Georgia wing Alex O'Connell has quickly become a priority recruit for Xavier. Thursday morning provided my first chance to evaluate him and he didn't disappoint.
O'Connell finished with 21 points (7-15 FG) as his Team United squad fell to Team Griffin, 71-65.
O'Connell is super-aggressive on offense. He was constantly calling for the ball and lob passes, and he looked to score every time he touched it. His 3-point release was quick and smooth, and he was comfortable running off screens or shooting off the dribble. He doesn't have great burst but his length, athleticism, and skill make him a threat when attacking the basket. He also has a good euro-step. Defensively, he gambles too often and takes plays off, but he has the instincts and physical tools to improve. At 6-foot-6 and 175 pounds, he'll have to get much stronger before playing in college.
All those notes held true during a second evaluation later in the afternoon when Team United fell to Mac Irvin Fire, 88-69, with Travis Steele in attendance. He struggled a little bit with his shot early but got hot and hit a few quick threes late in the second half. He definitely seems to be a rhythm/streak scorer that can carry an offense for minutes at a time when he starts feeling it. He finished with 22 points (10-21 FG) in that game.
Illinois Forward On the Radar
O'Connell wasn't the only Xavier recruit in the afternoon game. Steele was also there to watch Mac Irvin's Justin Smith, a name we haven't talked about much to this point.
Smith is a high-motor forward with tremendous athleticism. He impacts the game on both ends by sprinting lane to lane and using his quickness and leaping ability. He had several dunks and blocked shots during Thursday's game. He's also a strong rebounder. He looks to have some touch on his jumper and apparently shot well for his high school team, but he's struggled in AAU, hitting just 9-of-45 (20%) attempts from three. He does most of his damage off catch-and-shoot/dunk situations or straight line drives. His biggest limitation is his handle.
The buzz is that Stanford is going to be tough to beat for him but the Musketeers offered in April and are in the mix.
Keeping Cain and Elliott Warm
They may not be the top priorities at the moment, but Xavier has continued to show love to Detroit boys Jamal Cain and Greg Elliott throughout the spring and summer. Thursday afternoon Steele was in the gym watching both players as their team, The Family, took on the New York Lightning.
Cain finished with seven points (3-11 FG, 0-4 3PT, 1-1 FT), four rebounds, and three assists and Elliott added 12 points (3-8 FG, 0-3 3PT, 6-6 FT), four rebounds, and three steals in the 69-60 loss.
It's easy to question Elliott as a prospect, but it's hard to not love the way he plays. He was his disruptive, playmaking self on Thursday, getting steals and deflections on defense while getting transition buckets and drawing fouls on offense. His skill-set is well-rounded but not the sharpest and he needs to add a lot of strength. However, his effort and productivity always seem to be at a pretty high level.
Cain didn't have a big game numbers-wise, but he was more active than I've seen him in the past. He made multiple nice moves off the dribble and finished a few of them off with mid-range jumpers. He also had a nice dunk in the win.
Cain has an offer from the Musketeers while Elliott is still waiting on one. If the coaches miss on a few top targets, we could see them turn up the heat on either of those guys in a hurry.
- Eric Hunter played well with Chris Mack watching him this afternoon. The 2018 guard was awesome at Xavier's team camp a few weeks ago.
- Mack was in attendance for Jericho Sims and McKinley Wright at the Adidas event in Spartanburg this evening.
- Xavier extended an offer to 2018 guard AJ Reeves from the Massachusetts Rivals after Mack watched him.
- Mike Pegues stayed in Charlotte to keep watching priority targets Naji Marshall, Paul Scruggs, and Kris Wilkes.
- Marshall was really good again today and continues to draw rave reviews for his play.
- Steele and Luke Murray doubled up on both of Expressions Elite's games to see Kimani Lawrence and Jermaine Samuels.
- Samuels was electric again today and is an absolute monster on defense. He also had a huge tip dunk in the afternoon game. He had 13 points, 10 boards, and four steals in the first game, and 17 points, 11 rebounds, and three steals in the second.
- Lawrence didn't have his best day but he still helped the team because of his overall feel and skill. He posted 12 points and eight boards in the first game, and 11 points and six rebounds in the second.
- XU commit Jared Ridder went 0-for-2 from the field with no points and two rebounds in Mokan Elite's first game of the day, and he was 0-for-3 with no points and two boards in the second game.
- Chaundee Brown was fantastic again on Thursday with Luke Murray watching him. In his first game, he posted 24 points (10-15 FG, 3-5 3PT, 1-1 FT), seven rebounds, and three assists. He finished with 22 points (9-16 FG, 1-5 3PT, 3-3 FT), three rebounds, and two assists in the second game of the day.
- Nojel Eastern almost always plays a good floor game and does the little things for his Meanstreets team, but on Thursday he scored well in a big 81-78 win over Brown's Nike South Beach team. He finished with 16 points (6-13 FG, 0-4 3PT, 4-7 FT), seven boards, three blocks, and two assists.