Scouting The Nike Challenge

The Nike Challenge in Houston, Texas brought out the best of the best over the weekend. Websider's David Sandhop breaks down the play of Jamal Branch, Jordan Green, Rasheed Sulaimon, J'Mychal Reese, and many more 2011-2012 prospects.

Jamal Branch

His game doesn't immediately blow you away like some elite national recruits do, but man he's a great player that knows when to lay low and run the team and when he needs to step up and hit a shot when the team starts to struggle and they need a big basket.

Y'all know me. I'm a defense-first guy and I'd much rather see great one-on-one defense over a 3-pointer any day. I'm telling you, this kid could be the best defender A&M has had in a long time. He's a cross between Dash Harris and Derrick Roland on defense. What I love about Branch is that he has the quicks of a 5-foot-11 jitterbug point guard in a muscular 6-foot-2 body. He'll be able to stick defensively with the jitterbug, but big enough to physically manhandle the smaller guard or match-up nicely against a talented two-guard.

Now with the important stuff out of the way, let me also throw in that Branch had a jaw dropping 360 spin move that ended with a reverse hand layup off the glass. He also came down in transition and pulled up and nailed a three-pointer...his outside shooting has always been his one weak area of his game.

What you have to love about Branch is that the kid is a hard worker and student of the game. He wakes up at 4:00 AM everyday to workout with his father at the gym. I can promise you that no 18-21 year-old will outwork this kid, and that should tell you that his game will continue to get better and better.

Jordan Green

I've seen some people list him as a two guard and against the type of competition he faced this weekend I'm not sure he's quick enough to defend a two-guard. Also, quicker guards have a tendency to cause problems for Green when he's handling the ball.

Now, where Green excels is working in traffic and creating off of contact. I love his flexibility and length, and if you put him at the wing then all of a sudden he has sufficient quickness and ball handling. His ball skills are superior to Josh Carter and Kris Middleton, but he probably isn't the pure natural shooter that those two are...although he is an adequate outside shooter. Still, his game is a lot more versatile and I can see him being very productive around the basket. On Sunday, he was at his best working the baseline and finding an opening in the zone and getting bullet passes from Branch for a reverse layup or quick put-in. He'll be a nice player for A&M especially matched up with Harris, Branch, and possibly Reese in the future.

J'Mychal Reese

J'Mychal is an intriguing prospect. First of all, forget all of the talk 3-4 years ago about him being the best player in the nation. That was 7th grade. He's a very good prospect that is that I think would definitely be a great player for A&M, but John Wall or Derrick Rose he's not.

However, he's another well-built point guard like Branch that is quick enough to take on a point guard or big enough to match-up with a two guard. I like that versatility. He's big enough to drive the lane and handle the banging in the paint which will allow him to finish...which is my main concern next year with Harris and Holmes scheduled to absorb most of the minutes at guard. Who will be the guard that can attack the rim without being knocked into the second row?

What I especially like about Reese is his elevation on his mid-range jumpshots. When he wants it, he'll be able to create his shot. He could finish a little better on the drive with a little better touch on his runners, but his pull-up jumper is money. He doesn't have the defensive fundamentals of Branch (nobody 16-17 years old does) so he needs to work on his footwork but it's a matter of focus and technique. He's got the foot speed.

But what caught my attention the most is that J'Mychal plays with very little emotion and he's almost sullen on the court. I'm curious if that's been coached into him to be so cool, or if that's his personality off the court.

Rasheed Sulaimon

If you took the best college coaches, put them in a room, and ask them to build the ideal would be Rasheed Sulaimon. Even though he's only 16 years old, Sulaimon looks like a thoroughbred on the court. In terms of body type, a colleague next to me said he looked like a young Kobe Bryant and I have to agree. He's about 6-foot-3 with a slender yet muscular build with long legs and long arms.

His strong point is his outside shot. He can hit from anywhere, but he's also comfortable in transition and going to the hole. Yeah, he needs to mature a little bit in his defensive focus and sometimes doesn't get back on defense but for now I'll attribute that to youth and playing in an unstructured AAU environment.

As talented as Branch is, I don't see him as a one-and-done guy...same with Reese. However, if this kid continues to work hard and develop, I think he has the natural skills to be a one-and-done guy, but we're getting way ahead of ourselves. That's three years away and anything can happen in terms of work ethic and development.But I certainly know why A&M offered early.

Joe Coleman

Unfortunately, I did not get to see Coleman (Minnesota) play for the Howard Pulley squad. Their scheduled Sunday game was canceled because their opponent had travel problems and didn't make it to Houston. I talked to some people about his earlier performances and they said he scored about 20 points per game and looked solid. They had concerns about his versatility but he can knock down the outside shot. I'll try to do some more homework on this 2011 prospect as he has piqued the interest of the A&M coaching staff. Unfortunately, the staff now has a second opening in the 2011 class and so expect to see more aggressive recruiting of post players and I'd expect another guard and a big man in the next class.

FYI, Texas commitment Julien Lewis also plays for the Houston Hoops. He's a two guard/wing. He can knock down some outside shots and he's a pretty good passer, but frankly he played very similarly to his performance at last summer's A&M Elite Camp...solid yet unspectacular. So when I saw Texas offer early and get him, I figured I must have missed something with this kid but I again didn;t see it on Sunday. Nice prospect worthy of a D-1 offer, but I'm surprised Texas took him so early. He's good, but not a difference maker in my opinion.

Zach Peters is an undersized big man in the Class of 2012 who plays for Team Texas. This kid can run the floor and has ball skills. He took it strong in traffic against bigger posts and found a way to score. He's definitely on the recruiting radar but some observers aren't quite sure if he's an elite level prospect simply because he's a tweener...a short 6-foot-8.

A kid I love but is the epitome of a tweener is Houston Hoops Everett Pleasant. He's maybe 6-foot-6 and he plays as a pure post so many schools have avoided him because you wonder where he can play at a high D-1 level. But Im telling you, he's a of those high energy guys with the ability to shoot out to 12 feet and always seems to be around the ball and cleans the trash in the paint. Nobody thought Charles Barkley was too short playing in the paint in the NBA and he was 6-foot-5/6-foot-6.

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