Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Telep's Top 10: What I learned this week
By Dave Telep
DALLAS -- The transition is underway. It’s time to show the Class of 2013 the door and usher in the newbies -- the 2014 class and beyond. The adidas VIP Exclusive Run was the stage last weekend. From Friday through Sunday, teams from the Three Stripes stable got after it.
Here are the top 10 things I learned from the Exclusive Run.
1. You can’t value leadership enough Junior point guard Ahmaad Rorie (Tacoma, Wash./Lincoln) put on a clinic of leadership. He had help in the form of David Crisp (Lakewood, Wash./Clover Park) but make no mistake, the NW Panthers are Rorie’s team. The coach of his squad couldn’t participate in the event because he wasn’t NCAA certified, so the California commit played his role and the coach’s. In an era where true leadership and the ability to command a team are rare, Rorie solves any deficiency the Cal Bears may have at the point. There are better point guards and certainly better long-term prospects, and that’s fine. But this kid is destined to be a good college player and have an effect on Cal rather quickly. Mike Montgomery will trust him early in his career -- and after last weekend, trust is the last thing you’d worry about with him.
2. Throw out position molds What’s a point guard nowadays anyway? Colleges aren’t able to recruit true point guards because fathers aren’t raising their sons to be distributors. They also can’t recruit bigs on the block because Kevin Durant erased the identity of the position when his freakish game took over the minds of the next generation. This past weekend, I came to the realization that we have to model our evaluations on the current state of the game and lighten up to the idea of points, guards, forwards and posts rather than five specific positions.
3. The truth comes out in the spring If you’re looking for a rock to hide under and protect your reputation, the spring is not the time of year for you. Here’s the real deal in plain English. A lot of programs tossed out early offers to recruits for one reason: to keep them warm and see them in the spring and early summer. Many of those same prospects who rattle off school lists with blue bloods up and down the final 10 are about to realize that the early offer was just lip service. Programs are out in full force making sure players are who they thought and that their games have advanced. Trust me: Last weekend, college coaches were doing more crossing off than adding to their lists.
Freshman Braxton Blackwell has a game similar to UCLA's Kyle Anderson.
4. The 2016 class is enticing I’ve been out at events two weekends in a row and both times was drawn to the current freshman class. Every one of us evaluators is guilty of the same thing: hope. We see new kids and hope the next class is as good as or better than the current one. At this time of year, it’s customary to look ahead and project greatness. Believe me, I’ve done this. But, man, that 2016 group is deep. Freshmen Braxton Blackwell, Kobi Jordan-Simmons, De'Ron Davis and Rawle Alkins were all good last weekend, and they weren’t the only ones. Trying to temper the excitement is hard, especially knowing that the best of the 2016 bunch, forward Harry Giles, only turned 15 on Monday.
5. Good Cheese State battle brewing Sophomore 6-foot-3 point guard Nicholas Noskowiak (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) was trailed everywhere last weekend by Marquette head coach Buzz Williams. The Golden Eagles are surrounding this kid and he’s feeling their vibe. As is always the case with kids from Wisconsin, the question, though uncomfortable for Marquette fans to deal with, is necessary: Is your family devoted Badgers? With Noskowiak, despite living closer to Madison than Milwaukee, he has no true allegiances so Marquette is all in on the young man. But you know the Badgers won’t wait long to join the party.
6. Tweeners are making a comeback As a fan of the undersized forward, I had to respect the efforts of Kelan Martin (Louisville, Ky./Ballard) and Jamal Aytes (San Juan Capistrano, Calif./JSerra Catholic). Though different years -- Aytes is a 2013 recruit while Martin is 2014 -- they have similar games and both top out at 6-6. By the end of the weekend, Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford was trailing Martin. Ford is from Kentucky and loves leveraging his roots to up-and-coming Kentuckians. Aytes, meanwhile, needs to work on his grades if he hopes to qualify in the fall. Miami and Utah were all over him and his cell phone needs to be on vibrate during the day so as to not disrupt his classmates.
7. Too many travel teams The Nike EYBL has a hammerlock on the talent pool in 2014. That’s just the way it is. And the guys who don’t roll with Nike teams are spread out among Under Armour, adidas and some Reebok. Plus, there are multiples of teams that don’t compete under any of those umbrellas. The feedback I received from college coaches is that they spent too much time crisscrossing the country last weekend. One Atlantic 10 assistant coach was in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Texas in the span of three days! The play on the court -- outside of the EYBL -- is taking the hit. Even at a major event like the Exclusive Run, there were some awful teams. The grassroots scene needs to contract not expand as it’s been doing the last decade. Less would be more. Without being mean, many of these kids don’t need to be out there playing on this stage. The consolidation of teams would squeeze some of the watered-down programs out and let the acceptable prospects prosper in more competitive environments.
8. Victor intent on making amends During the high school season, word began spreading that junior forward Craig Victor (New Orleans, La./St. Augustine) was on the rebound. After watching him three times at adidas, Victor’s mindset is where it needs to be. He was the best 2014 prospect in attendance and announced his presence. Victor has the requisite skills to be an immediate starter when he gets to college. He’s grown and looks to be a legit 6-8, the magical number where evaluators give you a little more street cred in the paint. You can expect him to emerge not just as a recruit but as a priority for higher-level programs.
9. Zimmerman vs. Giddens works for me There is nothing better than evaluating two high-level players competing against each other. Personally, I prefer the big man battles. They tend to be rare but enticing. The best one I saw last summer was a 2015 showdown between Diamond Stone and Ivan Rabb at the LeBron camp. Last weekend, fellow 2015 recruits Stephen Zimmerman (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman) and Daniel Giddens (Marietta, Ga./Wheeler) got after it. Granted, these guys are still pups, but that didn’t stop them from embracing the moment. Giddens is best from close range and was able to use more of a power game. Zimmerman, the more polished offensive player, lured Giddens away from the rim and made shots. He also used some sophomore savvy to score around and over Giddens. It was good stuff and I’m all for Round Two.
10. Putting the power in forward The folks out West talk about freshman De’Ron Davis (Aurora, Colo./Overland) with the reverence of a senior. Let’s face it, high school hoops in Colorado is not exactly California, but toss this prospect into Cali and he’d put a hurting on that state as well. Davis has put on muscle since the USA Basketball trials in October. He pushed kids around in the U16 division. Back in the fall, he reminded me of Brandon Bass, but he’s since outgrown that comparison. Davis beasted in the lane but has the skills to extend his game meaningfully to mid-range. He’s yet another 2016 recruit with national swagger already.