Monday, May 23, 2016

UA Next Combine East Recap

On Saturday, the UA Next Combine Series (East) debuted at St John’s College High School in Washington DC.  Forty elite level players from around the region assembled for this “invitation only” 1-day event.  At stake were a few coveted spots for UA’s rising freshman Elite 24 Game in New York City.  The day kicked off with a series of high level skill and drill sessions in the morning designed to emphasize skill development.  In the early afternoon players were treated to a inspiring presentation by Rowland Houston, former Head Coach at George Mason and George Washington Universities.  In the afternoon, games began, with each of 4 teams playing 3 games.  Once play started, players demonstrated a willingness to pass and play defense which can sometimes be rare at events like these.  Also, the games were close with many of the outcomes undetermined until the final seconds of the game. Finally, most of the games were played at a high level, with kids playing hard.

One of the best prospects we saw all day was Trey Hall (6’7/PF/Connecticut).  Not only is Hall a physical specimen, he’s skilled with an elite motor.  Hall has the ability to hit the trey, but he is strong and explosive enough to finish at the rim.  From what we saw, Hall has high major written all over him.  Any discussion about long-term prospects with big upside potential has to include Elijah Taylor (6/8/PF/Pennsylvania). The best part of Taylor's game is his elite motor, as Taylor was extremely active both offensively and defensively. Big time athleticism with a strong frame, Taylor owned the glass and protected the rim. In fact, Taylor was the second leading shot blocker with 8 blocks in 2 games. Big and strong, Taylor already has a college-ready body.  Finally, Taylor set bone-crushing screens all day.  Jordan Toles (6’2/Combo/Maryland) was a monster, as he got to the rim with ease and knocked down treys and mid range jumpers. Toles is best at attacking the cup, but his developing skill set and shot mechanics suggests a greater upside.  He’s just a guard, but his big time motor allowed him to lead the combine in rebounding, Toles grabbed 20 rebounds in 3 games (6.7 average) and was third is assists with 9 and an average of 3 per game.

In terms of scoring, nobody did it better than CJ Wilcher (6’4/WF/New Jersey). Wilcher was relentless to the cup to the tune of 44 points in 3 games for an average of 14.7 points per game. Despite his big scoring day, Wilcher was not a volume shooter, as evidenced by his .594 field goal percentage.  Speaking of scoring, Ryan Conway (6’0/Combo/2021/Maryland) was the second leading scorer with 43 points and a 14.3 average.  A late entrant at the event, Conway, a 7th grader, got the gym buzzing as it circulated that he had exploded for 20 points in his opening game.  Conway is a scoring machine, and is proficient scoring at all 3 levels.  He can get to the rim, pull in the lane or he can knock down a deep jumper. Because he is always in attack mode, Conway spends a lot of time at the fee throw line.  This helps his scoring output, as Conway hits his freebies as evidenced by his .778 free throw percentage (7 of 9).

AJ Hoggard (6’2/PG/Pennsylvania) continues to prove he can excel against elite competition.  Hoggard has good size for his position, is smooth, poised and patient with the rock.  Hoggard’s combination of size and handle makes it tough for defenders to stay in front of.  Hoggard works well off of picks and can either score or find open teammates. In addition, Hoggard changes speed and direction well, and he has a number of dribble moves he uses to get into the paint.  Hoggard put up solid numbers on Saturday, averaging 10.7 points per game.  EJ Evans (6’4/combo/New Jersey) is another sold athlete that displayed a number of nimble moves to the bucket including a nifty spin move in the paint for the score.  Evans is not just a slasher; he’s crafty and can also drain deep treys (avg 50% from beyond the arc). Evans was the 3rd leading scorer at the event, averaging 14 points per game.  Arguably the best shooter at the combine was Okay Djamgouz (6’2/Combo/Ontario, CN) who demonstrated the ability to hit the 3-ball on a consistent basis.  Djamgous is an extreme marksman and when he gets hot, he’s a problem.  Although he was more of a catch and shoot threat on Saturday, we've seen video of Djamgous and he much more dynamic and skilled than that. He can handle the rock, creat his own shot and get it done off the bounce as well.  Djamgouz was the event’s leading 3-point shooter with 8 treys made.

