COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- It’s refreshing to walk into a gym and see 46 sets of eyeballs squarely focused on a coach. The 2016 and 2015 standouts at the fall USA Basketball minicamp went through an evening session, capped off with a series of scrimmages.
This group is very talented and deep. It’s the largest fall group USA Basketball has ever invited for a workout. The strength of the camp is its depth in the frontcourt, led by Diamond Stone (Milwaukee/Dominican) and Ivan Raab (Oakland, Calif./Bishop O’Dowd).
Come spring, there will be difficult choices at each position for the dozen available roster spots for the under-16 national team. Saturday created little separation across the board, especially in the backcourt.
Woods has uncommon athletic ability
There are some kids who are simply blessed with more athletic ability than their peers. Seventh Woods (Columbia, S.C./Hammond School) is one of those young men. On multiple occasions Saturday, Woods did something athletically that left those in attendance shaking their heads. An instance in which he rejected a big at the rim in a half-court situation sticks out vividly. To think he turned 14 years old in August is hard to comprehend.
One of the key positions that needs to be identified at camp is who could emerge as the leading point guard candidate for the squad. Woods looks to be in the mix. A quick tour of the position revealed that Derryck Thornton (Simi Valley, Calif./Sierra Canyon) is up there in terms of passing ability and Deveral Ramsey (Hidden Hills, Calif./Sierra Canyon) has one of the tighter handles. Woods trumps all athletically, and his upside at the position is significant. Tyus Jones left big shoes to fill for the next U-16 point guard, and someone has to step forward from the pack.
2016’s Giles playing beyond his years
In a camp like this with so many young players, some are more ready to shine than others. An average camper this weekend might be a star come the spring. Power forward Harry Giles (Winston Salem, N.C./Wesleyan) seized the moment. From the morning drills through the first two sessions, Giles (second-youngest at camp to Woods) was outstanding. He’s a high IQ post player with great reach and superb awareness and finishing ability. He sees the floor as a passer, makes his midrange shots and goes about his business without a single change of expression. It’s really amazing to see a young big his age play with the maturity he showed on Saturday.
Giddens has four schools he’d like to see recruit him
Big man Daniel Giddens (Mableton, Ga./Wheeler) appears to have grown an inch or two since July. He’s got plenty of tools to work with and gets off the floor well. Through two sessions he’s been amongst the top four or five interior performers at a camp. Georgia, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Texas, Georgetown, Maryland and North Carolina are amongst the programs to stop by and see him in the fall. Giddens indicated he would like to be recruited by Florida, Georgetown, UNC and Texas.
Freshman first impressions
• De’Ron Davis (Denver/Overland): Strong kid, finishes with contact and has the makings of a powerful 4-man.
•Jayson Tatum (St. Louis/Chaminade): A year away from making his presence felt in a big way. His limitations as a shooting guard/small forward are purely physical. Excited about who he can evolve into.
•Malik Monk (Lapento, Ark./East Poinsett): Better basketball player than his brother Marcu,s who wound up starring in football at Arkansas. Crazy athletic ability and scoring game.