Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster
Class of 2012
The son of former N.C. State player Tony Warren, T.J. emerged at a young age in Durham. From the beginning, he showcased smooth scoring ability and drew high-major college interest early in his high school career. Most scouts initially considered him a regional prospect, an opinion that held through the conclusion of his junior season at Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God.
But beginning at the Carolina Challenge this past March, Warren's reputation has skyrocketed as his scoring outbursts have placed among the most impressive in the senior class. After consistently outstanding performances at a variety of camps and tournaments during the summer, he's now a universally heralded blue-chip prospect and has received widespread national attention.
Scoring. Warren is a natural scorer, the type whose ability to accumulate points can't always be described in a conventional fashion. He's a smooth jump shooter to 20 feet and also is above-average in terms of quickness and leaping ability, but the aspect of his game that's most instinctive is his pattern of scoring seemingly at odd moments.
Warren is an excellent mid-range finisher in transition and even when running at full speed and launching a short jump shot off of one foot. He doesn't require much time to pull the trigger or even a completely clean look, and he hits a much higher percentage of off-balance shots than one typically expects. Defenders understandably treat those attempts as likely rebounding opportunities, but frequently Warren gracefully lofts those unorthodox shots through the net.
His jump shot has been a fixture from the beginning. Even at three-point range, he effortlessly launches from distance — and again, his release is quick — and hits a respectable percentage. He also possesses a quick first step and loves to attack along the baseline, finishing either at the rim or cleverly utilizing the rim to shield himself from shotblockers before finishing with a reverse layup.
While not a genuinely elite run/jump athlete, Warren does throw down slams of lobs or tip-dunks with a running start. His greatest athletic trait is endless fluidity, enabling him to squeeze through tight spaces and find a home for himself even when real estate is scarce in the paint.
Though obviously lauded primarily for his scoring, Warren also is a capable ball-handler and talented passer. He scores in volume but avoids the "volume scorer" label because he isn't one-dimensional and is more efficient than most players falling into that category.
The question that must be addressed, however, is what happened between his junior season and junior spring to enhance his resume? My belief is that he finally shed the combo forward label and now projects as a genuine wing forward due in part to improved lateral quickness, though he's big enough to play some in the post as well. Defensively, he's quick and rangy enough to defend all but the most elite wings, rebounds well for his position and mostly holds his own inside against big men.
In terms of translation, perhaps the biggest concern surrounding Warren is the hitch in his jump shot. Some players are able to get away with that in high school but suffer the consequences in college, though Warren also is a proven contested shooter and has that lethally quick release. Still, it's worth noting the hitch as it may affect his streakiness from the three-point stripe.
And although his dribbling is okay for a wing forward, he does favor his right hand. An alert defender will try to force him left, where he doesn't create as well for himself. Again, this is an issue that manifests far less on the grassroots circuit than it might in college.
Like most high school players, Warren must continue to shape his body for the next level. His physical development — already proceeding well — will be especially important if he plays any at power forward. Right now, he can be out-muscled by bigger, physical interior scorers, and his rebounding also needs to improve as a four-man if he's going to spend significant time there.
Meanwhile, Warren also has received criticism for picking his spots. At times, he has been slightly passive for extended stretches, perhaps owing to a need for increased stamina.
Never underestimate players who have a knack for scoring. Some of those prospects whose games appear to rely on low percentage shots — at UNC, Tyler Hansbrough and Antawn Jamison spring to mind — actually become highly efficient offensive performers. The atypical pace and angles of those shots catch defenses off-guard, and they commonly struggle to adjust.
Warren also is well-rounded enough as a slasher that he's more than an opportunistic transition scorer. He can create for himself in the halfcourt as well, but clearly his potential in the open court is what looms so tantalizingly for UNC. He also won't be a liability on defense (particularly on the wing) and has the potential to become a valuable player at two different positions.
His intermediate future may lie in the McDonald's All-American Game, and that's something few would have predicted six months ago.
Rob provides basketball recruiting coverage for InsideCarolina.com, including reporting from events throughout the country. Rob is editor of the national basketball recruiting website PrepStars.com and the print magazine Recruiter's Handbook. He also covers UNC basketball games for the Independent Weekly and writes a freelance column for USAToday.com. Rob is a member of the Naismith committee honoring the nation's best high school player and is on the selection committee for the McDonald's All-American Game.