Noah Farrakhan (6’0/PG/New Jersey) was one of the most active players at the event.  Constantly attacking the basket, Farrakhan scored and created scoring opportunities for his teammates. Once he turns the corner on you, he’s finishing at the rim. That’s not all; he’s willing to sit down on defense and will knock down the three if left open.  If that wasn’t enough, Farrakhan hits his free throws (3rd in the combine with 8). In terms of pure production, Abililash Surendran (6’6/PF/Ontario, CN) gets the nod. The Canadian product was the 7th leading scorer with an 11 ppg average, and had the combine’s best field goal percentage at .833%. He made 15 field goals and hit the only trey he took. Long, agile and athletic best describes Surendran’s gifts. From what we saw, Surendran has a lot more growth in him.

Cameron Byers
 (6’5/PF/Maryland) had a good day.  Big, powerful with a willingness to get physical in the paint are his calling cards.  For his size, Byers is quick off his feet, has good agility and appears to be working on his perimeter game.  In a few games, Byers had solid rebounding numbers.  Big Cam finishes with both hands, and although he does not play above the rim, it’s hard to get a shot off on him. Byers also proved he could convert free throws, as he led the combine 15 and an average of 5 boards per game.  Byers was also 4th in scoring with 35 points and 11.7 ppgs.  If Byers can get a few more inches and continue to develop ball skills, he has a chance.  Qaadir Maneri (6’0/Combo/New York) was workhorse on Saturday.  We were really impressed with Maneri’s ability to get into the lane and finish, often with contact. Maneri is poised under pressure and is a willing and able passer.  He’s also a threat to shoot it if given space.  We also like Maneri’s vision and play making ability.  There's more to Maneri’s game, as his defensive pressure resulted in 8 total steals, an average of 2.7 per game.  Jeffery Woodard (6’9/C/Pennsylvania) already has great size for his position, a strong frame and is highly skilled. He handles it well for a big and has developed a nice little mid-range shot. He can also put the rock on the floor and can get his shot off the bounce.  Woodard also blocked 7 shots (2.7 avg).  From what we saw, there’s little doubt that Woodard has college basketball in his future. While we are on the subjects of skilled bigs with D-I potential, we have to mention John Vrdoljak (6’9/C/Ontario, CN). Vrdojak is long and lean with deceptive athleticism.  He’s great in pick and pop situations and with his long wingspan he’s a elite rim protector. We also saw Vrdoljak hit a guy with a euro step and finish!

Keyshawn Johnson (6’0/Combo/Maryland) has a thin frame, but he gets to any spot on the court he wants to. Super quick and crafty, Johnson gets buckets! Possessing a killer crossover and a nice floater allows Jonson to do damage once he gets into the paint. He has a high IQ, he’s very active and just seems to have a great nose for the basketball. He has also developed the ability to score and deliver passes off the screen and role.  Johnson’s not just a scorer, as he led the combine in assists with 13 and an average of 4.3 apgs. We also saw some real good things out of Jahkiesh Demby (6’5/PF/Delaware). Demby possess a nice combination of size and skill. In addition, Demy handles the ball well for his size, can knock down the mid-range jumper and he converts his free throws, which is important for big, physical post players.  Calb Dorsey (6’6/WF/Maryland) has potential written all over him and could be one of the best prospects coming out of the event.  He already has D-I size as only an 8th grader, but his athleticism and skill set add a special quality. Dorsey can get the rebound, push the rock in transition and can also deliver a pinpoint pass.  A skilled big with play-making ability has value at the next level!

