National Prep Showcase-- Day Two

National Prep Showcase-- Day Two
Nov 19, 2006, 12:08 am
Coverage of the second day of the National Showcase in Worcester, Massachusetts. Over 65 Division I colleges have attended so far.

Coverage includes recaps of Michael Beasley, Troy Gillenwater, Craig Brackins, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Mamadou Diarra, Jeff Allen, Dogas Balbay and others.

Michael Beasley
6’9, Senior, PF, Notre Dame Prep (committed to Kansas State)

Rodger Bohn

Beasley showed everyone in attendance in Worcester why he is the number two player in the country, putting on a dominant performance in Notre Dame’s narrow win over Hargrave Military Academy. He truly only played inspired for about half of the game, still managing to yield 19 points and 12 rebounds. Fans and coaches alike were left pondering how good the Notre Dame senior could be if he didn’t coast so much, and the thought of Mike playing hard for an entire game is a scary thought, considering how dominant he can be going only half speed.

The former Oak Hill product’s offensive prowess was felt immediately, as he asserted himself on the offensive glass from the time the ball was tipped. He jumps far too quick and far too high for opposing players to stop from rebounding unless they put a body on him, and Hargrave’s Jeff Allen and Eric Wallace made the mistake of thinking they could out jump Beasley. His athletic prowess did not stop there, as he showed off remarkable quickness for a 6’9 player during his drives to the basket, spinning off defenders in an absolute blur and finishing above the rim. The body control that he displayed when in the air would have been remarkable even for a point guard, and we were looking at a power forward who was this graceful when airborn.

It was quite impressive to see how well Michael was able to defend on the perimeter, when he wanted to exert effort on the defensive end. He was able to keep in front of anyone Hargrave threw at him, whether it be PF Jeff Allen or shooting guard Jordan Crawford. He actually asserted his length and athleticism on the defensive end today, registering multiple deflections and altering a ton of shots. Beasley has the potential to become a very good defender at the college level if he chooses to exert more effort more often, and attempts to grasp the concept of team defense as a whole.

This just showed college coaches, recruiting gurus, and fans alike that Michael Beasley will be as good as Michael Beasley wants to be. If he wants to play like a future NBA all star, we will see an all star in the making on the court. If he wants to play the loathing big man role, we will see an athletic marvel on the floor accomplishing only a small fraction of what he has the potential to. It must be noted that Beasley played significantly harder on both ends of the floor when touching the ball on offense, so if you are listening Bob Huggins, start developing some offensive sets to utilize your ultra talented forward so we can finally see him live up to his fullest potential.

Troy Gillenwater
6-7, Power Forward, Junior (Undecided)

Jonathan Givony

Just another day on the job for the scrappy Troy Gillenwater, possibly the most versatile big man we’ve seen here so far besides Michael Beasley. He showed off a fantastic package of all-around skills tonight, draining long range jumpers, using his phenomenal footwork to score with his back to the basket, facing up and slithering around defenders, drawing fouls like they were going out of style, running the floor and finishing in transition, and generally making life miserable for whoever attempted to guard him. When Stoneridge was in trouble and needed a basket, it was the 16 year old Gillenwater that delivered for them. He finished the game with 37 points (shooting 11 for 16 from the field and 14 of 20 from the free throw line), the most of any player at the Showcase so far. His phenomenal hands also made him a terror on the glass. Gillenwater is going to be a fantastic college player for whichever lucky program manages to land him, but in terms of NBA potential, there are still question marks about his true position. He is a bit stuck between the 3 and the 4 at the moment, lacking great ball-handling skills in particular. That didn’t stop the Craig Smith’s and Corliss Williamson’s of the world from making it, but he’s going to have his doubters if he doesn’t grow an inch or two in the next few years. Regarding his college list, the top contenders for his services right now include Oklahoma State, Washington, Southern Cal, Florida, Cal, Nebraska and Georgetown.

Craig Brackins
6’10, Senior, PF, Brewster Academy (committed to Iowa State)

Rodger Bohn

Like Michael Beasley, Craig Brackins is another super talented forward who doesn’t really ever seem to live up to his fullest potential on a consistent basis. Also like Beasley, Brackins did show fans how special he really is capable of becoming eventually, scoring 29 points and grabbing 7 rebounds tonight in a win over Massanutten Military Academy.

