Kansas City Invitational

Athletes First, KC Nets, and Springfield Heat joined other AAU teams for the Kansas City Prep Invitational.

One lone fan, Ed Vazquez, shares his experiences from the KC Invitational.

Standard Disclaimer: Ed is not a recruiting analyst or coach, but simply a single fan sharing his impressions based on one weekend. Don't get too worked up.

Athletes First

J.R. Giddens - Kansas Commit (Day One)

He dunked, shot jumpers, rebounded, passed - he was clearly on another level in comparison with all the other talent in that gym. He's a tall WF that might even be able to play PF if he's in a Jayhawk uniform long enough. I can see why KU is still open to looking at Gardner, Brewer, Wilkes, and others as Giddens is mighty impressive on the inside AND on the outside. He skied for rebounds over the bigger men and simply played above the rim. His jumper was pure the second game day one. His first game he seemed to be making his presence known more on the inside. It was impressive as he is equally adept at getting inside for a look or a jam as he is spotting up shooting a three. On another note, he sure was "pretty". He finished his first game, went over and put his on his earrings, his chromed out glasses, and his Jayhawk shorts and then strutted around, shimmying and shaking all the while. Folks, this kid has character. He's all about confidence. He drips confidence. In fact, when I walked in the gym, I could smell his confidence.

J.R. Giddens - Kansas Commit (Day Two)

If J.R. can develop his dribble just a notch or two more, he could be scary-take-over-the-game-on-a-whim good. He had trouble driving the lane but if you have to look that hard for something to work on, you know you've got a really good player. There was a fan from Wichita who drove in to watch the tournament, to see Case and Giddens. He and Giddens talked for a bit after their last game. Apparently, Joe, the fan, asked him at the end of the conversation what his name was and JR couldn't remember from Joe's introduction. They had a laugh and J.R. said he wouldn't forget again. Sure enough,the next morning JR walked in the gym and shot a few jumpers and then spotted the fan. He went straight up to the guy and said "Hello, Joe!" and they shake hands. I don't think he's ever met anyone who isn't his friend, UNLESS you're playing against him that day.

Jeremy Case - Kansas Commit

(Case can) drive, dish, rebound, steal, shoot jumpers, score layups - he does them all solidly. Put it all together and you'll see why he'll be a solid player at KU. His jumper needs some work as it wasn't consistent and he had a few reaching in fouls where he just slapped - but he was always playing tough d and the "slaps" were when he was playing help d on someone who just got beat.

Case fought hard to get any shot. He was most effective when he abandoned the excuse for an offense and penetrated and shot the floating jumper. He scored his points in bunches when he created off the dribble. Case is a good shooter, very smooth, and rarely hits a rim.

Darnell Jackson - Athletes First #50 (Day One)

He's a big man that hasn't learned to use his bigs yet. It's tough looking "good" when you're playing next to Giddens, however. He was a presence inside, but not overwhelming. He battled for loose balls and took hit after hit. The games were surprisingly physical. What that should also tell you, however, was that he isn't "nimble" or "slow" - so nothing remarkable in either direction for the big man. It should also be noted that he doesn't have much of a perimeter game or jump shot, from what I saw. Overall, its easy to see why KU has its eyes on this big man.

Darnell Jackson - Athletes First #50 (Day Two)

Sign him up Nike style. Just do it. This young man is a beast for his age and displayed some heady guard-like skills against Portland. At one point, he got a rebound, looked up, and fired a pass down the length of the court - hitting a guard in stride for an easy bucket. Then, he had a couple huge blocks. More interesting was that he'd rotate on posessions and would get stuck outside guarding guards on the perimeter. Surprisingly, he got low and used his wingspan to bother some players and then quickly rotated out. More than anything, however, was his decided focus on making his presence known on the inside against some tall and physical Portland players. More than once, he locked up rebounds and drew a foul or disrupted Portland's transition game.

Keith Smith - Athletes First - #34

This was 6'6" senior-to-be was a young man that I hadn't heard much about. During warmups he seemed to be a cross between Giddens and Jackson - a bigger kid that was well built (Jackson)- but lept with ease and was athletic above the rim (Giddens). I don't quite know how to say it other than he just seemed to explode off the ground and float in the air. He dunked with ease, rebounded relentlessly, and had several putbacks - while displaying a nice jumper from the corners. He was certainly one of the better players on the team and played within the flow of the game. He didn't get a lot of "attention", but he sure got a lot of looks because of his skills. If he was only a year younger.

