Class of 2006
Rob Thomas (F, #194, 6-6, 220) – This is a name to remember because he has a great deal of interest in Syracuse. Thomas is definitely a skilled player who can score on both the interior and the perimeter, but he has an absolute "gunner's" mentality that can be detrimental to team play. He's the type of player who can shoot you into or out of a game in a big hurry. When tracking his shot attempts per touch, we noted that to begin the Thursday afternoon game, he shot the ball on 12 consecutive touches.
At one point, Thomas was considered a top 35 type of player, but he has put on a lot of weight since last year and it has adversely affected his game. Most of the weight doesn't appear to be muscle, and as a result, it has hampered his quickness and ability to get off the floor. He doesn't look as fluid driving to the basket or trying to play above the rim. He uses the pump fake very well to get spacing, but also got his shot blocked a few times because he is a little chunky and slower than he was last year.
Through 4 games, he is averaging 9.0 ppg and 5.0 rbg, but his shooting percentages are very low due to extremely questionable shot selection (34% overall and 20% on 3s). Thomas is an intriguing prospect because of his versatility, as he can post up and is pretty strong inside, and also likes to shoot mid-range and long range shots. If he can thin back down and regain his athleticism, he might be worth a longer look. Also, he's a player that appears to need a disciplined program to excel in, so he might not be a great match for Boeheim's open offensive style (see: Williams, DeShaun).
Kellen Lee (C/F, #170, 6-11, 225) – A big, tall lanky kid from Colorado, Lee has emerged as one of the surprise players this week. He hasn't done much in terms of scoring the basketball, but he has a MAMMOTH wingspan, is long and agile, and can really move for a player his size. He spends a bit too much time on the perimeter and he jacked up a few questionable long range shots, but he contests everything inside and has a decent idea of how to rebound. Unfortunately, he lacks strength at this stage. His body type is similar to Andray Blatche, and he is equally as mobile and agile as Blatche was at the same age. Expect SU to make some inquiries about Lee as soon as the evaluation period is over.
Justin Burrell (F, #139, 6-8, 220) – Another name to watch in the 2006 class, Burrell is a 6-8 manchild of an athlete out of NYC. Burrell came on strong in the Rumble in the Bronx tournament last month, but has struggled somewhat here in NJ as the level of competition improved. He is no longer able to just go over or through defenders, as each team has good size and depth inside. That said, it is very obvious that he's a top flight athlete in terms of jumping ability, quickness, court speed, and strength. Thus far at the camp, he's averaged 6 points and 3.5 rebounds, but he showed signs of improvement on Thursday. He had a series of nice blocked shots in the afternoon game, including an impressive pin against the backboard. He has not shown much game in terms of an ability to shoot the ball outside of the paint or put it on the floor, but he is a name to remember because of his leaping ability and strength.
Lance Thomas (F, #120, 6-8, 210) – While there is no doubt that Thomas will be a solid collegiate basketball player, it does seem that his top 20 ranking is quite a stretch. Thomas plays about as hard as any interior player in his class and he always seems to be in the middle of the action. While he has a very good nose for the ball, he doesn't seem to come away with the amount of rebounds or steals that one would expect for a player of his height and jumping ability. His build is still a bit sleight and he has trouble when matched up against bigger and stronger players. Through 4 games, he is averaging 10.3 ppg and 2.3 rbg, but he has forced quite a few shots and as a result is shooting only 40%.
Thomas did have a strong early game on Thursday with 15 points and 4 boards. His highlight play came on an open court steal, which he turned into a soaring one-handed dunk where he took off from about 8 feet from the basket. While he is certainly a good player, he has not quite advanced at the expected rate considering how he played last year at ABCD. Still, Lance is one of the most highly sought after kids in the 2006 class, so getting a commitment from him would be quite an accomplishment.
Note: An in-depth story on Paul Harris will be posted at a later time.
Class of 2007
Daniel Hackett (G, #79, 6-5, 198) – Hackett is the second highest rated guard in the camp through 4 games. In the most basic sense – this kid is a player. He has a great fundamental skill set to go with a very polished game. Daniel can play on or off the ball with equal ease, but he is at his best when he is controlling the tempo and pace of the game. One of the best things about this kid's game is his ability to understand when it is appropriate to push the ball, and when it is better to slow things down. He seems to always know how and when to make the right play.
