Initial High School Player Scouting Reports, Part Two

Initial High School Player Scouting Reports, Part Two
Aug 22, 2009, 07:55 pm
Perry Jones, 6-11, Power Forward, Duncanville High School, 2010
Committed to Baylor

Simply put, no prospect in the 2010 high school class displays more NBA potential than Baylor commit Perry Jones (#12 Scout, #6 Rivals, #3 ESPN). Right off the bat, Jones wows you with his terrific physical attributes—standing 6-10 or 6-11, with a great frame, long arms and incredible athleticism. Jones runs the floor like a deer, explodes off the ground as if he has a personal trampoline at his disposal, and is extremely fluid and reactive to everything that goes on around him.

Skill-wise, there is quite a bit to like here as well. We regularly saw Jones grab a rebound and then handle the ball up-court himself, often weaving in and out of traffic before dishing off a perfectly timed no-look pass right into the path of a teammate streaking towards the basket. He also has a very nice jump-shot, showing streaky range out to the 3-point line, but with the type of touch and mechanics that lead you to believe that he can develop this part of his game into a real weapon in time.

When attacking the rim in the half-court, Jones displays an excellent first step and is capable of getting to the basket in two long strides, sometimes mixing in some very nice spins and pivot moves, often starting off a sharp crossover. Once he’s inside the paint, he finishes with the greatest of ease, typically in highlight reel fashion. Jones is certain to be a fixture many a highlight reel, as he has slamdunk contest-caliber leaping ability. His teammates regularly just throw lobs in the general direction of the rim, knowing that Jones will find a way to go get the ball and hammer it home.

In terms of weaknesses, there are a few you could point towards. One would be his complete lack of a back to the basket game, something you’d like to see him develop considering the quickness and nifty footwork he displays. He needs to get stronger in the lower body first, and probably quite a bit tougher in the paint as well.

Jones doesn’t always seem to be as focused or intense as you might hope, as it’s not rare to see him check out of a game mentally, at times for long stretches. He seems to get down on himself from time to time, not being aggressive at all, and playing with too little energy if he’s not directly involved in everything going on around him. This shows up on the defensive end and on the glass in particular, where he tends to rely too much on his athleticism and displays just average fundamentals. That athleticism does come in very handy in the form of steals and blocked shots, though, which he gets plenty of.

He also doesn’t always box out for rebounds, and is way too upright trying to guard the post, often just waiting for an opportunity to go and chase a blocked shot, rather than trying to deny position and play solid man to man defense. These are not very rare things for a big man this young, especially one who is a very late bloomer, like Jones clearly is, having experienced a late growth spurt that saw him shoot up dramatically over the course of a few years.

Despite the criticism, you’d be hard pressed to find a player with such an impressive combination of natural tools and skills as Perry Jones displays. His ability to create his own shot from the perimeter and find the open man with impressive passing skills is extremely unique at this level, and should make him a very popular prospect amongst NBA scouts in the 2010-2011 season. If he continues to progress and play like he did in Las Vegas when we saw him this summer, it’s going to be tough to envision him staying in school very long, as he could be a very very high draft pick.

Adonis Thomas, 6-5, Small Forward, Melrose High School, 2011

One of the more enjoyable prospects to watch on the AAU circuit in the class of 2011 was Memphis Magic wing Adonis Thomas (#15 Scout, #11 Rivals, #9 ESPN). We’re talking about a real junk-yard dog here—a long-armed, strong and extremely athletic forward who was easily the best defender we saw this summer. Thomas plays with unbelievable energy and was constantly making an impact on the game every time we saw him—be it running the floor, grabbing offensive rebounds, coming up with blocks and steals, and just sticking his nose in all kinds of places. He uses his length, strength and lateral quickness exceptionally well on the defensive end, getting low in a stance and absolutely smothering his opponents, never taking a single play off.

Offensively, he appears to be a raw prospect on first glance, showing underdeveloped ball-handling skills and an inconsistent stroke from the perimeter, although we did see him heat up from time to time and show nice potential on this end as well. At this level he can make his presence felt well enough just by being tougher and more athletic than everyone else, and he seems to do the job quite well. He draws a lot of fouls and will post up from time to time, even showing some nice passing skills from time to time. He never seems to get rattled and shows exactly the type of demeanor you want to see from a player who is only 16 years old. If Thomas continues to develop his all-around skill level, and maybe even grows another inch or two, while still playing with that same chip on his shoulder, we could be looking at a very interesting prospect down the road.

