Player Evaluations, McDonald’s All-American Game (East Team)
by: Jonathan Givony - President, Jim Hlavac, Richard Walker
April 4, 2009
A look at all of the 12 players on the East squad participating at the McDonald’s All-American game, with observations, photos and interviews garnered from the entire week of action. This article will rely heavily on the private scrimmage we were able to attend the day before the event, which was far more competitive than the actual game, and provided significant insight into the strengths and weaknesses of everyone in attendance. We were also able to sit with and pick the brains of many of the dozen or so NBA teams that showed up for the game on Wednesday, which gave us an additional perspective based on their always-fascinating first impressions.
It was good to be able to see Derrick Favors (#1 Scout, #4 Rivals, #2 ESPN¬) in a setting like this, going up against players with similar size and athleticism. Favors didn’t have a shockingly impressive showing over the course of the week relative to his status as the potential #1 overall recruit in the nation, but he clearly displayed his credentials as a terrific long-term prospect once again.
Favors mostly established himself as a finisher this week—not a surprise considering the all-star nature setting. His terrific hands and ability to finish well above the rim on very catch made him a very popular target in the post to drop the ball off to. His footwork looked somewhat limited and he struggled trying to do all that much outside of the paint, but he surely made up for that with his ability to gobble up rebounds on both ends of the floor. Defensively he contested everything around his area, even though he struggled a bit to step out and guard the likes of Renardo Sidney at times, looking somewhat flat-footed in the process, mostly due to his poor technique. This is clearly a part of his game that the coaches at Georgia Tech will work with him on. Favors would surely be a lottery prospect if it weren’t for the one and done rule, but it’s probably a good thing that he’s forced to go to college and develop his all-around game.
DeMarcus Cousins (#6 Scout, #2 Rivals, #4 ESPN¬) had an up and down week of practices followed by an average showing in the actual game on Wednesday, showing his many strengths and weaknesses as a prospect. Regardless of how he looks on any given night, he’s a tremendous presence on both ends of the court due to his outstanding size and freakish length. His wingspan allows him to finish around the basket with the greatest of ease, which is good considering that he’s not much of a leaper due to his average explosiveness and conditioning-level.
Offensively, Cousins can do many different things, including hit 3-pointers, put the ball on the deck and create shots for himself on his own, which is a very unique thing considering his size. He tends to fall in love with his perimeter skills, though, not really showing the basketball IQ needed to take advantage of his many gifts, although that’s something he’ll surely be able to figure out down the road. Defensively he offered very little this week, looking mostly disinterested in putting an effort in. He’ll need to get himself into much better shape if he wants to see big minutes in a system like John Calipari’s, but that’s exactly what these guys go to school for.
This was a typical week from Stephenson (#7 Scout, #9 Rivals, #8 ESPN) from what we’ve come to expect over the past few years. First he missed his flight, arriving here late. Then he made a big fuss out his college announcement, canceling and rescheduling it multiple times, much to the chagrin of the organizers, until he eventually called a press conference to announce that he has nothing to announce.
On the court, it was much of the same: bad shots, selfish play, terrible body language, cheap shots to the opposition, plenty of turnovers, predictably followed by him visibly blaming others for his own mistakes. The more other members of this class continue to catch up as far as physical development is concerned, the less Stephenson’s ability to overpower his way to the basket works. He repeatedly tried to bulldozer his way into the lane over the course of this week, and only saw mixed results in the process, due to his inability to play above the rim. His jump-shot wasn’t falling, and he only seemed to pass as either a last resort or when he had a chance to make himself look good with a highlight reel caliber assist.
The talent is obviously there, as Stephenson showed from time to time, particularly on the pick and roll, but the question marks continue to grow. It’s difficult to understand why recruiting services such as Clark Francis’ HoopScoop rank him as the #1 overall prospect in this class, but only time will tell if they are correct.
Maalik Wayns (#26 Scout, #25 Rivals, #20 ESPN¬) continues to make strides in his overall game, as you would hope from a player so young. He had a strong overall week here, showing that he clearly belonged, and really looking like an important find for Jay Wright’s Villanova squad.
Wayns isn’t going to blow you away with any one aspect of his game, but he regardless has all the makings of an excellent college player. He’s a true point guard with a real distributor’s mentality, looking highly unselfish and clearly looking to make others around him better. He’s a strong ball-handler as well, aggressive making moves to the basket, mostly using his smarts and craftiness, but not looking overly athletic at the same time. It was tough to evaluate his shooting in this setting, which is an important aspect to his game obviously. Wayns seems to be a very high character kid with strong intangibles, which is extremely important at his position. He looks like he’ll be in college for a least a couple of years.
There isn’t a great deal of new information to add to Ryan Kelly’s (#11 Scout, #20 Rivals, #12 ESPN) profile from the last time we saw him. He’s still the same highly skilled, yet physically underdeveloped big man who looks to be at his best when facing the basket, as he showed by winning the 3-point contest, while putting on a terrific shooting display. Kelly can shoot the ball spotting up or off the dribble, and clearly already has range out to the college 3-point line, which is quite an asset at his position. He’s a decent athlete as well, but lacks the strength to be much of a presence with his back to the basket, and struggles at times getting pushed around in the paint defensively and on the glass. He is a very smart, unselfish and highly competitive player, though, which leaves plenty of room for optimism regarding his ability to develop into a terrific college player as his body continues to fill out. He was one of the few players who actually came here to work this week, something that Coach K obviously would have loved to see.
