Young Talent to Watch in Tourney

We spent a few days at the Rumble in the Bay this past weekend and saw some exciting young prospects. 6-8 Drew Gordon, who is among the elite posts in the west for 2008, was there, along with two outstanding young freshmen from the 2009 class...

The 5th Annual Patrick Dennehy Memorial Rumble in the Bay is going on this weekend at Santa Clara University and we spent Saturday and Sunday checking out the action. Here are some thoughts on a few of the players who caught our attention.

Reeves Nelson, 6-5 FR SG/SF Modesto (Calif.) Modesto Christian. As a scout, you hope to find a new, great prospect every time you walk into a gym. The vast majority of the time, you're disappointed. Every once in a while, though, you get your wish. Saturday morning at Santa Clara was one of those days for us. Nelson is very talented 14 year-old with advanced skills and a very good feel for the game. A few minutes into the game Saturday, we went to check with his coaches because we thought the program had to be wrong – Nelson doesn't look or play like a freshman. He's a big, strong kid with good length and muscle tone. He's a good athlete and he gets up well. While he's already pretty filled out, he's got big feet and it's possible he gets a little bigger. He's got a nice stroke with range to the stripe, but he's more of a scorer than pure shooter. He'll mix it up inside and he pretty much plays one through five for his AAU team. His ball-handling and passing are outstanding for a young wing. While his skill level is impressive, it's his feel for the game that really stands out. He plays with the maturity and poise of a much older player. Our only criticism that we had in the course of watching him for three games was that he'll occasionally take some plays off and try to get by on his talent. But that's a very minor criticism. As we said, he's only 14 – he'll turn 15 in September – and he still has a long way to go before he gets to college. But assuming he works hard and keeps developing, Nelson has a chance to be among the elite prospects in the country for 2009.

Drew Gordon, 6-8 SO PF/C San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty. One of the most athletic big men in the class of 2008, Gordon had a number of spectacular dunks and blocks over the weekend. His explosiveness is startling at times – he gets up very quick and easy. He played with great energy at both ends of the court and he runs extremely well for a big man. His offensive game is still a work in progress, as he tends to rush things at times. He needs to slow things down and take his time in the post. He also has a tendency to try to dunk everything. Sometimes, that's a good thing – you want to see that aggressiveness in a young post player. But other times, it's not so good, as it keeps him from developing the touch and feel around the basket to make plays when he can't get the dunk. Gordon is young for his class and he's a long way from being a polished product. Nonetheless, he has the best upside of any post that we've seen in 2008. If the rest of his game catches up with his physical tools, he's going to be among the elite players in his class nationally.

Jared Cunningham, 6-1 FR PG San Leandro (Calif.) High. After Reeves Nelson, Cunningham was the most pleasant surprise of the weekend for us. Long, lean and baby-faced, Cunningham has the look of a potentially outstanding prospect. Physically, he reminds us of Gabe Pruitt at the same age. He's got good quickness and showed some explosiveness a couple times in transition. He's got a nice shot to 20 feet and showed a fair mid-range game as well. He advanced the ball well several times, giving it up early in transition. Overall, he showed good presence and feel on the court. He's still just a youngster, but he's among the top 2009 point guards we've seen so far.

Lucas Devenny, 6-7 FR C/PF Santa Rosa (Calif.) Piner. A big and strong post, Devenny is a very intriguing young prospect. He's pretty filled out for a freshman, but he's also got huge feet. A key question will be whether he gets any bigger. If you look at his body, he's pretty mature and you wonder if he gets any taller. But if he grows into those feet, you'd think he gets a couple more inches. However, he has a chance to be an outstanding player even if he doesn't grow. He's already very strong and he doesn't mind contact at all. He's not very bouncy, but he clears out space for himself in the paint. His athleticism is just fair at this time, but he's a young big and that could change as he matures. He's an excellent competitor – went hard all the time – and he has an advanced feel for a young post prospect. He can step out to about fifteen feet with a nice touch, although he did most of his damage inside in the games we saw. He's playing with Drew Gordon on the Oakland Soldiers team and the two of them should cause a lot of trouble for teams next year. His ultimate level will depend on how his body goes – height as well as athleticism – but he has a chance to be an excellent player in a few years.


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