USA 16u team down to 17 finalistsOn Saturday afternoon, the USA Basketball coaching staff made the first of two cuts, narrowing down its list of 29 contenders for the 16u National Team to 17. Making the cut were 2017 prospects Wendell Carter, Jaylen Hands, Jalen Hill, Markus Howard, Kevin Knox, Jaylen Nowell, Charles O’Bannon, Jr., Gary Trent, Jarred Vanderbilt and 2018 prospects Jordan Brown, Carte’Are Gordon, Elijah Hardy, Brandon Johns, Tre Jones, JaVonte Smart, Connor Vanover and Robert Woodard. The staff will eventually cut five players from that list, choosing a total of 12 kids who will compete in the 2015 FIBA Americas 16u Championship in Argentina, which begins on June 10.
Brown continues to impress
One of the most impressive prospects at the USA 16u trials from the beginning has been 6-foot-10, 190-pound Roseville (Calif.) Woodcreek power forward Jordan Brown. The 2018 prospect was one of Friday’s top performers, earning the following evaluation from Scout: Arguably one of the top few performers in attendance, Jordan Brown is way better than he should be given the fact that he is still several years away from being at a level of strength he’ll be completely comfortable with. He can face you up, take you inside, rebounds, passes and plays hard. His development from the fall USA camp to this one has been extreme. The rising sophomore is pleased with how he’s playing and knows he’s made a big jump forward from his last trip to Colorado Springs in October of 2014. “I feel like I’ve played well,” Brown said. “I can step up in some areas like being more active on the boards and learning how to play perimeter defense. “I’m a lot more comfortable than in the fall because I was playing against the 18u guys as well. Them not being here, it’s still really good competition, but they’re definitely not as experienced and strong.” Brown had only been receiving interest from California and Stanford until Nevada recently extended him an offer. “I was kind of shocked because I didn’t even know until I saw it on Twitter,” Brown said. “I was surprised and excited.”
Knox’s versatility providing value
There have been few players at the USA Basketball 16u trials with the size, length, athleticism and motor to defend multiple forward positions. One of the few in attendance who fits that profile has been 6-foot-7, 195-pound Tampa (Fl.) Catholic hybrid forward Kevin Knox II and it’s one of the reasons he made the first round of cuts. The 2017 prospect has played hard and specialized in transition, scoring around the basket and also playing strong defense. “I’m able to play multiple positions,” Knox II said. “Coaches like me because I can play the four or the wing. I’m able to get a rebound, dribble the ball and go up the court. My overall ability is pretty good and coaches like that.” Knox holds offers from Memphis, Xavier, Florida, State, Miami, and USF with interest coming from Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland and Georgia. His father, Kevin Knox, Sr., played football for the Seminoles and that staff has taken advantage. “FSU is recruiting me the hardest because my dad went there and they want me to go there and follow in his footsteps,” Knox II said.
Garland has productive weekend
Even though he didn’t make the first round of cuts, one of the most impressive point guard prospects in attendance was 6-foot, 140-pound Nashville (Tenn.) Brentwood Academy’s Darius Garland. The 2018 prospect is extremely physically immature still and likely growing, yet has impressive ball skills, basketball IQ and approach to the game. He uses his handle to take defenders off the dribble and can either pull-up or distribute. “I’m an all-around player,” Garland said. “I like to get my teammates involved. I’m a leader and like to lead my team and score a little bit.” Memphis is Garland’s only offer, and the Tigers and Vanderbilt are recruiting him the hardest. He also holds interest from Indiana, Kansas, Wake Forest, Michigan and Michigan State.
Reese has long offer list
Not making the first cut yet still having a productive weekend was 6-foot-9, 220-pound Pelham (Ala.) 2017 power forward Alex Reese. The face up four is most comfortable with his eyes towards the basket, as he can really shoot it for his size and position. “I can shoot it pretty well and I block shots,” Reese said. “I’m trying to get better at defense.” UAB, Murray State, Alabama, Auburn, Kansas State, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Clemson and Ole Miss have all offered Reese, who listed three that are recruiting him the hardest. “Vandy, Alabama and Auburn,” he said.