The second of three live evaluation periods for college coaches began on Wednesday evening, and MusketeerReport was in Atlanta for the Under Armour Association finals.
Here are player evaluations and notes for the Xavier recruits that were in action in Atlanta:
Jimmy Whitt – 2015, G, KC Run GMC – Whitt is known as a big-time scorer, and, while he didn’t have one of his big outbursts on Wednesday night, he did flash some of his special play-making ability. He doesn’t seem to be comfortable shouldering the ballhandling load as the point guard, but he has the handle to push the ball up the court himself and break defenders down off of the bounce. He can get his shot off from the mid-range at will, and he uses his length and athleticism well to finish at the rim. He had 11 points on the night, including a pair of nice dunks early in the game. He struggled a little bit to get his shot going and finished 0-for-2 from beyond the arc. Most of the top schools recruiting Whitt – Missouri, Memphis, Marquette, Nebraska, Illinois, Oklahoma, Creighton and Wichita State, along with Xavier – were all well represented at his game.
Marquez Letcher-Ellis – 2015, F, DC Premier – Letcher-Ellis is another combo forward that is probably more of an undersized four than a three. He doesn’t shoot well and his handle is shaky at times, but he’s athletic, long and plays hard. He impressed during a viewing in April at Pittsburgh because of his effort, which seemed to always keep him around the ball and in the mix to make a play. That was again the case on Wednesday night, as his two most impressive moments came on effort plays where he got tip-ins by seeking out an offensive board. He has good body control and coordination, and he projects to be a high-level defender that should be able to guard multiple positions, especially as he adds more strength. He finished with seven points and five rebounds. With Makinde London already on the roster, Letcher-Ellis may not be exactly what the Musketeers are looking for in this class, as he possesses a similar but shorter frame, and plays a similar, though less skilled, game.
Charlie Thomas – 2015, F/C, DC Premier – Thomas is overlooked a little bit on his DC Premier squad where Letcher-Ellis and some others seem to garner more attention on the recruiting trail, but that doesn’t stop him from continuing to play his game and be productive. Unlike his leaner teammates, Thomas has a wide-frame and lacks some of the athleticism that those other forwards have. He’s not a bad athlete, though, and he understands how to use his big body to shield defenders from the basketball. He runs the floor well as he showed by getting out ahead of the pack for a dunk Wednesday night, and he also displayed touch on his jumpshot with two nice mid-range jumpers. In the post, he showed good patience and footwork when operating one-on-one. He finished with a team-high 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go with four rebounds on Friday night. On Saturday, he played less minutes but made a big impact when he was in there, especially on the glass where he hauled in double-digit rebounds. He played very aggressive on the offensive end in the afternoon win over New Heights, whether he was working in the post or facing up for mid-range jump shots. Thomas seems to fit what Xavier might be looking for in this class. It’s rare that a big, strong kid with some face-up skill plays hard all the time and acknowledges his role as a true power forward. Thomas is definitely a name to pay attention to.
Derrik Smits – 2015, C, Grind – Smits didn’t play many minutes at all on Wednesday night. After Grind got behind, head coach Jim Reamer limited his starters’ minutes severely. Early in the game, though, the big man did make two really nice passes from the top of the key, and he had a block in transition on the defensive end. Thursday morning he played a lot more in a close game against the New Jersey Playaz that Grind lost on a buzzer-beater. Smits showed off his coordination and touch around the basket with a few nice catch-and-finishes in traffic. The extended minutes also seemed to make him more active in the paint and on the glass the longer he stayed on the court. One aspect of his play that stood out on Thursday was the way he changed shots as a weakside defender. He’s a tough evaluation, as he still needs to be more physical and more active inside at times, but there’s no doubt that he has a few things that can’t be taught with his size at 6-11 as well as his coordination and his natural feel for the game.
K.J. Walton – 2015, G, Grind – Coming into the finals, Walton had scored more points than any other player in three prior Under Armour Association events. Like Smits, he didn’t get many minutes on Wednesday night, but he still led his team with 12 points. On Thursday morning, he still wasn’t too involved or aggressive on offense like the way you’d expect from the league’s leading scorer. On the handful of occasions where he did get the opportunity to attack the Playaz zone, he showed off a good burst to shoot through gaps off the bounce. He also made good reads on when to shoot and when to pass. In the past, he’d get himself in trouble at times trying to do too much, but on Thursday he was wise enough to make the simple play, which led to productive possessions for his team. He’s a hard-nosed defender who has good instincts for when to gamble. While he’s not a point guard, he does fit that combo role that Xavier has used a lot at the two in the ball-screen motion offense, as he can definitely handle the ball and is a playmaker that typically attacks the lane aggressively, plus he can shoot from the outside. Xavier was the first school to offer him, but Illinois State and Minnesota have joined the mix.
Donovan Mitchell – 2015, G, The City – Mitchell entered the spring under the radar and eager to get recruited. He impressed at the Pittsburgh Jamfest as a big-time scorer that could get it done at all three levels with a great physique and size to go with his skill. Since then, Mitchell’s recruitment has completely exploded. On Wednesday night Mitchell put on a show at the Under Armour Association finals. He finished with 26 points, seven assists, six rebounds and six steals in what was an all-around dominant performance. He is especially impressive when operating in tight spaces and when using his explosiveness to slide past defenders with jump shots and quick cut moves. He also showed his range with a few 3-pointers. He remained in attack mode the entire night. Xavier offered in the spring and seemed to be in the mix for the Brewster Academy guard, but Mitchell is now drawing interest from all of the top programs. On Wednesday night alone, Florida, Duke, Kentucky, Louisville, UConn, Indiana and plenty more had coaches there to watch him.
Eli Wright – 2016, G, Hoop Dreams – Wright is a name that has created a lot of buzz in recruiting circles, especially locally, after a great spring on the grassroots basketball trail. The young guard from Apollo High School in Kentucky has already reeled in offers from Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Purdue, Mississippi State and Oklahoma State along with several other smaller schools. Wright showed off some impressive tools while scoring 13 points on Wednesday night. Most impressive was his athleticism, more specifically his ability to accelerate past defenders, whether in the open court or with his first step in the half court. He also showed some skill, with a smooth handle and a good looking jump shot; he finished 1-of-2 from 3-point range. On Saturday, he remained impressive with his aggressive mentality on the offensive end, and again displayed great athleticism when finishing at the rim. He also did a good job of locking up the opponents’ top scoring option in the second half of a close game, and showed some great potential as a defender. Possibly Kentucky’s top 2016 prospect in what should be a pretty talented class, Wright is going to be a fun prospect to watch develop over the next few years.