Beach Ball: Day Two Notebook

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Many of the top teams at this year’s Beach Ball Classic strode onto the Convention Center court for this first time on Saturday, and by and large the most touted prospects performed to expectation.

Justice knocks a Knott on the head

Knott County out of Kentucky is a wildly well-coached team. The high handoffs on offense, superb positional defense and overall attention to detail offer a fine representation of the excellence of Kentucky high school basketball.

Camron Justice (pictured above) both contributes to and benefits from the team’s high level of operation, and he led the squad to a 70-53 victory over North Little Rock (Ark.) on Saturday evening.

Justice scored 27 points on 10-22 from the field, and despite being 6-2 he added seven rebounds. He also notched three assists and four steals. Though he actually hit just 4-13 on threes, he’s a three-point specialist with a pure stroke. He rimmed out a few balls, but nearly all of them came close to the mark.

He’s also solidly built, adequate athletically (but below average laterally) and tough. Though not likely by any means to become a defensive specialist at Vanderbilt, he does possess impressive instincts and jumps passing lanes on occasion to create steals going the other way.

Meanwhile, he’s a solid secondary handler and a sharp passer. He projects as a four-year stalwart for the Commodores, which are shooting lights out from three this season and should continue that success with Justice’s assistance.

Other Notables

There’s little sense in evaluating the fine points of a player’s game when his team wins 84-39, but I’ll still mention Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman stars Stephen Zimmerman and Chase Jeter. The two elite big men helped their club dismantle host Socastee (S.C.) High, playing limited minutes due to the romp. Jeter went for 16 points on 7-8 shooting (many dunks) and added six rebounds and three assists, while Zimmerman added six points (3-5 FG), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Prince Ali, Sagemont — A future UCLA Bruin, Ali’s scoring proved critical as Sagemont blasted Alpharetta (Ga.) St. Francis, which had taken Montverde (Fla.) Academy to the limit at the recent City of Palms Classic. But Ali dominated the action with 20 points on a highly efficient 9-15 shooting. He added five rebounds as well. He could play a big role for the Bruins next season.

Kobi Simmons, St. Francis — It was a disappointing outing for the elite junior point guard, who converted just 5-15 from the field en route to 12 points, four assists and two turnovers. Simmons did have his moments, particularly as a transition scorer and passer.

Albeit quiet on Saturday, Simmons can get cooking

He also switched over to Ali defensively in the second half and had some excellent sequences denying penetration and contesting Ali’s jumpers. As a shooter, he may need to alter the odd hand placement on his shot, which can lead to inconsistency. Still, though not his finest game, Simmons remains one of the nation’s best.

Malik Beasley, St. Francis — The other star-studded piece of St. Francis’ backcourt, Beasley struggled early but made some plays late. He did his best work in transition, catching a lob and generally playing above the rim. He shot 7-12 and finished with 17 points. Going forward as he approaches his career at Florida State, the senior wing will need to become more effective in structure. His ballhandling is a little loose, explaining why he doesn’t slash as much as you might expect (given his athleticism). He shot only two free throws versus Sagemont, far too few for a player as gifted as he. In terms of athleticism, however, he’ll bring immediate pop to the Seminoles’ roster.

Jalek Felton, Mullins — Between the Beach Ball and last week’s Chick-Fil-A Classic, Felton has drawn quite a bit of bandwith here on Scout. Thing is, he’s absolutely deserving of it. There’s no such thing as the perfect player and the slick combo guard needs to improve on his propensity for high risk passes, but there’s not much arguing with a sophomore who goes for 51 points on 15-27 FG and 14-14 FT. Felton presently ranks No. 6 in the 2017 class and is every bit of that.

Craig Randall, Shadow Mountain — An Ohio native now in Phoenix, Randall didn’t shoot well (5-17) but applied a great deal of pressure to Scott County and helped lift his squad to a relatively easy win. Randall is a skinny, very quick shooting guard who takes advantage of his southpaw scoring attack to slice into the paint for close-in attempts. He also moves his feet well defensively and gets out into transition.

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