Juwan Gary, Christian Brown and others highlight field

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The first annual SC Top 80 tipped off on Saturday at Spring Valley high school, and clearly the event’s greatest success was bringing some of the state’s top underclassmen to the hardwood.

Class of 2016

Darius Hicks, PF — Easily the most accomplished and celebrated senior to take the floor, Hicks is a one-time Mississippi State commitment (former staff) who’s continuing to undertake a high-major recruitment this fall and now competes for Greenville (S.C.) 22 ft Academy. He’s very strong, very explosive and at 6-7 (at most) is able to compensate for less-than-ideal height with power and athleticism. He projects as a versatile defender, high-efficiency finisher and someone who has the body to battle inside from day one on campus. We’ll have more on him the next couple days.

Brevin Galloway, SG — A strong and athletic shooting guard, Galloway will make his way to Charleston for college. He demonstrated why he’s a respected talent within the state, scoring in transition, via halfcourt drives and jumpers, playing physically and using his experience advantage to school his younger peers. He has the toughness and strength to make a bid for early playing time with the Cougars.

Deshaun Leftwich, SG — Leftwich transferred from N.C. to Greenville (S.C.) Legacy Charter and looked comfortable on Saturday. The slender guard shot the ball well from long-range and finishes above the rim on the break. He’ll have to tighten up his ballhandling and muscle up for college, but he could emerge as a fall or potential surprise spring target for someone on the basis of his athleticism and scoring ability.

Class of 2017

A.J. Oliver, SG — Oliver put forth an eye-opening day. The 6-4 guard is a volume scorer who buries perimeter jump shots yet also has the length and fluidity to be effective on the move as well. He has been raised in a basketball household — his mother is the head coach for Clemson’s women’s team — and it shows in his play. Oliver is likely to win multiple admirers during the course of his junior season and already has set up some unofficial visits. (I’ll have story in the next couple days.)

Jason Cudd, C — Gradually yet steadily, Cudd is getting better and better. At 7-0, 250 pounds, he boasts true, old school center size and simply is too big not to warrant major conference interest. He also possesses reasonably long arms at that height and pretty good hands, and he has developed a working hook shot. Cudd is taller and much more confident than he was last December, when his Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Socastee High squad ended up on the wrong end of a blowout versus Bishop Gorman (Nev.) at the Beach Ball Classic. He still must work to improve his reactions, strength with the ball and footspeed, but he unmistakably has made progress.

Ja'Cor Nelson, CG — I didn’t see as many of Nelson’s games but walked away impressed by his physical ability. He has good quickness and speed — and is an explosive one-footed leaper — and a solid head for the game, distributing effectively for teammates but at 6-3 also has the size to play off the ball. He seemed to pass up some open jump shots and that’s an area worth monitoring, but he’s off to a solid start with two more seasons to get stronger and mature.

Vince Cole, WF — This 6-5 swingman performed encouragingly at the Top 80. He showcased athleticism, scoring touch and a high workrate that he utilized to outhustle opponents on a regular basis. We’ll need to see him during the season to get a better feel for his game, but he was one of the more productive players I saw in action.

D.J. Johnson, WF — Johnson is a promising scrapper who’s athletic and also coordinated and possesses a clear understanding of his own game. He played on the same camp team with Juwan Gary and D.J. Burns (see below) and in a couple contests actually was the squad’s most consistently productive player. Johnson isn’t the most eye-catching guy but gets a lot done and has two more seasons to play.

Class of 2018

Kyle Rawson, PF — This was my second look at Rawson, who also competed at the Super Soph camp in the early summer. The slender face-up forward has similar attributes and a style that reminds of Maryland forward Jake Layman, and hopefully Rawson will tighten up is dribbling and shooting as he matures. But he’s very mobile for a 6-8 forward and possesses the overall coordination and quickness to play facing the basket. He told me he will play for 22 ft’s alternate team this season, not the one that features Darius Hicks and others.

Class of 2019

Juwan Gary, WF — Very few freshmen will generate the number of highlight reels Gary does this season. He’s already very athletic at 6-6, has a wing’s body type which bodes well for his physical maturation, and has become a dangerous three-point shooter already. He possesses the abundant tools to make him an easy call for high-major programs, and the next step will be to observe who jumps in early and makes him a priority. In the meantime, Gary will continue doing his thing and ideally add some polish for the halfcourt in terms of mid-range scoring and ballhandling. Time obviously is on his side.

Christian Brown, PF — Brown struggled some with minor injuries but continued to play, anyway, and the baby-faced freshman will be a featured name within the state for the years to come. He’s a broad-shouldered athlete with good hands, straight-up leaping ability, a blue collar style and desire to compete. He may fill out into more of a hybrid forward than a combo — and he needs to improve his shooting — while others disagree with that assessment and believe he’ll evolve into a wing. At any rate, he’s clearly a prospect for high-major programs to track.

D.J. Burns, C — No one should be saddled with Zach Randolph comparisons at such a young age, but that at least gives you a sense of Burns’ style. The 6-8 center at Rock Hill (S.C.) York Prep possesses advanced shooting touch and footwork for his age, and he has the kind of body that will enable him to become a power big man as well. He isn’t terribly athletic and that’s part of what drives the Randolph comparison, but obviously that could change as he matures. He’s already a known prospect to regional college coaches.


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