Class of 2013 Stars At Battle For The Arch

The year 2013 is special for basketball players in the state of Illinois. Talented players are abundant. It is also a special year for the Fighting Illini basketball program. A successful recruiting effort in 2013 will have a major impact on future success. Many upcoming juniors performed at the Battle For The Arch, and a report on their skills follows.

Illinois is following the progress of many 2013 basketball players who participated in the Battle For The Arch in St. Louis last weekend. This report takes a look at their games based on that AAU Tournament.

Class of 2013

Jaylon Tate, 6'-2", point guard (De La Salle High School – Meanstreets 16U)

Tate does what great point guards are supposed to do. He led his Meanstreets team to its second consecutive 16U championship in St. Louis. I was very impressed with how he ran the team in the half court in the multiple games I watched throughout the weekend. He moves the ball well around the perimeter and finds the open man with his plus vision, better than any other guard in the state.

In the pick-and-roll, Tate makes solid decisions and understands spacing on the floor. His ball handling is very good and was on display when he stole the ball and took it the length of the court, weaving in and out of traffic for a bucket Sunday.

He pushes the ball in transition and distributes the ball to the open man. His scoring ability is good as he can beat his man off the dribble and get to the hole, while still being able to hit the mid-range shot.

I am very high on Tate as a player and prospect. He is a leader at both De La Salle and for Meanstreets. Tate will be a stabilizing force at point guard for a high major school. He can run an offense and score when needed.

Kendrick Nunn, 6'-2", shooting guard (Simeon Career Academy – Meanstreets 16U)

Nunn hit the single biggest shot of the tournament on the 16U level when he drove the ball strong to his left, pulled up quick from the free throw line, and drained the game winner to capture the championship for Meanstreets. In this one play, Nunn displayed why he is such an intriguing prospect.

He drives the ball to the basket strong from the perimeter. His strength and quickness allow him to get past the initial defender and finish in traffic. He handles the ball well in traffic and makes nice passes.

There is no doubt about it, his best attribute is his sweet lefty stroke. He can hit it from mid-range and beyond the arc. When shooting it from mid-range, he drives the ball hard and stops on a dime, creating space to get the shot off. If a defender leaves him even the slightest bit of space, Nunn will quickly rise up and nail a three in his face.

The Simeon junior is a rhythm shooter, and when he gets it off in rhythm, nobody can stop him. He can make the tough shot, which was evident when he hit a baseline jumper over two defenders in the championship game.

Nunn is smooth with the ball in his hands and makes good decisions. He has the upside to be a top-notch college scorer and sniper from deep.

Alex Foster, 6'-7", small forward (De La Salle High School – Meanstreets 16U)

Foster has been a target for the Illini for a long time. He is a smooth lefty who can do a variety of things on the floor. The aspect that stood out the most to me was how well Foster rebounded in St. Louis. He crashed the boards hard and was extremely aggressive snatching the ball off the glass.

He excels at running the floor and using his athleticism to score. His handle is solid and should be good enough to allow him to play the small forward spot at the next level. The forward's jump shot is streaky, but if he is feeling it he can hit several in a row.

His post-up game is still developing, but he did have a couple of nice aggressive moves on the interior over the weekend. One was where he got the ball a couple steps off the block. He posted up strong, turned to open up, showed a quick ball fake and blew past the defender to finish through another man at the rim for two points.

Foster projects as a high major combo forward who can play the small forward position with the ability to spend some time at the power forward spot with his post and face-up game.

Jubril Adekoya, 6'-6", power forward (Andrews High School – Meanstreets 16U)

Adekoya is a little under the radar right now, but he is playing strong as the post man for Meanstreets. He has a thick and strong body while providing the physical presence inside for his team. The undersized power forward rebounds at a high rate by using his athleticism and wide body to grab boards.

He is not a primary scorer for Meanstreets, but he did average 17 points per game in high school this past year as a sophomore. He posts up strong and finishes through contact. Adekoya passes well out of the post and runs the floor in transition. If he continues to grow in height and game, he could be a Big 10 big man prospect.