Hackett's team is stacked, with Alex Tyus, O.J. Mayo, Keenan Ellis, and Bill Walker. Hackett has played the alternating 1st and 3rd quarters, pushing his team into early leads, which has allowed the deadly Mayo/Ellis/Walker trio to punish teams in the 4th quarter for blowout wins. A very telling statistic is the fact that his team won all 4 quarters when he was on the court, while the "Closer" group has won only 2 of 4.
Clearly the biggest knock against Hackett is the fact that he is not a top level athlete. He does not have that extra gear that the top players can turn on, and he's certainly not a burner in the open court. This limitation hasn't hurt Hackett because he has a very strong handle and is incredibly crafty with the dribble. He knows how to efficiently use the bounce to get where he wants to go. When he drives the lane for lay-ups, he does a great job of shielding the ball on his hip to keep the defender at bay, then goes up across his body to finish with high accuracy. He knocked down 3 of 5 three pointers and shows nice form and rotation on his shot.
I really can't say enough good things about his game. He's the type of kid that you want on the court to win games, his basketball IQ is very high, his hands are very quick on defense, and he is always in the middle of making plays. He is probably one of the best rebounding guards at the camp, and takes good shots. Through 4 games he is averaging 12 ppg, 4.3 rbg, 3 ast (to only 1 TO), and 65.4% fg. Expect SU to go after him pretty hard and try to rekindle the West Coast connection. His father, former Orangeman great Rudy Hackett, was also in attendance to see his son play. Hopefully he'll put in some good words for Boeheim and company.
O.J. Mayo (PG, #104, 6-5, 210) – Well, there's not much to say that hasn't already been said about this kid. He's already a pro. He has a polished game that includes the ability to control tempo, set up teammates for scores, take it the rack, or shoot it from the perimeter. Mayo is one of the most inventive passers in ABCD history – he and Bill Walker have teamed for highlight after highlight. No-looks over the shoulder, behind the back, between the legs, and even about 5 or 6 beautifully timed OOPS.
He will be a fantastic addition to whatever college is fortunate enough to land him. The one question about Mayo is his ability to consistently play with a high level of intensity. He has seemed to coast through the 2nd quarters of each game, only to turn it during the "close out" portion. In both the afternoon and evening sessions, he was electrifying in the 4th quarters. In the evening game, he had a sequence when he canned 2 threes and a 15 footer in the span of about 40 seconds. He is currently listing SU in his top 5, but his recruitment is going to be insanely difficult because every college in the country is going to come after him hard. (16.8 ppg, 2.5 rbg, 4.5 apg, 1.0 st, 7-18 3pt, 58.7% ft).
Alex Tyus (F, #145, 6-7, 210) – Tyus came into the camp as a top 75 to top 100 player, but will likely leave it ranked much higher. He has made a name for himself with some solid hardnosed play inside and has shown the ability to wreck havoc on both sides of the court. Unfortunately, his havoc wrecking has been both positive and negative at times. He's the type of player who will make 3 good plays in a row, then leave you scratching your head when he makes 4 boneheaded plays in response.
Tyus is pretty strong and has above average leaping ability. His body build is a little bigger and thicker than the typical SU combo forward recruit. He has taken every challenge head on, and is not intimidated by anyone. Alex dominated a head to head match-up with Lance Thomas, outscoring him 15 and 6. Thomas struggled to get anything going, as Tyus packaged 4 of his shot attempts with an emphatic "return to send" label.
Offensively, Tyus is a very active player who is extremely aggressive on the offensive glass and going to the basket. His out of control drives into the paint resulted in a few offensive fouls, but he did manage to pour in a few baskets when he avoided plowing over defenders. His deep shot has a bit of sideways (screwball) rotation, but he has connected on 2 of 4 shots from beyond the arc. Clearly his shooting mechanics need some work.
