National High School Hoops Festival Recap

National High School Hoops Festival Recap
Dec 14, 2007, 04:18 am
This past weekend’s National High School Hoops Festival in Upper Marlboro, Maryland featured plenty of talented teams stacked with future college players. Included in the weekend’s action were loaded programs like Connecticut’s South Kent , North Carolina’s Patterson School , and Pennsylvania ’s American Christian School , home to blue chip prospect Tyreke Evans. With eight games in two days, there was plenty of basketball to be watched and plenty of talent to take in. DraftExpress was on hand to provide analysis of some of the top players in action.

Tyreke Evans, 6’5” PG/SG, Senior, American Christian School (PA), Undecided

There was no doubt about who the marquee name was at Henry Wise Jr. High School this weekend. Evans’s face could be seen everywhere on flyers and programs for the weekend’s festivities. Despite all of the hype, which is clearly deserved, Evans did not have his strongest showing in his match up with the loaded Patterson School . From the opening tip, nearly every time Evans touched the basketball he was hounded by defenders and often found himself double-teamed. Even with his NBA caliber frame, he still found himself struggling at points during the game to get his offense going.

In the first half Evans stuck with his strongest weapon, which is his ability to drive to the basket. On his second possession, just a few minutes into the contest, he brought the crowd to its feet with a phenomenal drive and finish. After beating his man off the dribble from the top of the key, Evans was bumped in midair by another defender, turned his back to the basket and flipped a shot up over his head that banked in. While it looked like he was going to put on another scoring display, that would be one of few big plays for Evans. He was unable to get many other shots off for the rest of the first half, mainly due to the defenses’ inability to stop fouling him. Evans has a tremendous first step, which gave his opponents fits, and he earned himself several trips to the foul line.

At the start of the second half Evans showed off his range by knocking down a pair of pull up three pointers. He has consistent form, and even though he brings the ball behind his head, that style of shooting works for him. From that point on, though, Evans’ shots stopped falling for him. Most of his touches for the rest of the game, including an overtime period, resulted in forced shots from the perimeter.

While he may not have been exhibiting his usual scoring prowess, Evans did show off some of his point guard skills. He has tremendous ball-handling skills, and while there have been questions as to how much of a team player he is at times, in this particular game Evans did a nice job of finding teammates for open looks around the basket.

Even in a game in which he was less than spectacular; Evans still showed that he is a tremendous talent with loads of potential. He is the type of player that as a freshman can step in right away and have a major impact for whichever team he eventually decides to sign with. Even further down the road, if he continues to develop his skills, he could become a very solid pro player.

Courtney Fortson, 5’10” PG, Senior, Patterson School (NC), Committed to Arkansas

The Razorbacks are getting themselves quite a player when Fortson enrolls there in the fall. We were lucky enough to see Fortson play twice during the weekend, both times against elite teams (South Kent and American Christian), and the speedy guard did not disappoint.

Despite being just 5’10”, Fortson was the most dominant player we saw. The first thing that jumps out about his game is his fearlessness. Nearly every time the ball wound up in Fortson’s hands he was using his excellent first step to drive hard at the basket. He has great elevation, able to easily dunk the basketball cleanly with two hands, and this coupled with his ability to take contact makes him a real threat as a slasher. Fortson really exhibited great body control and a nice touch around the rim, making him very tough to stop even in traffic.

Fortson displayed a real toughness that coaches love to see from point guards. He came down with a lot of tough rebounds in crowds of much taller players simply because of his tenacity going after the ball. Fortson also showed a knack for stepping up his game in big situations. In his second game against American Christian, Fortson absolutely dominated the overtime period, outscoring the opposition by himself. At points he looked nearly unstoppable, even when the defense knew he would be driving to the basket.

There is still some work to be done for Fortson. Improving his perimeter shooting is a must, although he does show nice touch on his shot. He also makes some questionable decisions at times, sometimes moving almost too fast to make the smart play. There’s no question though, Fortson is a gamer and has a nose for scoring. He is an intriguing prospect that should get a decent amount of playing time at Arkansas fairly quickly.

Kendall Marshall , 6’3” PG, Sophomore, Bishop O’Connell (VA), Committed to North Carolina

If you haven’t heard of Kendall Marshall yet, you will. One of the top players in the class of 2010, Marshall wasted little time showing why Roy Williams has already gotten a verbal commitment out of the youngster.

Marshall possesses a solid frame to play the point guard position. He is long and devastatingly quick, but by far the most impressive physical attribute he has is how smooth and effortless he makes everything look. Marshall plays well beyond his years, looking more like a first or second year college player than a high school underclassmen. He is constantly in control of things on the court, often barking out orders to his older teammates as he runs the offense.

