2008 Spalding Hoophall Classic -- Elite Prospects

2008 Spalding Hoophall Classic -- Elite Prospects
Jan 21, 2008, 01:30 am
Brandon Jennings, 6-1, Senior, Point Guard, Oak Hill Academy
Committed to Arizona
32 points, 3 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 rebound, 3 steals, 11-24 FG, 8-9 FT, 2-7 3P, 32 minutes

Jonathan Givony

Ranked by most analysts as the top point guard in the 2008 class, the burden of expectations was always going to be quite high for Brandon Jennings (#7 Scout, #8 Rivals) going into this game. And although he was named the MVP of his team for his performance, in a winning effort, there were definitely some negatives to take away from today.

Jennings is a slightly undersized point guard with an average frame, solid length and excellent athletic ability. He has a terrific first step, and is an extremely fluid all-around player, the type who everything comes easy for on the court.

Known as more of a pass-first playmaker, Jennings looked more focused on showing off his scoring ability in this game. He shot the ball 24 times in 32 minutes, seven times from behind the arc, and only hit 11 of his field goal attempts. His shot selection looked extremely questionable at times, to say the least. He’s relying more heavily on his perimeter jumper than we remember, looking to create space from the perimeter and then pulling up constantly off the dribble, with mostly mixed results. He seemed to settle too often, before anyone else on his team got the touch the ball. On one particular play, the 30-second shot-clock expired with the ball in his hands without him having passed it by that point even once.

Looking beyond just today’s performance, though, you can definitely say that he’s got nice potential as a perimeter shooter down the road, both from mid-range (especially on his pull-up) and behind the arc. It would just be a shame for him to fall in love with it and forget the rest of his game.

A superb ball-handler with either hand, Jennings has terrific quickness, an assortment of crossovers and hesitation moves, and the added benefit of being left-handed, which most defenders just aren’t used to. He likes to push the ball up the floor, and is especially effective in transition, which should suit him quite well next year at Arizona. He didn’t finish particularly well around the rim, though, as his lack of size and strength appears to be a bit of a hindrance at this level already. He also doesn’t seem to be the most contact-loving player either, which resulted in some blown layups.

As a playmaker, Jennings has outstanding court vision, and the ability to make extremely flashy passes at high speeds while on the move. His decision making isn’t bad, but at times you feel like he’s more concerned with getting on to a highlight reel than making the right play. It seems like he may have played in just one too many AAU tournaments. Oak Hill looked fairly disorganized in their half-court sets, and we missed a little bit of leadership coming from Jennings’ direction. The team seems to be struggling all season long, and after what we saw today, it’s not too hard to tell why. Jennings just doesn’t look like he cares that much while on the court, or at least that’s what his laid back body language would lead you to believe. He’s a very dominant point guard who dribbles the ball excessively and is obviously much better setting up players off the bounce than he is directing traffic from the perimeter, showing lots of style but not enough substance.

Defensively, Jennings was extremely average, not putting too much effort in, and gambling excessively for steals and blocks, jumping wildly trying to contest shots from behind the arc. Oak Hill often had him defending the other team’s worst player, possibly to conserve his energy. He does have very nice ability to come up with steals, though, both coming up in the passing lanes and picking his man’s pocket clean playing on the ball. He was able to do exactly that on the last possession of the game with his team up by one point, stealing the ball, but then foolishly decided to lay it in and give the opposing team a chance to tie the game with a three rather than run out the entire clock on his own. Not a smart play at all.

All in all, there is very little question that Jennings has a great deal of potential. After watching him play here, though, we have some question marks about how quickly he will reach that potential. He should have a chance to step in and contribute right away at Arizona, which should help him.

Samardo Samuels, 6’8, Power Forward, Senior, St. Benedict’s (NJ)
Committed to Louisville
22 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 turnovers, 1 block, 8-10 FG, 6-8 FT in 28 minutes

Rodger Bohn

Samardo Samuels (#2 Scout, #7 Rivals) appears to be in better shape since we saw him in Florida last month, looking a chiseled 240 pounds and with great conditioning. It was a typical performance for him on the evening, using his powerful body to bully his way around the paint, while showing flashes of a developing face the basket game. In the opportunities that Samardo was facing the rim, he boasted a nice first step for a player his size, in addition to a very low dribble, especially when going right. He didn’t shoot any jumpers at all, but the few times that he drove to the cup were enough to leave optimism for his development in those areas. He also made some nice passes to fellow big man Greg Echenique, showing off his unselfish nature and excellent feel for the game. As always, it was easy to come away impressed by the way he finished around the basket, trying to tear down the rim with his powerful two handed dunks.

Even in a blowout victory, the Louisville recruit continued to play hard and showed off his great motor. It wasn’t his best performance on the defensive end, although the Jamaica native was drawn away from the basket many times against a smaller Dematha team. While he still needs some work to do refining his skill set in order to reach his max potential, all of the tools are there for him to be an immediate college contributor, and one who will certainly be on the radar of NBA scouts next season.

