Nino Jackson - Class of 2012 - Compton Magic
As impressive as the slender guard from Ardmore, Okla. was Friday night in leading the Magic to a come-from-behind victory over the SYF Players, he was even more so Saturday.
There just isn't much Jackson can't do with the ball in his hands at this point. His ball-handling has improved a great deal since last summer, and he used a variety of crossovers, hesitation moves and pull-ups to get to the lane at will. Couple that with his incredible quickness and all around speed, and he's been just short of impossible to stop.
When we saw him in action during the Magic's first contest of Saturday morning, his jumper was on as well. While he's not a true bomber he is a capable - if streaky - shooter from deep when he's playing smart and exhibiting good shot selection. Though he's only 6-feet tall, his outstanding vertical leap gives him incredible lift on his jumper, and he's able to get a good look over taller defenders.
He again showed good passing instincts and doled out several assists. He tends to get a little too flashy at times, but with someone like him one takes the bad with the good. Part of what makes him such a unique and special talent to which is the flair with which he plays the game.
All in all, this was a very impressive tournament for one of the most exciting and dynamic guards in the Class of 2012. To our eyes, Jackson has taken his game to another level at this early stage of the 2011 AAU season. It will be interesting to see if he can keep stringing these types of performances together.
Conner Frankamp and Travis Jorgenson - Class of 2013 - KC Pump N Run
Why put these two together, rather than break them down individually? Because their games so closely mirror one another that to do so would be an exercise in redundancy.
Both Frankamp - a Wichita (KS) North product - and Jorgenson - of Columbia (MO) Rock Bridge - are 5-foot-11 point guards. While neither are explosive athletically, they're both intelligent and savvy basketball players who excel at the finer points of the game.
Both are perfectly comfortable handling the basketball with either hand, and while there's nothing flashy about the way they play in this regard - a la Nino Jackson - they're extremely efficient. They both handle the ball well against pressure and showed the ability to make just about every pass in the book. What they might lack in athleticism they make up for with stutters and hesitations and simply knowing how to use screens in traffic. Both scored in the half court Saturday by driving and finishing at the rim.
Though neither was hitting anything from the outside, Jorgenson managed to kick start a second half rally with a pair of mid-range jumpers. Both carry with them reputations as marksmen, and even the best prospects are certainly entitled to an off game or two.
It's clear there's an awful lot to like about their games and abilities. Both attended Elite Camp at the University of Kansas last year, and appear to be likely candidates to do so again in 2011. Theirs are definitely names Kansas fans will want to keep an eye on in the future.
Shabazz Muhammad - Class of 2012 - Dream Vision
Due to time restraints we only managed to take in one full half of basketball from what is arguably the most talented squad at the Jayhawk Invitational on Saturday, but it was more than enough to see a vintage performance from one of the truly elite players in the Class of 2012.
It's still a little startling to see a player with his size - at 6-foot-5 and a rock solid 200 pounds - do the kinds of things he's capable of on the court. Saturday he broke down smaller defenders off the bounce that should have been quicker than him, but simply weren't. As a southpaw he does favor his strong hand when attacking the basket, but that's such a minor gripe. He's a mismatch no matter where he plays offensively because he's perfectly comfortable posting up and scoring on the low block as well.
In 16 minutes of play, we counted at least seven thunderous dunks, many coming with just one step to gather himself before exploding upward. He's an elite athlete, strong, super skilled and plays the game with a self-assuredness bordering on arrogance - and we mean that in the best way possible. A self-effacing and genial young man off the court, he knows he's the best player every time he steps on it, and it shows in his attitude and demeanor.
He's a lot of fun to watch, and if there are players in the Class of 2012 who are clearly better than him...well...we sure haven't seen them.
Marcus Smart - Class of 2012 - Texas Assault
We finally got our first live look at this burly, 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Flower Mound, Texas on Saturday evening, and though it was a quiet performance from him statistically it's evident why he's considered one of the top perimeter prospects in the junior class.
The focal point of his game is his strength. He's an excellent athlete, with big-time leaping ability and quick feet, but his strength stands out above all else when watching him play. He's built like a linebacker, and though he's listed at 200 pounds one has to think those measurements are a bit out of date.
Smart knows how to use that strength as well, both off the dribble drive and while posting up smaller, weaker defenders - which is pretty much everyone. He's a really tough match-up in that regard, similar to Muhammad, in that he's the rare perimeter player who looks at home playing with his back to the basket.
He has a rep as an outstanding defender and even though things got a little chippy on the court when we saw him Saturday, as Texas Assault took on the St. Louis Majestics, all the tools are there. Long arms, quick feet and hands, strength, athleticism and the mentality of a junkyard dog when he wants to display it.
All of that said, he's a little tough to evaluate fully because it's hard to know where he'll play once he gets to college. He's got reasonably solid handles and even plays a little point for Marcus High School, but he's not a PG. He's not much of a jump shooter at this point, though through diligent work he says he's improving, so he's not a prototypical two-guard. And he's a little short for a wing.
But wherever he lands, he'll find a way to produce and produce big.
Perry Ellis - Class of 2012 - Pray and Play Players
Friday night was rough for the top prospect in the state of Kansas - and one of the top junior talents nationally - as Pray and Play was bested by Dream Vision. Swarmed by multiple defenders whenever he touched the ball and with his teammates ice cold on the offensive end, Ellis was never able to get much going.
Saturday was a different story, however, as he turned in five consecutive 19-plus point performances, as Pray and Play went undefeated on Day Two to take a big step toward the tournament championship game Sunday.
Many who have watched him have commented on a perceived lack of emotion when he's on the floor, which can be misinterpreted as a lack of desire or effort. The reality is Ellis just stays on an even keel no matter what's happening on the floor, which is a huge asset when things get tough.
He's so smooth with the ball in his hands that it can be easy to forget how athletic he really is. At 6-foot-8 and with a very strong frame already, he showed some acrobatic aerial finishes in the lane Saturday, including an up-and-under move on a layup that no post player should be able to perform.
Ellis' jumper wasn't falling but he's usually a very solid three-point threat, and he made up for it by attacking the glass in the evening session and scoring in the paint with both hands. Our opinion of him has risen virtually every time we've seen him play, and from a Kansas perspective it's hard not to look at him and see a prospect who is more athletic, bigger and perhaps even a more skilled scorer than Marcus Morris was at this stage in his development.
That's all for Day Two! Be sure to check back with Phog.net tomorrow evening for a wrap-up of the final day of competition at the 2011 Jayhawk Invitational.