Bball Elite Camp Recap (Part 2)

In part two of our feature on Michigan's fourth annual Elite basketball camp, we highlight the top performers from Saturday's afternoon session which featured the upperclassmen. We break down the battle for point guard supremacy between Michigan top four 2013 targets Monte Morris, Demetrius Jackson, Derrick Walton, and Jalen James. We also profile Zak Irvin, V.J. Beachem, Austin Hatch, and more.

Dre's Take

Zak Irvin, 6-5 wing, Hamilton Southeastern, class of 2013
Here is what could separate Zak from other prospects in one word…aggressiveness. When he has it he is a totally different player.  Saturday that was his mindset. He seemed to be on a mission to send a clear message to both his opponents and the Michigan coaching staff.  That needs to be his mentality at all times. We already know how well he can shoot it from the outside, but now he is trying to put it on the deck more to score it. On a number of occasions he grabbed the rebound and dribbled coast to coast through traffic for a high percentage opportunity. It appeared as if he was auditioning to let people know how good he can be. Irvin was in aggressive, hustle, and get after It mode yesterday.  Even though he didn't have his best day shooting he was still one of the day's top performers because of how he got after it.  It was great to see.

Denzel Watts, 6-1 point guard, Flint Carmen-Ainsworth class of 2013
First off let me say it is great to see a healthy Denzel Watts out on the floor. He has fought injuries and now seems to be back to where he was a few years ago. He is much stronger then before sees the floor well to get teammates involved and then has enough offense to score at the basket and from the outside. It is great to see the smile and the confidence back with his game.

Byron "Bo" Zeigler, 6-6 wing, Detroit Community, 2013
When all is said and done can be the most talented player in the state of Michigan's 2013 class.  He is an impressive run/jump kid that can score in a variety of ways.  He is really good and had a very nice showing at the camp.  But as far as Michigan is concerned, don't be surprised if he's not a viable Wolverine target.  Just glance at Michigan's track record of success with his AAU team the Hurricanes for proof of why Wolverine fans shouldn't get their hopes up. A few memorable examples of Hurricanes that were Michigan targets: Tory Jackson, Eric Devendorf, Wilson Chandler, Alex Legion, Isaiah Sykes.

Sam's Take

V.J. Beachem, 6-6 wing, Ft. Wayne (IN) Paul Harding, 2013
When the light bulb clicks for Beachem, look out.  He has a well earned reputation as a knock down shooter, but coaches and scouts alike clamor for him to more consistently complement that ability by putting it on the floor.  He did that on a number of occasions yesterday.  Despite his slender frame he got to the basket and finished with ease thanks in large part to path to the rim created by opponents crowding him.  However, there were still those moments where more aggression was desired.  If/when sheds that from his game and adds mass, he just might be one of the elite players in his class.

Mark Donnal, 6-8 power forward, Whitehouse (OH) Anthony Wayne, 2013
This kid has the type of skill set that you see in the Wisconsin Badger big men that haunt big ten foes year after year.  On a number of occasions he put it on the floor from the top of the key, then with a few dribbles and a spin move he was finishing at the rim.  He is working hard to become a more consistent three-point shooter and it shows.  He complements those face-up skills with a decent array of post moves.  So what's missing in his game?  Well he still must get stronger, he also must become a more consistent shooter, but more than anything the most important addition is increased aggression.  Whether it's his AAU coach Dan Dakich or random observers in the crowd, everyone says the same thing… he's a very skilled big man that will be a beast when if/when he adds more "dog" to his game.  As it stands this youngster has a very high ceiling and Michigan is in on the ground floor of his recruitment.  It is sort of reminiscent of the Wolverines' courtship of Glenn Robinson III.  Look at him now.  Donnal's rise and recruitment might be eerily similar.