He hit one smooth turnaround jumper from about 10 feet out on the right baseline, but the followed that up with a turnaround from the jumper from the foul line that ended up about 2 feet short and a foot wide. Basically, Tyus projects as a player who has very high upside and potential, but is still extremely RAW right now. He has two more years of high school ball and should develop into a top level talent if he continues to play with heart and passion. (15.3 ppg, 2.3 rbg, 75% fg)
Taylor King (F, #129, 6-8, 210) – Syracuse will be making a strong push to go after 6-8 combo forward Taylor King, who recently de-committed from UCLA. King projects as a great college player, but his limited athleticism will be a problem at the highest levels. He has a very smooth lefty stroke with a very quick release, which means that he can launch the long range shot if given even the smallest amount of room. Unfortunately, he hasn't shot it that well from the perimeter so far, but OrangeNation has seen him enough in the past to know that he is one of the best shooters in this class.
King is one of the top scorers and rebounders at the camp at 14.0 ppg and 7.5 rbg. He has been very effective on the offensive glass, where he uses his knowledge of positioning to beat bigger players to the spot. Once he has the ball in hand, he gets it back up on the glass very quickly, which is important because he does not jump particularly well. He finishes with either hand, which is very rare to see for a kid who just completed his sophomore year of high school.
Taylor's strength is his offensive versatility. He showed an ability to score in the paint on post moves, made a few fastbreak baskets, and scored on mid-range and long-range shots as well. He loves to use the pump fake to get spacing, and also showed a few times that he can shoot off the dribble, although that is not his go-to move.
In terms of weaknesses, he is not particularly fluid when he runs the court. All his fastbreak baskets come by outworking the opposition, not due to speed or quickness. He has grown 2 or 3 inches since last year and put on some weight, which has helped his strength considerably, but hurt his mobility and quickness a little bit. Also, he has trouble defending quick forwards on the perimeter.
Overall, King will probably have a Jason Capono/Preston Shumpert-type of career. He's an excellent offensive player who can take on a lot of scoring burden, but also projects as a 4 year player because his athleticism will limit his effectiveness on the next level. He would be a great addition to the Orange as a steady offensive weapon, and would look good as a second option next to a bigtime shooting guard or power forward.
Devin Ebanks (F, #161, 6-8, 175) – Ebanks is another player who has improved his stock considerably this week. Simply speaking, he looks like a Syracuse forward – he is long, lean, and lanky. He covers ground in the open court with long strides and bears a striking physical resemblance to Rudy Gay. Ebanks is very economical in his play – he gets his mid-range shot off very quickly and without a lot of wasted motion. He is also much stronger than his 6-8/175 pound frame would first indicate. He's got some game and is not afraid to get inside and battle with bigger players on the offensive glass.
Ebanks has hit 3 of 7 three point shots, but his strength is not his perimeter shot. His mechanics on the long range shot are little odd and result in a lack of rotation. His shot selection can be questionable at times, but he displayed the ability to put the ball on the court to try to make plays for himself. He also had one nice sequence when he grabbed a rebound, then dribbled the length of the court and found a teammate for an easy slam.
While he battles with success on the offensive boards, he is less effective on the defensive boards. His strong jumping ability makes him a factor on the glass, but his lack of strength on defense was apparent on several occasions. OrangeNation's general impression is that Ebanks is a late-bloomer type (see:Warrick, Hakim) who should continue to improve quickly. Syracuse will be keeping an eye on his progress and will likely get involved if he can continue to improve. (12.0 ppg, 4.8 rbg, 1.5 ast, 51.3% fg, 42.9% 3pt)
Darquavis Tucker, (SG, #74, 6-4, 190) – A 6-4 swingman out of Michigan, Tucker has been compared recently to former MIchigan State Spartan Jason Richardson. Tucker got off to a slow start at ABCD with three relatively quiet games before breaking out for a 15 point performance in the evening on Thursday. He and Melquan Bolding will be key Orange targets on the wing for the class of '07. Both players are extraordinary in their ability to play above the rim. Tucker showed some nice 3 point shooting in Thursday's evening game, connecting on 3 of 6 attempts, but before that game he had drawn an 0-fer in the perimeter shooting column.
His game seems to be limited to shooting from the arc and taking the ball all the way to the rim. He had one putback jam that drew a bunch of ooohs and aaahs from the crowd. Defensively he was very active and pulled in 3 steals by anticipating the passing lanes. Recruiting Michigan is always difficult, but look for SU to make a strong push towards getting Tucker in the fold. He has the type of leaping ability and quickness on the wing that Boeheim covets.