You know an event is hot when you see multiple skilled bigs running around.  Well, Kekoa McArdle (6’8/C/Massachusetts) fits that description.  He’s not a high flyer, but if scoring and defending in the post would interest you, then McArdle is your man.  Although McArdle is a space eater, his touch around the basket is super soft. Finally, because of his size and strength, McArdel can absorb contact and still finish the play.  We saw some glimpses of some good things out of Quaran McPherson (6’2/Combo/New York), such as a quality step back and mid-range shot to go along with a healthy does of athleticism. We also plan to keep an eye on John Wilson (5’10/PG/New York), an aggressive guard who stays in attack mode in search of a crease.  Wilson is your typical New York PG in terms of his quickness, craftiness and slasher mentality.  If he wasn’t scoring, he was dropping dimes to the tune of 2.7 per game, making him tied for third at the event.  Wilson was also second in steals with 6 total.  It should be noted that Rahim Ali (5’11/PG/Maryland) was handing out assists as well, with his 9 dimes making him second at the combine. In terms of some of the other statistical leaders, Che Evans Jr. (6’6/WF/Maryland) led the event in blocked shots, finishing with 8 total for an average of 2.7 per game.  Justin Lewis (6'7/PF/Maryland), Xavier Lipscomb (6'0/Combo/DC) and Tyler Brelsford (5'10/PG/Maryland) all had their 3-ball dropping at a high percentage finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively at 1.000, .625 and .545%.   It should be noted that Brelsford also dropped his fair share of dimes and was amongst the leaders with at least 8 assists and 2.7 per game.  Andrew King (6'6/PF/Pennsylvania) put up decent numbers, finishing with 32 points and an average of 10.7 points per game.

Although this was only their first of 6 regional events in this platform, early returns indicate that the UA Next Combine Series will represent a home run Under Armour!  Their emphasis on skill development and elite competition will set this event apart from like events. The Buckeye Prep Report is proud to be working with Under Armour to provide this unique opportunity to the best 8th graders in the country.  Next up is the Midwest combine in Columbus, Ohio May 14th.

UA Next Combine Series Midwest Report

The second addition of Under Armour’s new UA Next Combine Series rolled into Reynoldsburg High School in Reynoldsburg, OH on Saturday and once again played host to many of the top 8th grade players in the region.  In fact, the “invitation only” event attracted elite players from Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. As was the case in Washington DC 2 weeks ago, the event featured high level skills and drills stations in the morning followed by very competitive games in the afternoon.  After lunch, the players were treated to an inspirational presentation frrm Ohio State Buckeye great Sconnie Penn.

One of the top players in the event was Darion Henry (6’6/PF/Cincinnati, OH) who is big, physical and powerful, but nimble around the cup.  In an age where bigs prefer to drift away from the basket and shoot 3 pointers, Henry is comfortable setting up shop in the paint.  Because of his big frame and aggressive approach, Henry is able to absorb contact and still finish plays.  If he can get a couple of more inches, high major schools may come calling in the future.  We’ve seen him play on numerous occasions, but we’ve never seen Isaiah Kennedy (5’11/combo guard/Beavercreek, Oh) play as well as he did on Saturday.  Kennedy was a monster!  Kennedy scored the ball in just about every way possible.  He knocked down deep treys, pulled up off the bounce in the lane, powered his way to the bucket off the drive and did so efficiently.  Kennedy has mostly been known for using his powerful frame to bully his way to the cup, but on Saturday it was more about skill and finesse.  Kennedy was tied for 3rd in scoring with 33 points in 3 games and an average of 11 ppg. When his defense catches up with his offense, Kennedy is going to be a problem.