Alvin Ellis, 6'-3", shooting guard (De La Salle High School – Meanstreets 16U)

Ellis is an athletic swing man who has loads of upside. His athleticism really jumps out on both ends of the floor. He excels in transition with the ball in his hands or finishing on the wing. The shooting guard has a nice passing touch and feel for the game.

He is so smooth getting to the hoop with the ball. His acceleration going to the basket is remarkable. Ellis is a prospect with huge upside and is just starting to realize his potential as a player.

Jalen James, 6'-2", point guard, (Hope Academy – Illinois Wolves 16U)

James was one of the guys I was excited to see at this event. He has received much hype and interest from colleges as of late. In the first game I viewed, he got in early foul trouble and played limited minutes. In the other games, he showed off why he is so highly respected.

He has a wiry, strong build which allows him to get in the lane and score. The place where James is a game changer is in transition. He pushes the ball extremely hard and is fast getting down the court with the ball in his hands. James has elite handles and speed in transition. He keeps the ball low and makes a quick transition from dribble to pass.

He drives the ball hard to the hoop off the bounce to score. James also has flashes in the half court, like when he threw a great lead pass to a teammate on a wing cut for a layup. He does have a tendency to turn the ball over in this setting, and his shot is not where it needs to be.

The point guard has plenty of time to work on these aspects, but the tools he does possess cannot be taught. His upside is tremendous as a point guard prospect.

Lance Whitaker, 6'-3", shooting guard (Bartlett High School – Illinois Wolves 16U)

Whitaker is a prospect the Illini have shown some interest in at an early stage. He loves to get to the basket and score on the interior. He did this the entire weekend. His strength and penetration ability allow him to be top-notch in this area for a guard. Whitaker is underrated as an athlete and has a nice handle.

His passing ability is solid. Several times he drove strong, drawing multiple defenders, then kicked it to a teammate for an open jumper. Whitaker rebounds well for a shooting guard and will be able to contribute on the boards at the collegiate level.

He is an excellent glue guy who brings the team together. He plays team ball and does all the little things. The sophomore might be a little underrated. He had an excellent weekend!

Kendall Stephens, 6'-5", small forward (St. Charles East High School – Illinois Wolves 16U)

The Purdue commitment showed why high majors were all over him this past high school season. He is an elite shooter. He can knock down his shot from anywhere on the court, whether it is off the bounce or catch-and-shoot. The mechanics on his shot are extremely smooth, and his shooting ability is a little reminiscent of Reggie Miller.

He has excellent size for the wing spot and is long and athletic. His ball handling skills are solid as well. Stephens is in the upper half of the top prospects in state in 2013.

Kyle Davis, 6'-1", point guard (Hyde Park High School – Mac Irvin Fire 16U)

Davis really stood out and elevated his stock this past weekend in St. Louis. He is a lefty in the mold of Kendall Marshall. He splits time with the Fire, running the show with Markee Williams, but he is without a doubt a high major point guard prospect. His passing ability and vision is top notch. He has a nice feel for the game and running a team.

He pushes the ball hard in transition and finds the open man. He is a pass-first point guard who also has the ability to score. His jump shot is pretty effective, and he can also finish athletically at the hoop.

The sophomore rebounds well for a floor general. He has quick hands defensively and is a solid on-ball defender who can also get in passing lanes.

In my opinion, Davis put himself firmly in the conversation with Tate and James for the top point guard in 2013 in the state.

Russell Woods, 6'-8", power forward (Leo High School – Mac Irvin Fire 16U)

Woods was another prospect I was excited to see for the first time. The athletic lefty is long and lanky. He is a strong finisher around the hoop. His athleticism is good in the paint, and he runs the floor well for a big man of his size.

He showed nice skill work at times, including smooth footwork on a couple of post moves. The big man rebounds well and grabs the ball at its highest point. Physicallym Woods looks the part of a high major big man, and his skills are continuing to progress.

Sterling Brown, 6'-4, shooting guard (Proviso East High School – Mac Irvin Fire 16U)

Brown has a smooth perimeter jump shot that can be considered elite at this level. The difference between Brown and many jump shooters is his consistency, and he doesn't rely just on it to score. His shot has great mechanics and rotation on the ball.

He can also score off the bounce by driving the ball strong from the wing and attacking the defense. Brown is smooth with the ball in his hands and is excellent in the open court in transition. The combination of his athleticism and shooting make him a target for high majors.

