Sabes Invitational: Day 2

Minneapolis, MN--Today's focus from Sabes is Leo Criswell, Mean Streets of Chicago, Jerel McNeal, and others.

After Leo Criswell's pedestrian effort on Friday night, his Pump-N-Run squad's game on Saturday was moved from the 8:30 time slot to an 11:20 start time. The extra rest may have helped Criswell as he had a much better showing against Minnesota Select.

Criswell finished with 21 points, nine rebounds, five blocks, and three steals as Pump-N-Run escaped with a win in overtime against what should have been an overmatched Select team. Criswell did most of his damage in the 2nd half, including shooting 9-10 from the FT line. Antonio Hanson had another solid outing, chipping in 13 points.

Pump-N-Run wouldn't be as fortunate in their afternoon matchup with Hoop Squad, a last minute addition sent to replace the Illinois Warriors, who Larry Butler decided to take to Spiece this weekend instead. Hoop Squad just wanted it more and outlasted Pump-N-Run, 60-57. Criswell couldn't take advantage of the momentum from this morning, as he finished with 11 points, six rebounds, and one block. He was 1-4 from the 3-point line, including an airball late in the game with Pump-N-Run down by three. Criswell looked uninspired and flat-footed most of the game, which could have been due to fatigue.

Final take on Criswell: A lot of folks will tell you that Leo Criswell is a combo forward. His Insiders profile says so. Some may even say he's more of a small forward than a power forward. Criswell is a "four," but with some face-up ability.

I came away impressed with Criswell's athleticism, but when he gets tired, his athleticism is nullified because he's standing around, flat-footed, and not as active. He showed some very good skills in the post, good footwork on turnaround jumpers and can block shots when he puts forth the effort. Criswell is a nice prospect, but in my mind, he's not an elite, high-major prosect at this point.

I can see him becoming a very solid power forward for a program like Marquette. Keep in mind, three games in one weekend isn't always sufficient time to make an accurate evaluation.

The Mean Streets of Chicago: I love watching Mean Streets play. Consisting of mostly Chicago-area kids, they play together, they play smart, and they play as hard as you'll see any summer team play. Their pressure man-to-man defense from start to finish can wear other teams out.

They don't have the press clippings, the highly rated stars, or the reputation of a lot of AAU teams, but they don't care. They're coming after you just as hard if you're a team full of Division II prospects, or a team full of high major players.

And it's not like they're a bunch of stiffs. Brandon Ewing is a 6'1" guard from Julian HS in Chicago. He's a nice prospect who fits in well with Mean Streets style of play. Donnell Lyons is undersized as an inside player at 6'4", but he's a pogo stick. He's very active, always making things happen at both ends. Lyons can face up and put the ball on the floor, and always finishes strong. Joevan Catron is a 6'6" PF who's a nice prospect in the class of 2006. But my favorite player of the weekend was easily 6'3" Jerel McNeal. Best described as a "slasher", McNeal easily gets your attention because he's always making plays.

McNeal also helped provide the best individual matchup of the weekend when he was matched up against 6'7" Brandon Rush of Howard Pulley Black. Rush had his moments in this game, but the vast majority of his 16 points were scored either in transition, or when McNeal wasn't guarding him. During one sequence, McNeal played tough defense on Rush, forcing him into a tough jumpshot, rebounded the miss, and passed ahead to Donnell Lyons for the basket--and one. On another sequence, with Rush guarding him, McNeal scored off of a nice dribble drive to the hoop, and when Rush tried to take him off the dribble on the next possession, he got a piece of Rush's 17-foot jumper.

McNeal is getting a few looks in the Big Ten, but Marquette and Dayton are the two schools showing the most interest, and it sounds like McNeal likes Marquette a lot.

For those of you attending the TOC, I highly recommend taking some time to watch Mean Streets when you're mapping out your schedule for the weekend.

Rush Update: After 3 solid games and showing several flashes of his sick athleticism, Rush listed Oklahoma, Louisville, Arkansas, UConn, and Indiana and named Oklahoma his leader.


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