Elite Camp Upperclassmen Report - The Top 3

GoBlueWolverine was in attendance at Michigan's seventh annual Elite basketball camp yesterday. We break down the top three performers from the session featuring the upperclassmen. Tyus Battle, Derryk Thornton, and Cassius Winston made their respective marks.

Sam Webb, Andre Barthwell, Kyle Bogenschutz, and Josh Newkirk contributed to this report.

The Top 3

(Listed alphabetically)

Tyus Battle - SG, Gladstone (N.J.) Gill St. Bernards - 2016

Sam’s Take: If there was a better shooter in attendance I didn’t see him.  In one of the shooting drills Battle didn’t have a single miss.  In another he only missed one. He can drill jumpers coming off screens with the ball or without, and he can also knock them down pulling up off the dribble.  It game action he was streakier from distance, but his stroke is undeniable. When it came to getting to the rim he did so with relative ease thanks to his quick first step and strong handle.  One of his best moves was a blow-by off a hesitation, but in that move he also put on display the next stage of development.  What looked like a potential tomahawk attempt wound up being a failed lay-up attempt instead when a defender put a body on him at the rim.  This is a kid that will definitely be stronger and more explosive in a few years.  For a point of reference, he looks a good 20 lbs. lighter than Detroit Consortium star Josh Jackson.  His has plenty of time to get there physically, and once he gets into a Jon Sanderson-like strength & conditioning program, look out.

Kyle’s Take: Perhaps the top overall prospect and one with as high a ceiling as anyone, Battle was very consistent throughout the day. Battle’s size allows him to get shots off from anywhere on the floor and his three ball looked great in drills. What separates Battle, though, is how slippery he is. With a quick first step Battle slithers through defenses and finishes high at the rim, rarely getting caught with the ball down on his hips. The most encouraging thing about him is at times he might not know how good he is. During the scrimmages Battle played a team game, setting up teammates, rebounding and doing some other things to help get the job done.  You have to love his potential, especially because as just a sophomore he’s already one of the most elite guards in the entire country.

Derryck Thornton – PG, Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep – 2016

Sam’s Take: This kid has all of the tools. Elite quickness, explosion, three-point range, and he is unselfish. He crossed too many players over to really keep track of and was generally capable of getting to wherever he wanted on the floor.  Thornton excels in space, which is why it wasn’t a surprise to see him wave off ball screens.  He just doesn’t need them to leverage on a defender.  He is a terrific penetrate and dish setup man, but he also was able to find teammates that made are basket cuts and big men the rolled to the basket. There was no bigger beneficiary on the day than Westland (Mich.) John Glenn big man Mike Edwards who came in as a rather non-descript prospect and left as one of the most effective big men in camp thanks to Thornton’s assists.   Getting back to Thornton’s offense… his jump shot was hot and cold during game action, but he has great form and was very consistent knocking them down in drills.  He also is a smothering on the ball defender. If there was a knock (other than inconsistent shooting) it was he would dribble too deep at times resulting in the offense bogging down or a turnover.  It didn’t take long for defenders to realize that there wasn’t anyone in attendance that could stay in front of Thornton, so they resorted to helping out in the lane and creating a great deal of congestion.  It was in some of those instances that he ran into trouble because of a dogged determination to get to the rim.  Coaching him to take what the defense gives him in such scenarios is a problem any coach in the country would love to have.  In a camp high on point guard talent, Thornton showed the he without question has the highest ceiling in the group.

Josh’s Take: Scout’s No. 2 point guard struggled in the early portion of the second session because he couldn’t find his shot.  He looked clearly frustrated, but when the five-star standout faced off against Cassius Winston his game went to another level. He was simply too quick for Winston to handle. He was able to get in rhythm offensively both passing and shooting. He was able to distribute, even throwing a couple of nice alley-oops passes for dunks. He was able to finish in the lane and hit the threes. It took him a while, but he made his mark. He was simply a difference maker on Saturday. And truth be told – he was the best prospect in attendance. 