Xavier Taylor, 6'-9", power forward (Morgan Park High School – Mac Irvin Fire 16U)

Taylor is a bouncy athletic power forward who is just beginning to realize his potential. He is not a huge scorer at this stage, but he does bring a lot to the table in other areas. His most prevalent trait is his shot-blocking ability. His length and timing for swatting shots is excellent for his age.

He rebounds well and is active on the offensive glass. Taylor showed his basketball instincts and awareness on several occasions by understanding where the double was coming from and kicking to the open man. I like Taylor's upside as a prospect. He will continue to improve over the next several years.

Moshawn Thomas, 6'-7", power forward (Bogan High School – Mac Irvin Fire 16U)

Thomas is aggressive on the boards and active on the offensive glass. He is a finisher who can throw it down with authority. The forward is raw offensively, but he has the make-up to improve.

Markee Williams, 5'-10", point guard (Morgan Park High School – Mac Irvin Fire 16U)

Williams is a floor general who runs the team well and shows leadership qualities. He is quick with the ball in his hands and gets in the lane. The point guard keeps the ball low and weaves in and out of the defense. He gets in the lane with ease. At times he tends to favor the flashy pass rather than the simple one.

Malcolm Hill, 6'-5", shooting guard (Belleville East High School – Southwest Jets 16U)

Hill was the talk of the Friday night session. His 31 point performance was the buzz at all three venues. He led his team to a victory over the eventual 16U champion Meanstreets.

There is no doubt Hill has the potential to be a big-time scorer at the next level. His length and overall offensive arsenal are a little like former NBA star George Gervin. I am not saying he is Gervin, but he has that type of game.

He is smooth and explosive with the ball in his hands, and that combined with a solid handle allows him to get his shot off from anywhere on the court. His shot is smooth, with a slightly slow release. He also has the ability to get to the rim and score in traffic despite his slight frame.

The aspect that really stood out to me was his electric passing ability. He showed this on several occasions throughout the weekend. One instance was where he went end to end, including an insane behind-the-back dribble in traffic, and finished it off with a bullet pass to a teammate under the hoop.

Hill is a stat sheet stuffer who contributes on the boards, and his length causes problems on defense. Another aspect that stands out is the rate at which Hill gets to the foul line. This is a real good prospect with an arrow pointing up on his ranking.

DeShawn Munson, 6'-3", shooting guard (East St. Louis High School – St. Louis Eagles 16U)

Munson is a unique prospect who brings a lot to the table. First and formost is his ability to attack the basket strong off the dribble. He is fearless when attacking the rim where he usually scores or gets to the foul line. The guard powers his way to the hoop and is a strong finisher.

His acceleration with the ball in his hands is excellent, and he possesses plus ball handling skills. Munson's passing ability is elite. He made several passes that were unbelievable, including an outlet pass to the opposite block on the money for a layup. His passing skills are evident in both the half court and transition settings.

He is an aggressive rebounder who takes pride in his defense and rebounding. He is a great on-ball defender, using his quickness and toughness to give opponents nightmares. He can also get in passing lanes and turn his defense into offense in a heartbeat.

There is one major flaw in his game. He can't shoot the basketball. He shoots the ball with two hands. Despite this major flaw, he is without a doubt a high major prospect.

Nolan Berry, 6'-7", power forward (DeSmet High School – St. Louis Eagles 16U)

Berry is an extremely skilled post prospect with a high skill set. He opened up one game by scoring six consecutive points in the post and running the floor. He has a skilled back-to-the basket game with a soft touch. He finishes well around the hoop and can finish through contact when needed.

His passing ability out of the post is good, and he understands what the defense is doing. Berry runs the floor hard and is an effective finisher in this area. Overall, he is an efficient scorer who makes the most of his opportunities with the ball.

Ishmael Wainwright, 6'-5", small forward (Raytown South – KC 76ers)

Wainwright is a big-time athlete who can find his way to the hoop whenever he wants. He can score on the interior with an explosive first step and finishing ability, or stroke a jump shot from the perimeter. His combination of length and athleticism are scary for teams trying to defend him. He is an elite prospect nationally.

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