Tony Farmer, 6-6 forward, Garfield Heights (OH), 2013
Farmer is your classic tweener.  He currently doesn't have a true back to the basket game and is a bit short to be a four.  At the same time his perimeter skills are currently too limited to be a full time three.    The flip side is his combination of strength and athleticism enables him to defend threes, fours, and in some cases fives.  Furthermore, this powerfully built youngster is extremely active on the boards and runs the floor well.  In short, he wasn't much of an offensive threat outside of ten feet during the camp, but he converted his share of high percentage looks at times he was a defensive and rebounding force.

Austin Hatch, 6-5 forward, Fort Wayne (IN) Canterbury, 2013
Think Zack Novak.  Hatch's game is a carbon copy of the Wolverine captain's.  His game is not pretty, but game after game he was very effective.  Hatch is a hustle player that scrambles for loose balls, is active on the boards, and has a willingness to be physical.  What he does best of all, though, is shoot.  He was definitely among the top marksmen in attendance.  He knocked down long range bombs in transition, coming off screens… we even saw him knock down a step-back three off the dribble.  He isn't very quick nor is he much of a leaper, but he still found a way to convert a few opportunities going to the basket.  This kid just knows how to play the game.  Another case in point… entry passes.  They seem simple enough, but in a camp setting you realize how few kids are really adept at it.  Hatch is.  He'll never be on a blue-chip list, but he looks like he will be a glue guy… a Novak type everyman that could see extensive minutes at three positions during his college career.  This kid has made no secret of the fact that he loves Michigan. The Wolverines have reciprocated by making it out to watch him.  But would he be offered before the Beachem's, Irvin's, and Hill's of the world?

Javontae Hawkins, 6-5 wing, Flint (MI) Powers, 2012
Hawkins has the tools you want on the wing… he 6-5, explosive, can definitely shoot it from deep, and his ability on the bounce has improved a great deal over the last few years.  All that said, he still has a propensity for playing out-of-control at times.  He'll drain a three one possession, then throw up an errant shot , make an ill-advised pass, or plow over an opponent on the next.  Not to sound too cliché, but he forces things at times.  The coach that reigns in his wild streaks might have a special player on his hands.  He is already working hard to refine his game himself and word is he will be switching high schools to further aid that process.  Formerly of Flint Beecher, he made to move to Flint Powers a few years back.  We had been hearing that he would be making his way to Quality Education Academy in Winston Salem (NC) next year.  Now we here his next stop will be Huntington Prep in West Virginia.  Time will tell.  On the recruiting front Hawkins He indicated recently that he is still in frequent contact with Michigan and that they remain major players on his list.

Dontel Highsmith, 6-2 point guard, Dowagiac (MI), 2013
This strong bodied point guard was more effective getting to the basket and creating his own offense than he was getting others involved.  Highsmith is powerfully built and imposes his will opponents with punishing drives to the basket.  He proved to be very effective finishing despite contact. The primary question about him on the day… aside from whether he was more of a two than a one… was about the cumbersome knee brace he wore.  It left many wondering if maybe he was nursing a knee injury that might allow him to be a little quicker when it heals.  We'll see.

Malcolm Hill, 6-5 wing, Belleville (IL) East, 2013
This youngster has an unassuming way about him that lulls opponents to sleep, then with sneaky athleticism he rises up and dunks or catches an alley-oop in transition.  We didn't see his full offensive repertoire on the day thanks to his deference to his opponents and a lack thereof on their part.  But in numerous AAU tournaments this spring he emerged as a true head-turner and is one of hottest players in his class. He has Michigan firmly in his top five in the aftermath of his unofficial visit Friday.  Stay tuned for more on his Ann Arbor experience in the coming days.