Possessing a very quick release and great form on his shot, Marshall proved to be a scoring threat from anywhere inside of twenty-five feet. He knocked down several long three pointers in the first quarter of action, and when defenders started playing him tighter on the perimeter, he blew by them with a great first step. Marshall showed nice touch around the basket, hitting a couple of running floaters in the lane over taller opponents. By far the most appealing part of Marshall ’s game on display this weekend though was his ability as a playmaker. His court vision is off the charts for a player at his stage of development. He showed a great knack of knowing wear teammates would be and did a phenomenal job of drawing and dishing for easy baskets.

It’s almost a little frightening to think that Marshall still has two full seasons of development before he puts on a college uniform. He plays with a tremendous amount of confidence and is a very athletic and skilled player for his age. Already near the top of his class, Marshall seemingly has the potential to finish his prep career as a top recruit nationally.

J’Mison Morgan, 6’10” C, Senior, South Oak Cliff High School (TX), Committed to LSU

The number five center in the class of 2008 and a top forty player overall according to ESPN, Morgan is a massive physical presence. Packing 275 pounds onto his 6’10” frame, there are few players at the prep level that can match Morgan’s strength. His freakishly long arms make him an even more appealing prospect as he prepares to suit up for the Tigers next season.

While his build is certainly impressive, Morgan’s performance was somewhat underwhelming this weekend. He struggled to get position on the block thanks to a barrage of double-teams by the defense, which often forced him to catch the ball further out along the baseline than he would have liked. When he was left in one-on-one situations, though, Morgan had little trouble sealing off his defender. A few times he was fronted, and this led to lob entries that resulted in thunderous dunks. Morgan is clearly a player that can finish with contact inside.

What has been questioned in the past, and proved to be true this weekend, was Morgan’s overall athleticism. He isn’t a very quick player, nor is he fast in the open floor, but generally most players as big as Morgan are not. What was a cause for concern though was Morgan’s clear lack of endurance during the game. Fatigue forced him to the bench twice in the first half, and there were often times when his team raced ahead on offense in transition that he would simply walk his way up the floor. Morgan also doesn’t appear to have a tremendous vertical leap, and when he didn’t box out, this hurt him in regards to his ability to rebound against other long players.

Defensively Morgan showed some nice ability. Cleary at the high school level he is very hard to back down on the block, and with his long reach, he is able to disrupt a lot of shots that are taken inside the paint. Again, though, his lack of mobility kept him limited to within eight feet of the basket and between the blocks.

There’s no doubting that physically Morgan will be able to hold his own in the SEC next season; he just needs to improve his ability to stay on the floor now. He is a very strong finisher around the hoop, although we didn’t get to see too much of his post game, just a handful of dunks. Simply just by staying active on the court, with his frame, Morgan will be a nice addition for LSU.

Lamont Jones, 5’10,PG/SG, Junior, American Christian School (PA), Committed to Louisville

The last time we saw Jones was back in June at the Nike IS8 Championships, and he has improved many facets of his game since then. Thanks to teammate Tyreke Evans receiving plenty of attention from the defense, Jones found himself in one-on-one situations for the entire game against Patterson School and made the most of the match up.

What Jones lacks in height he makes up for with tremendous athleticism. He has a great first step, excellent open court speed, and an explosive vertical which he isn’t afraid to unleash in traffic. His body control is very good, allowing him to finish a lot of tough shots in the lane. With that said, Jones’s slashing game is really set up by his excellent outside shooting. He has a shooter’s mindset, in that if you give him any room at all he will unleash shots from most anywhere on the floor. He has great range and a quick release, making him a real catch and shoot threat. While Jones did show some ability to shoot off the dribble, he is clearly most comfortable right now when he can spot up.

Jones impressed on the defensive end. His lateral quickness is good and he has nice instincts. He puts constant pressure on his man, forcing a fair number of turnovers, and he even got a five-second violation called against his opponent this weekend. Jones’s quick hands make him a constant threat to pick up steals and deflect passes.

Jones is an intriguing prospect, much like a Chris Lofton in that he is an undersized shooting guard who is a real threat on the perimeter, but needs to develop point guard skills if he hopes to be successful at the next level. Jones looks like he might be a little more explosive around the basket than Lofton is (although quite a bit shorter), and that will help a good deal when he gets to the Big East in a couple of years.

Jin Soo Kim, 6’9” SF, Junior, South Kent Prep (CT), Committed to Maryland

We got our second look at Kim in about a month this weekend (we last saw him at the National Prep Showcase), and once again the junior impressed in his time on the floor. Kim’s size makes him a real asset, especially his tremendous length for a small forward at his age. There’s no question he needs to pack some weight onto his very thin frame, but what he lacks in bulk he makes up for with hustle.

