While the first few events of the spring presented great opportunities to get familiar with some of the younger kids that Xavier's staff is interested in, Saturday at the Nike EYBL event in Hampton, Virginia was all about the Musketeers' 2015 targets.
With several of Xavier's top 2015 targets playing for Nike EYBL teams, Saturday offered a chance to get multiple viewings of some of the top guys on the hotboard. Listed below are the evaluations from those viewings. Out of the following prospects, Spalding, Pardon, Ahrens and Nichols all have offers from the Musketeers, while Harris and Papagiannis are both receiving heavy interest.
Sam Miller (Team Takeover, F) - Miller is a 6-7 faceup forward that is known for his skill, but he looked more than willing to play physical and mix it up inside on Saturday. In an early viewing, he didn't get many opportunities on the offensive end because he plays on a team with multiple point guards that love to push it. He's a decent athlete, but he's also very fluid and mobile for a four. He also displayed good body control on a few plays, including a poorly thrown lob pass that he readjusted to in midair to finish with a tip in.
Georgios Papagiannis (Team Takeover, C) - Like Miller, Papagiannis' (pictured above) production is limited by the guard dominated team he plays on, however he was definitely one of the biggest standouts on Saturday. At 7-1, he runs the floor really well, has great hands and is coordinated. When rebounding on the defensive end, he showed a knack for throwing precise outlet passes to start the break for his transition thirsty guards. Perhaps the most impressive part of his game was his footwork on the few occasions he caught the ball in the post and made a move. In his first game of the day, he had a beautiful drop step move that he finished with a reverse layup after snatching a pass in traffic. He doesn't protect the rim as well as you'd like a 7-footer to and he rushes some of his shots from just off the block, but a 7-footer that isn't a complete project at this age is fairly rare.
Raymond Spalding (KY Travelers, F) - Right now Spalding's game is all about his physical tools and potential. He got in foul trouble early against Boo Williams Saturday and wasn't ever really able to get into the flow, yet still did a few eye-catching things. His ability to elevate straight up when completely flat - footed without needing a step or a second to gather himself is second to none. That, combined with his length at 6-9 with long arms, makes him a factor on defense and on the glass on every possession, even when his motor isn't running the highest. In his second game of the night, Spalding played more and was a bigger factor. He had a nice two dribble burst and finish from the perimeter that really stood out. Offensively, his game is still a work in progress, but once he figures out how to utilize his physical tools he has the touch and coordination to be difficult to stop.
Derek Pardon (King James, F) - The best part about Pardon's game is his self awareness. In a day and age where every forward wants to be a faceup perimeter player, Pardon lives in the paint. At 6-8, he has great length that allows him to really challenge shots even when he's guarding the ball. Pardon is disruptive on defense and rebounds well at both ends, with a special talent for grabbing offensive boards. Though it's not a big part of his game right now, he also showed nice touch on his shot. His body looks young and under developed, but he has a great frame for a big man. As he continues to add strength, his desire to play physical in the paint will pay dividends.
Kyle Ahrens (King James, SF) - Ahrens is still recovering from a broken leg that he suffered early in the high school season. On a King James team with plenty of depth and talent, he's not in a go to scorers role, so he didn't get a ton of opportunities. The explosiveness he's working to regain after his injury (he estimates he's at 80%) has limited his game off of the bounce. Even without his normal athleticism, Ahrens is still a valuable team member because of his competitiveness, shooting ability and his understanding of how to play the game. He's a good passer and ball handler on the wing, and he gives great effort on defense.
Kipper Nichols (King James, CF) - Nichols is a combo forward right now that is still a little bit in between positions. He's working hard to prove his skill level as a three, but he's at his best when he's playing hard and getting things done in the lane. His handle has improved, but at times it works against him when he tries to do too much with his dribble instead of making quick moves to the rim. He's not a knockdown shooter but he's capable of making an open look. He also brings some versatility to the lineup with his size and face-up ability, and he should be able to defend multiple positions at the next level.