Since there is no official start to the high school basketball season, Adam Finkelstein's National Prep Showcase has emerged as the unofficial start to the season. Held annually on the weekend before Thanksgiving, the NPS provides one stop shopping for college coaches and scouts looking to observe the top players in the prep school ranks.
Played on the campus of Albertus Mangus College in New Haven, Conn., the 2009 edition was certainly an interesting one. There were both big and disappointing performances by some highly regarded 2010 kids and 2012's Khem Birch was introduced to the basketball world on a big stage.
Top Performers At The NPS
Khem Birch, PF, Winchendon- Make no mistake about it, the 6-foot-8 (maybe 6-foot-9) Birch was the weekend's breakout performer. While not necessarily an unknown headed into the event, he left as one of the premier big man prospects in the class of 2012. A graceful athlete who can run and jump, he has the ideal power forward build and terrific instincts. He's got pretty soft touch, great hands and a bright future so long as he continues to develop.
J.J. Moore, SF, South Kent- Jamie Dixon and fans of the Pittsburgh Panthers should be really excited to see Moore on the way. A high scoring wing, the 6-foot-6 Moore is a capable slasher who drives past defenders for slams in traffic. More than a one trick pony, he can also shoot the ball from deep and is particularly dangerous from the right side of the court.
Andre Drummond, C/PF, St. Thomas More- Scout.com's top ranked player in the class of 2012 showed flashes of why he's ranked where he is despite playing on a gimpy ankle. A big and strong kid who can get off the floor in a hurry, he's an instinctual rebounder who makes good use of his size and length around the rim. He plays with an edge and is just scratching at the surface of his wondrous potential.
Billy Baron, PG, Worcester Academy- Headed to Rhode Island where he'll play for his father, there wasn't a soul in the gym who didn't enjoy watching the 6-foot-2 point guard get after it. He's strong, athletic off the bounce, attacks the rim and can stroke jumpers to beyond the three point stripe. Loves to convert off the glass from difficult angles.
Calvin Newell, SG/PG, Mack Academy- There were scholarships to be had in New Haven and it's a safe bet that Newell earned some of them. The six foot combo was unstoppable during his two games. Whether he was bombing deep threes or soaring over big men to complete alley oop slams, he competed. He leaves the weekend with mid to high level programs scrambling for info.
Lorenzo Brown, PG/SG, Hargrave Military- He's not super consistent just yet, but Brown is a monster talent. At 6-foot-4, he's a tall and athletic guard who already navigates the pick and roll like a pro. A threat to put together a triple double every time he touches the floor on the high school/prep level, Brown must now tighten up his game and add strength. If he can eliminate the mindless turnovers that have plagued him throughout his prep days, he could be on the fast track from college to the NBA.
Gerard Coleman, SG, Tilton- More of a scorer rather than a pure shooter, the 6-foot-4 lefty has come a long way in the past two years. More of a slasher in the pass, he's improved his ball skills, mid range game and can get his shot whenever he wants. He gets plenty of FGA's, but he does it without being selfish. He's still way too skinny, but he could easily be an impact guy in the Big East for Providence.
Other NPS Notables
Mo Walker, C, Brewster Academy- At 6-foot-10 and somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 bills, Walker is one big dude. A natural back to the basket guy, he uses his body to get and establish position and makes excellent use of his soft hands and touch. He visited Pitt during the Fall and has an official visit set up for Kansas in December.
Will Barton, SG, Brewster Academy- Not the greatest event for the future Memphis Tiger. After having his moments on Saturday, he couldn't get anything rolling on Sunday during Brewster's come from ahead loss to Nia Prep. He struggled with his shot, turnovers and didn't look like the happiest of campers either.
Eric Ferguson, PF/SF, Winchendon- Would have loved to see more of him to make sure, but Winchendon has a lot of players and substitutes liberally. Because of that, his minutes were fairly limited. Still, he looks like he has the potential to be a big wing down road and Georgia Southern flat out stole a kid with top 100 ability.
Cleveland Melvin, PF, Notre Dame Prep- A recent Connecticut commitment, he's fun to watch. Undersized at 6-foot-7, he makes up for it with long arms, explosive hops and a big time motor. He'll be an energy guy on the next level.
Shaquille Thomas, SF, Nia Prep- Reclassed to the class of 2011, Thomas is an intriguing guy. A long 6-foot-6 small forward, he plays big and has plenty of athleticism and touch on his jumper. Needs to tighten up his handle, add strength and find some stability after bouncing around a bit the last year. If he puts it all together, he could be a pretty high level recruit.
Jordair Jett, PG/SG, Notre Dame Prep- Schools are starving for guys who can play the point in 2010 and Jett is going to draw some upper level mid to lower level high major looks because of it. Physical, tough and strong, he's an old school guy who doesn't have a lot of flash in his game, just results.
Hector Harold, SF, Northfield Mount Hermon- Tall wing can really shoot from deep and gets up and down the floor. When he mixes in some drives to the hoop and gets on the glass like he did Sunday, he looks like a major steal for Pepperdine.
Total games watched- 14.
Total teams watched- 18.
Total miles traveled- 2,868.