Kim may have been the most versatile player we had a chance to see over the course of the weekend. He has nice touch on his perimeter shot and is a real threat to spot up from the outside. His form is solid, and while he can do damage when give room beyond the arc, he needs to improve his ability to create shots for himself off the dribble. What we did like about Kim is how tough he plays when he is in the lane. He had a few nice offensive rebounds and put backs simply because he was outworking other, stronger players inside.

In the transition game, Kim didn’t look tremendously comfortable bringing the ball up the floor. At the slightest bit of defensive pressure he would hand the ball off to a backcourt teammate. While Kim isn’t going to be a point guard, he does need to improve his ability to handle the ball when pressured by the defense. He did show very good court vision on the break though, a few times catching passes and quickly finding teammates down the floor for easy baskets.

Defensively, Kim proved to be very pesky to opponents. Though he isn’t exceptionally quick laterally, he has good instincts that allow him to guard ball handlers very closely without getting beat off the dribble. His length aided him again, as he was able to intercept a few passes and deflect several others over the course of the game.

Kim didn’t rack up huge minutes, mainly due to the amount of depth that South Kent sports on their roster. He is however a prospect to keep an eye on. Kim brings length, athleticism, toughness and ever increasing aggressiveness to the table. He is a real hustle player, and it looks like he will continue to make big strides in his remaining year at the prep level.

Rodney McGruder, 6’4” SG, Junior, Archbishop Carroll (DC), Committed to Kansas State

A top 100 player from the class of 2009, McGruder is a dynamic shooting guard who never seems to slow down. He has a nice decent sized frame with a solid wingspan, and at around 200 pounds, has the muscle to handle contact when he gets in the lane.

McGruder’s game is explosive in every sense of the word. He has a great first step and is very tough to stop once he builds up a full head of steam. His vertical is good enough that he can elevate over a lot of taller players at the prep level and finish strong around the rim. McGruder is at his most dangerous when he gets out in transition with the basketball. His breakaway speed, agility and above average handles allowed him to weave through the opposition’s entire defense on a few occasions.

In addition to his ability to get into the lane and finish around the basket, McGruder showed flashes of a nice mid-range game. A few times in the second half he was able to knock down 15-foot pull up jumpers while in transition. This made him even harder to guard, since if defenders overplayed for the shot, he had the quickness to burn them off the dribble.

McGruder, while still a very raw athlete, showed an overall pretty good feel for the game. He could certainly still use some polish, and his defensive intensity wavered at a few points. At this stage of development though, McGruder has a game that if it continues to develop, should lend itself nicely to playing in the backcourt at the college level.

Assane Sene, 7’0” C, Senior, South Kent (CT), Committed to Virginia

Sene is your classic case of a raw, athletic big man who needs time to develop. He has a tremendous wingspan which makes him a shot blocking menace, able to alter a lot of shots that he isn’t even in position for. Physically he is being held back by his rail thin 220 pound frame. Sene had trouble holding his position on the block against Florida International commit Freddy Asprilla in South Kent’s match up with Patterson School. For a player a little more polished this might not be as much of an issue, but Sene’s post game needs a good amount of work before it is ready for the ACC.

Despite possessing fairly good mobility for a player his size, Sene still appears to be growing into his body. There were a couple of times where he dribbled the ball off his foot in his attempts at getting to the basket. Like all talented prospects though, there were enough flashes of ability to show why the Cavaliers signed him. Sene had a gorgeous drop step move along the baseline in the second half that led to an easy lay in.

We didn’t get to see as much of Sene as we would have liked since he split time inside with senior teammate Christian Morris who will be suiting up for Rutgers next season. From what we did see, though, it is clear that Sene is an interesting project. Physically, his frame looks like it can easily take on a substantial amount of more weight while allowing Sene to keep his mobility. Four years of college coaching should have his offensive game more polished, allowing him to become more of an impact player.

Maurice Creek, 6’4” SG, Junior, South Kent (CT), Uncommitted

Another one of many talented players to get playing time over the weekend for the Cardinals was nationally ranked junior Maurice Creek. The shooting guard has already received scholarship offers from Texas, Marquette, Pittsburgh and Maryland among others, and with good reason. He already possesses a pretty good frame for the two-guard position, but a little extra muscle certainly wouldn’t taking anything away from his ability.

Creek is a scorer who can hurt you in a few ways. Most impressive was his ability to catch and shoot quickly when coming off of screens. He has a quick, consistent release and was able to knock down several mid-range jumpers in this manner. In Iso situations he showed an ability to break down defenders off the dribble. Creek isn’t extremely quick with his first step, but possesses very solid handles and creativity that allow him to get in the lane and do damage. He showed no hesitation going up against bigger players on his way to the hoop, displaying nice body control and an ability to finish with contact.