Brackins was an absolute nightmare for opposing power forwards to guard, as he can beat big men off the dribble from the perimeter, while also being a threat to score at will on the low blocks. While he is not a very physical player by any stretch of the matter, the Iowa State commit is nowhere near as soft as many have labeled him. He had no problem going down to the low post and scoring via jump hooks or smooth turnaround jumpers. Then once on the wing, Craig showed his outside shooting ability (knocked down two three pointers) and was able to blow past Massanutten big men off the dribble. He showed that he owns a very good skill set for a player of his size, and has proven time and time again that he can score on any level. Craig is walking into a great opportunity at Iowa State, where he shall assume an immediate importance in the team’s offense, as he is by far the most prized recruit the rebuilding Cyclones have landed since Marcus Fizer.

On the down side, Brackins has been known not to exert maximum (or near maximum for that matter) effort on a consistent basis, resulting in his inconsistent play over the last few years. He is not a good defender at the moment, although he is a good, but not great athlete and has good length for a power forward. As long as the Iowa State coaching staff is able to keep the California native motivated over his time as a Cyclone, they will have a super power forward on their hands. It is absolutely absurd that one well known recruiting network does not even list Brackins as a top100 player in the class of 2007, considering that there are no more then 20 players in the class more talented the him. All in all, it was an excellent performance and excellent effort by Craig, and hopefully Brewster coach Jason Smith is able to keep him motivated enough to where we’ll see this now on a consistent basis.

Matthew Bryan-Amaning
6-9, Power Forward, Senior, South Kent (Committed to Washington)

Jonathan Givony

The best player on the floor for what was otherwise a very underwhelming game between South Kent and Maine Central Institute was British forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning. The first thing you notice about him are his fantastic physical tools, including a terrific frame for a combo forward, an excellent wingspan, and outstanding athletic ability. Bryan-Amaning made a living running the floor and pulling off some great dunks in transition, but he also showed some promising skill using his quickness and explosiveness facing the basket from mid-range and inside the paint, sometimes with a jump-hook. When an immediate opportunity to go to work wasn’t there, he didn’t have a problem giving the ball up to the open man and actually showed nice court vision doing so. Contrary to what we saw over the summer in Las Vegas, he was allowed to show off his ball-handling skills, with mixed results for the most part. Off of one or two short dribbles he is usually fine thanks to his terrific first step, but when asked to handle the ball in the open floor, his lack of polish really shows. Defensively, he showed a good attitude, using his length to bother opponents, coming up with a block and a few steals in the process. He needs to do a better job with the fundamental part of his game, something that can be said about his all-around skill set and general feel for the game, but he seems to be developing nicely. Watching him play, its hard not thinking that he’s a perfect fit for Lorenzo Romar’s system at Washington, as he’ll be allowed to run the floor all day and put his fantastic athleticism to use. He’s definitely a guy to keep on.

Keenan Ellis
6’11, Senior, PF, American Christian (committed to UAB)

Rodger Bohn

Like Ohio high school basketball fans saw over the last two years, coaches and fans alike saw the potential, the good, and the bad of Keenan Ellis on Saturday night. He showed flashes of why he was once ranked as a top fifteen player in his class, showed why he’s dropped so far in the rankings, and showed how good of a player he has the chance to become at UAB.

Ellis began the game on a tear, scoring 9 points in the game’s first three and a half minutes. He was buried a three pointer off the dribble, converted a jaw dropping ally-oop, and even broke down his man off of the dribble and put up a soft floater in the lane. The Indiana native was incredibly active and altered a ton of shots on the defensive end, playing inspired on both ends of the floor for the first time in a quite a while. For some reason though, American Christian coach Tony Bergeron decided to take Ellis out and sit him for the final fifteen minutes of the half, leaving many observers question why he would sit the clearly the best player on the floor for such a long stretch. Uncoincidentally, Bridgton made their run to come back in the game as Keenan was on the bench, making what once appeared like it was going to be a blowout now a competitive game.

In the second half, we saw why many dropped Ellis in the rankings. He was out of control on the offensive end handling the basketball, displayed poor shot selection, and was nowhere to be found on the defensive end. The former teammate of O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker did manage to knock down a couple of mid-range jumpers, but was downright abused on the defensive end by St. John’s signee Justin Burrell. Likewise, American Christian wound up losing a game they should have won, although hey clearly missed the scoring presence of star junior guard Tyreke Evans.