KC Nets Keith Wooden - Kansas City Nets #0

I felt that I was at Worlds of Fun. I'm convinced that their next wooden roller coaster should be called KEITH. His physical abilities are remarkable. He tended to rely on the quicks of Mike Jefferson to get the ball inside. There were several feeds that Jefferson delivered that just bounced off of his chest or hands. He had a couple nice dunks, but also put a few off the back of the rim. He took his time getting up and down the court. It's undeniable that the kid could be a McDonald All American, if he came to play EVERY game. I just don't think he understands that greatness is a habit, not a one time event. I can certainly see why KU is keeping their eyes on him. He's big, but raw, but he has moments of sheer brilliance where your jaw drops and you're like "dANG, did you see that?"

Mike Jefferson - KC Nets #5 (Day 1)

I've liked this kid's play since last year, so I admit that I'm kinda biased. Jefferson can drive at will, shake most any defender with a variety of crossover and head fakes and between the legs and behind the back at will. He can stop on a dime and deliver the pass with ease. Jefferson dribbles through half the team and while they're chasing him, he merely flips the ball away to the open man. I really like this young man and will be interested to see where he goes. More than anything, you gotta like his heart. He just WANTS IT. I'll take the bet that if Jefferson ever ends up playing against Kansas, he lays 20+ points on the Jayhawks. His team may lose the game, but he'll get his.

Mike Jefferson - KC Nets #5 (Day 2)

For the first coule of minutes of KC Nets vs GRass Roots, the Nets were in trouble. Then Michael Jefferson got into the game, after arriving just at tipoff. Game over. He single handedly carried his team through this game. He makes EVERYONE on that court a better player. In the first half, Jefferson threaded the needle enough times to end the game with a quilt. He had four passes that led to eight easy buckets that were simply unreal. His game is fairly unique as he uses the dribble to break through any amount of pressure. He did average one or two dribble turnovers each game, however. Once he has the ball past half court, after juking about three defenders, he just lulls the guard asleep at the top of the key with a few crossovers or behind the back dribbles or even between the legs. Then WHAM! the balls either in the hands of a cutting player for a layup or he's past you in the lane, drawing 3 or 4 defenders. At that point, he either lays it up, draws a foul, or gets hammered without a whistle) or flips the ball to a trailing offensive player. If any of the coaches watching left wondering who made the music on that court, I'd be surprised. The Conductor played it perfectly, today. The Conductor was simply instrumental in this win.

Springfield Heat For the Springfield Heat, #2 Spencer Laurie, #44 Anthony Tolliver, and #35 Tyler Chaney were the obvious leaders on their team.

Spencer wasn't much to look at, at first, then the kid fires a no look pass down the length of the court, hitting his man in stride for an easy layup. You think, "fluke?" and just then he dribbles up to the top of the key, lays a smooth crossover, and creates enough space for a 3 pointer and swish. You think, "Hmmm." Then, he comes down the court after a rebound and does it all again. You think, "I get it now." So did the coaches from Nebraska and Minnesota in attendance. That was good enough, but to watch Tolliver beat the backboard with his aggressive rebounding and Chaney - a big man spotting up for jumper after jumper- including 3's and they were a 3 man wrecking crew in the game I saw.

Regarding Tolliver, its easy to see why his recruiting is picking up. He was hitting some nice jumpers and handled himself well inside. I didn't watch too much of the Springfield Heat as I was watching Athletes First and then KC Nets. I can tell you that over the past few days, there have been a ton of scouts at the Springfield Heat games - and not just midmajors. Head coaches and assistants from Nebraska, KState, Minnesota, Bradley, and others were at the games.

Others of note:

The Arkansas Hawks 16 and under team deserves some KU attention. I mean, they had some kid #1 Marcus Monk that was all of 6'6" playing point, SG, and WF and scoring inside and outside at will. He and #32 JR Mike Smith, a big 6'7" power forward type that took it stronger to the hole than anyone I saw all day. Smith and #33 JR Magnum Rolle owned the inside against the older teams they played. More notable was the fact that the entire team played the best D of any team I saw. They were spaced, had their hands up on D on most posessions and had a bouquet of steals as they were all long-armed and were gnats in the passing lanes. For a group of younger kids, they were clearly better than the other younger teams I saw and better than some of the older teams that were in attendance.

Again, remember the name Marcus Monk. Apparently, he's already been offered a ride by Ole Miss and is interested in some regional teams like OU and Arkansas. He's in the same class as Steven Hill and Darnell Jackson (2004) but was simply outstanding in his team's play. He ran the team and played every guard position with ease. I'd LOVE to see KU involved with this young man, as his coach was clearly focused on directing him and he responded very well to the coaching.

Marquis Bradford #10 from the KC Warriors was a little pistol. He picked a spot at one point in the game and found it for 2 straight posessions for 6 points in about 15 seconds. While filming him, though, you can see where he needs work - or where he needs help on his team. He's a lightning bolt down the court but ends up alone under the bucket. He can drain the jumper, but doesn't get a lot of "protection" or screens while working for his shot.

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