Now that I'm back and settled in, I have put together a final list of the top performers from this past weekend's Spiece Run N' Slam tournament in Ft. Wayne, Ind. Here are the final evaluations and notes from throughout the weekend.
As far as the top performers go, I have formulated a panel of three people, including myself, that watched basketball this weekend to make a list of most impressive performers at each position. The list is not to be taken as a ranking of players' talents in general, but only the order in which they impressed us this weekend. For a perspective on who we are ranking these players against, we also list all the notable players we saw this weekend with short blurbs on each.
SPIECE POSITIONAL RANKINGS
Most impressive performers
#1 O.J. Mayo (6-4 So.), Cincinnati North College Hill (D-1 Greyhounds) – Mayo, when he was on the floor, was playing like the stud that he is. No one could stop him from getting to the basket. He single-handedly took over the game against Dante' Jackson's Cincinnati Cowboys team on Saturday where over a stretch of the late third and early fourth quarters, he made something like four consecutive driving runners. Mayo is a superb passer and excellent scorer and leader. Comparing him to LeBron James is no longer unfair.
What we heard – Despite the extreme likelihood the NBA will disallow high school players to enter the league, Mayo is one exception that's very unlikely to end up in college.
#2 Mike Conley (6-1 Jr.), Indianapolis Lawrence North (Spiece Indy Heat) – Conley is everything you want in a point guard, really. The shooting for this crafty lefty is still a work in progress, although it's capable. However, he makes a living getting into the lane and creating shots or distributing the basketball. He's a floor leader in every sense of the word, and he plays hard-nosed defense and he plays under control. In addition, Conley is a very good rebounder for his size, and on most every possession he will go down into the paint and find someone to box out.
What we heard – The buzz around the gym was that Ohio State was in extremely good position with both Conley and his teammate, Greg Oden.
#3 David Thompson (5-10 Jr.), Grand Rapids (Mich.) Granville (Grand Rapids Lightning) – Thompson may actually be getting robbed by not being ahead of Conley in these rankings, but we tried to use a small bit of common sense. Thompson blew onto the scene this weekend by wowing everyone who saw him. It started on Friday night with his 37-point outburst against Mayo and the D-1 Greyhounds, but it carried over to Saturday where he continued to score in the 20's and 30's. Thompson is a pure shooter with a great stroke, but he is a sensational ball-handler, and he's explosive off the dribble. Before this weekend, he was only hearing from a few MAC schools and mostly Division II schools, but that may quickly change.
#4 Tory Jackson (5-11 Jr.), Saginaw (Mich.) Buena Vista (Michigan Hurricanes) – Jackson might not be in the upper most echelon of point guards nationally just yet, but he's not far off as we saw this weekend. Jackson is very smooth as a player, and he was very good in the open floor. He had a nice shot this weekend and was very quick off the dribble.
What we heard – Although it's still not over with, the Michigan Wolverines are in good shape to land one of their most prized prospects for 2006 in Jackson. Florida and a few other schools will challenge.
#5 Korie Lucious (5-11 Fr.), Milwaukee King (DTA Wisconsin 16's) – This is a name you need to remember. As just a freshman playing in the 16-and-under age group, Lucious was playing so well that many people made it a point just to see him. He's very polished for his age and has a pure jumper. He does very well with the ball in his hands, but more impressively, he was very good off the ball fighting through screens and getting open.
Other notables we saw
Anthony McBride (5-11 Fr.), Cincinnati Withrow (Cleveland Basketball Club 15's) – As one of the top kids in the loaded 2008 class in Ohio, McBride showed a few flashes of being a great player in three years. He is quick and plays under control for a freshman.
Will Walker (6-2 Jr.), Bolingbrook (Ill.) (Illinois Wolves) – If it were not for the fact we simply didn't see enough of the Wolves, Walker might have been higher on the list. From what I did see of him, he was a smooth PG who is very strong, and even posted up a few times. He seems to excel in an up-tempo game and in the open floor.
What we heard – Walker still favors Georgia Tech over Illinois and Ohio State. Ohio State is still recruiting him fairly hard, presumably as a backup plan to Conley.
