With the conflicting Big Time tournament in Las Vegas, the AAU National Championships saw a slight drop in attending talent this year. The weaker field also led to many blowout victories for teams with elite talent. As a result, many of the highly regarded players were able to rest early in games and have not put up the kind of statistics one would expect. Players like Rashad McCants, Shelden Williams, Sean May, and JJ Reddick were nowhere to be found within the top 30 scorers through 3 games. Each heated up though and all but May advanced to the playoffs on Wednesday. Boo Williams looks to still be the favorite to repeat, but the Charlotte Royals, Athletes First, and others may have something to say about that before it's over. My focus was primarily on player evaluations of the some of the more heralded UNC and Duke targets, but several other players ended up standing out as well. I will get started though first with probably my favorite player at the tournament - Rashad McCants.
McCants' performance may have disappointed the casual observer looking for prolific scoring and highlight dunks. However, many of his skills go unnoticed in a box score, and he clearly proved to be one of the most polished players at the tournament.
Most don't realize that McCants is an excellent passer and has the court awareness of a point guard. Frankly, once in a half court set, he could be the point guard. He was an assist-machine all week. Besides making great decisions on the routine passes, he exhibited some slick interior passes and nifty no-looks from the perimeter. He's also adept at running the fast break and making good decisions. It's rare to see this combination of athleticism, court awareness and passing skills from a shooting guard.
As good as his passing is, his defense is even better. McCants can lock down just about anybody on the perimeter when he wants to. He has nice footwork, great instincts and a tenaciousness that's tough to beat. I also love his rebounding skills. Many guards don't have a willingness to rebound, but McCants does. He can really elevate and definitely plays larger than his height.
On the offensive end, Rashad can get his shot off against just about anybody and is a particularly good penetrator. He displayed several highlight drives to hoop that ended in dunks. He actually could have done this much more if he wasn't busy being an assist-machine and playing sound team basketball. His outside shot is probably his biggest weakness as I think he has some kind of hitch in his release. His shot was not falling much, and it's an aspect of his game that will have to improve in order to bust zone defenses at the next level.
My only other concern relates to how emotional he can be on the court. Many times this can be a strength, but it can also affect your concentration and consistency when you wear you emotions on your sleeve. He sometimes complains too much to the referees and let's "bad" calls affect him. Some of the dramatics are ok and natural, but he doesn't want to get a Rasheed Wallace type reputation (and I doubt he will). He is young, so I expect this area to improve with normal maturity and guidance.
Overall, he is a super prospect and a great addition by the Tar Heels. One of the other players at the tournament even claimed that McCants should be ranked the number one player in the class. I say forget the rankings and just call him what he is - a STUD.