In Ft. Myers, Ellington showed that he has taken his already impressive game to another level and the argument could be made that he is the premier backcourt prospect in the class of 2006. While he is still more of a wing guard, Ellington is on the way to turning himself into a long, quick and effective point guard who can create his own offense at will.
Somewhere along the line he's been taught very well because the mechanics on his jumper are admirable and his range is true out to 22 feet. Complementing the ability to shoot from deep is a nice crossover, a slick hesitation dribble and the ability to spin off of defenders in either direction.
As good as he already is, perhaps the scariest thing about Ellington's game is that he still has an extremely high ceiling for improvement. He needs to add strength, his handle still needs to be tightened up -- he sometimes loses control by handling too loosely away from his body -- and he isn't particularly strong with his left hand. Odds are he'll be staying on the East Coast and his recruitment will be one of the most hotly contested in the country with other schools like Villanova, Georgia Tech, Arizona, Wake Forest, Duke, Kansas and several others making their play for his services. It is too early to call a leader, but from what we gathered from behind-the-scenes sources North Carolina is going to be a major player.
Gerald Henderson - Ellington's teammate at Merion (Pa.) Episcopal is a very impressive prospect in his own right and the 6-5 shooting guard could probably be considered among the top five backcourt prospects in the country.
An elite run and jump athlete, Henderson is an explosive leaper who flies through the lane for thunderous jams and always seems to be in attack mode. Because of his ability to get to the rim some may not realize how good he is on the perimeter as well. He's fully capable of draining his pretty high-arching jumper from well beyond the three-point line and does something you won't find many other guys out there doing -- pulling up off the dribble and using the glass to score from 12-15 feet.
Henderson still has room to pack on a little bit of muscle, but for the most part he's pretty close to having a college-ready body. That strength allows him to do more than his fair share of work on the glass and he's particularly effective on the offensive boards where he gets off the floor too quickly for other guards to get a solid box-out on him.
Defensively he reads passing lanes to alertly intercept lazy tosses and uses his feet to play defense in a man-to-man situation. The biggest areas he'll have to continue to improve in are the consistency with his jump shooting, handling the ball better -- he can slash to the hoop, but isn't as much of a shot creator in space -- and going a little easier on himself for mistakes.
He's confident, intelligent and hard working on and off the court and will take a detailed look at each school involved. Like Ellington, he'll more than likely end up on the East Coast, with the ACC leading the way.
Spencer Hawes - Over the next few years there is going to be a lot of talk about how basketball runs in the Hawes family. It certainly makes sense considering his father and uncle both starred at Washington before his uncle Steve moved on to play for years in the NBA. However, the emphasis should be on the player that Spencer has turned himself into because that is the real story.
It was during July that the 6-11 BF/C first started to come into his own on a loaded Seattle Friends of Hoop team. He showed that he could stick face-up jumpers, had soft hands, good feet and was willing to mix it up a little even if he lacked for some bulk. In Ft. Myers, a beefed up Hawes showed all of the things he had before and then some.
Added strength has made him a little bouncier around the cup and he was able to get out on the break and finish a couple of transition opportunities -- something he wasn't doing six months ago -- and Hawes was very intense out there. He's a big guy who wants the ball because he knows that he can either score or create a bucket for a teammate at will. Why? Because he has superior footwork, seals his man off on every rotation of the ball, and most impressively he can score or pass with either his right or left hand. Except for maybe Derrick Caracter, there isn't a better passing big man in the class of 2006.
For Hawes to continue to improve he'll have to start transferring his added bulk into more muscle and he'll need to become a little more patient. For the most part, though, he's as complete a high school big man as you will find and coaches are going to knock each other silly because of it. He's got a long a school list, but certainly not all 11 schools have the same chance. It would be very hard to imagine him going to any Pac-10 school other than Washington because of family ties, but it's those same ties that put Washington in a great position. Outside of Seattle, the most dangerous threats appear to be Duke, Kansas and North Carolina. Smart money says he'll make a decision before his school year is over.