Kyle’s Take: The kid is a gamer in every sense of the word. Running through drills for three hours late Saturday afternoon Thornton Jr. had his moments and found a rhythm with his jumper at times. Along the way it was clear, especially in the 1-on-1’s, the kids at the camp knew who he was and were going after him very hard. You can’t deny the quickness Thornton Jr. possesses on both ends of the floor though, shining regardless of what he was asked to do. Once the games started he turned it up and was easily one of the best performers throughout. Thornton Jr.’s game is a good mix of chaos defensively and eye popping playmaking offensively. Paired with an underrated big man in the five-on-five portion of things, Thornton Jr. was delivering alley oops, simple dishes for dunks, and making the young man look like Hakeem Olajuwon. In a battle with Cassius Winston, Thornton Jr. put the pressure on and forced three turnovers in a hurry, going the other way for easy buckets, knocking down a three in the corner and seeming to make his case as the top point guard at the camp.

Cassius Winston – PG, Detroit (Mich.) U of D Jesuit – 2016

Dre’s Take: Whenever I see this kid, any team that he plays on always seems to win. He is the brains on any team he plays on.  There may be players with I.Q.’s as high as his, but none higher. Winston is a joy to watch out on the floor.  At times it appears he is playing chess, moving pieces around to get what he wants out of each possession. He has a step-back three and he has a step-back mid-range jumper. Put him in pick-and-roll and Cassius will cut you up by scoring at the cup or dropping a dime for a lay-up. At the point guard position he is damn near complete.  If there is a knock on him it is his quickness (or lack thereof).  He struggles at times to get around defenders who are quicker than him.  Even then his craftiness as well as his handle helps compensate for that. Winston is an elite point guard who is going to only get better, which is a scary thought.

Kyle’s Take: For the second year in a row Cassius Winston was simply sensational at Michigan’s College Practice Camp. After watching Winston at Spiece I walked away disappointed for a few reasons. With The Family he’s playing more off the ball and not allowed to be at his best.  The other source of disappointment was he wasn’t looking to score the basketball as aggressively as he capable of. Well, Saturday Winston had it all working, including a quickly developing step back jumper that was falling with relative ease. Winston carried over his hot shooting into the scrimmage sessions and had a few very impressive stretches from the wings. What Winston won’t be known for is being a great athlete and in his match-up with Thornton Jr., that was evident.  He didn’t handle the constant ball pressure as well as he would’ve liked.  Winston did have a blow by on Thornton Jr., which he finished off the glass and the foul.  But for the most part, it was a tough go of things. Winston’s greatest strength is maturity and floor vision beyond his years.  It’s something he’s has always seemed to have.

Sam’s Take: If there was a top camp performer on the day, many observers would tell you that the U of D Jesuit standout had indeed earned that distinction.  I would be among them. That is not to be confused with the camp’s top prospect (that’s a toss-up between Battle and Thornton)… but that distinction actually highlights one of Winston’s most appealing attributes.  There were point guards in attendance that were bigger, some that were quicker, but none won more on the day with Winston.  He once again showed an off-the-charts basketball I.Q. and a keen sense for where his teammates are on the floor.  His ability to find players in the half court and transition is as good as you’ll see in the country.  We’ve talked about that so many times before that we won’t waste time belaboring the point.  The aspect of his game that caught my attention most was Winston’s own scoring.  Because he knows he will frequently be in situations where his opponent has a quickness advantage, he has mastered the art of the step-back jumper.  He bested the best athlete at the camp, Justin Layne, in one-on-ones with that very move. He did it all session long and no one could really stop it… a nice jab-step to get the defender on his heels right into a deadeye jump shot.  When Winston did attack the rim he did a good job of finishing with contact.  One occasion he drove right into his defender’s body, cradled the ball on the jump to shield said defender, and laid it in over his should for the bucket.  He made the same successful move a little later.  Simply put, Winston was outstanding.  That being said, projections have to be tempered somewhat when looking ahead.  The waters will get choppier for him as he faces better athletes that have the book on him.  For instance, a player like Justin Layne would’ve had a much different defensive approach had he understood his pronounced quickness advantage over Winston.  Instead of giving a little space to guard against the dribble drive, he would’ve played in Winston’s shorts, daring him to go by.  Thornton stymied Winston in one instance doing that very thing.  What you have to know about Winston, though, is he is so smart and so skilled that even against better athletes and detailed scouting reports he will still figure out how to be really effective.  One scout I spoke to said that kid can go be a better Trayvon Jackson (probably in part because they both use that step-back to create space).  Winston isn’t as big as Jackson, but he is just as heady, shoots it better, and is a better passer. Winston is a youngster that should be extremely cognizant of the system he goes into.  He’ll likely be good anywhere he goes, but he could be really really good in a system that places a premium on heavy ball screen action.

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