Earlier this week, the Nike Peach Jam took place in North Augusta, S.C. The premier Nike grassroots team event of the summer, the Peach Jam may have been the top event of the summer regardless of shoe company affiliation. With few undermanned teams on hand, the amount of talent in the building was quite impressive. Equally impressive was the number of college coaches on hand.
With most of their scholarships in 2010 and 2011 already accounted for, the Illinois staff has the luxury of locking in on a more select group of guys. Many of those guys play for the Mac Irvin Fire program. While the Fire struggled as a team in the 17 and under division, they are loaded with Illini commitments and targets on both the 17 and 16 U levels. Inside Illini takes a look at the performance of some of those guys and a few other Illinois targets at the Peach Jam
Illini Targets/Commits At The Peach Jam
Meyers Leonard – Here's what we know about the seven footer from Robinson, he can really run, he's athletic and he's got a good skill level from 10 feet and in. However, whether it be because of his team's style or himself, we don't yet know how consistent a performer he can be. He punctuated dunks and blocks with howls of joy to let everybody know he was out there, but also went long stretches where he had little impact on either end of the floor. Adding weight is something that will take care of itself with maturity and a college weight room, so that isn't a worry when discussing the slender big man. His hands are good, he's got soft touch and his athleticism won't be going anywhere either. Now, he's got to learn how to impact the game on both ends even when the ball isn't coming his way.
Jereme Richmond – More than once, the author was stopped in the hallway and asked by some observers/coaches exactly what it was that made Richmond such a highly regarded kid. You see, while he's a gifted player who can score near the rim, from mid range and from deep, the performance -- and this was certainly the case in North Augusta -- isn't always very consistent. Sticking with the tools that make him a top 10 type prospect when he's got it rolling, what really sticks out is his advanced post game. Quick, clever and capable of scoring over either shoulder, the lengthy small forward is a matchup nightmare when he goes to work in the post. Not surprisingly, when he gets easy buckets down low the rest of his game comes along right in step. While still lean, he does appear to have more strength and he's playing more physical. Improved ball handling will allow him to become even more of a complete player.
Mike Shaw – A class of 2011 standout who has seemingly been touted since emerging birth, the 6-foot-7 combo forward is one of the toughest kids to figure out in the country, regardless of class. As a face-up four man, he has terrific skill in the high post and a good looking jumper. His athleticism isn't bad, and he's pretty fluid as an athlete. Playing out on the wing, he seems to hover around the three point line and doesn't pose much threat as a passer. The recurring theme, regardless of where he's playing, is that he doesn't seem to want to mix it up in the post all that much. Because of that, it's tough for him to get easy buckets and get himself rolling in other aspects of the game. It's impossible to watch him and not tell that he's dripping with potential. However, he's at an important part of his development where just having potential isn't going to be enough. Sooner or later, he's going to have to start performing more consistently at a level that is commensurate with his considerable skill
Wayne Blackshear – At least while we watched at the Peach Jam, this looked to be a different Blackshear. Focusing on attacking the basket and playing tough, the 6-foot-5 wing made a lot of gritty plays. A good jump shooter with a quick release and good range, he looked to force the action off the dribble instead of just settling for jumpers and that's a good thing. Also notable, is that when the Fire needed a tough bucket in the post, it was often Blackshear who was the one that a play got run for. Probably more of a natural small forward than shooting guard, his overall game off the bounce still needs work. However, as a class of 2011 kid he's got plenty of time to work on it.
Sam Thompson – Wow, what a difference a few months makes. Thompson has rapidly emerged as perhaps the best prospect from the state of Illinois' very deep class of 2011. Still rough around the edges to be sure, he combines ridiculous quickness, speed and leaping ability into a 6-foot-6 package of ever improving skills. He's improved his ball handling to the point that he can create shots off the bounce with relative ease and he's very explosive off the floor while shooting jumpers. He gets a bit out of control at times and has to be a more consistent finisher, but the high flying wing has so much room to improve that he's looking like a very, very high level prospect at this point.
DaJuan Marerro – A class of 2012 prospect who was playing up in the 17 and under division for the Spiece Indy Heat. An impressive looking prospect from a physical standpoint, he's got a good looking nearly 6-foot-6 frame and long arms. A fine athlete who is listed as a wing player, he has the requisite athleticism and speed in the open floor to play the position. However, for now at least, he appears to be much more comfortable operating within 15 feet of the hoop and plays the game more like a power forward than a three man.
Brad Beal – The top shooting guard prospect in the class of 2011 according to scout.com, it's pretty hard to argue with that assessment. He's long, deceptively quick, plays smart and can score off the dribble, the catch, from deep, at the rim or with his ridiculous mid range game. What makes Beal most impressive is how fluidly and economically he does his damage. There's little wasted motion and you can be sure that if he's taking a shot it's a good one or that if he's putting the ball on the floor he's doing so with purpose. Capable of involving others while still getting his on offense, Beal is a fabulously skilled shooting guard prospect. What's particularly scary is that he's still growing and has tons of room to improve.
Andre Henley – InsideIllini.com actually had the benefit of watching Henley at last week's Reebok All-American Camp in addition to the Peach Jam. Heavily touted in Illinois, Henley certainly has some physical tools. He's got a long frame and relatively well developed frame, doesn't mind mixing it up a little and can score the ball. However, at 6-foot-5, he appears to be a natural four man who does his best damage within 12 feet of the rim. Playing on the wing, he's a little lacking in natural quickness and needs work on his ball skills. Right now, he's a bubble high major prospect and a bit of a tweener who still has to prove to college coaches that he can play the three full time.