Orlando Super Showcase: Sunday Musings

ORLANDO – On a perfect day to be in an air conditioned gym, the 17U Super Showcase kicked off at the HP Fieldhouse in Orlando. With Kansas recruits spread out around the country Head Coach Bill Self remained in Las Vegas , while assistants Joe Dooley and Kurtis Townsend made their way to the Sunshine State.

Dooley was in attendance to watch SYF Players and 2012 (converted from 2011) big man Mitch McGary. McGary is athletic and skilled. I was impressed with how he runs the floor in both directions. He wasn't afraid to get on the floor for loose balls, he showed a face up game and even a couple of great moves fighting for post position to get easy hoops inside. He looks older and more mature and he is a smart heady player with excellent footwork.

BABC's Nerlens Noel is nearly 6-11 and you cannot let his slender frame fool you. He is such a smart, smooth player and his long arms make him a factor on the defensive end. He's got a pretty stroke and shows a handle sometimes. It doesn't look like he'd have strong hands but he does. He had no problem finishing in traffic and never got the ball stripped if he wasn't fouled. It's like night and day comparing his game to last year, he's improved tremendously. Noel had the advantage of not facing a bigger stronger opponent though so his lack of body strength was never exposed. His anticipatory skills were very impressive as he made several steals and really gets his hands on a lot of balls on the defensive end in one way or another.

The Texas Titans feature quite a few stars in the making. The 16-year old group is playing up in the 17-year old division and their first game of pool play produced the highlights and an exciting finish.

Against the Lightning out of the gates 6-5 Matt Jones and 6-9 Julius Randle produced nearly all the Titans' 1st quarter points but it was the Titans who trailed at the half (34-29). A third quarter Titans' comeback was highlighted by a length of the court baseball pass from 6-7 Mickey Mitchell to Jones who made a spinning hoop in the lane to give Texas a 45-42 lead and it looked like the Titans were back on track. Jones is simply a scorer. He can fill it up from three and showed some ability off the bounce in this one. He's also a factor on the defensive end and is certainly playing both ends of the floor with the same fervor.

Randle wasn't his dominant self through most of this one. He had a tough game with more turnovers than he would like. What has top coaches salivating besides the fact that he is only a sophomore is the ability he has at 6-9 to rip a board down and go. And when Randle goes – he goes. It's full steam ahead and it doesn't matter how many guys are in his way. Randle got fouled a few times and didn't display his usual lefty touch from the free throw line. It's been almost a full year since I've seen Randle in person and I can see the work he's put in to get leaner. He showed off a baseline step back jumper that shows you glimpses of his pro game. He didn't show all that much in his low post game instead choosing to face up and take his defender. I'd like to see Randle use more of a change of speed than going at full speed all the time on his baseline to baseline drives. It was tough for the Titans without 6-10 Prince Ibeh. Ibeh was playing for another AAU team in Vegas and they could've used his presence in the middle.

It came down to a furious late final rally by the Titans, most of it coming with Randle on the bench. Instead the Titans were lead by 8th grader – yes, I said 8th grader Mickey Mitchell. Mitchell is considered the top prospect from the class of 2015 and he showed why with a reverese putback jam that had the gym buzzing for several minutes. He also followed that up with some deft defense on the press helping to force a steal to get the Titans within 1. But it was Randle who came back in the game and took over converting a conventional three-point play along baseline where he reversed one with his left hand giving the Titans a 61-59 lead. Another conventional three-point play at the other end put Long Island up 62-61. And with 2.5 seconds left Marquan Botley – who had played a stellar game – went to the line for 2 and missed them both. Tough loss to take for the Titans.

As for Mickey Mitchell, he's another Prestonwood Christian Academy prospect who doesn't at all look out of place playing with 17-year olds. He is a standout quarterback and just has an impressive motor on the basketball court. He's deceptively athletic and all of 6-6. Remember the name because you'll be hearing it a lot for years to come.

YOMCA's Jarnell Stokes was a boy amongst men in his first game today. Venus flytrap hands he got every ball that came in his vicinity and no one was taking it from him.


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