TaJuan Porter (5-7 Jr.), Detroit Renaissance (The Family) – What we did see was a quick, smooth guard with a pure stroke and a nice game. Porter is probably worth the scholarship offers from Oregon and some other MAC schools. We were impressed with him although he's not really a true point guard by the way he plays. Unfortunately, 5-7 shooting guards aren't really in style.
Heath White (6-3 Jr.), Cincinnati Taft (D-1 Greyhounds) – I had personally liked White before this weekend but was largely skeptical of his game. This weekend he showed himself to be a very smooth guard who can cut through the lane with ease. He even showed me a more polished stroke from the outside.
Curtis White (6-4 Jr.), Indianapolis Pike (Spiece Indy Heat) – Often playing the point so Conley could play off the ball, White was solid. He never forces the issue and does a nice job running the offense. He has a good jumper from outside that he can turn to when it's open. He also played tough defense.
Sean Elliott (5-11 Jr.), Canal Winchester (Oh.) (All-Ohio Red) – This relative unknown outside of Central Ohio from the tiny town of Canal Winchester is very scrappy. He's a great shooter with range, and he plays smart, within his ability, and under control. His ball skills are adequate, although he's limited on how much he can penetrate.
#1 Daequan Cook (6-5 Jr.), Dayton Dunbar (Spiece Indy Heat) – Cook, or "Pooh", as he's known on the circuit among friends, is a great player because he can do so many things well. Every time we see him, he improves his game in all facets. This weekend, his shot was off at various times, but he made up for it with great passing, rebounding, and even a lot better defense. His mid-range game is a thing of beauty -- something that is almost a lost art in college basketball. He still needs to continue moving his feet on defense, but this weekend he showed a lot of improvement in that department.
#2 Eric Gordon (6-3 So.), Indianapolis North Central (Spiece Indy Heat) – The panel gave Cook the slight nod over Gordon, although I personally was equally, if not more, impressed with Gordon. There's no debating that Gordon is a true scoring guard in every sense of the title. He can beat you from outside. He can slip in front of you going for a rebound put-back, he can get to the basket, and he is also unselfish and a great passer. You never see him force anything, and he's always smooth and under control no matter what he does. There really were no particular weaknesses that I saw. Gordon probably stepped up more than anyone on the Indy Heat this weekend when the team needed a spark.
What we heard – Much like what he's saying publicly, Gordon and his family are extremely high on Ohio State and love the idea of playing with the Spiece bunch. The Buckeyes are definitely early favorites.
#3 Ramar Smith (6-4 Jr.), Detroit King (The Family) – One of the biggest enigmas of the weekend was Smith. However, that being said, what Smith did for The Family when he was on was nothing short of remarkable. For too often this weekend, Smith disappeared. But whenever he reappeared, he left you with no doubts as to why he can be one of the top players in the country. Smith has a great physique, he's very strong, and he's a very good scorer. His defense is not very good, especially on the perimeter, however. He also is not real consistent with his jumpers.
#4 Dar Tucker (6-3 So.), Saginaw (Mich.) Arthur Hill (Michigan Hurricanes) – You could make a strong case that Tucker is still a little raw, but boy does he ever have potential. Tucker is a great athlete that runs the floor really well. He really explodes to the basket, and gets up rather nicely. I personally saw more potential than polish, but that potential can go a long way.
#5 David Gedeon (6-4 Jr.), Cincinnati St. Xavier (Cincinnati Cowboys) – Although Gedeon will not be a high-major D-I player, it's hard not to walk away impressed after seeing a kid like this perform. Gedeon is a very good shooter who is very strong and plays the game of basketball like you want it to be played. His fundamentals are very good, and he is a great leader. The biggest thing holding him back right now is simply his quickness and the fact he can't put the ball on the floor very well.
Other notables we saw
James Dews (6-4 Jr.), West Chester (Oh.) Lakota West (All-Ohio Red) – From a shooting standpoint, Dews played as bad for much of the tournament as we have ever seen him. He still settles for the outside shot too often, as well. However, on the plus side, he has grown about an inch since the beginning of his high school season, and he's much quicker than ever before. He has the potential to make someone very happy in college.