The best shooter in the event was by far Jack Townsend (6’0/combo guard/Odom, IN). Townsend is a threat to shoot as soon as soon as he crosses half court. With his lighting quick release, a slow close out is a bucket.  Make no mistake, Townsend is more than a catch and shoot 3-points sniper, he can put it on the floor and get his own shot. Townsend made 11 of 27 treys and was first in made and attempted 3-pointers.  Townsend was tied as the event’s leading scorer with 35 total points and an average of 11.7 ppg. You can tell Townsend plays up against older kids, as he is poised, never gets rattled, understands how get his game off and will destroy a zone. Double down on a big and get ready for the kick out and 3-ball! A good shooter is a confident shooter, and Townsend’s swag says it all. Grant Huffman (6’2/SG/Aurora, OH) has been considered an elite player on the national scene for many years, and his impressive play on Saturday proves he’s not falling off.  In fact, Huffman keeps growing and keeps getting better.  Huffman’s game is mature and he is already playing at a high school level.  An explosive first step allows him to defeat his defender, and his skill set allows him to cash in on the separation.  Surpassingly athletic, Huffman gets to his spots, finishes drives in traffic and finds open teammates all while making it look effortless.  A definite D-1 college prospect going forward. Chris Mayfield (6’3/WF/Hilliard, OH) had the gym buzzing with his athletic and aggressive play.  Mayfield started a little slow, but by the end of the day he was considered one of the best players at the event.  Great in transition, Mayfield is big, powerful and athletic enough to finish at the rim with contact.  Oh yea, Mayfield is explosive enough to play above the rim and throw it  down consistently.  Mayfield is also a good defender, rebounds well and will give up a good shot for a better shot.  In fact, Mayfield led the event with 3.3 apg.  Time will tell what position he ends up, depending on his continued growth, but right now Mayfield is a load.

We’ve seen Jeremy Baker (6’1/combo guard/Kokomo, IN) play on 4 occasions now and we are convinced he’s elite and deserving of national recognition.  The Indiana product is a big-bodied guard who is skilled, athletic and can score.  We know he can score because the stats tell us he was tied as the second leading scorer with 35 total points and an average of 11.7 ppg.  He can make money either slashing to the bucket, or he can stop and pop in the midrange and even hit the trifecta.  With his solid frame, Baker has no problem taking the contact and getting the bucket.  He also has a great motor, positive attitude and he works hard on the defensive end.  Finally, Baker always seems to be having fun on the court, which can be rare these days with so much pressure being placed on these young athletes. We’ve been at the same event and had an opportunity to evaluate Mike Saunders Jr. (5’6/PG/Indianapolis, IN) on several occasions, but it wasn’t until Saturday that we finally saw what the hype was all about.  Saunders is the consummate floor general, who has the ability to make plays for others and himself.  Saunders is a high IQ kid who understands the game.  He plays with great pace and poise and he’s highly skilled.  He can hit catch and shoot treys, or can score off the bounce.  Saunders has good quickness; solid ball skills and can finish with either hand.  Saunder’s ability to score was reflected in the stats, as he was 4th in scoring with 33 points (10.3ppg). S aunders also plays good defense and converts his free throws (led event with 5.7 FTs per game).  Saunders can run our team anytime!

Justus Salaam (5’9/PG/Farming Hills, MI) got off to a fast start on Saturday, dropping 18 points in his opening game.  Salaam’s quickness, elite handle and 3-point ability allow him to put up big numbers at any given time.  He’s diminutive, but Salaam is crafty and knows how to get into the seams of the defense. The best prospect in the gym was Zach Loveday (6’10/C/Bedville, OH). The best part of Loveday’s game right now is his shot blocking ability.  At 6’10 with long legs and long arms, Loveday is an elite rim protector.  He’s slim and often gets pushed off his spot, but size and strength will come, and when it does, Loveday could command high-major attention.  In addition, Loveday’s offensive skills are still under development, but he’s skilled enough to step outside and hit the baseline mid-range shot, and he passes the well for a kid his size.  Zeb Jackson (5’9/PG/Toledo), a lefty, can shoot the deep ball as well as anybody when he’s hot.  Jackson also has elite ball skills and dribble moves.  He’s a smaller guard, but he creates separation well and can get to the spots he wants.  Jackson can drive either left or right and can stop and pop the mid-range jumper.  Jackson is a great playmaker with excellent court vision.  Montorie Foster Jr. (5’11/combo guard/Cleveland, OH) is an elite scorer.  On Saturday, Foster finished second in scoring with 34 points and an average of 11.3 ppg.