Fab Melo, 7-0, Center, Sagemont School, 2010
Committed to Syracuse

This probably wasn’t the ideal time, nor place, to evaluate Brazilian center Fabricio Melo (or Fab Melo, or Fabricio de Melo). After sitting out the entire high school season upon transferring to South Florida from his home country of Brazil, Melo (#5 Scout, #16 Rivals, #20 ESPN) looked out of shape and quickly became winded in every game we saw him play. On top of that, the AAU setting just isn’t a great place to take in a big man of this nature, as the games are incredibly up-tempo, the referees blow the whistle any time anyone breathes on someone, and guards rarely look (or know how) to get the ball inside. It’s safe to say that he’s never (or rarely) competed in a setting like this before.

Regardless, it isn’t hard to see what the recruiting services like about Melo. A true 7-footer with an NBA caliber frame and a great wingspan, Melo has better size than pretty much any big man taken in this last year’s draft, outside of Hasheem Thabeet. His body is extremely loose at the moment—it doesn’t look like he’s spent much time, if any, in the weight room, but with a good conditioning program, Melo could look like a stud in no time if he wanted to.

Athletically, Melo is average at best by our standards. He runs the floor pretty well, but is definitely on the lumbering side, not showing great quickness and seemingly playing below the rim (although his length helps him tremendously as a finisher). He does have very agile feet, though, especially stepping out and covering ground surprisingly well on the pick and roll, and it’s tough to gauge how much his lack of athleticism is due to conditioning issues. He looks like he’ll be a major shot-blocking presence at the collegiate level regardless, thanks to his outstanding wingspan and impressive timing.

Offensively, Melo was not productive at all in the games we took in, but still showed flashes of potential in many key areas. He seems to have very nice touch facing the basket, making a number of jumpers in warm-ups and even swishing a 3-pointer in an actual game. His low-post moves are raw and underdeveloped, but he did show some decent footwork from time to time, and definitely wasn’t afraid to throw his body around in the low post. On the other hand, he struggled to make clean catches on a regular basis, looking somewhat uncoordinated at times, and blew a number of easy opportunities in the form of open layups and dunks. He clearly has a long ways to go on this end of the floor.

Despite looking winded, Melo seemingly wants to play hard for the most part, and he also appears to be a pretty good teammate. He communicates regularly and definitely seems to care about whets going on on the court, which is always a good sign. Most indications we’ve received are that his work ethic is strong and he is an extremely high character person off the court.

As far as first impressions go, this one wasn’t the strongest, although we must take into account how highly most well-respected people who have seen him quite a bit more than us think of him. There are some question marks about how interesting these type of lumbering, old-school big men are for teams in today’s NBA, but there is no doubt that we’ll have to keep a close eye on Melo over the next few years. What's ironic is that we and many others saw Melo playing at the Adidas Nations camp one year ago and barely noticed his presence, as he was extremely out of shape at that point and almost a complete non-factor.

Dominique Ferguson, 6-8, Power Forward, Hargrave Military Academy, 2010
Committed to Florida International

Dominique Ferguson (#16 Scout, #40 Rivals, #46 ESPN) created quite a buzz last week when he decided to commit to Florida International and their extremely high-profile head coach Isiah Thomas. That’s obviously a huge get for Thomas and certainly a commitment worth following to see how things shake out.

Ferguson’s lofty recruiting rankings stem mostly from his upside from what we can tell, as he was not all that productive in the games we took in. He has average size for the power forward position, but seems to have a good frame, long arms and nice athleticism.

Offensively, Ferguson likes to face the basket, where he can make shots from the perimeter on occasion, but is better served using his physical tools around the rim at this point in time. He plays pretty hard in the paint, is a presence on the offensive glass and seems to have solid touch on his short-range shots, not possessing great strength or very advanced post-moves, but still being capable of making his presence felt from time to time.

