Smith’s progress unmistakable
If there’s a consistent local theme from the past month, it’s that Dennis Smith (pictured above) will pose a very formidable threat to every other guard in the Class of 2016. Smith entered the year a consensus top three prospect at that position, but he’s shooting the ball better than ever and when his jumper is working — he’s simply lights out.
Smith previously suffered from a slight hitch in his shot, but he largely has eliminated the kinks. He smoothly drilled multiple threes at the Super 60, showcasing range to 23 feet. He loves to pull up from very long range and never will struggle with the NBA three-point distance.
Meanwhile, standing 6-2 and beginning to add greater strength, Smith remains a physical and highly athletic slasher. He boasts extremely quick and nimble feet on drives, enabling him to change directions explosively and through tight spaces, and his finishing ability is among the best in the class.
Though not a pure playmaker, Smith certainly handles and passes sufficiently well for point guard and plays a modern style that actually may make him even more effective professionally than in college.
Other junior point guards — including Derryck Thornton, Kobi Simmons, Lonzo Ball and perhaps others — will have something to say about the ultimate pecking order, of course, but suffice it to say Smith will hit the Adidas circuit with Team Loaded brimming with confidence and momentum.
Other Top Performers
Dondre Griffin, SG, 2016 — A 6-4 wing who plays at host Knightdale, Griffin buried jump shot after jump shot on Saturday. He isn’t the quickest driver or best ballhander, but he’s solidly built and knocks down threes at a time when college coaches frequently complain about the lack of shooters. Look for his stock to rise in the coming weeks.
Blake Harris, PG, 2017 — This season was one of tumult for Harris, who transferred from Martinsville (Va.) Carlisle to Montverde (Fla.) Academy and then back again, creating a sense of instability in the minds of some coaches. But he said on Saturday that he will stick with Carlisle from here on out, and he put his talent on full display at the Super 60.
|Harris had his jump shot working on Saturday|
Though not the prettiest ball, Harris drilled multiple threes off the dribble and remains a top-shelf passer. Standing a legitimate 6-2, he also has nice size for the backcourt and can pass over the top of many defenders. At his best, Harris utilizes his shifty dribbling and slick passing to either score or hit an open teammate on high pick and roll. With so many college programs using more and more of that action, he should fit well with a variety of suitors.
Edrice Adebayo, C, 2016 — Guards dominated the action here and it wasn’t going to be a huge statistical day for Adebayo, but between his tip-dunks, blocks, rebounds and facing jump shots to 16 feet, he certainly reinforced his illustrious national reputation. The biggest news of the event involved his practicing and intending to play with Team Loaded (Adidas), rather than Boo Williams (Nike, and his team last year).
Iran Bennett, C, 2016 — This Durham (N.C.) Mt. Zion product must become serious about his conditioning and weight, but there’s disputing that the massive big men possesses talent. Bennett has pretty good hands and will never, ever get dislodged from the post, and he has developed a few post scoring tools as well. He may not truly blossom physically until he arrives at a college strength and conditioning program, but despite his stamina issues and lack of lift, he’s certainly worth monitoring this spring and summer.
Lavar Batts, PG, 2017 — The almost unspoken elephant in the room pertaining to Batts is his unorthodox jump shot, which he shoots from his chest in an upward motion, but the issues with his shooting at times seem to eclipse what he does well. Batts is tremendously long and fast, with a herky jerky style that puts defenders off-balance. He’s at his best in transition, whipping passes through traffic or soaring to the rim at full speed. He ultimately may have to find the right fit, but with two more years of high school to play he also has plenty of time to improve.
Isaiah Whaley, PF, 2016 — Coming off an impressive playoff run in which he led his team to the state final, Whaley held his own against more established competition.
|Whaley’s quickness and long arms make him formidable at the rim|
He suffers from a lack of strength, no question, but he also runs the floor well and uses excellent reflexes to block shots and snare offensive rebounds. Projecting him long-term will require some imagination, because his game should thrive as he gains muscle.
Jalen Harris, SG/PG, 2016 — Harris is a pure scorer who possesses length, speed, quickness and the ability to finish in traffic. He isn’t a pure playmaker, shoots inconsistently from the outside and can get a little loose with his handle, but his physical qualities and late growth spurt (he’s up to 6-2) make him an intriguing prospect for major conference programs.
Qon Murphy, SG, 2018 — A young pup, Murphy looms as someone we’ll follow closely. The 6-3 wing at Cornelius (N.C.) Hough already knocks in some medium-range jump shots, and though thin now he possesses a solidly constructed frame as well. Long way to go, but he’s one to watch.
Malik Johnson, PG, 2018 — A 6-0 freshman floor general for victorious Class 3A champion Fayetteville (N.C.) Terry Sanford, Johnson was a late addition to the event and proved why he merited the spot. He already possesses a lean strength and scores well on the move, and he hits a few threes as well. Johnson and his sophomore wing brother, Telligence, will be featured attractions within the state as they mature.
Coby White, PG/SG, 2018 — A 6-2 combo guard, this freshman at Wilson (N.C.) Greenfield boasts advanced skills for his age. I’ll need to see a lot more, but on this day he certainly grabbed my attention as a prospect.