Part I: Thoughts on Philly Hoops Tourney

BRYN MAWR, Pa. -- The matchup between Life Center Academy (Burlington Township, N.J.) and Westtown School (West Chester, Pa.) in suburban Philadelphia Jan. 18 was too much to resist. Here are some thoughts and observations in Part One, which will center on Reed and Nickens.

BRYN MAWR, Pa. -- The matchup between Life Center Academy (Burlington Township, N.J.) and Westtown School (West Chester, Pa.) in suburban Philadelphia Jan. 18 was too much to resist. So I trekked up Rt 95 with TTDave and TTQuinn to check out a game which featured two Terp signees (Trayvon Reed, Jared Nickens) and two potential recruits (Malik Ellison, Georgios Papagiannis). Westtown won the game 71-61. Here are some thoughts and observations in Part One, which will center on Reed and Nickens.

This was my third look at Reed this year, and the script remains pretty much the same. The legit 7-foot-1 big man gets virtually no touches offensively, alters a lot of shots, and does a good job on the boards. You hear the term "project" thrown around at times by fans with Reed, presumably based on the fact that he doesn't put up big offensive numbers. I don't quite see it that way.

Reed brings some things to the table. You can't teach his size, and the guy can get up and down the floor. He's a pretty fluid athlete, with a big time wing span. At that size, and with that agility, he is going to be a factor defensively. Now, he will have to get out of the habit of flailing his arms when he attempts to block shots, because that habit will result in continual foul trouble. Going straight up rather than "chopping" down on the ball is all he really needs to do to block or alter a shot.

I also like his footwork, the fact that he actually made some very nice passes out of the post, and his hands, all requisites for solid post play. He didn't go to the line yesterday, but in previous games, Reed actually shot the ball well from the charity stripe.

Does he have any post moves? Well, I cannot honestly answer that question, because I just haven't seen any, but I'd have to believe that he can master a couple of them by the time he makes it to College Park.

So, the bottom line is this: Is Trayvon Reed prepared to come in as a freshman and dominate games? Absolutely not, but he has some skills which this program desperately needs. Perhaps Damonte Dodd can bring some defensive tenacity in time, but certainly Shaq Cleare and Chuck Mitchell are not defensive intimidators in terms of protecting the rim.

Given time, I think Reed can be a factor, and while we'd all like him to be Wilt Chamberlain from day one, that's just not going to happen. But again, I think the term "project" is harsh. Most scouts and evaluators I've spoken to like Reed's upside, and his ability to change ends. Adding some bulk (lower body especially) and picking up a go-to move are two areas though that must be addressed.

Reed's stats for the game were six points (3-for-4 field goals), nine rebounds, two blocks, and one assist.

Nickens got off to a slow start for Westtown, hitting only one of his first seven shots in the first half. He later found his rhythm however, knocking down two treys, including a bomb which resulted in a four-point play, when LCA had cut the lead to one. Nickens finished with 20 points (5-for-13 field goals), seven rebounds, three assists, four steals and two turnovers.

At this point in his high school career, this wiry thin 6-6 athlete is not really a dominant performer for entire games, but he is one who can turn around a game instantly because of his shooting prowess. In our three looks at Nickens this year, there have been periods in every contest where he gets hot, and the momentum of the game suddenly turns.

The New Jersey native is silky smooth on the court, and again, he's one of those players that when he releases the ball, particularly from deep, you're almost surprised when he misses. The 3-point bomb we just referred to against LCA totally turned the momentum back in Westtown's favor, and he followed it up with another rocket shortly after that. The result? Game over.

The book on Nickens and year or two ago was simple: stationary jump shooter, play him tight and MAKE him put the ball on the floor. We have to give him credit for working tirelessly on his handle, to the point now where he's a pretty good handler with both hands -- and gets a good many of his points off the bounce, though he obviously can be considered a "catch and shoot" guy as well.

I still have concerns about his strength and weight, as strong defenders (particularly in the Big Ten) are going to "body" up on him, and play him physical. Therefore, Nickens is going to have to spend a ton of time in the weight room, as he's still very thin. To me, that lack of bulk is going to be his biggest hurdle to overcome as he moves on to college.

In the end, though, you can never have too many shooters, and Nickens can now be considered a scorer as well, with his improved floor game. I don't see him having a big impact as a freshman (with Dez Wells and Nick Faust still in College Park), but in time, his ability to launch bombs from anywhere on the court is going to be a welcome addition to the program.

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