What we heard – Dews is very high on Dayton, Xavier, and now most recently, West Virginia and Seton Hall. Michigan is also in the mix.
Mike Shaw (6-1 Jr.), Madison (Wis.) Edgewood (Wisconsin Swing Black) – From the outhouse to the penthouse. You could argue that's exactly Mike Shaw in a nutshell. Before this weekend, Shaw was hearing from mostly Division III schools. Now, especially after hitting 11 3-pointers against The Family, Shaw has to be considered a Division II, or possibly, even a very low Division I prospect now that his name has surfaced. Shaw is a very good shooter who plays solid fundamental basketball and is very smart. He also seems to do a great job of staying poised. You could make a good comparison to Tanner Bronson, the freshman walk-on at Wisconsin.
Marcus Johnson (6-2 Jr.), Akron (Oh.) St. Vincent/St. Mary (King James Shooting Stars) – Johnson's biggest drawback is shooting. This weekend Johnson showed a much more fluid shot and a bit more consistency than in the past. With a big summer, he still could hear a lot more from Big Ten schools.
Mario Edwards (6-2 Jr.), Massillon (Oh.) Washington (King James Shooting Stars) – Edwards is a guy who really caught our eye for having a nice stroke and running the floor well. He's a smooth athlete that did a nice job on the defensive end of the floor.
Devan Bawinkle (6-4 Jr.), Winnebago (Ill.) (Illinois Wolves) – In the very limited amount of time we saw Bawinkle, he lived up to his reputation of being a blue-collar worker with a great basketball IQ. You don't know how he does it, but at the end of the day, he gets the job done. Good shooter and very good passer.
What we heard – Wisconsin, N.C. State, Marquette, DePaul, and a few others lead the pack for Bawinkle, but Ohio State, Michigan State, Miami (Fla.), Iowa and several big name schools are still interested.
Darin Granger (6-1 Jr.), Indianapolis Lawrence Central (Spiece Indy Heat) – Yet another one of the many reserves that really caught our attention for the Heat. Granger is pretty quick, but has a really pure jumper. Like everyone that plays for that team, he is intelligent and plays within the team concept. Great mid-major prospect.
#1 Bill Walker (6-6 So.), Cincinnati North College Hill (D-1 Greyhounds) – This dunk machine exploded for so many highlight dunks over the weekend it was unbelievable – even for a guy like Walker who you've come to expect it from. The knock might have been that he didn't score from anywhere beyond five feet of the basket, but his athleticism and playmaking alone made him easily the most impressive guy at his position.
What we heard – See Mayo.
#2 Alex Legion (6-4 So.), Detroit Country Day (Michigan Hurricanes) – Legion was smooth, athletic, and a lot of fun to watch. He was great on the baseline and in the lane. Also has a nice jumper. With added strength and range, Legion will be a handful in the 2007 class.
What we heard – Legion likes Michigan and Michigan State but is very wide open to a lot of schools thus far. He probably will remain open to schools for a while before narrowing his list.
#3 Dante' Jackson (6-5 So.), Greenfield (Oh.) McClain (Cincinnati Cowboys) – Although Jackson is not to be confused with Walker, or even Legion, he is certainly a high-rising prospect that with improvements, will be a top tier recruit in two years. Jackson is a great leader who does everything well. The area with the most concern is simply improving his outside shot, although even that is hardly a weakness. He's especially a great rebounder for his position, and passes the ball very well -- especially in traffic.
What we heard – Jackson's quotes probably speak for themselves. Ohio State leads Kentucky and a host of other schools early on.
#4 RaShawn Goins (6-4 Fr.), Cleveland Rhodes (Cleveland Basketball Club 15's) – Goins is a little beefy for a talented wing basketball prospect, but it doesn't take you long to see he has a lot of potential. He's still extremely raw, especially in comparison to B.J. Mullens, Yancey Gates, and Delvon Roe in his same class, but he's a good shooter, good passer, and smart basketball player who should be a top player in a couple of years.
What we heard – Goins likes Ohio State a lot because of his friend B.J. Mullens already being there, but Cincinnati, North Carolina, and Duke are some of his other early favorites.