Ferguson seems to fancy himself as a bit of a small forward, which is something we’ll have to continue to study over time. Despite showing a very nice first step slashing to the basket in a straight line, his ball-handling skills look very raw and he clearly lacks experience and polish. He makes quite a few unforced errors, seemingly lacking some focus and not really knowing his limitations at this point. He struggled in particular on the defensive end, looking out of place and not very fundamentally sound, even if he was able to change some shots around the rim with his length.

Ferguson should be able to dominate the Sun Belt conference with his superior physical gifts, but he needs to be coached up significantly before he can be discussed further.

Wayne Blackshear, 6-5, SG/SF, Morgan Park High School, 2011

It was tough to tell too much about this very highly touted young wing player in the AAU setting, as his team plays way too fast for their own good, and Blackshear (#12 Scout, #18 Rivals, #17 ESPN) looked pretty comfortable taking a backseat to some of his older teammates.

Blackshear has prototypical physical tools for a wing player, which is where most of the intrigue around him likely stems from. He’s extremely smooth in the open court, showing nice ability to change speeds and get to the basket, where he can absolutely explode and throw down some monster dunks. Combine that with his good size and a frame that will put on weight, and you have a pretty interesting prospect.

Offensively he shows a very nice stroke from the mid-range area, pulling up smoothly off the dribble, and creating great separation from his defender. He loses accuracy when he steps outside the 3-point line, though, and will settle for bad shots from time to time. He made some very nice passes in the games we saw, but have been a little too passive at times, looking far too comfortable blending in, and showing a distinct lack of aggressiveness. He made some extremely impressive plays from time to time, but then disappeared for long stretches.

Defensively, Blackshear has all the tools to be very effective, and should be able to develop into a very good defender at the collegiate level, as long as he’s willing to put the effort in, which wasn’t always the case when we saw him.

Jereme Richmond, 6-7, Small Forward, Waukegan High School, 2010
Committed to Illinois

Despite being one of the more highly touted players we took in on the summer circuit, it was tough not to come away disappointed by the play of Illinois commit Jereme Richmond (#6 Scout, #36 Rivals, #17 ESPN).

Richmond clearly has elite physical tools with his superb size at 6-7, to go along with an excellent wingspan and terrific athleticism. The problem is that he rarely utilized it in any of the three games we saw him, being almost a complete non-factor on the offensive end. Richmond’s ball-handling skills are poor and he lacks great range on his shot, often shooting the ball on the way down, which makes him fairly streaky. His feel for the game looked somewhat average, and he didn’t seem to be playing very hard either. Defensively he did show serious potential with his excellent natural gifts, though, and he did come up with some very athletic rebounds. He also made a couple of very nice passes, but still struggled to stand out for the most part.

Richmond has fallen a bit in the recruiting rankings as of late, likely because of some of the same issues we saw this summer. He obviously has quite a bit of talent, and we’ll have to wait and see what kind of college player he ends up being at Illinois. It’s not out of the question that he was just in an extended funk when we saw him, because clearly all the accolades he’s received didn’t come for nothing.

Ray McCallum, 6-1, Point Guard, Detroit Country Day School, 2010

One of the better pure point guards we saw this summer, Ray McCallum (#26 Scout, #60 Rivals, #36 ESPN) might not blow you away initially with his NBA upside, but he is sure to, at the very least, emerge as an outstanding college player.

Standing somewhere around 6-1, with a skinny frame and above average athleticism, McCallum’s best natural asset is his mind, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering that his father is an NCAA head coach. He’s extremely poised, smart and mature, already showing excellent leadership skills, and being a very good decision maker for his age. He knows how to run a team and get all of his teammates involved, and should benefit tremendously from the experience he garners at the college level.

McCallum is not exceptionally quick, but he knows how to get to the rim thanks to his strong ball-handling skills, where he sometimes has issues finishing due to his lack of strength and leaping ability. He can make shots pulling up off the dribble, and seems to have improved his long-range jumper from what we’re told, even if it still seems prone to streakiness at times. Not a big-time scorer, McCallum will need to continue to hone his 3-point shot and in-between game if he’s to reach his full potential as a point guard. Defensively, McCallum doesn’t have great natural tools, but he does put the effort in, which is more than enough to get the job done at this level when you add in his excellent feel for the game. Whoever lands McCallum (all the top programs, including Kansas, UCLA, Duke, Louisville and others are after him) will be getting a player who is ready to contribute right away.

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