Sam Webb, Andre Barthwell, and Kyle Bogenshutz contributed to this report.
Keita Bates-Diop – SF/PF, Normal (IL) University, 2014 - Many eyes were on Bates-Diop, and while he did demonstrate the ability to take opponents off the dribble, he didn’t score at the rate that he has on the AAU circuit. That was partially due to the fact that his jumper wasn’t falling at its customary rate. There are going to be those days where the best of players can’t throw it in the ocean, so an off scoring day is no cause for concern in Bates-Diop’s case. What coaches and scouts are looking for from this talented youngster, especially on days like Saturday, is aggression. It is the case currently that his slender frame doesn’t take contact very well. That may lend to some of his tentativeness at times. That said, there is no knocking the potential that he possesses. When Bates-Diop adds more muscle to his frame he could develop into a consistent match-up nightmare for other teams. He’ll be able to take bigger opponents off the dribble, post small players up, and complement each of those aspects of his game three-point range. In a nutshell, the missing links between potential and production for Bates-Diop are strength and aggression. Those are things that can be acquired over time. What can’t be taught or acquired, however, are his 6-8 height and outstanding versatility.
Vitto Brown – PF, Bowling Green (OH), 2013 - This young man left many in attendance wanting to see a birth certificate! Brown has the body frame of college veteran despite being only 16. The most physically put together player in gym Saturday, the 6-7, 220-pouder manhandled all who tried to defend him in the post and consistently knocked down mid-range jumper after mid-range jumper. After draining a few shots, defenders began closing out hard. He responded by driving to the rack. He was also comfortable with his back to the basket, displaying a few rudimentary post moves. The only damage to his armor came in the form of multiple turnovers from some of the errant fireball passes he attempted… and his relative ineffectiveness against the length and brawn of Sean O’Mara. Brown was able to power through other tall players at the camp because they lacked bulk. O’Mara is a brick wall. Brown responded by facing him up on the perimeter, but he short armed a few jumpers because of late contests from his big opponent. In the latter stages of the game Brown decided to attack the basket even when O’Mara was sloughing off and experienced some success. It was a decent outing on a day of outstanding ones. Despite an already full class of 2013, the interest from the Michigan coaches based on his performance was obvious. In the day & age of unexpected attrition this could be a youngster that moves up considerably on the Maize & Blue’s list of contingencies. For now Minnesota and all the MAC schools are showing intense interest, while Kansas State is lurking.
Grant Evans – G, Selma (IN) Wapahani, 2014 - Evans is a 6-3 two-guard with a nice handle and sweet lefty stroke. With range outside the three-point line, Evans showcased his quick release as well as an ability to create off the bounce using the high pick and roll. It was a strong showing the day after his unofficial visit. Stay tuned for more on Evans in the coming days.
Miroslav Jaksic – C, Walled Lake (MI) Western, 2013? 2014? - A very intriguing 6’11 big man, Jaksic has very good footwork in the post and is very coordinated for a young man his size. Case in point, he executed a jump-stop and step-through for a lay-up that would make some guards jealous. On the other hand, he doesn’t display the physicality coaches look for in bigs and he was backed into the post by stronger youngsters rather easily (Brown, for instance, dominated him). He also didn’t run the floor nearly as well later in the day as he did when the camp first began. All told, Jaksic won’t wow you with explosiveness, but is skilled offensively. If we had seen him attempt and knock perimeter jumpers, he’d fit the description of a classic European player. What makes him so intriguing is the fact that he may have an extra year of development before he arrives on a college campus. When GBW made it out to see him at Walled Lake during the winter his coach informed us that he was a 2013 prospect (we’d heard he was a 2014). Now it appears that Jaksic is toying with the idea of reclassifying to the class of 2014 and taking the prep school route in order to command more attention. That could take him from a college list that consists of Eastern Michigan and a number of other mid-majors to one that might include Michigan (who he has been in frequent contact with for the past year) and other high majors.
Sean O'Mara – PF, Lisle (IL) Benet Academy 2014 - O’Mara was more aggressive Saturday than he was when we watched him Minnesota a few months back. The 6-9 225-pounder also benefitted from more one-on-one opportunities in the post. O’Mara is big, strong, has a decent repertoire of post moves, and will thrive in an offense that features post touches for a pure back-to-the basket big man.
