Photos by Mark Weaver
Mitch McGary, 6-10 C, Wolfeboro (NH) Brewster Academy, 2012
The #4 center in the country lived up to his billing every time he stepped on the floor for the SYF Players in Orlando. He knocked down threes, punished opponents with his back to the basket, and was simply outstanding in transition. On one occasion he followed a shot by leaping up, grabbing the carom in the air, and before coming down... contorting his body to finish with a reverse. In another game he stole the ball, started the break, and completed a behind the back bounce pass to Glenn Robinson for a dunk. In what might have been the game of the tournament, McGary's leadership was on display. With his team down by twenty points minutes into the second half, he offered constant encouragement, constant emotion, and extremely clutch play to help pick his team up. Three minutes and a 15-0 run later (keyed by he and Glenn Robinson), and SYF was back in it. They seemingly had the game won, up two with less than three seconds to go, but a half-court heave that found nothing but the bottom of the net sent SYF home disappointed. None of the spectators were disappointed though… and that was especially true when it came to McGary's showing. John Beilein was among the impressive throng of coaches to bear witness. Also on hand were Mike Krzyzewski, Billy Donovan, Jim Calhoun, John Thompson III, Bob Huggins, Roy Williams, Rick Pitino, and Matt Painter. There wasn't much for that "who's who" of coaching not to like, but there were a few things that they might point out as cons. One is that McGary tries to do too much at times. He has a great deal of confidence in his dribbling ability and as a result will try his Magic Johnson impersonation a few times per game. You live with that because he'll probably grow out of it and he is so damned talented that he makes FAR more positive plays than negative ones. The other con (depending on your perspective) is he plays with a lot of emotion. Some of the referees thought it was a little too much emotion and T'd him up for it. They construed his demonstrativeness as poor sportsmanship. Hogwash! A few "And ONEs!!!" and "AHHHHHHHHS!" never killed anyone. McGary has fun, plays hard, plays mean… and backs it up. More on his recruitment later.
Glenn Robinson III, 6-6 forward, Saint John (IN) Lake Central), 2012
Robinson had his jumper going in Orlando just like he has for much of the summer. If he was open, most of the time he knocked it down. He also continued to display his improved ability to finish around the rim thanks to his size and strength gains, and the five-inch increase in his vertical (from 30-35 inches). His next step, taken from the mouth of his father, is to be more aggressive. Many pundits came away from his games saying, "that kid should shoot more." Hell, his dad says, "that kid should shoot more." If his growth from last summer to this summer is any indication… more aggression is on the horizon.
Mark Donnal, 6-8 power forward, Whitehouse (OH) Anthony Wayne, 2013
As is the case with Robinson, those around Donnal are on him to step it up in the aggression area. While in Orlando the Michigan commit showed that he is making steady progress thanks in large part to the not-so-subtle prodding from long time college coach, and Indiana Elite South headman, Dan Dakich.
"I think what he has done is he is starting to understand a little bit how to play against bigger guys," said Dakich. "When you played Anthony Wayne High School in frigging Northwest Ohio, you're not exactly used to playing against 6'10" cats. You're used to playing against neighbors and (stuff) like that (laughter). So he is starting to learn a little bit by getting a consistent dose of how to play against really good players."
That can mean only good things for John Beilein, who will be able to continue the molding process in two years.
"I think it is perfect, both sides," Dakich added. "John lets his big guys go out and shoot. Everybody remembers (Kevin) Pittsnogle. Mark can shoot it. Mark needs a guy, I think, that understands how to make players better. I've always thought John Beilein was one of the best in the country at making players better. I think it is a great fit for Mark. I think it is a great fit for Michigan, socially, academically, in all areas. I'm really happy for him."
Monte Morris, 6-2 point guard, Flint (MI) Beecher, 2013
It wasn't Man-Man's best tournament showings. In the final game of the tournament for Dorian's Pride, Morris couldn't get it going to the perimeter and the CP3 All Stars gave him fits each time he drove through the lane. He was stripped several times on attempts to drive to the basket, but to his credit, he later showed that scoring isn't the only weapon in his arsenal. He went into point guard mode and began delivering pinpoint passes to his teammates. He managed to bury a late triple to spark a run that got his squad back in the game after falling down by 15, but it was too little too late. Despite his uncharacteristic performance in the loss, he again showed that even on an off day he can still be counted on to help his team at crunch time.
Malcolm Hill, 6-5 wing, Belleville (IL) East, 2013
This 6-4 guard has a game that isn't predicated on athleticism. Instead he is a cerebral player that probes the defense for openings on the perimeter or paths to the basket. He got into the lane with ease and was rewarded with trips to the free throw line early and often. He also exhibited above average passing ability. In one his best games of the tournament last Saturday, finding open Southwest Illinois Jets teammates was his attack method to start the contest. Midway through the second he decided to turn it up himself. He scored from all over the court hitting three's, pull up jumpers, dunks, and finishing tough lay-ups. This barrage lasted on through to the fourth quarter. By that time, his play had put the game out of reach. On the negative side, there were definitely times during the game where Hill lost focus on both offense and defense. Silly turnovers and lapses in locating his defensive assignments are concerns. That said, it was still a very impressive showing. He ended the game with 25 points, but said afterward, "I could have played better." That explains why he has been one of the hottest players on the summer circuit.
Jamal Poplar Jr., 6-7 wing, Westland (MI) John Glenn, 2014
We saw the Michigan Warriors in what had to be their worst game of the AAU season. Once the deficit climbed to 25 points, many of the players looked defeated. By the time it climbed to near 50, many had quit. For Poplar and the rest of the young players on his team, consistent effort and intensity are what the coaches are trying to drill into them. Poplar's skill and potential are undeniable, but he spent long periods on the bench in two separate games for being too loose with the ball and/or lacking the proper focus and intensity. He has a chance to be a big time high-major prospect… after all 6-7 kids that can put it on the floor and knock it down from three like he did at Michigan's Elite camp don't grow on trees… but there is a long way to go before he gets there. Fortunately he has three full years of high school left to make it happen.
Luke Kennard, 6-3 guard, Franklin (OH), 2015
Wolverine fans should remember this name. During Michigan's team camp back in late June, a sweet-shooting freshman-to-be from Franklin, OH was consistently drawing John Beilein and company to his games. That player was Luke Kennard. Looking at the 6-3, 170-pounder's game, you wouldn't for a second think he was in the eighth grade last year. The opponents that stood in the way of the Cincinnati Knights run to the 14-and-under crown at the Super Showcase were certainly impressed. In the semifinal match, with Michigan assistant Jeff Meyer in attendance, Kennard calmly drained four threes and 26 points to propel his team to the title game. At center court for the championship he notched another 21 to lead the way to the crown. The book on this kid… he can shoot it. He can really shoot it. He's not exceedingly quick, but puts on the floor well enough to get by defenders that crowd him. He also is an outstanding passer. With four years to go before he sets foot on a college campus, he'll get quicker, stronger, faster, and probably taller. If he blows up down the line, the Wolverines will have gotten in on the ground floor. Both he and his parents have already made a mental note of that.