a surprise, given that the Gamecocks didn’t have a game on Saturday and that the event is taking place in Columbia. Martin also enjoyed watching Dozier plus other prime targets, of course, and many more coaches will be in the stands on Monday.