Part II: Thoughts on Philly Hoops Tourney

BRYN MAWR, Pa. -- Here we go with Part Two of our impressions from the Philadelphia hoops tournament Jan. 18 (Westtown 71, Life Center Academy 61), which will center on prospective Maryland recruits Georgios Papagiannis and Malik Ellison.

BRYN MAWR, Pa. -- Here we go with Part Two of our impressions from the Philadelphia hoops tournament Jan. 18 (Westtown 71, Life Center Academy 61), which will center on prospective Maryland recruits Georgios Papagiannis and Malik Ellison.

Papagiannis, a legit 7-foot-0 junior, is only 16 years old, and again, this is one large human being. Word is starting to get out on this enormous prospect for Westtown School (West Chester, Pa.). This is our third look at him, and though the terms "one and done" and "lottery pick" may well come to fruition in time, I am not quite prepared to anoint him as a dominant NBA center just yet. But there are undeniable skills that come along with this young man.

The first thing you realize is that Papagiannis has a good feel for the game and knows how to play. He took a few ill-advised shots against Life Center Academy (Burlington Township, N.J.), but for the most part he doesn't force the action. He is a willing passer, has nice face-up skills (he nailed a trey) and rebounds reasonably well, although he would not be considered a dominant board man out of his area.

And, at probably 260 pounds, Papagiannis is obviously a physical presence down low. He takes up space and has shown the ability to both score on the blocks somewhat, and yet go to the mid-range jumper on occasion. For being just 16 he's a pretty polished player.

As an athlete, well, he won't win any 100-yard dashes, and he's not a vertical player at all. Against some players (in college at least), that's going to be a problem. It's not a big factor in high school , because other than his matchup with Trayvon Reed, he won't be facing anyone in the prep ranks with his size. He blocked five shots against Westtown, but all of them were against guards.

He finished with 18 points (7-fot-16 field goals, 3-fot-6 free throws, six rebounds and five blocks), and in truth, a fair amount of those numbers came late in the game, as Westtown was pulling away from LCA.

The big Greek reportedly has a Terp offer, and that's a good thing, because he has a lot of skills, and you cannot teach his size. As he gets stronger and better conditioned his stock will only rise. He's a very good prospect based on his skill level and knowledge of the game, but I wouldn't put him in the "franchise" category just yet. Then again, watching him, and reminding yourself he's only 16, tells you he has a mighty bright future ahead of him.

This was our fourth look at Ellison, and he's gotten better in every game since LCA's opening night loss to Riverdale Baptist, when he fouled out early and scored only nine points.

Against Westtown, the 6-5 (and still growing) swingman avoided foul trouble, played within himself, and to me, was clearly the best player on the court. Ellison finished with 22 points (8-for-11 field goals, 3-fot-3 treys, five rebounds, two assists, one steal, one assist and one turnover). Unlike some earlier contests, the junior picked his spots offensively, and either finished with authority, or took the open jumper. He had two nasty dunks in traffic, and made sound basketball plays throughout the contest, playing with poise even when the game started to slip away.

Ellison has had trouble with fouls this year, but when he doesn't reach and plays straight up defense, he's an excellent defender, who in time will be able to defend guards or larger wings. His growth plates are still open, and 6-7 is not out of reach at all, which is noteworthy as the son of Pervis Ellison has grown over four inches in the past year.

After four looks, we see Malik Ellison as the classic "breakout" guy, someone who is on the verge of really making a name nationally on the circuit this spring. He'll need to get stronger (although he is starting to fill out nicely), continue to play with poise, and simply refine the many skills he possesses.

The word "upside" gets thrown around a lot, but this junior wing has plenty of it. We'd expect more high major offers to come his way in the near future, and we also think the Terps will stay heavily involved in his recruitment.

He's shown flashes of a lot of different skills in our looks. Consistency is all that is needed at this point to be considered a legit high major recruit.

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