Monday, April 22, 2013
Best of the adidas VIP Exclusive Run
By Dave Telep
DUNCANVILLE, Texas -- The entire stable of players in the adidas arsenal was on display at the adidas VIP Exclusive Run this past weekend. The event was defined not by upper-tier 2014 talent but by a number of players who used the weekend to either break out or elevate their stock.
While there was a strong crop of college assistant coaches on hand, most of the high-level head coaches were in Los Angeles for the first session of the Nike EYBL. The Exclusive Run, meanwhile, was a hub for tweener forwards, a few unsigned seniors and an increasing number of talented underclassmen. The 16-and-under division of the tournament was the strongest age group represented in terms of upper-tier talent.
Here’s a look at some of the standouts from the event.
2014 guard Brandone Francis has seen his recruitment pick up thanks to a strong spring.
Brandone Francis (Jacksonville, Fla./Arlington Country Day)
2014, PG, 6-5, 205 Those who knew about him in advance expected a breakthrough performance. However, many were taken by his new look (he’s down 18 pounds) and his renewed approach. At 6-foot-5 and more than 200 pounds, Francis is an outlier for the point guard position. It's easy to see he's taken the Deron Williams approach to the position. Their release points, body styles, mid-range games and mannerisms are similar. Francis plays with the outward passion of Greivis Vasquez. He's a big scoring point who you have to see more than once to appreciate his aptitude and fit at the point. The event's MVP, Francis should become an upper-tier prospect overnight. Florida, Miami, Illinois, Kansas State, Georgetown, LSU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are all involved.
Best Junior Prospect
Craig Victor (New Orleans, La./St. Augustine)
2014, PF, 6-8, 210 Young players can learn a lot from watching Victor’s career arc. The forward appeared on some top-10 prospect lists early in his career only to play his way back to the pack. But Victor said he's refocused himself and is intent on ramping up his motor. In Dallas, he allowed his actions to speak and they were heard. At 6-8, Victor is in the best shape I've seen and played with a live body. He has enough skills to move into the high post and knock down shots, face and attack or play as a passer. What stood out most was his effort. It was consistent with the top players at the event, and this was his first step toward regaining his standing among the top players at his position.
Best Sophomore Performer
Stephen Zimmerman (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman)
2015, PF/C, 6-10, 215 Spring events are valuable for all players, but when big guys get to step out and test themselves versus size, the experience is invaluable. Zimmerman spent the weekend bumping into numerous kids in his height class. As the event wore on, his effort did not wane. The lure here is the lefty's uncommon skill set. His perimeter touch is really good, especially inside the arc, where he has no problem getting mid-range shots at will. Whether fading or putting it on the deck and creating space, he's very accurate. Similar to Chris Bosh, Zimmerman still has work to do as a consistent traffic rebounder. Offensively, with his jumper and skill set he's a hard guy to match up with. Against fellow sophomore Daniel Giddens, Zimmerman dished it out on offense and played Giddens straight up on the other end. This was a good weekend and a competitive effort from one of 2015's big man ambassadors.
Best Freshman Performer
Kobi Jordan-Simmons (Alpharetta, Ga./St. Francis)
2016, PG, 6-2, 155 Last week when I saw him, he played off the ball. This time around, playing with an older group, Simmons took the reigns as a point guard and made it known that's his position. He didn't hesitate to instruct older guys on positioning or ask them to pay attention. He had a presence to him that you don't often see in freshmen. Physically, Simmons is blessed with quickness and has good height. He's quick to different points on the floor and speedy in getting the ball out of his hands as a passer or with his shot. You can tell scoring is not a problem, but he makes a consistent effort to pay attention to the needs of his teammates. I’m impressed with his game, maturity and potential.
Ahmaad Rorie (Tacoma, Wash./Lincoln)
2014, PG, 6-0, 165
Committed to California Some stories write themselves. Rorie's travel ball coach did not get cleared by the NCAA, meaning that although he attended the event, he could not coach. No problem -- Rorie managed the team. The squad made its own substitutions and lineup changes. Rorie was quick to takes on the role of leader and was helped by backcourt mate David Crisp. To play with that much composure and be a self-starter in terms of directions was impressive. Cal fans will be excited that the kid values the ball, is a solid shooter and is a good passer. On the floor it's his team and he's trustworthy. The NW Panthers led in the title game before falling, but Rorie and his guys deserve credit for their accomplishment. He’s not the biggest kid but has plenty of intangibles. I'd also be remiss not to mention New Heights point guard Paul Jorgenson (New Rochelle, N.Y./Don Bosco) here as well. He’s as tough a guard as I saw all weekend, he commanded his team and he held himself accountable.
