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What I learned from Hoophall Classic

1/19/2012

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- There hasn’t been and won’t be a better overall collection of high school basketball in one place than the Hoophall Classic. Dr. James Naismith would have been excited to watch what I was fortunate enough to see last weekend.

Top player in high school?

Heading into the Hoophall Classic, I was of the belief that junior Jabari Parker (Chicago, Ill./Simeon) was the best player in high school basketball, regardless of class. He still may be, but boy did the competition have something to say about that last weekend.

Parker was good – not great – and his team was pounded by Findlay Prep (Nev.). His first half was vintage and his second half was deemed average. Let me be clear: Parker did nothing wrong to doubt his ability. It was the play of Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) and junior Nerlens Noel (Everett, Mass./Tilton) that allowed doubt to creep in.

Muhammad turned in the signature performance of his senior year. There was intensity, a commitment and focus to his game that wasn’t there in December. He was explosive, motivated and 37 hard-earned points later, he was the player of the event. There’s no doubt who the No. 1 senior in the country is. Is he a better prospect than Parker? I’d lean Parker’s way, but Muhammad at least moved up the list and closer to the top spot overall, regardless of class.

As impressive as Muhammad was, Noel was equal or better. Defensively, he is the best shot-blocker since Greg Oden and he’s an all-decade shot-blocker in anyone’s book. I’ve always been of the school of thought that if he demonstrated strides on the offensive end he’d be a franchise player. Well, he displayed more offense than he had in November and there’s reason to think he can make another jump. In my mind, there is a legitimate debate regarding the No. 1 prospect in the junior class and whoever wins that debate likely carries the mantle of top overall prospect.

This is a fun conversation to have, but the conclusion is these are three players with enormous ceilings and star power. Noel is the best defensive player of the three, Muhammad is the top scorer and Parker is the best overall combination of mind and skill. Who’s No. 1? We’ve got a week to figure it out before the rankings come out.

Jerrett continues to impress

The national rankings on Grant Jerrett (LaVerne, Calif./Lutheran) are all over the place. That’s fine. Personally, I love the dude. He’s every bit of 6-foot-10 and he’s a unique player. He’s a post with touch and that means it’s not a bad idea when he shoots from inside the arc. He’s a little mechanical with his shot and in the lane but it works. Plus, his basketball ego is developing and each year he steadily improves.

My guess is that he spends three or four seasons at Arizona and if he falls in love with the weight room he becomes a first-rounder. Overall, he has a substantial ceiling because of how he’s wired and the fact that he makes consistent, incremental improvements.

Jenkins … I believe

There isn’t a hotter junior prospect in the country right now than Kris Jenkins (Washington, D.C./Gonzaga). He is a must-buy on the prospect stock market now that he's shelved his perimeter dreams and traded them for an identity in the paint and a midrange game that is on fire. He is about to likely settle into a top-50 spot in 2013 … for now.

Aside from Jenkins, the other hot junior to come out of the event -- not named Noel -- was BeeJay Anya (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha). He punished Kuran Iverson (Windsor, Conn./NW Catholic) into submission on Saturday night.

Much to be learned about Adams

The good news is that we had a chance to evaluate Steven Adams (New Zealand/Notre Dame Prep) for the first time. The bad news is he took an elbow to the head and a basketball off the forehead. Mix in first-half foul trouble and we weren’t going to be fortunate enough to get his best stuff.

However, the night before his game, he played so well against Noel at another event that Noel said Adams was the best big he’s played against. Plus, the day after the game we watched, Adams had a strong double-double.

What to make of him? He’s a major talent with superior size, who moves well and has good touch. We expect him to be a major presence in the lane and future pro player. We’ll see him again but expect him to debut in our top 10 next week.

Lewis should be in McDonald's game

When Tyler Lewis gets to NC State, it's highly likely he will be the team’s starting point guard, but he’ll have to earn it. My take is that 75 percent of the time he’ll be the best point guard on the floor during ACC play. He’ll control the game and win his matchup until a speed demon makes it tough for him or a bigger guard locks him up. Otherwise, he’s going to do his thing and eventually be one of the top assist men in Wolfpack history.

That being said, Lewis has earned the right to be a McDonald’s All-American as much as anyone. There isn’t a Raymond Felton or Derrick Rose point guard prospect in this class (unless Kris Dunn evolves into that guy). What we have is a collection of good players and Lewis is absolutely one of them. If you grade on upside, he’s not in the first five. If you look at production and reliability, he’s definitely on that list.

Notes

T.J. Warren (Durham, N.C./Brewster Academy) is one of the most efficient shot-makers in the country. Few can match his natural touch -- even on difficult, contested chances.

Kyle Anderson (Paterson, N.J./St. Anthony) is in a category all to himself. There’s no position or label that can accurately describe his game. He samples Magic Johnson maybe more than anyone since Magic himself. I’m not saying he’s Magic, he merely has the same unique skill set and physical stature.

My confidence in Dominic Artis (Richmond, Calif./Findlay Prep) continues to grow. His key is limiting turnovers and he was on point against Simeon (Ill.).

I wish more guys would do what Katin Reinhardt (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) did on Monday. He made his game against Omar Calhoun (Middle Village, N.Y./Christ the King) personal. By doing so, he was engaged defensively and dialed in on offense. Reinhardt made nine 3-pointers.