Everyone in attendance saw the good and the bad of Ellis tonight, but it was pretty clear to all in attendance that Mike Davis got a steal at UAB. Based on talent alone he is easily a top 50 player nationally, but there are many issues that could hinder him living up to his potential. First of all, Keenan is arguably the skinniest 6’11 player on the prep circuit, weighing only 200 lbs., and possessing a frame that does not look like it is capable of bulking up considerably. Also, there have been character issues with Keenan in the past, as this is his third high school and he was kicked off of the team at North College Hill mid season last year for reportedly fighting with Bill Walker, among other things. Regardless, we watched a super talented, freak athlete of a seven footer tonight who has the potential of really becoming something special under Mike Davis’ guidance if he is able to add some weight and take care of his personal issues.

Jeff Allen
6-7, Power Forward, Post-Graduate, Hargrave Military Academy (Virginia Tech)

Jonathan Givony

As productive a big man as you’ll find here, Jeff Allen did a nice job keeping his team in the game today against Michael Beasley’s Notre Dame Prep, even if he had a huge part in the eventual loss by fouling out late in the game on an unnecessary technical foul for complaining to the refs. He’s able to move people around in the post thanks to his huge frame and outstanding strength, taking contact around the basket and showing nice footwork and touch with his back to the hoop. His big, soft hands make him a presence on the glass as well, as he’s a slightly better athlete than he initially looks, particularly with the way he gets off his feet. Graves also a pretty good feel for the game, knowing how to get his team into transition with a slick outlet pass and not being a liability in the post when the double-team eventually comes. He is attempting to make the transition out to the wing right now, and seems to be trying to prove that he’s capable of doing so more than he really should. We’ve seen him barrel his way into the paint on numerous occasions over the past two days, sometimes using his strength and touch to finish nicely around the basket, but also coming up with quite a few offensive fouls since he’s really too wide to possess very good body control. Allen is heading to Virginia Tech where he should be a nice ACC role player if he is willing to play up to his strengths, something that he’s done only on occasion here in Worcester. Cutting out the pull-up fadeaway jumpers from 18 feet out of his gae would be a good start. Improving his perimeter shot should definitely be a priority for him.

Mamadou Diarra
7’0, Senior, C, Stoneridge Prep

Rodger Bohn

The highly touted center prospect struggled yet again tonight against a smaller Lee Academy squad, which basically forced Stoneridge to match their “small ball” style of play, leaving all three of Stoneridge’s seven footers planted on the bench for large portions of the game. When in the game however, Diarra made his presence felt on the defensive end, snagging a ton of rebounds and making Lee Academy players think twice before putting up soft shots in the lane. He even showed a little on the offensive end tonight, displaying a sweet spin move along the baseline for two points, and using his great strength on a post pin that resulted in a dunk, plus the foul.

While Mamadou will never blow anyone away with his numbers in the stat line, it is his massive upside that have college coaches drooling over him and make him a player we need to keep our eyes on. We are looking at a seven footer who has a perfect frame, runs the floor very well, and is awfully athletic. While Diarra is still incredibly raw, he has shown some decent basketball instincts when on the floor and has the luxury of working with a former NBA scout (Babacar Sy) and former collegiate assistant coach (Amadou Koundoul) on a daily basis to work on his development on the low blocks. He is currently considering USC, Baylor, Connecticut, Fresno State, Arizona, and Tennessee amongst others at the moment. It seems to be a given that Mamdou will land at either a school with another Senegalese player, or one with a tradition of developing big men, so there is a chance that we might be talking about him as a draft prospect in a few years if he is ever able to develop on the offensive end of the floor.

Dogus Balbay
6-1, Point Guard, Post-Graduate (Committed to Texas)

