Rafus On The Radar

BALTIMORE, Md. – One of the foremost recruits in the Baltimore area’s class of 2017 crop is St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md.) small forward Andre Rafus.

BALTIMORE, Md. – One of the foremost recruits in the Baltimore area’s class of 2017 crop is St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md.) small forward Andre Rafus, a 6-foot-8, 185-pounder, who already claims double-digit high-major offers. We recently interviewed Rafus, who Maryland assistant Bino Ranson is recruiting, after he took in the Terps-Rutgers game at Xfinity Center, and on Jan. 25 we were able to evaluate him in person.

In an exciting, much-anticipated matchup between two Baltimore Catholic League powers, Rafus’ St. Frances squad fell to Calvert Hall (Towson, Md.), 84-83, in front of a packed Panthers gym. Rafus, however, did not have one of his better performances, going 1-of-9 from the floor, including 0-for-8 on 3-pointers. He scored four total points on one 10-foot jumper and two free throws, and added a rebound as well. Rafus didn’t factor into the game much defensively either, and was actually pulled at one point after his man blew right by him.

While he has a ways to go, it’s fairly clear why Rafus has intrigued college coaches from Georgetown, Wichita State, Connecticut, UCLA, Tennessee, UNLV, Dayton, Kansas State, USC and Missouri, all of which he claims offers from.

He has a long, wiry frame with lengthy arms and a wide wingspan, allowing him to alter shots and also get off jumpers overtop most defenders. Rafus is only a sophomore, and he projects to be 6-10 by the time he’s finished high school, so the height factor alone is eye-opening.

He’s also quite an athlete, a smooth strider who runs the floor well and flashes plenty of first-step quickness. Although he doesn’t penetrate the paint often, Rafus has an above-average vertical and can play above the rim.

A face-up “three,” Rafus prefers to hover around the perimeter, with his go-to spot being the corners. While he does cut and screen, he tends to drift to one of the corners on most every half-court set.

In terms of his shot, Rafus possesses a smooth, sound stroke with range out to beyond the 3-point arc. It’s obvious he’s spent plenty of time working on his form, because his technique (squares up, elbows in, high release, repeatable follow-throw) is refined for a 2017 recruit. Now, it’s true he wasn’t hitting from deep Jan. 25, but that speaks more to the Calvert Hall defense and some questionable decision making on Rafus’ part than his form.

Speaking of decision making, when Rafus touches the ball, more often than not it’s going up. At this point, he’s more of a shoot-first, think later type who hasn’t seen a look he didn’t like. Even when defenders were hanging on him Jan. 25, Rafus hoisted the ball up, drawing iron nine times. Following one head-scratching shot, Rafus’ coach pulled him from the game for an extended period.

A concern here is that Rafus basically made himself one-dimensional, someone who would simply settle for 3s instead of attempting to drive. In fact, he seemed to shy away from contact most of the night.

On one occasion, though, Rafus did attack the hole, showing a potent first step and solid handles for a big man. He gained a step advantage on his man, saw an opening and canned a 10-footer. But that was the only time all game he used such a move (his ball-handling in general isn’t bad, but he’s not going to beat anyone consistently off the dribble at this stage). If Rafus can bulk up and diversify his arsenal he has a chance to succeed, but right now it’s all deep jumpers.

Another, perhaps more of a concern (but again, he is only a sophomore), is that Rafus did not often make an effort to follow his shots or hit the offensive glass. Granted, his lone rebound Jan 25 was of the offensive variety, but most of the time he either watched his shot or started running back on defense after his teammates put one up.

Defensively, Rafus’ length and quickness would seem to give him an advantage. But right now he doesn’t show the toughness or intensity on that end of the floor. He has to become more active and physical, not to mention stronger, as too often he sagged off his man or failed to stop a drive.

Rafus is quick, but his footwork looked a bit garbled when trying to face-guard or stay in front of his Calvert Hall counterpart. Moreover, Rafus has to do a better job banging inside and hitting the glass. Rafus was either too easily boxed out or he failed to give maximum effort to gain position in the paint.

Again, Rafus has a potentially high ceiling given his physical attributes, but unless he develops some of those all-important intangible qualities (decision making, grit, defensive want-to, etc.) and adds to his repertoire, we’re not sure the Terps become too heavily involved. But obviously he has plenty of time still.

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