#5 Jon Diebler (6-6 So.), Upper Sandusky (Oh.) (All-Ohio Red) – Diebler was actually one of the bigger disappointments of the weekend, although he still showed the kind of ability that made him a hot commodity following his successful performances in the state basketball tournament. Diebler's shot was off almost the entire weekend, and he relied much too heavily on the three-pointer. However, Diebler did play good perimeter defense, and also had a couple of nice takes on the baseline.
Other notables we saw
William Buford (6-5 Fr.), Toledo Libbey (D-1 Greyhounds 16's) – Buford made a name for himself as a freshman at Libbey this season averaging 15 points and eight rebounds. This weekend he proved to still be a bit raw, somewhat lanky, and somewhat passive, but he has a nice shot and seems to have a knack for the basketball.
Todd Brown (6-4 Jr.), Canton McKinley (King James Shooting Stars) – Brown looked extremely comfortable this weekend, and may have been the most solid that I've seen him play thus far. If Brown continues to be aggressive on the dribble, and comfortable with his shot, he will be a good player in the MAC or a like conference.
Durrell Summers (6-4 So.), Detroit Deporres (The Family 16's) – This weekend in the game we saw Summers, he showed us to have a real good all-around game. He had a nice quick release on his jumper, a good mid-range game, and pretty comfortable going after rebounds. Summers could be a star in a very talented 2007 class in Michigan.
Kyle Hubbard (6-3 So.), Lakewood (Oh.) St. Edward's (King James Shooting Stars 16's) – Although some of the decisions he made with the ball were not ideal, Hubbard was very strong with the basketball. He's creative, has a quick first step on the drive, and he runs the floor very well. Hubbard and freshman Delvon Roe should make a great tandem in the future.
#1 Brian Carlwell (6-10 Jr.), Proviso (Ill.) East (Ferrari Basketball) – Seems to be one of the most underrated big men in the country. Very strong, athletic, good rebounder, and knows how to score. Carlwell has a bright future ahead of him.
What we heard – Illinois and many top programs are now beating Carlwell's door down to get involved. We hear Ohio State is trying to jump in the process with Carlwell, but so far they have had no luck.
#2 Kyle Luckett (7-0 Jr.), Ft. Wayne (Ind.) South (Blessed IJN Elite) – There's nothing much more impressive than watching a mobile 7-footer drive the lane and throw down a one-handed slam. Luckett might actually be more of a center, but the things he did make us feel he's actually versatile enough to play the four. Either way, Luckett has made himself an NBA prospect, and he will have to be. Apparently Luckett's grades are a major concern, and qualifying may not even be an option.
#3 Josh Chichester (6-8 Jr.), West Chester (Oh.) Lakota West (All-Ohio Red) – Chichester still has room for improvement, but the way he was running the floor and being aggressive was a good omen for the two-sport star that is now talking about playing football in college. Chichester has enormous potential, but playing two sports in college would make it unlikely he ever lives up to it in basketball.
#4 Raymar Morgan (6-7 Jr.), Canton McKinley (King James Shooting Stars) – Morgan is the more polished between he and Chichester, but Morgan is just the type of kid that he doesn't have to impress anyone, he just gets the job done. He's athletic and smooth, but more importantly, he's tough, gritty, and plays hard all the time. Morgan showed even better ball skills this weekend than ever before.
What we heard – Michigan State and Ohio State continue to lead the pack with Cincinnati, Michigan, Syracuse, Connecticut, and Arizona hanging around. Morgan will probably make a summer or early fall decision.
#5 Kosta Koufus (6-9 So.), Canton GlenOak (King James Shooting Stars 16's) – As a name that probably few are aware of, Koufus will soon make his name known both around the state and the nation. Koufus is a European that like most, shoots the ball very well, especially for his size. Koufus isn't soft like many big men you've come to see, however. He's very strong and is not at all afraid to go down inside to post up, block a shot, or grab a tough rebound. He may still be considered a work in progress, but he's got huge upside.
What we heard – Maryland is the early leader for Koufus, who has already been on campus. Ohio State is recruiting him already, as are many other programs.
Other notables we saw
Yancey Gates (6-8 Fr.), Cincinnati Hughes (Cleveland Basketball Club 15's) – Gates has every bit as much potential as the five players listed above him at this position, but he's got to continue to get tougher. Sound like a common theme?