This was a very underwhelming week for Dexter Strickland(#18 Scout, #17 Rivals, #21 ESPN¬), at least compared to what we had seen from him in the past. He rarely had the ball in his hands and didn’t really do much when he did. He had a hard time with the physical defense played on him by the likes of Michael Snaer and Avery Bradley, but was unusually quiet regardless based off what we’ve come to expect.
Dante Taylor (#17 Scout, #24 Rivals, #18 ESPN¬) didn’t show a great deal of versatility over the course of this week, but he regardless looks like an excellent fit for Jamie Dixon and Pitt, mostly thanks to his physical attributes and raw skill-level. Taylor is a big, long, well-built and extremely athletic big man who should be able to see minutes right away in the Big East, especially if DeJuan Blair leaves for the NBA as expected. He has good hands and was able to emerge as a terrific finisher around the basket, running the floor well in transition and being able to finish through contact. His skill-set still has a ways to go, and he doesn’t show a great deal of moves with his back to the basket, and seems to have a very inconsistent stroke from the perimeter. You can see that there is some talent, there, though, it just needs to be harnessed. Defensively Taylor should be able to provide a presence in the paint for Dixon, even if his fundamentals at the moment aren’t great. We’re looking at a guy who is mostly a project at the moment, but definitely has excellent tools to develop down the road.
This was a pretty brutal week for the local kid Kenny Boynton (#8 Scout, #7 Rivals, #10 ESPN¬), as he was unable to get anything going in most of the settings we were able to evaluate him in, although that didn’t seem to be bothering him that much. Boynton’s perimeter shot wasn’t falling at all, and when he doesn’t have a team that is working to get him shots, there isn’t a great deal he can do at the moment to contribute otherwise, as all the other parts of his game are still underdeveloped. He showed his athleticism on a few occasions, but often looked out of control forcing the issue with the ball, committing plenty of turnovers in turn. Boynton is a volume scorer who needs plenty of shots in order to be effective, which is why this probably isn’t the ideal setting to evaluate him.
Milton Jennings (#23 Scout, #12 Rivals, #26 ESPN¬) had a quiet week here in Miami, but still showed some interesting attributes that should make him an intriguing player to watch at Clemson over the next few years. He has a very nice skill-set for a player with his size and frame, looking very much capable of putting the ball on the floor, and also showing very soft touch on his jumper, even being able to hit shots off the dribble. He played both the 3 and the 4 on this team, looking more effective as a face-up PF where can space the floor effectively. He’s a solid athlete who runs the court well, although he seemed to lack some toughness on the defensive end and on the glass, getting outmuscled in the paint at times. He’s likely going to see playing time right away for Clemson, and could develop into an intriguing prospect down the road.
This was a pretty strong week for charismatic point guard Peyton Siva (#54 Scout, #49 Rivals, #23 ESPN¬), showing strong potential in both the practices and actual game, and surely giving future head coach Rick Pitino plenty to look forward to. Siva’s athleticism was constantly on display, mostly in the form of outstanding drives to the basket. His point guard skills appear to be improving from the last time we saw him, as he did a nice job running the pick and roll and finding teammates with crafty bounce passes, although he still has a tendency to try and do too much at times, eventually leading to turnovers. Siva is a great teammate who always seemed to be in the middle of everything over the course of the week, as he has an infectious personality and a great deal of leadership potential. He has plenty of things to work on, but should be able to see playing time right away in the Big East next year.
Dominic Cheek (#15 Scout, #16 Rivals, #15 ESPN¬) was able to assert himself fairly well when felt like it over the course of this week, mostly by using his excellent yet highly unorthodox perimeter stroke, both in standstill positions and off the dribble. His ball-handling skills remain improvable, but he has the instincts and smarts to know how to get by at this level without too many problems. He seemed to turn it on and off at times, not always looking all that engaged, which is something we noticed from observing him over the course of the past year, but regardless remains a stud recruit for Jay Wright at Villanova.
We’ve covered Oriakhi’s (#14 Scout, #21 Rivals, #19 ESPN¬) game in quite a bit of depth over the past two years, and there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of new information to bring to the table at this point in time. He’s still the same long, chiseled inside oriented big man, limited with his skill-set, but very regardless effective thanks to his very specific strengths.
Oriakhi finished well around the basket over the course of the week, but looked quite mechanical when trying to attempt to execute any type of advanced moves, getting called for some travels around the basket or a 3-second violation. Facing the basket, his shooting range doesn’t extend much farther out than five feet, as we saw in the drills portion of one practice. He’s clearly a meat and potatoes type who comes to work every day and doesn’t sport anything fancy to his game. His length, strength, athleticism and hustle allows him to clean the glass very effectively, while defensively he has strong potential, but needs to work on not wildly chasing every block. Oriakhi is obviously a great get for Jim Calhoun in the Big East, and he looks like he’ll fit in right away into the void left by Jeff Adrien’s graduation, as he brings similar strengths to the table.
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