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May 5, 2013
Cunningham pounces on opportunity
FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Saturday at the Hensley Memorial Run-N-Slam is one of the most grueling days on the grassroots circuit. For many teams, advancing to Sunday's quarterfinals means they have to win four games on Saturday. Forward Josh Cunningham, who took an opportunity by the horns and had himself a day, led the way for the Mac Irvin Fire.
Cunningham steps up
Things have been going pretty well for Cunningham. The 6-foot-7 forward from Chicago (Ill.) Morgan Park won a state championship during his senior season and ascended into the national top 100. Saturday, Cunningham looked like a kid who will continue to climb the rankings when he made the most of a nice opportunity.
Usually, Cunningham's Mac Irvin Fire team is headlined by five-star big men Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander. After them, sophomore guards Marcus LoVett and Jalen Brunson get a lot of attention. With only Brunson in attendance from that group at the Run-N-Slam, Cunningham proved he is more than capable of carrying the load.
Cunningham finished the day with a sparkling 29-point effort against NLP to move the Fire into the quarterfinals. He corralled rebounds, ran the floor for dunks, spotted up to hit 3-pointers and looked comfortable in a leadership role.
Over the past few weeks, the four-star prospect's recruitment has taken off as well. Cunningham and coach Nick Irvin mentioned recent offers from Oklahoma, Iowa, Virginia Tech, DePaul, Florida State, Missouri, Bradley and St. John's, while Michigan State has been asking around a little more.
"It feels pretty good," Cunningham told Rivals.com. "It shows that all the hard work I've put in is working out and things are really going my way."
Sharpshooter has big day
Unranked in the class of 2014, three-star wing Riley Norris is making a strong push for the next Rivals150 from his class. Playing for a tough Team Thad squad, the Albertville (Ala.) High product had a big day as Team Thad fought off injury and fatigue to reach the quarterfinals.
A nearly 6-foot-7 wing, Norris is a tall shooter who can stretch any defense. He doesn't need a lot of time or space to unleash his accurate jumper from deep, and he plays the game with grit and effort. Norris doesn't have a ton of strength, but he's not afraid to mix it up in the lane and he is a good finisher in transition.
Over the past six months, Norris has emerged as a target for many high majors. He holds offers from several programs, including Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Florida State.
Norris says that there's not a rush on his recruitment and that he'll look to narrow things down to around five teams after the summer.
Bibbs ready for increased role
For his junior season, Justin Bibbs made a big decision to leave his Ohio home and enroll at Montverde (Fla.) Academy. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard feels like the move has been worth it.
Although he didn't play a starring role on an absolutely loaded team, Bibbs made the most of his opportunities as a junior while climbing to No. 127 in the national rankings for 2014. Next year, though, he'll be relied upon much more heavily as five-stars Kasey Hill and Dakari Johnson and four-star Devin Williams move on to Florida, Kentucky and West Virginia.
Judging by his play with the Ohio Basketball Club, Bibbs is ready to carry a bigger load. He's a wiry athlete who has improved his jump shooting, and he can get to the bucket and finish via the dribble. Bibbs told Rivals.com that he has offers from Xavier, Dayton, Cincinnati, UCF, Wichita State, Northern Kentucky, Rhode Island, Miami (Ohio) and Kent State. VCU, Miami and Virginia are tracking his progress as well.
Final Saturday notes
The No. 25 player in the class of 2015, combo guard Eric Davis, is a natural-born scorer. The Saginaw (Mich.) High prospect is growing physically and has sprouted to almost 6-foot-3. A lean creator off the dribble, Davis has a slippery game with the ball in his hands that allows him to create shot opportunities in the lane or from midrange even though he doesn't overwhelm guys athletically. He can shoot from deep and is a bit more of a natural shooting guard, but he can run the show for stretches. Davis mentioned that he has offers from Oregon, N.C. State, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State and Michigan State. He said Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky have been in touch to say they will evaluate him this summer.
They fell in the round of 16, but the Team Work duo of three-star prospects Peyton Aldridge and Gavin Skelly is fun to watch. Aldridge is a long-armed 6-foot-7 combo forward who plays with loads of toughness and a nice inside-out game. Skelly is tough, too. The 6-foot-8 power forward can get up and down the floor, has good skill and doesn't stop playing on either end of the floor. Both are becoming highly coveted targets for mid- to upper midlevel programs.
The Milwaukee Rebels were at it again on Saturday. Five-star Kevon Looney continued to assert himself on offense and on the glass, while David Burrell played the role of finisher and Damontrae Jefferson dazzled with the ball in his hands. Point guard Brandon Key played well in spots. A sub 6-footer like Jefferson, Key is another flashy dribbler who causes defenders problems with his ability to get in the lane or hit a jump shot.
Freshman Josh Jackson of Dorian's Pride is on his way to being an early five-star prospect in the class of 2016. The 6-foot-6 wing is a high-level athlete and finisher who had a monster freshman season at Detroit (Mich.) Consortium. In a Saturday night loss to Team Thad, he was looking confident as a deep jump shooter to go with his slashing ability. The future is bright for Jackson.
One of Jackson's teammates on Dorian's Pride, big man Jaylen Johnson, is a four-star prospect who checks in at No. 97 nationally in the class of 2014. Johnson's spot in the national top 100 looks to be secure. Size, skill and the willingness to get on the glass are all tools at the disposal of the Ypsilanti (Mich.) High standout.
Class of 2015 forward Evan Boudreaux of NLP is one to watch down the road. A 6-foot-7 power forward from Lake Forest (Ill.) High, Boudreaux has a strong frame, can shoot the ball with range and is a tough finisher around the rim.
High majors in Big Ten country are keeping an eye on Derrik Smits. The nearly 6-foot-10 big man is starting to develop and figure out his game on both ends of the floor. A very skilled member of the class of 2015, Smits runs well, shoots with range to the 3-point line and has soft hands. He is not yet overly physical, but he has a frame that should fill out well. He has not gotten offers yet, and he mentioned Indiana, Purdue, Butler, Xavier and Boston College as schools showing early interest.
A teammate on the Spiece Indy Heat's 16U team, K.J. Walton, is getting pretty highly recruited himself. A well-built and athletic two guard, Walton likes to slash to the hoop and get to the free throw line. Xavier is his first offer, while Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan, Wake Forest and others have been in early contact.