Monday, April 29, 2013
Looney shines at Gulf Coast Hoop Fest
By Mike LaPlante
BILOXI, Miss. -- The inaugural Gulf Coast Hoop Fest was a tremendous success this past weekend. The championship game saw the Milwaukee Rebels, led by talented top-10 junior Kevon Looney’s 30-point performance, avenge an earlier loss while defeating Team Thad, which was without the services of its own elite ESPN 60 prospect Leron Black, 72-61.
There was plenty of high-level talent on hand, especially at the combo forward position, and it was also a great weekend for a few unheralded players to make a name for themselves.
Here’s a look at some of the top performers from the Gulf Coast Hoop Fest, including Looney and fellow ESPN 60 recruit Craig Victor.
Kevon Looney is ranked seventh in the 2014 class and has a slew of offers from D-I powers.
Kevon Looney (Milwaukee/Hamilton)
2014, PF, 6-9
Milwaukee Rebels Except for one lackluster performance against Team Thad during pool play, Looney lived up to his reputation as a dominant player with tremendous skills. He controls the paint defensively with his ability to rebound and block shots. On the offensive end he is a matchup nightmare as he handles the ball like a guard and can knock down the 15- to 18-foot jump shot. He is a great-looking specimen with a high ceiling.
Riley Norris (Sand Rock, Ala./Sand Rock)
2014, SF, 6-7
Team Thad Norris’ bounce and skill set had college coaches buzzing this weekend. The small-town Alabama product showed that he can excel in the up-tempo while playing with the always pressing and running Team Thad program. Norris rebounds and defends his position and can hit the 3 or finish at the rim with a big-time dunk. He plays with a high level of confidence and will be one of the most sought-after players in Alabama for the 2014 class.
Craig Victor (New Orleans/St. Augustine)
2014, PF, 6-8
New Orleans Elite Victor has been on the recruiting circuit for what seems like forever and has had his game analyzed under the microscope of college coaches and evaluators for a long time. There were no surprises with his game this weekend; he is a steady, consistent producer who understands how to play his position. It’s uncertain how much upside there is to his game, but he will be an impact player early in his college career.
Chris Chiozza (Memphis, Tenn./White Station)
2014, PG, 5-9
Team Thad Chiozza has become one of my favorite players to watch on the recruiting circuit because of his relentless play. He is an unselfish pass-first point guard who can dominate the game without scoring a point. Chiozza is a high-percentage decision-maker who has improved his consistency from behind the 3-point line and is a stone-cold assassin defensively who pressures the ball all 94 feet. He is quickly rising up the point guard rankings with his consistent play.
Damiyne Durham (Oakwood, Texas/Oakwood)
2014, SF, 6-6
Franchize All-Stars I’m sure most of the colleges that were already in the mix for Durham wish the 6-foot-6 small forward was still under the radar, but with his outstanding play this past weekend (he put up 40 points in one game while knocking down nine 3-pointers) teams looking for a shooter will definitely throw their hat in the ring. He has a smooth catch-and-shoot release from long range combined with the confidence of a shooter and no short-term memory. If he can put together a few more weekends like this, his stock will go through the roof.
Damontrae Jefferson (Milwaukee/Arlington Country Day)
2015, PG, 5-8
Milwaukee Rebels Small point guards scare some college coaches, but what Jefferson lacks in size he more than makes up for in quickness. When he has his stroke going from behind the arc (he hit six 3s in one 33-point effort on Saturday), the 2015 prospect becomes nearly impossible to stop. He reminds me a little bit of former Eastern Michigan star and NBA point guard Earl Boykins.
LaDamion Keys (Bogalusa, La./Bogalusa)
2014, PF, 6-9
New Orleans Elite Because of his huge upside, Keys seems to always leave you wanting to see more. Although he has a tendency to disappear for stretches, the 6-9 forward makes enough plays that catch your eye. This past weekend he utilized his length and made some high-level plays that can’t be taught. He is already in the recruiting sights of high-major programs, but his play this weekend should intensify their recruiting efforts.
Players to Watch
Mario Kegler (Jackson, Miss./Callaway)
2016, PG/SG, 6-6
MBA Hoops Kegler has already earned a reputation as Mississippi’s No. 1-rated player in the 2016 class and didn’t disappoint with his play this weekend while competing up against the 17u competition. He has a great combination of size, skill level and athleticism, and his feel for the game is advanced for a player his age. Kegler is easy to project as one of the future elite players in the 2016 class and will be fun to follow in the coming years.
Jaylen Fisher (Arlington, Tenn./Bolton)
2016, SG, 6-1
Team Thad Fisher was just beginning to come into his own when an ankle injury sidelined him for the rest of the weekend. The savvy shooting guard plays with great pace and even showed some surprising explosiveness in finishing at the rim. He had a three-minute span in one game where a driving dunk and a 3-ball gave his short-handed team a needed lift en route to a big win.
Dwayne Bacon (Lakeland, Fla./McKeel Academy)
2015, PG/SG, 6-5
Showtime Ballers The state of Florida has produced some outstanding big guards, and Bacon is another one to add to the list. He was dominant while playing up against 17u competition and spent time handling pressure and making plays while taking on point guard responsibilities. He has good court vision and passing ability, making plays off the dribble and showing he can hit a 15- to 18-foot jumper off the dribble.
• The Franchize All-Stars (Texas) have a balanced attack with players like scoring wing Stephaun Limuel (Rosharon, Texas/Angelton), post player Justin Hollis (Houston/Trent International), shooting guard David Griffin (Lake Charles, La./LaGrange) and 2013 point guard Michael Hunter (Houston/Willowridge) to go along with sharpshooter Durham.
• With their relentless pressure and spirited following, Team Thad (Tenn.) is one of the most entertaining teams to watch on the circuit. Besides Black, Norris, Chiozza and Fisher, they have a team full of mid- to high-level players who all seem to excel in a fast-paced tempo. Marcanvis Hyman (Memphis, Tenn./Whitehaven) and Cedric Anderson (Memphis, Tenn./Whitehaven) are a couple of rising seniors who are attracting attention, while Gerald Vick (Memphis, Tenn./Douglas) and Malik Smith (Memphis, Tenn./Overton) are a pair of 2015 prospects with rising stock.
• The state of Louisiana showed that size and versatility are a major strength within its borders. The Louisiana Future’s 6-9 James Thompson (Baton Rouge, La./Parkview Baptist) has high majors lining up, while Louisiana Dynasty’s 6-8 Jacardo Hawkins (Darrow, La./East Ascension) has seen his stock continue to rise with his dominant play of late.
• MBA Hoops struggled to find its rhythm at times this past weekend, but there is no denying the team’s talent. At 6-10, Malik Hines (Jackson, Miss./Murrah) combines size and skill in a package that high majors covet, while Oliver Black (Jackson, Miss./Wingfield) possesses the athleticism and body type that give him a high ceiling. Malcolm Evans (Jackson, Miss./Forest Hill) is another 2016 prospect along with Kegler whom high-major college coaches will be following closely.