Demetrius Jackson, 6-1 point guard, Mishawaka (IN) Marian, 2013
For much of the day Jackson looked to be the best point guard in attendance. Physically he is thicker and more explosive than his three highly regard counterparts at the camp (Jalen James, Monte Morris, and Derrick Walton).  He also proved once again that he is a terrific shooter.  If you left him open it was automatic.  Opponents that overplayed paid dearly.  He knifed through defenders with his crossovers and hesitations before getting to the basket himself or finding wide open teammates.  Even more impressive was his play without the ball.  Unlike many point guards, Jackson plays well when the ball isn't in his hands.  He worked hard to get open… coming off screens, making aggressive basket cuts, and even setting a few screens himself.  He got the best of every match-up until he squared off with Monte Morris in his last five-on five game of the day (more on that later).  But for that contest it was a tremendous afternoon for the Hoosier State star.  The Wolverines are very strong with him in the early going and he plans to make a return visit to Ann Arbor later this month.  State tuned to GoBlueWolverine for much more on Jackson in the coming days.

Jalen James, 6-3 point guard, Chicago (IL) Hope Elem Community Academy, 2013
We saw more aggression out of the pass first-shoot second floor general than when we last saw him, and it was refreshing.  He is the biggest of Michigan's four top tiered point guard targets, and he frequently used that size to muscle up shots in traffic.  He still wasn't as effective offensively as Monte Morris or Jackson, but it was still a definite improvement.

Monte Morris, 6-2 point guard, Flint (MI) Beecher, 2013
Man-Man was the man on this day.  The Flint Beecher product was a pick & roll dynamo, dissecting defenses with regularity with this text book play.  His teammates got great looks as a result.  Rest assured, Morris also got his.  He ate up numerous defenders off the dribble… and his jumper, while flat, found the mark more times than not.  Where he truly separated himself from his peers was in the night-cap versus Demetrius Jackson.  As mentioned previously Jackson had had his way with the field up until this point.  From the start it was Morris's show.  Two decisive rim attacks, a three-pointer, a dime in transition, and then for good measure in-your-shorts defense that forced Jackson to throw up an uncharacteristically wild shot.  It was a memorable outing with all four Michigan coaches looking one.  One game doesn't definitively prove who's the best, nor does one camp… but Morris still sent a strong message about how he responds to a challenge.  You'll find bigger guards, you'll find stronger and more athletic as well… but you won't find a bigger competitor.  The kid is a winner.  Look at his high school and AAU record for further proof.  As for his recruitment, things are heating up, but he confirmed that Michigan sticks out currently as #1 school on his list.  More tomorrow.

Derrick Walton Jr. 6-1 point guard, Harper Woods (MI) Chandler Park Academy, 2013
Walton is a coach on the floor and his floor generalship is always present.  That certainly was the case Saturday when Walton found his teammates for good looks… especially Steve Haney.  On this day, however, he wasn't quite as successful in finding his own offense.  Afterward he lamented a performance that he described as "average" and lacking in "aggression".   He was searching for that proverbial balance between when to defer and when to go for his own… balance that we've seen him display on numerous occasions before.  He has proven he can score… a seven three-pointer barrage during a game last month at Spiece is just the latest confirmation.  Walton certainly didn't do anything to hurt himself with this Saturday, but for one day Jackson and Morris get the edge.

Other notes…

Monte Morris and Flint Beecher are slated to participate at Michigan's team camp next month.  Huge development when one considers the fact they normally play in the Izzo shootout.  It also serves as further proof of just how strong the Wolverines are with Morris.  A stark 180 from where things stood one year ago when this lifelong Spartan fan and cousin of former Spartan Marquise Gray barely gave the Maize & Blue the time of day.

Lansing Eastern's Steve Haney Jr. visited Michigan recently and his interest in the Maize & Blue is obvious.  The 6-6 c/o 2013 prospect is a deft shooter, but the same can be said for other more athletic options in the 2013 class.  The pressing question for Michigan in its courtship of this in-state youngster might be what is he other than a shooter?

Speaking of shooters, Concorde De La Salle's Elliot Pitts definitely looked like a really good one Saturday.  The 6-4 c/o 2013 guard's sweet shooting stroke definitely caught Beilein's eye, evidenced by Beilein singling him out on a few occasions on the day.

A few other notables… Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard PG Kamari Davis was strong getting to the basket and knock down a few open looks.  Flint Northern guard Richmond Lewis also capitalized on a few open looks from deep.  Both look like legit mid majors.

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