Friday night was my first chance to view most of the players here in Minneapolis, except for a few members of the Wisconsin Playground Rebels. Tyler "Deion" James and Torre Johnson both played well for the 16-and-under team here last year, and neither disappointed with the 17-and-under this year. James is a very effective slasher and perimeter shooter. And Johnson, well, he was the most explosive player in action Friday night. Johnson is maybe 6-7 and explodes off the ground for blocked shots, rebounds, dunks, or acrobatic reverse layups. He also seems to have developed a reliable fadeaway jumper in the lane that he used effectively.
Guards Greg Brown and Maurice "Boo" Wade are both seniors, but apparently are 17 and playing with the Rebels this weekend. Wade is set to enroll at Wisconsin next fall, and the latest word on Brown is he'll be attending prep school in New Hampshire. Brown can be flat out unstoppable at times getting to the rim. Neither Wade nor Brown is shy about shooting the ball from anywhere on the court, which makes the Rebels one of the more interesting teams to watch.
Rising senior point guard Brandon Cotton, who has decided on Michigan State, started off slowly with a few turnovers against the Rebels, but showed why he's a Big Ten player with his ability to get in the lane and create for other players, as well as get his own shot. Cotton plays for The Family, out of Detroit.
Rising junior guard Marquie Cooke, who at one time looked like a possible Carolina target, did not mention the Tar Heels when prompted for a list of schools. Cooke seems to like Virginia, Kentucky, and Duke, as well as Temple and Arizona. Cooke played a solid game for Boo Williams, but a more impressive guard to me was Marion Taybron. Also for Boo Williams, 6-11 Jermaine Bell is thin as a rail, but he's athletic, active around the rim, and shows decent touch in close.
Illinois Warriors guard Shannon Brown can probably play better than he did on Friday night. Brown took a lot of shots early, looking to get free off the dribble and fire from deep. He didn't have a lot of success, but later made a concerted effort to get to the rim, and started finishing. I'm looking forward to seeing a better effort from Brown over the next two days.
One of the more intriguing players in Minneapolis this weekend was 6-8, 245-pound 8th-grader Derrick Caracter. And yes, all those numbers are right. Playing with the Riverside Church 16-and-under squad, Caracter showed good coordination, often unusual for someone his size and age. He can hit the 12-15 foot jump shot and uses his body well under the boards. Caracter is definitely one to watch in the coming years.
Tyler "Deion" James
Maurice "Boo" Wade