Monday, May 23, 2016

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.

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