2016 John Lucas All-Star Weekend Day One Recap
March 6, 2016
Written by: Ani Umana
It’s 9:30 a.m on Saturday in the MI3 center and parking in the lot was almost non-existent for me. I finally found one and when I got in the gym, there was talent on each court. This day one recap I will highlight top performers and also talk about the top games I got to see.
Flight Elite out of California were a very fundamental team. Led by guards Jared McCain, Aiden Mahaney and post Jeremiah Dargan, they were able to lead their team to an impressive victory over Nike D1 - Premier. McCain does a good job breaking defenders down and getting into the lane. He also shot 40% from three in his first two games. His problem is that he didn’t finish well in the paint but he had no problem getting inside. Drew Steffe for D1-Premier was impressive. With that team being down a guard and a post, Steffe stepped up and looked to be more aggressive with the ball. Usually he allows the game to come to him which is fine but on Saturday was coming off screens and looking to score knowing his team needed someone to step up. D1-Premier fought hard on Saturday and went 2-1 with a three point win or go home victory that evening. Those players fought and even after the early lost, they bounced back.
I got to really sit down and watch Bryce Griggs play a few games and overall I like his game even more now. Ranked number one for his class in a couple of sites, the big guard has a good touch inside. Griggs has great handles and he worked on getting his teammates involved some. One thing I will point out is that his body language bad when his team was losing in the early morning game and he will worry about the ref’s call (or lack thereof) to effect his play.That’s just basketball and I know he is young but that is a habit that has to end going forward. Nonetheless Griggs is a special talent and I will keep track on how he grows.
Gulf Coast Blue Chips had a tough lost early but I did like what Cam Amboree did on the floor. A true floor general that scores and passes at a high level for his age. Skill wise he has what you want but he seemed a little rattled at the end of that first game which forced his coach to take him out. His shot was looking good although he wasn’t making them like he normally does. The next game against GC Ballers he looked a lot better, being able to get in the lane and finish over the taller defenders. Speaking of GC Ballers I did like what Jordan Marsh did for them. The long guard used his size to disrupt smaller guards on defense and he got in the lane and finished well. His versatility was important on offense and defense.
Amari Thomas for Pray and Play Players was impressive in both games on Saturday as well. the 6’2 big blocked shots at a high rate. I liked how he ran the floor and put pressure on other bigs to sprint back on defense. One he gets more polished offensively he will be a problem.
Before we dive in on players for 2021, I want to give a shout out to the Carolina Wolves on their dominating performance on day one. The long athletic group did were active on both sides of the ball and I loved how they communicated and played well together. Post Jai Smith is about 6’4 and he is strong in transition. He can run the lanes and he can handle the ball some after rebounds.
God First Crusaders 2021 made their debut and went 1-1 on Saturday. PJ Neal was strong on both ends and in transition he had good vision finding his wings of Datcher Griffin and Latrell Neville on the break. He needs to work on his right hand more as he is left-heavy on drives. Even if he shows ability to drive a few times with his right hand he will make defenses have more trouble. Neville has a chance to be very good. He is great athlete and I saw him dunk it a couple times in warmups. He has only really played the game for a couple months, but I do expect improvement the next time I see him. A player to keep an eye on at the 2021 class.
Isitua Chuks for West Coast All Stars has to stand at about 6’8 and he was a handful inside. He is still raw offensively but when he is in his comfortable spots on the floor he was able to create a shot for himself. Defensively he blocks and alters shots well but he had a problem jumping up on pump-fakes which got him in foul trouble especially against the Carolina Wolves. Chuks has potential and a lot of it. Day one I came off impressed with his play.
Lets stay on topic of big 7th graders and Baltimore United/Team Thrill had a 6’7 post in Detwan Montague. Man he was a problem on defense. He has the speed to guard stretch four-men and he also holds in down for his team in the paint. He runs the floor very well and once his IQ for the game gets higher, he will be a force to be reckon with.
Hardwork had a great showing this whole weekend but we will focus on their first day. Langston Love is a play I enjoy watching because he makes the game easy for himself. I like the push dribble he uses to keep defenders at bay before he decides to use an in-and-out dribble or crossover. He was definitely in a rhythm on Saturday.
Calvin Mayo and Harvey Davis was impressive for Team KC. Mayo is the guard that was able to find his way inside a lot of times. He can score well off the dribble with one to two dribble pull-ups and when he did get in the lane he found Mayo for the finish. Mayo does a good job finishing with either hand and also using pump-fakes and up and unders to get points inside. He sometimes shuffles his feet when defenses sent double-teams (Which of course led to travels) but once he is able to look up when a double team is coming, He’ll be a more effective post player.