Devontae Blanton (6’4/W/PF/Macedonia, OH) is blessed with good size and the ability to handle the ball in the open court.  When he plays with high energy, Blanton is as good as anybody in the state. Big and physical, slashing to the basket is Blanton’s best asset right now, but he’s quick off his feet, rebounds well and can advance the ball in transition.  He works well off the pick and roll and finishes well near the cup.  Justin Powell (6’4/combo guard/Prospect, KY) is another good-looking prospect with good length, athleticism and a solid skill set.  Powell understands the game and knows how to score the ball. When his motor is running, Powell is very productive.  Colin Crothers (6’6/PF/C/Arlington Heights, IL) is another quality, long-term post prospect. Crothers is a space eater with good size and strength.  Colins plays hard, rebounds at a high rate and has a soft touch around the basket.  He’s not a high riser, but Colins gets his hands on a lot of shots. Finally, Colins has decent footwork and finishes at a sold rate.  Another growth spurt will make Crothers a hot commodity down the road. Hunter Jackson (5’10/combo guard/Indianapolis, IN) was one of the best on ball defenders at the event.  Jackson does not waste dribbles, as he goes right at the basket.  He as a strong, mature frame, which he uses to get by his defender.  Jackson handles the ball well enough to create space and he changes direction well.  He does not shoot it often, but he can knock down an open jumper if left open.  CJ Anthony (5’10/combo guard, Columbus, Oh) is best getting to the rack, but he can score on the perimeter when he gets enough time to get his shot off. Anthony has the ability to score, and was the 5th leading scorer with 26 total points (8.7ppg).

Max Land (6’1/PG/Mason, OH) has been flying under the radar until recently.  After making the all-star game and receiving MVP honors at the Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase in March, Land’s stock continues to rise.  Land’s play on Saturday confirmed his place among the best in the state.  Solid athleticism and a good nose for the ball, Land should play college ball at some level with continued growth and skill development.  Jack Kahoun (6’1/Comb guard/Oswego, IL) is smart, crafty with a good motor.  Kahoun led the event with a .667 3-point percentage and was tied for 4th in scoring with 33 points and 11 ppg.   Matt Allocco (5’10/PG/Hilliard, OH) is a highly skilled, high IQ floor general who always has his head up looking for cutters.  He’s at his best running a team, but if you need a bucket, he can get you that.  Allocco can create his own offense and can also knock down the kick out trey.  Allocco is a pit bull on the defensive end and makes very few mistakes with the rock. 

Ethan Morton (6’3/combo guard/Butler, PN) is a big, athletic guard who gets in done both inside and outside.  Morton has a great motor and rebounds well for his position.  Morton also has good vision and passes the ball well.  In fact, he was 4th in assists with 3 per game.  Bryce Flatt (6’4/WF/Benton, KY) has a great motor and nose for the ball.  Every time we looked up Flatt was at the right place at the right time for a lay up or put back.  You have to account for Jake Younkin (5’11/combo guard/ Loveland, OH) on the floor or he will drop the 3-ball on you. A coach’s son, Younkin is fundamentally sound and understands the game.  We saw some good things out of Tony Perkins (6’1/combo guard/Indianapolis, IN).  Perkins is long and athletic.  Lance Mosley (6’0/PG/Chicago, IL) is a long lefty with good on ball defense.  Jared McCorkle (6’6/combo guard/Liberty TWP. OH) is a strong and physical wing and has a strong motor.  McCorkle is a good defender and rebounder.  Raymond Terry (6’7/PF/C/Gary, IN) has a large frame and is a strong lefty. The state of Michigan has several prospects with Kevin Rice Jr. (6’2/combo guard/ Flint, MI), Vontray Nickerson (6’0/combo guards/Flint, MI), James Wilbon (6’3/PF/Mt. Morris, MI), Dallas Green Jr. (5'8/PG/Northville, MI), and Devin Womack (5’11/PG/Ypsilanti, MI).

With 2 sessions of the UA Next Combine Series in the books, the first-year event will head out to Los Angeles May 28th Session 3 will be held in conjunction with with Under Armor’s UA Association circuit.  From what we have seen in the first to sessions, Under Armour has hit a home run with this unique platform designed to raise skill development at the grassroots level.