The first annual Shooting Stars Classic this past weekend in Akron left onlookers with varying opinions on the tournament.
"It's too spaced out," said one coach.
"This is a great atmosphere and a great tournament," said another.
"Great tournament, but I wish the 17-under division was grouped a little closer together," surmised a third coach.
Although most agree with a little work, the tournament will be one of the best ones in the country nearly everyone agreed there was no shortage of talent on display.
Hundreds of NCAA coaches were seen this weekend in Northeast Ohio scouting nearly 200 teams full of 14-17 year old players.
The partial list of names included Ohio State head coach Thad Matta with assistants Dan Peters and John Groce, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo and assistant Dwayne Stephens, Michigan head coach Tommy Amaker and assistant Andy Moore, Purdue head coach Matt Painter, Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl, Gary Williams of Maryland, Bob Huggins of Kansas State, Dave Leitao of Virginia, Jerry Wainwright of DePaul, Jamie Dixon of Pittsburgh, Kevin Stallings of Vanderbilt, Sean Miller and Kenya Hunter of Xavier, Illinois' Bruce Weber and Tracy Webster, Rutgers' Fred Hill, Cincinnati's Mick Cronin, Penn State's Ed DeChellis, Virginia Tech's Seth Greenberg, Indiana's Kelvin Sampson, Memphis' John Calipari and assistants from Louisville, Villanova, St. John's, Kent State, Akron, Dayton, Oakland, Charlotte, Kentucky, Georgetown among many, many others.
It was nearly impossible to see every single one of those prospects, as 300 teams were spaced out over nearly 50 gymnasiums. But plenty of them stood out.
Here is just a partial list of prominent players I saw this weekend and a rundown on how they played…Seniors-to-be
Dar Tucker (6-4 SG; Saginaw, Mich.); Michigan Hurricanes – Tucker had to play Friday night in the absence of Alex Legion and almost led the Hurricanes to an upset victory over the Pittsburgh Jots. Tucker has a nice stroke from the outside but needs to find more consistency. He relied too much on that shot, but he shows the ability to penetrate when necessary.
Jon Diebler (6-5 SG; Upper Sandusky, Ohio); All-Ohio Red – Even when Diebler's shots weren't falling, he was contributing. Whether it was fancy passing to an open teammate, playing tough defense or showing improved quickness off the dribble, Diebler played terrific basketball. In his first game Friday, Diebler scored 18 points and had over 10 assists. Consistency is the biggest key for Diebler.
Dallas Lauderdale (6-9 C; Solon, Ohio); Cleveland Titans – One thing is for sure - they don't get too much stronger than Lauderdale. A few times on Friday evening before the Titans withdrew from the tournament, Lauderdale completely out-muscled defenders to throw home a powerful dunk. He's very strong and pretty athletic with long arms. The potential for Lauderdale is through the roof. Lauderdale still needs to play with more consistency, however. He has disappeared completely at times this season.
Evan Turner (6-6 WF; Chicago); Illinois Wolves – Turner was one of the better all-around players in the tournament from what I saw. He didn't show much by way of shooting, but he rebounded, he hustled, he was quick, he finished with authority, played tough defense, ran the floor exceptionally well and is pretty athletic. With some added strength and a jump shot, the wiry Turner looks to have a good future at the college level.
Demetri McCamey (6-4 PG; Chicago); Illinois Wolves – McCamey looked like a ball-handler extraordinaire this weekend in the couple of games I saw the Wolves. He is built well for a high school guard with both strength and poise. He didn't play out of control and seems to have great court savvy about him. If there was any flaw, it's that he didn't show any offensive game whatsoever. In two games, I don't think I saw him attempt a single shot.
Kosta Koufos (7-2 PF/C; Canton, Ohio); King James Stars – In his first action since returning from a broken foot, Koufos played well although not spectacular. Especially late on Saturday, he showed signs of fatigue and a sore foot, limiting his game to mostly shooting. He did stroke the ball well on occasion, but didn't show the physical strength or agility he possesses.
Derrick Rose (6-2 PG; Chicago); Mean Streets Express – Although Rose isn't involved with Ohio State I couldn't go without mentioning him. I didn't see him make a lot of jumpers in the times I saw him, but wow is he explosive and has some moves that can make your jaw drop to the floor.
Herb Pope (6-8 PF; Aliquippa, Pa.); Pittsburgh JOTS – Is there a better big guy in the open floor than Pope? I've still not seen him. He's a terrific passer, he's like a gazelle out there and he finishes in traffic. Pope is multi-talented.
J.J. Hickson (6-8 PF/C; Marietta, Ga.); Worldwide Renegades – Granted, I had not seen Hickson before this weekend, but he may have been the most impressive player I saw for that very reason. Hickson possesses a beautiful, fluid stroke to 18-feet, he's very smooth on the dribble and he's got a wide variety of crafty post-moves both with his back to the basket and also creating his own shot. Hickson is strong, athletic and smooth and he's got a lot of skill.Juniors-to-be
B.J. Mullens (7-1 C; Canal Winchester, Ohio); Cleveland Basketball Club 16's – Mullens was able to score from inside, outside and off alley-oop passes from his teammates, but he wasn't very active away from the ball or on the glass. You can't teach height, which he has and you rarely see a big man move as quickly as Mullens so the physical tools are there. He really needs to be aggressive and put it all together.
Yancy Gates (6-8 PF; Cincinnati, Ohio); Cleveland Basketball Club 16's – Gates has filled out and has gotten even stronger, if that's possible. He's probably more polished than Roe or Mullens of the Ohio big men in 2008, but he didn't often enough take advantage of his size and strength. Gates did finish well this weekend and has a nice-looking jumper.
Devon Moore (6-2 SG; Columbus, Ohio); Cleveland Basketball Club 16's – The explosive guard from Satch Sullinger's Northland High School looks better and better every time out. This weekend he was making it hard to guard him with his quick first step off the dribble. Moore is a good athlete and can score in a number of ways.
Delvon Roe (6-8 PF; Lakewood, Ohio); King James Stars – Roe looked to be a step quicker this weekend and hasn't lost any of his strength. Roe ran the floor well and finished inside against good competition. He also showed a willingness to shoot to about 18-feet, although he struggled to put the ball in the hoop.
William Buford (6-5 WF; Toledo, Ohio); D-1 Greyhounds – Buford played then entire tournament without forcing a single shot. He was smooth and under control and he's got an explosive first step. Although he didn't use it this weekend, Buford also has pretty good range and can hit consistently from 3-point territory. Buford will need to improve his ball handling skills, but for his age and level of play, he's advanced even in that category.
*Dar Tucker told reporters he is down to three schools – Louisville, Marquette and Arizona. Reports are that Ohio State has tried getting involved but Tucker was quoted saying the depth chart at Ohio State was a turn-off to him. Louisville seems to hold a big lead here.
*I didn't get a chance to speak with Evan Turner this weekend, but the buzz going around seems to indicate Ohio State is very high on him and that the interest is mutual.
*Louisville and Maryland may have a real hard time prying Koufos away from Ohio State when it's all said and done. Koufos is playing things very close to the vest though, as he has for a while – at least publicly.
*Regardless of what Herb Pope says, many insiders believe he is a near lock to wind up playing for Bob Huggins at Kansas State.
*James "J.J." Hickson is set to announce a list of schools in the next few days.
*Delvon Roe continues to hear from Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Louisville, Connecticut, Florida and many others. The Buckeyes will probably battle a few other Big Ten schools for a recruitment that will be anyone's for the taking.