Julien Simon for Blackout out in Washington DC looked like a man child. A big forward that has underratted passing abilities. He averaged four assists in both games and against Basketball Means More he came up big down the stretch. Oh and he was playing up a grade this weekend. Simon rarely forced the issue and made smart decisions with the ball.
Zion Harmon also played up for Select One who went 2-0 on Saturday. the ultra quick guard also has a good frame to him as well. His jumper off the dribble he gets up great off the floor but his set shot could use more lift as it was short. When he gets in the lane he will make the right choice most times. If there is a lot of help-side defense he will find the man open for the corner three and if there is no help-side defense he just finished the wide open layup.
I talked in the Preview about how I wanted to see Jalen Blackmon play and I wasn’t disappointed. The whole “He has a grown man’s game,” is true. He scored at a high level and he didn’t let pressure rattle him. In a competitive game against God First Crusaders he did a great job managing the floor for his team.
Team Thad came in the building with some big boys and they also could play. Tayson Parker is an explosive guard. He scored in volumes with 4,6 straight points in a row. He also is able to get his teammates involved especially when he drives but I liked how he was able to change his speed when getting pressured. Chris Moore is a problem inside. Built like a varsity basketball player already, Moore uses his size and strength to get good position on the boards. He has a solid mid-range jumper and he can bang inside with any post in the tournament. Parker and Moore were big reasons Team Thad went 2-0 on Saturday.
Mike Miles (Mike Mike is what they call him) stepped up and impressed me a lot. The first tournament he played in this year he struggled some but what I saw from him on the first day was a pure point guard that can take over games. Defensively against Nola 23 he racked four steals in the last three minutes which allowed his team to force the game to overtime. He put the team on his back and led them to a comeback win.
D1-Premier went 2-0 and Kameron Waites has good footwork on the block. the 6’8 post is a problem once he seals his defenders inside. He needs to get more in shape but he is in better shape than before. He uses an array of moves to score down low and defensively when he is discipline he alters many shots. Another top 2020 talent Greg Brown impressed me as well. the 6’7 forward plays with a higher motor than I thought and he was a problem defensively as well. I’m not comparing him to Kevin Durant, but his style of play is Durant-esque. Brown has a ton of potential and can one day be a top five nationally ranked kid. You read it first here!
D1-Premier's first match up against Indiana Elite featured guard Nijel Pack who was on from deep. He made four three pointers and him being a threat from three, opened up drives to the lane. He was forcing shots, once Premier was making their run but overall I was very impressed with him and his ability to be effective inside and out.
God First Crusaders also went 2-0 and Kyree Walker from Cali. played with them. Walker has great vision and he finishes above the rim with force. He is built and plays mature which helped God First. he is 6’4 and a legit point guard but he can do too much with the ball at times and turnover the ball. Adam Kanafani is a player I like a lot. at 6’3 he is long and can shoot the ball from deep very well. He can bring the ball up the floor from time to time and he is a big-time player in my opinion. Isaiah LeBlanc was solid in his second game scoring 15 points. He needs to handle the ball more in pressure and be more decisive with the ball. I like his scoring abilities and he can shoot it from way deep. He just needed to be quicker with the ball but I liked how he came out and competed on both sides of the floor. I thought defensively he was good and discipline when on-ball.
Supreme Court got first in their pool with the two wins and RJ Hampton had a solid showing on Saturday. He worked on getting his teammates involved first before finding his points and I like that he has the ability to do that and have the team win. He sometimes gets careless with the ball but most young point guards do anyways. Somtochuckwu Ezedima (GG for short) is a monster on the boards. Anytime a shot went up, Ezedima had his hands on it. I didn’t keep up with his rebounds but I know he had to average about 12 rebounds on Saturday and probably more to be honest. His motor is phenomenal and he is a prospect that people need to take a look at.
Team Texas Shooters had a great win against Play Hard Play Smarter that went to double overtime. KJ Pruitt took over late in the game with seven points and five assists in the two overtimes plus the last two and a half minutes of the fourth quarter. This tournament was a chance for me to see how good Pruitt is and he showed me. He still over dribbles in possessions but he has progressed as a point guard since I last seen him. Misiel Teklai is becoming one of my favorite guards to watch. Against the speedy backcourt of Select One, Teklai handled their ball pressure and got into the lane and finished. Although Team Texas came short against Select One, Teklai showed that against press-heavy, quick teams he can be the answer keep his team in games.
Cameron Byars and Justin Lewis were too much inside for Team Texas. Byars has a great frame and he knows how to use it. He looks more athletic since the last time I have seen him in May, and that helped him get shots over the towers TT had inside. Lewis is about 6’8 and he can do a little bit of everything on the court. Dribble, shoot, post-up, Lewis is a versatile forward that creates mismatches for his team. Select One went 2-0 on Saturday as well and they looked like the most impressive team in their division.