T.J. Leaf Shines At Hoop Hall

Jan. 18 -- The Hoop Hall Classic is routinely one of the best events of the year and this year that's certainly the case. On the opening day, a number of five-star prospects performed well including Kobi Simmons, Frank Jackson, T.J. Leaf, Mustapha Heron and V.J. King.

The Hoop Hall Classic is full of premier match ups, but arguably the most anticipated was the battle of five-star guards Kobi Simmons and Frank Jackson.

While each prospect certainly had their moments, it was Simmons and Alpharetta (Ga.) St. Francis that were able to secure a 94-92 victory in double overtime. Simmons scored 34 points on 9-for-19 shooting, while also grabbing 11 rebounds and tossing out nine assists.

On the day he made his college announcement to Arizona, Simmons put together the best performance I’ve seen from him since his junior season of high school, despite being strapped with foul trouble for much of the game.

Simmons played more under control than in the summer and showed a good blend of facilitating and scoring. Simmons hit four of 10 three-point attempts, mixed in some crafty drives to the basket and made an effort to get on the glass.

Jackson, on the other hand, showed off his top notch scoring ability, as he went for 49 points on 16-for-40 shooting. The Duke pledge pumped in seven three-pointers, but also showed his full scoring arsenal.

A strong, but quick and athletic combo guard, Jackson played an aggressive brand of ball and looked to drive if he was unable to get a clean look from three. He has a quick first step and is able to drop in floaters or finish it through contact at the rim, because of his pure strength and ability to play through contact.

Jackson is an instant contributor at Duke and will be effective there playing both on and off the ball.

Other Top Performers

Montverde (Fla.) Academy sophomore power forward Simi Shittu led the Eagles in scoring with 15 points in a blowout win over Philadelphia (Pa.) Roman Catholic. Shittu was active and did a good job of getting out in transition and running the floor. He was an efficient 6-for-8 from the field and also showed an impressive passing ability, tossing out five assists.

Louisville pledge V.J. King continued his strong senior season, as he led Fairfax (Va.) Paul VI to a win over Tyus Battle and Metuchen (N.J.) St. Joseph. King’s game has matured over the last year, as he’s a much more efficient scorer. On Saturday, King finished 7-for-14 from the field and was 8-for-10 from the free throw line stripe. King slashed to the basket made a mid-range jump shot and connected on one of his three attempts from the three-point stripe.

Fairfax (Va.) Paul VI wing Myles Douglas had a strong showing against St. Joseph as well. The 6-foot-6, maybe 6-7, forward was active and aggressive. He made jump shots off the catch, including one of his two three-point attempts. Douglas was also efficient around the basket and hunted put back opportunities. In all, Douglas finished with 18 points on 5-for-7 shooting. Douglas is being recruited by the likes of Maryland, USC, Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia and Virginia Tech.

Markus Howard, a 5-foot-10 lead guard, was the catalyst in a Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Preps wing on Saturday. Howard’s biggest strength is his ability to make shots from long distance and he did that going 5-for-12 from three. In all, Howard, who was aggressive on the offensive end hunting shots, finished with a team high 25 points on 10-for-20 shooting.

UCLA commit T.J. Leaf was the main reason San Diego (Calif.) Foothills Christian was able to secure a wing over Waterbury (Conn.) Sacred Heart. Leaf was effective and efficient on offense going 13-for-18 from the field on his way to scoring 30 points. Offensively, Leaf showed off the full scoring package, as he scored with his back to the rim, with short, mid-range three-point jumpers, as well as face up drives. But it wasn’t jst his scoring that impressed. Leaf is a keen passer and he did a great job of reading the defense and finding open teammate. Leaf tossed out seven assists and also added 10 rebounds.
Although Leaf and Foothills got the win, Auburn signee Mustapha Heron did everything he could to try and steal it. After spending the game driving and scoring at the rim and in the paint, Heron came alive from distance and hit a pair of clutch pull-up three-pointers that gave Sacred Heart a shot. In the end, it wasn’t enough, but the Auburn pledge certainly impressed during his 31-point, 10-rebound game. Heron is a tough, physical driver that scores it well through contact. His jump shot is improving from distance and if he becomes a consistent threat from there, it will continue to open up the rest of his game. Mustapha Heron

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