Ed Davis, 6-9, Power Forward, Senior, Benedictine
Committed to North Carolina
21 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 10-11 FG, 1-2 FT, 22 minutes

Jonathan Givony

This wasn’t really a major test for Ed Davis (#10 Scout, #20 Rivals), as the organizers decided to pit his team against a depleted St. George squad rather than the originally scheduled matchup with Samardo Samuels and St. Benedict’s. Nevertheless, Davis worked hard in the three quarters he participated in (he sat out the last quarter of pure garbage time), showing his strengths and weaknesses as a collegiate prospect.

Davis has excellent tools for a power forward, with decent size, outstanding length and a frame that is currently fairly narrow, but should fill out with time. Davis runs the floor well, is quick off his feet, and can really elevate to contest shots or finish around the rim.

Offensively, Davis played mostly in the low post today, although he has a reputation for being someone who can play inside and out. He didn’t seem to have a problem going to work with his back to the basket, showing some nice spin-moves, a solid jump-hook, and really nice patience and poise operating in the paint. When faced with a double team, he didn’t have a problem finding the open man, as he generally seems to be a pretty smart, unselfish player.

Davis does almost all of his damage right now with his left hand (shot-blocking, scoring, and dribbling), looking pretty limited with his right—which isn’t that much of an issue at this level. He’ll have to develop his right hand into being at least somewhat of a weapon if he’s to reach his full potential down the road, though. The thing we liked the best about the way Davis played today was the aggressiveness he showed finishing around the hoop. He does not settle for soft finishes here, going up and dunking everything with two hands, aided greatly by the terrific extension he has here thanks to his wingspan. Davis also uses this same extension to establish himself as a force on the glass, particularly on the offensive end. He was incredibly active here, fighting constantly inside and getting his hands on plenty of loose balls.

Facing the basket, Davis attempted just one jumper on the day, a nice-looking 16 footer which he missed. He was used mostly as an old-school back to the basket pivot. He didn’t show any ball-handling skills either.

Defensively, Davis was solid, blocking some shots and altering others. There wasn’t much to evaluate here since he really wasn’t challenged by anyone noteworthy, but he did do a good job from what he was asked to do. He’s got good potential in this area as a collegiate player thanks to his length and solid athleticism, but he’ll need to add 15-20 pounds to his frame before he’ll really be able to play serious high-level minutes defensively in the ACC. That should come eventually.

All in all, it looks like North Carolina has landed itself another very solid role player. Davis has the chance to develop into more than that, but it will take him some time. He looks to be on the right path.

Lance Stephenson, 6’5, Shooting Guard, Junior, Lincoln HS (NY)
22 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 steal, 11-14 FG, 0-2 FT in 22 minutes

Rodger Bohn

This was a pretty average performance out of star junior Lance Stephenson (#5 Scout, #4 Rivals) in Lincoln’s blowout win over Milwaukee Pius. The usual antics that seem to follow the talented guard were there: Questionable effort, poor body language, trash talking, and the ability to do basically anything he wants in spurts on the court.

The game seems to come so easy for Stephenson that he often becomes very careless on the court, attempting passes that not even Steve Nash could make. While he is a good passer, his desire for the flair tends to take him out of the game mentally at times. Very vocal and animated, he has the potential to be a good leader on the floor if he is ever able to understand the big picture, which is a big IF at the moment.

In terms of actual skills, Lance has plenty to offer. He is able to shoot the ball out to NBA three point range, put it on the floor, and even take you down to the blocks and score out of the post. The player who stops Lance Stephenson most often is himself, as he tends to get out of the game mentally before he can even get in a groove at times. When unable to score himself, he has exhibited outstanding court vision both in the open floor and in half court sets. Occasionally even playing point guard, many feel that the potential is there for Stephenson to eventually become a combo guard down the road, if he’d be willing to give up the ball enough.

Defensively, Stephenson exerts very little effort and appears to just be waiting for the next shot to come off of the rim so he can find an opportunity to score the ball. Blessed with an outstanding body, long arms, and decent lateral quickness, there is no excuse why the NYC product is not a better defender.

The most evident weaknesses that Lance seems to have are his on-court demeanor and relatively average athleticism for a shooting guard prospect. His athleticism is solid for a high school player, but it is not at the same level as most NBA shooting guard prospects. This might be one of the reasons he settles so often for jumpers rather than taking the ball strong to the basket. The character issues surrounding Stephenson are much more concerning, and only time will tell if he is able to completely understand how good he has the potential to become.

The star shooting guard currently has a list of Indiana, USC, Kansas, Duke, and North Carolina and does not appear to be ready to make a collegiate decision anytime soon. Whatever program is able to land him will be getting a potential 15 point per game scorer from day one, but must be willing to sacrifice for all of the issues that tag along with Stephenson.

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