Friday, January 25, 2013
Cleaning out the notebook
By Dave Telep
After a busy week of high school hoops that included last weekend’s loaded Spalding Hoophall Classic, this week’s Friday notebook includes a comparison of Aaron Gordon to Blake Griffin in high school, why top-10 junior Justise Winslow is wired correctly, Syracuse’s Canadian connection, notes on VCU and Tennessee, and much more.
Aaron Gordon vs. Blake Griffin
There’s no guarantee his end game mirrors that of Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin. However, all I can offer up is my opinion. Power forward Aaron Gordon (San Jose, Calif./Archbishop Mitty), the No. 7 player in the ESPN 100, resembles Griffin to a “T” as a high school prospect.
They have the same strengths and weakness. Both were explosive, amazing dunkers who played with passion. Let’s break them down in a few categories:
ESPN 100 power forward Aaron Gordon has been compared to Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin.
Rebounding (edge to Griffin)
Athleticism (edge to Gordon)
Low-post game (edge to Griffin)
Explosiveness (slight edge to Gordon)
Strength (edge to Griffin)
Motor (edge to Gordon)
Basketball IQ (tie)
These guys are a lot alike. Believe me, it’s difficult to imagine a better leaper than Griffin, but Gordon is pretty special. Sitting courtside on Monday, the volume of Gordon’s dunks was astounding to me. It was loud.
During the game, some people tweeted at me that Griffin is “just an athlete” or “doesn’t have much skill.” Hello! Playing hard is absolutely a skill. In fact, it’s a skill that doesn’t receive enough attention. Combine how hard he plays with his athleticism, and you’ve got something special.
If I’m Gordon and my career winds up resembling Griffin, I’m pretty excited, to say the least. Griffin made huge strides following his freshman season at Oklahoma under Jeff Capel. Though a high school All-American, he did enter college with lower expectations than Gordon will arrive with. (Griffin was ranked No. 18 in the Class of 2007.)
We’ll see how that plays out. Remember, Griffin spent two years in college and it was after his freshman year that he made the biggest gains with his game.
Winslow wired properly
Every job brings its own challenges. College basketball coaches talk about culture and getting kids to buy into what they’re selling. There’s at least one kid in the 2014 class who will be less challenging to coach: small forward Justise Winslow (Houston/St. John’s), the No. 9 prospect in the ESPN 60.
One of the “tells” with recruits in terms of coachability is how they answer one straightforward question: What’s your biggest moment in basketball? The team-oriented kids won’t go to their 35-point scoring outburst or the time they were MVP in some ragtag all-star game. No, the guys who value team and winning deflect the individual focus and answer questions with a different slant.
I posed the question to Winslow, and his answer was outstanding.
He said there were two experiences he favored. The first was when he hit his brother on a pass for a layup to win a state title as a freshman and the other was his entire USA Basketball experience.
“No one really cared who scored or who got the points,” Winslow said of Team USA. “We just really wanted to win. No one cared who got interviewed after the games.”
One question provides an amazing window into the mind of a recruit. That single answer can be the difference in a program making him its No. 1 or No. 2 option. Winslow’s answer allows you to accurately predict how he’ll deal with certain adverse situations and coaching.
Basically, that’s the answer every team captain should give and the one a coach wants to hear.
Justise Winslow (right), the No. 9 player in the ESPN 60, has narrowed his college focus to 10 schools.
Two’s company, three’s a great class
Winslow is boys with No. 1 junior Tyus Jones and No. 2 junior Jahlil Okafor, who’ve been rumored to be considering picking the same college.
Could Winslow? Could he be a third member of a package deal?
“It entered my mind,” Winslow said. “I’m especially good friends with Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones. I think they’re going together and I told them I’d like to, but I’ve got to do what’s best for me. I think it’d be best for me.”
Smart money is on the Rams
The Virginia Commonwealth Rams are well positioned for junior point guard Jonathan Williams (Richmond, Va./St. Benedict’s). Head coach Shaka Smart was in Springfield, Mass., last weekend watching Williams at the Hoophall Classic. The kid is a speed demon who values defense. You can see the fit.
Mayimba’s main men
Junior forward Therence Mayimba (Rockville, Md./Montrose Christian), ranked No. 38 in the ESPN 60, is a positional tweener who is best at driving the basketball. Indiana, George Washington, Villanova and Georgetown would like him to put on their uniform.
Martin courtside for rare 2-for-1 matchup
There was an interesting recruiting scenario that developed last weekend. Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin was courtside to watch point guard signee Travon Landry (San Antonio, Texas/Huntington Prep) against New Hampton School (N.H.) at Hoophall.
The Vols also recently began showing interest in New Hampton senior Travis Jorgenson, one of the top available point guards. It’s tough to pass on ball handlers and decision-makers. To land Jorgenson, Tennessee will have to nudge out Georgia Tech, Creighton and Boston College.
Schilling’s crowd getting consistent
Senior center Gavin Schilling (Chicago/Findlay) did not play well last weekend against Montverde Academy (Fla.) at Hoophall. He was swallowed up by Montverde’s superior interior duo of Dakari Johnson and Devin Williams.
However, Schilling is one of the biggest bodies on the board at 6-foot-9, 235 pounds. Michigan State has been diligently evaluating him. Tom Izzo went to Dyer, Tenn., of all places to see him and followed up with a stop in Dayton, Ohio. Georgetown, Minnesota, Ohio State and UCLA are on him as well.
You’ll notice a lot of the available bigs have the same traffic.
Around the nation
• Prognostications are torn between Washington and Arizona for Aaron Gordon. I can’t tell who’s in the best shape. The one thing I do believe is that Kentucky is third.
• Colorado State signee Carlton Hurst has 1,791 points in his career at Aurora Central (Colo.). He’s tracking as one of the all-time leading scorers in Colorado history.
• In conducting research for TV games last week, I spent time on Canada and Andrew Wiggins. Did you know that Syracuse was a big factor in the Toronto market a few years ago? It’s helping with interest from the next wave of Canadian kids. Syracuse is also one of the closest major basketball programs to Canada, with Michigan and Michigan State also being among the closer colleges.
• Senior point guard Charles Tucker (Lansing, Mich./Montrose Christian) has mid-major suitors. The most ardent pursuer is South Alabama.
• The coolest thing I learned last week was that the father of Lone Peak (Utah) center and BYU signee Eric Mika went gator hunting in December. In between games at the City of Palms Classic in Florida, pops bagged a nine-foot gator that will adorn the Mika household one day.
• Oak Hill senior R.J. Currington has renewed interest from Michigan State, Texas and DePaul. Oliver Purnell watched him on Monday at Hoophall. Teammate Lennard Freeman also has DePaul, UAB and Pittsburgh interested in his game.