C.J. Rivers – PG, Cahokia (IL), 2014 - This young point guard has really stepped it up as of late, and his court-generalship was impressive Saturday. Rivers got into the lane and finished at a high rate. He has always been effective finding teammates, especially off of dribble penetration… but it was nice to see him complement that ability this time out by scoring himself. Rivers was a pleasant and encouraging surprise. Definitely a youngster that improved his stock Saturday and GBW is looking forward to seeing more of his development.
Others of Note
Peyton Allen – G, Chatham (IL) Glenwood, 2014 - Allen is a sharp shooter from the outside and is possibly the most consistent marksman GBW has seen on the road this AAU season. While his shot wasn’t falling as consistently as normal on Saturday, Allen again showed that his dribble-drive game is progressing. He used his 6-3 frame and deceptive quickness to get into the paint and finish. On three separate occasions when missing an initial bunny at the rim, he tipped the ball back up and in amongst the trees.
Darius Austin – SG, Cahokia (IL), 2014 - Austin is an athlete, plain and simple. At 6-5 the strong bodied youngster is a versatile defender capable of defending three, and in some instances four positions. He has good enough handles to get to the rim and possesses athleticism to absorb contact and still finish. At the same time, he is a streaky jump-shooter and opponents consistently played off him Saturday, forcing him to prove that he could knock down shots. He didn’t knock them down as frequently as he would have liked. Even though he didn’t play at the level GBW has seen play at over the last year, this Southwest Illinois Jet’s skill set will keep him on the 2014 target list for the Maize & Blue.
Javon Bess – G, Gahanna (OH) Lincoln, 2014 - Bess was very effective on the break knifing his way to the basket, but was less of a factor in half court action during the five on five sessions. We didn’t see the 6-4,185-pounder attempt very many jumpers, but he did show nice size and athleticism and finishing ability well at the rim.
Aaron Brennan – F, Noblesville (IN) Guerin Catholic, 2014 - Brennan is another kid GBW saw perform well earlier this spring. He picked up where he left off on Saturday, playing primarily inside. He rebounded well, has nice handles for a post player, and a mid-range jump shot. Nice upside on this 6-5 youngster, especially if he continues to grow and fill out.
Cliff Bussey – G, Toledo (OH) Central Catholic, 2013 - Energy and a whole lot of it is what Bussey brought to the table Saturday. With great handles and a stop-and-go move that routinely made defenders weak in the knees, he is a cat-quick point guard that spends a significant amount of time in the paint. He knocked down a few perimeter shots, but this young man’s game is all about penetration and adjusting to defenders in mid-air before finishing off the glass.
Austin Pauga – F, Naperville (IL) Central, 2014 - Pauga looked to have a nice stroke from three-point range and impressed us with a beautiful turn-around, fall-away in the lane. Unfortunately his offensive touches were extremely limited in the games we watched. That said, what we did see got our attention.
Jamal Poplar – SF/PF, Willow Run (MI), 2014- This year’s camp performance wasn’t nearly as memorable as last year’s camp for Poplar, but did show flashes of the strong play that he exhibited at the 2011 Elite camp. Poplar is 6-9 and has an uncanny ability to put it on the floor for his size, but he can get too comfortable with that ability. He often gets into trouble against smaller, quicker guys that are able to force turnovers. Like Bates-Diop, Poplar will need to add some more muscle to his frame so he can be more physical in the paint… but he is further away from reaching his potential than Bates-Diop is. Poplar is working hard with his dad to both grow his game and to find another school for the upcoming winter. A new job for dad will result in a move this summer. Poplar transferred from Westland John Glenn to Willow Run last year and is now searching for another landing spot. A few of the destinations being discussed are a return Westland John Glenn, Romulus, and Ann Arbor Pioneer.
Darreon Reddick – PG, Belleville (IL) East, 2014 - Reddick had the greatest size of any of the point guards at elite camp Saturday. He utilized that size to muscle his way to the rim. Reddick was in the point more often than he was on the perimeter, rarely settling for jump shots and consistently setting up teammates with open shots. Look for him to be another Illinois prospect that the Wolverines continue to evaluate this summer.