Kelan Martin (Louisville, Ky./Ballard)
2014, SF, 6-6, 220 In a college game that is no longer ruled by giants, players like Martin are finding it easier to operate. He's a tail-kicking forward with a power body and small forward lean because of his skills. He's at least 220 pounds and could stand to get in better shape, yet his conditioning for the weekend wasn't a problem. The kid is thick and he's saved by fast-twitch muscles. He's mean in the lane and plays with bursts of athleticism. He’s not a leaper but he has some quicks and good feet. Martin is coming off a runner-up finish in the state title game, so it's not like he's a one-hit wonder, either. When you're this size and can shoot it, coaches worry less about who you can guard and more about the value you bring offensively. He entered with mid-major offers, but there were high-major eyeballs on him all weekend. His motor was impressive. Now he has to go out and do it again.
Goodluck Okonoboh is the best shot-blocker in the 2014 class, but his offensive game needs polishing.
Best Defensive Player
Goodluck Okonoboh (Boston/Wilbraham & Monson)
2014, C, 6-9, 210 The question is who is the second-best shot-blocker in the 2014 class because Okonoboh has the top spot on lock. At times, it looks like he's playing volleyball at the rim. If he doesn't get it on his way up, he has great instincts on the way down and blocks a ton of shots before he touches the floor. Offensively, he lacks a way to consistently score and at times he goes through stretches where he's a non-factor. But defensively, he's all over the floor. He’s a true specialist in the sense that he's the Dennis Rodman of shot-blocking.
Jamal Aytes (Chula Vista, Calif./JSerra Catholic)
2013, PF, 6-6, 220 I'm not a fan of having seniors at events like these because ideally everyone gets their shot and at this point it's time for the next class to have the stage. Having said that, Aytes is working on writing a good spring story. The thinking is that if you're going to be a senior in this setting, you'd at least better play well. All weekend, Aytes was wound up. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who played as hard. He's undersized yet manages to weave his way in traffic and play bigger than his size. A chiseled upper body helps, but it all comes back to the will and determination. He dunked what he could. Athletically, he explodes off the floor, bodies up and dogs guys bigger than him. On the recruiting front, Miami followed him around all weekend and one Big East coach lamented about not having an available scholarship. The reality is that he's available for a reason and that brings academics into play, but reportedly he has a chance. Aytes admitted to taking the books lightly in the past and realized the opportunity he will have if he can rally.
J.P. Makura (Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville North)
2014, SG, 6-4, 175 Plenty of guys can make jumpers when they're open or standing and firing. Makura, on the other hand, was in constant motion and probably logged more miles than anyone at this event. Whether running off screens, firing off the catch or dribble driving into his shot, Makura was good. Again, it wasn't about the percentages -- it was about the skill used to get the shots. If this kid wants to hold out for a big program, it will come. If he goes mid-major, he's going to score a ton of points. Rare is the shot creator with this kind of bravado to forget the misses and the short memory to click off the next shot.
Underclassmen of note
• De'Ron Davis (Aurora, Colo./Overland), PF, 2016: He was a man among boys with a truly a special frame. He’s a soured up Brandon Bass.
• Braxton Blackwell (Nashville, Tenn./Christ Presbyterian Academy), SF, 2016: He’s a better athlete than Kyle Anderson but has a similar approach to the small forward position.
• Marcus Sheffield (Alpharetta, Ga./Chattahoochee), SG, 2015: He's at least a year away physically, but this kid is measured with his range and has room to grow into a super wing frame.
• Mario Kegler (Jackson, Miss./Callaway), SF, 2016: The only way to describe him is "specimen." It's impressive seeing a 6-6 freshman handle it and actually adjust his shot based on the defense. He’s the next big timer out of Mississippi.
• Rawle Alkins (Middle Village, N.Y./Christ The King), SG, 2016: Though only a freshman, Alkins is completely comfortable as the team's best option in a 17-and-under division.
• Nicholas Noskowiak (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie), PG, 2015: Put it to you this way: Marquette head coach Buzz Williams did not miss any of his games this weekend.