Jonathan Givony

Of special intrigue to us was Brewster’s new point guard, a 6-1 Turkish guard has yet to emerge on the radar screens of the recruiting services but has put together quite a nice resume playing at the Albert Schweitzer Tournament in Germany and U-18 European Championship this past summer. Balbay isn’t really fully integrated on his team yet and only played 16 minutes in tonight’s blowout, but he dropped some heavy hints of his potential when he was on the floor, shooting 5-6 from the floor for 10 points. He’s certainly not your typical European as far as skills or athleticism goes, showing a great first step, excellent lateral quickness, and a pretty explosive vertical leap. He played very good pressure defense on Massanutten’s point guard, coming up with a couple of steals to ignite his team in transition. He played both on the ball (not showing a ton as an organizer) as well as off the ball, where he really shined making sharp cuts to the basket and finishing with plenty of creativity and either hand. Speaking with him after the game, he seems to be very happy with his decision to play in the States, citing how much he likes the pretty New Hampshire area and saying that he enjoys playing with his teammates even though he surprisingly is coming off the bench. Balbay will be playing with Texas in 07-08 if he passes the TOEFL (test for International students) this year. He just recently signed. He would have been playing on this year’s team already but did not have the TOEFL score needed.

Nate Tomlinson
6’2, Junior, PG, Lee Academy

Rodger Bohn

While there is a very slim chance that he will ever be an NBA prospect, Lee Academy’s Nate Tomlinson easily was one of the better guards the event had to offer in terms of leadership skills and pure toughness. He did a fantastic job running his undersized team, which did not have anywhere near the talent of the teams they were matched up against over the weekend. Tomlinson did an excellent job running the show, broke down opposing defenses at will, and buried the open three when left open. He was a surprisingly decent athlete, given the fact that he looks like a 1980’s adult film star. Nate is surely a mid-major point guard at the collegiate level, but according to him, is not being seriously recruited by anyone at the moment beyond receiving letters. The reason for that is he's only been in the States for two months. Expect his recruiting situation to heat up significantly in the next few months.

Angelo Johnson
5-10, Point Guard, Junior (Undecided)

Jonathan Givony

The diminutive and surprisingly unheralded Angelo Johnson continued to make noise for himself on the recruiting trail, using his superb quickness and explosive first step to get into the paint almost whenever he pleased against Lee Academy, scoring 19 points on 7-8 shooting from the free throw line. The fact that he’s only a junior showed at times, but without him Stoneridge looked absolutely lost. Johnson looks very much out of control from time to time, driving down the lane with a full head of steam and not really seeing the floor as he makes his way in for an athletic finish. He has great ball-handling skills and plenty of hesitation moves he can go to, so getting in to the lane really isn’t a problem for him at this level when he decides to put his mind to it. Organizing an offense in the half-court effectively on a consistent basis sometimes is, though… Stoneridge was up by 19 points at half time and were down by 2 points just 11 minutes later, and Johnson was partially to blame for that. The pretty jumper he showed yesterday wasn’t falling for him tonight (6-15 from the field), but the terrific lateral quickness and excellent hands to get in the passing lanes most definitely were.

Devin Ebanks
6-7, Small Forward, Junior, St. Thomas More (Undecided)

Jonathan Givony

One of the more highly touted juniors in the 2008 high school class, Devin Ebanks had a solid, although not overwhelming game today in a loss to Patterson. He was opportunistic around the basket and in transition, using his size and length to pull down rebounds and make plays for his team, mostly in the 1st half. He’s long and incredibly skinny in the Rudy Gay mold, but unlike last year’s #8 pick, he lacks incredible explosiveness. Ebanks is a smart player who is already adept at making a living on the wing at 6-7, showing good passing ability, plenty of smarts, and the ability to fit in within a team’s system. His ball-handling skills are good, as are his shooting mechanics, even if his jumper really wasn’t falling for him at a great clip today. At this point Ebanks projects as a nice college player who has a chance to develop into a pro after (at least) a few years in college if he adds strength to his frame and continues to add polish to his game. Whether he continues to be considered a top 20 player in his class is anyone’s guess, though.

Ibrahima Thomas
7-0, Power Forward, Senior (Committed to Oklahoma State)

Jonathan Givony

Thomas showed some rare skills for a 7-footer tonight, but his very concerning set of weaknesses kept him glued to the bench too much to give us more than just a brief glimpse. The skinny African project drained two 3-pointers during one stretch, and then followed that up by faking a shot, putting the ball on the floor, and finishing with a floater. That was the extent of what he showed tonight, at least on the offensive end. On the other end of the floor he looked lost for the most part, showing poor timing defensively and not making much of an effort if at all to hit the glass. He’s too skinny, raw and soft to be able to guard the 6-7 big guys he faces up with at this level, and his coach quickly tired of him once Stoneridge blew a 19 point half-time lead with him in the game. He was sent to the bench and did not return for the rest of the game.

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