There is a lot of upside to Creek’s game, and he looks like the kind of player who if nothing else will be able to step onto a high level Division 1 team in two years and provide instant offense. Again, due to the frequent rotation of players that South Kent employed, Creek only played in about half of the game. In the time he was on the floorm he made his presence felt enough to impress.

Jason Clark, 6’2” SG, Senior, Bishop O’Connell (VA), Committed to Georgetown

The combination of Clark and teammate Kendall Marshall was the best backcourt we saw all weekend. Clark will fit right in with the Hoyas, bringing his hardnosed style of play to the Big East. He is a little small at 6’2” for the two-guard spot, but he plays a lot bigger than he is. Clark is surprisingly strong and has an explosive vertical, which he used to come away with several rebounds in traffic.

While a player of Clark ’s athletic ability is always an asset in transition, his game is clearly tailored toward the half court set. He has a great first step, but can pull up on a dime equally as fast and knock down the mid-range jump shot consistently. When he crashed the offensive glass, Clark also seemed to have a good sense of how to score inside as well, showing off an array of head and ball fakes to get bigger players out of position. The most impressive thing to see from Clark though was how well he moves off the ball. He was able to be effective and efficient on the offensive end without dominating the possession. Clark has a nose for finding holes in the defense and for losing his man.

Clark will be a nice addition to the Hoyas next season. He has a solid basketball IQ, good range on his shot and is an explosive athlete. While his height might be somewhat of an issue, he is a playmaker that works well off his teammates. With the weapons Georgetown already has and is bringing in next season (Greg Monroe), Clark will have a lot of talent around him.

Dion Waiters, 6’2”, PG/SG, Sophomore, South Kent (CT), Committed to Syracuse

Waiters was one of two sophomores we saw this weekend who had already impressed college coaches to have himself locked up. Physically, Waiters is built very well, packing nearly 200 pounds onto his frame. He is a little undersized for his position right now, but being that he is from the class of 2010, there is plenty of time for him to grow.

Offensively, Waiters is at his most dangerous on the perimeter. He is a streaky shooter, starting slow in the first half of his game, but catching fire in the second half, knocking down four threes in a very short amount of time. Waiters has somewhat of a knuckleball type shot, and even though it is unorthodox, it works for him. He has pretty extensive range and can shoot off the dribble, though he is most effective when he can spot up. Waiters also showed he has some ability when attacking the basket. His first step is fairly quick, but he benefits most from his soft touch. Waiter was able to knock down a couple of pretty floaters in the lane with pressure from the defense. Improving his ability to find the open man and operate within the team setting will help him out greatly.

Defensively, Waiters did a fairly solid job, but there are areas for improvement. He does a good job denying opponents off the ball, but when on the ball he is way too quick to bite on fakes. A jab step or quick ball fake was often enough to throw Waiters off balance and beat him off the dribble. He does have good anticipation though and was able to deflect a few passes.

Waiters still has a lot of time to develop at the prep level, but certainly there is a lot to like here. He is an above average athlete, with a nice perimeter game. He seems to be developing his ability to attack the basket more, and should his defense catch up with his offensive game, he is going to be a very good player by the time he reaches the college level.

Sean Mosley, 6’4” SG, Senior, St. Frances Academy (MD), Committed to Maryland

Mosley definitely received more love from the crowd than any other player, being the local kid attending the home state school next season. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best performance for him, who fouled out and had to watch his team lose in their only game of the weekend.

Mosley is a solid sized shooting guard, but isn’t a tremendous athlete. What he lacks in quickness and explosiveness though he makes up for with a great basketball IQ. Mosley just knows how to play the game and how to get the most out of his abilities. He reads defenders very well and generally has a good sense of when he can take players off the dribble or when he needs to pull up. Mosley’s mid-range game is by far the strongest part of his offense. He has very nice touch on his shot which he can get off pretty much when he wants to from most spots on the floor. When he opts to drive to the hoop, Mosley is very strong with the basketball, often pinning it up against his hip before finishing inside. His deceptively good vertical aids him as well against taller defenders in the paint.

Defensively Mosley is hurt by his lack of lateral quickness. He struggled to stay with his man for most of the game, and picked up the majority of his fouls on steal attempts after his man had already gotten past him. He seemed to be better suited to playing inside where he did a very nice job on the defensive glass. Mosley will have to improve his foot speed if he is to keep up with the athletic backcourt players he’ll be seeing in the ACC next season.

All-in-all Mosley is the type of player that coaches love to bring in to a program. He understands the game and plays within himself. He has a fairly refined mid-range game and also showed off some impressive court vision while he was on the floor. Gary Williams is getting himself a hard working backcourt player next season when Mosley suits up for the Terps.

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