Aaron Pogue (6-8 So.), Dayton Dunbar (Spiece Indy Heat) – We continue to hope Pogue progresses to get into basketball shape and improve his range, but he's come a long way overall. Pogue showed excellent passing skills, he's a warrior in the paint, and has a nice touch with his shot out to about 10 feet.
Robert Eppinger (6-8 Jr.), Rockford (Ill.) Jefferson (Illinois Fire) – Eppinger looked very strong in the paint and had a nice quick step when he received the ball on the block. He was a very tough kid.
Ricky Jackson (6-6 Jr.), Canton McKinley (All-Ohio Red) – Like we have seen Jackson previously, he was relentless in the paint and on the glass. He is a workhorse whose only knock is not having much of a jumper. With his unbelievable athleticism, an improved shot would make Jackson a big time recruit.
DeShawn Sims (6-7 Jr.), Detroit Pershing (The Family) – Although there has been talk of Sims being a 3-4 combo, we saw a true power forward that needs to be down on the block consistently and use his great strength and determination to score. Sims is pretty mobile for his size, and isn't completely uncomfortable with the ball on the perimeter, but he's most suited for work inside.
Bryan Brown (6-8 Fr.), Milwaukee King (DTA Wisconsin 16's) – Like his high school and AAU teammate, Lucious, Brown is unbelievably polished for just a freshman. He has a body of a junior or senior and runs the floor extremely well. He was playing most of his time in the post but projects as a four.
Kurt Huelsman (6-9 Jr.), St. Henry (Oh.) (D-1 Greyhounds) – Huelsman still has not seemed to take his game to that next level to assure himself of being a solid player at the next level, but he has shown progress. This weekend he played well defensively and asserted himself more on the glass. He did show some crafty post moves, but he was not consistent when he has the ball in his hands.
Emmanuel Negedu (6-7 Fr.), Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy (Team Indiana 15's) – This native Nigerian is a high-risk/high-reward type of player. He elevates very well, and has a very good physique for his age, although he still does not finish very well down low.
#1 Greg Oden (7-0 Jr.), Indianapolis Lawrence North (Spiece Indy Heat) – Although Oden can still be more aggressive at times offensively and improve his shot facing the basket to make him even more of an impossible player to stop, the presence he has on the defensive side of the ball is something that just simply changes the course of a game.
#2 Tom Herzog (6-11 Jr.), Flint (Mich.) Powers Catholic (Michigan Hurricanes) – Consider Herzog a poor man's Greg Oden. He has great upside and he's gotten stronger and better each and every time we've seen him. His biggest asset is the ability to block shots and change the game in the paint. Offensively, he's still learning to be more creative with the ball.
What we heard – Michigan is in a strong position for Herzog, but so is Notre Dame and Michigan State.
#3 Keenan Ellis (6-11 So.), Cincinnati North College Hill (D-1 Greyhounds 16's) – Because of the OHSAA rule mandating that no more than two high school players from the same team can play on the same AAU squad, Ellis has to play down on the 16-year old level until the end of May. Ellis didn't dominate like one would hope down low, but he showed very good range knocking down several 3-pointers this weekend. He did block shots and hit the boards aggressively at times, but didn't take control as much as he needs to.
#4 Muhammed Contish (6-7 Fr.), Bloomington (Ind.) South (Team Indiana 15's) – Much like his teammate Negedu, Contish is a Nigerian that has enormous upside. Contish has a mean streak about him that could also be considered a borderline attitude issue. However, Contish is the more polished of he and Negedu, and his power and especially large and strong hands make him a very nice post prospect.
What we heard – Ohio State has already called to enquire about Contish and Negedu. Nebraska saw Contish and reportedly offered a scholarship immediately. These are two players to keep an eye on.
#5 Orlando Allen (6-11 Jr.), Cincinnati Woodward (D-1 Greyhounds) – Physically, Allen passes the look test. He also was very aggressive on the defensive end blocking shots, playing good interior defense, and rebounding the ball. Offensively he was passive at best and still seems rather raw. Given his size and structure, however, he's an intriguing prospect.