Hoosiers Shine at All-American Championships

Sunday the inaugural High School All-American Championship games were played with four teams comprised of the top prep juniors and seniors in the country battling it out in Houston. The new event proved to be a good showcase for four in-state juniors, including IU commits Hanner Perea and Yogi Ferrell as well as top recruits Gary Harris and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera.

Sunday featured the inaugural High School All-American Championship games with four teams comprised of the top prep juniors and seniors in the country battling out in Houston. The new event proved to be a decent showcase for four in-state juniors who Coach Tom Crean has long had a watchful eye on. The format of the tournament mixed the two classes together and the Indiana foursome were all members of the North squad which fell to the South squad 93-91 due to an overtime buzzer-beater.

While it was your typical all-star game with little defense being played, yet a high number of turnovers; there was still plenty to be gleaned from the players involved. Below is my breakdown of the four featured players from Indiana.

Kevin Ferrell "Yogi" is the type of player that every good All-Star game needs—a natural playmaker that looks to set-up others instead of himself. In a game that was typically defined by players trying to create their own shot and make their presence felt, Ferrell made his own presence felt by being the best pure playmaker on the court. Although only a junior, his feel for the game is college-ready. He penetrated the defense (or lack thereof as is often the case in such a showcase game) with ease and always had his eyes elevated to find not just an open man, but the open man in the best position to score. In a game infested with turnovers, Ferrell didn't commit a single one.

He finished with just three points on 1-2 shooting, but only shot twice with his miss coming on an end of the quarter buzzer-beater he was forced to fire up. It was clear that Ferrell wasn't looking to score (something he does easily at Park Tudor), but rather help his team win and perhaps that's the best thing about Ferrell. I didn't keep track of his plus/minus in this game, but it had to be incredibly high as every time he was in the game his team narrowed their opponent's lead. And when the game was on the line in overtime Ferrell's coach had him in the game. It almost paid off and surprisingly it was Ferrell's defense that almost brought his team victory. With a tie game's final seconds ticking away, the South team's Josiah Turner wanted the ball at the top of the key to exploit a mismatch against Ferrell (Turner is a healthy 6-foot-3, Ferrell is 5-foot-11). Turner went right to the rim, but Ferrell did a tremendous job of staying right in front of his man and elevated to cleanly block the shot and force a jump ball. It gave his team the ball and a chance to win, but they couldn't convert.

The best thing that can be said about Ferrell is that he makes all his teammates markedly better. He does it at Park Tudor, he did it in this All-Star game, and it seems certain he will do it at Indiana in 2012.

Hanner Perea Perea found himself in a difficult position as his team's only true big man. There wasn't a lot of help for him as he battled a tough front line on the South team, but he certainly held his own. His ten points came almost exclusively on lay-ins and offensive rebounds as the junior is still very raw offensively. In the few times I've seen him play, there has been nothing resembling a repertoire of low-post moves so there's certainly plenty of learning ahead of him.

The good news is that Perea is a major contributor even without a true half-court game due to his amazing athleticism. He is a natural rebounder (ten in this game) and runs the floor extremely well. He has good enough hands to corral tough passes and finish around the rim. That being said his awareness is still a work in progress as he fumbled away a potential game-winning pass because he wasn't expecting it. He hasn't been playing basketball very long so look for that to continue to develop.

Defensively he certainly has the potential to be a force, although it wasn't on display in a game that really featured very little defense overall. What's encouraging is that he plays the game almost exclusively above the rim so his ability to affect shots and deter penetration will certainly continue to develop, especially once he gets to Indiana and receives intense coaching. Another encouraging sign is that while his jumper isn't much of a weapon for him yet, he does showcase pretty good form with it.

Of course, the most encouraging sign for Hoosier fans is that he was once again by far the most physically impressive player on the court. He will be bringing a combination of size, athleticism, and power that hasn't been seen in the Hoosier frontcourt in many years.

Gary Harris - It was a relatively quiet game for Harris as he struggled with his jumpshot and finished with nine points in limited minutes. Despite his unusually shaky shooting, Harris still turned plenty of heads. He's the type of player that passes the eyeball test with ease as he has a prototypical basketball frame-long, lean, and athletic. He runs the court like a gazelle, rises high on his jumper, and has just enough physicality to finish in the paint. Perhaps that's the best thing about Harris' game, if one facet is struggling he knows how to turn to other tactics to win. In this game that meant getting to the rim on offense and creating havoc on defense to spark the fastbreak.

Harris is a natural defender due to the aforementioned physical gifts he possesses. He has quick, active hands and a long reach that really causes problems for ballhandlers and passers. His ability to get out in transition and push the fastbreak just makes him that much more dangerous.

It's easy to see why Harris is such a coveted prospect. He seems to clearly be a junior with almost limitless upside. His offensive versatility, defensive prowess, and ability to excel in transition give him a total package. If Indiana is able to somehow add him to their already stacked 2012 class it goes from being an incredible class to possibly a legendary one.

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera - This rising junior is the one player on this list that isn't already committed to the Hoosiers or rumored to be heavily considering them. He certainly belongs on it talent-wise though. Unlike the other three, Smith-Rivera was boldly aggressive in looking for his own shot throughout the game. He's a strong, physical guard that can bully smaller defenders and take even the best of them to the rim and finish. His outside stroke continues to improve and looked good Sunday.

He's not necessarily a great playmaker, or a great shooter, but he's certainly on his way to being a great scorer at the next level. It's his defining trait as his defense seems to come and go and his court vision still has plenty of developing to do, but his scoring instincts never fade. He scored 11 points in this game, despite limited minutes and limited touches.

The aforementioned shortcomings aren't to suggest that Smith-Rivera isn't a special player. In fact, if he finds a college team that installs him at the two guard and makes him their featured weapon he's capable of having an outstanding career. What remains to be seen with Smith-Rivera is how he would fit in as just another weapon on a loaded team. That may explain why Indiana's recruiting interest in him has always seemed lukewarm.

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