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May 13, 2005
Underclassmen Highlight Southern
The Southern Ivitational Tournament in Charlottesville, VA last weekend featured a number of outstanding rising seniors participating. However, the event was really dominated by the wealth of talent among the underclassmen in attendance. Rivals.com takes an in-depth look at the exceptionally strong group of rising juniors and sophomores who impressed us in Virginia, including Michael Beasley, Corey Stokes, Tyreke Evans, O.J. Mayo, and many others.
The 6-foot-7 225 pound C/F from Pennsbury HS in Fairless Hills, PA is beginning to put it all together playing with Philly MJC's 16 and under group. MJC's 16s played up in the 17 and under bracket at the Southern Invitational and Allen was one of the main reasons they advanced to the semi-finals. He challeneged shots, rebounded the ball at both ends, and finished in the paint, all against top notch competition. He didn't have a great sophomore year at Pennsbury, but should be outstanding there next year.
Beasley was dominant for DC Assault throughout the tournament last weekend, depsite playing with bronchitis. He's much more explosive attacking the basket than he was at this time last year, and he's powerful enough to be effective inside, even against bigger stronger defenders. He can shoot the ball out to the three point line. Reminds some of former NBA star George McGinnis, though Beasley is stronger and more agile than McGinnis at the same stage. A more modern day comparison may be Chris Webber. At nearly 6-foot-8 already, he may not be done growing.
Beatty is a big-bodied point guard in the style of Jason Kidd or Deron Williams. He is a terrific passer with great court vision and timing. He is still flashy, but under the guidance of legendary high school coach Bob Hurley at St. Anthony's, he has eliminated the mistakes and turnovers that caused some to label him "erratic". Along with his steady point guard play, he's a very good outside shooter. He nailed several threes in the Playaz' championship win on the way to 32 points.
Flynn, Niagara Falls' dynamo sophomore point guard, was spectacular at times in Charlottesville while playing alongside Paul Harris ont he GC Ballers. He's got blazing speed with the ball and can shoot it from range. Flynn is a superb leaper, and his tomahawk dunk on the break Saturday afternoon was memorable, to say the least. Still a bit on the small side, he'll need to bulk up a bit to hold up defensively at the next level.
Freeman proved once again last weekend that he is one of the most gifted scorers in the class of 2007. Had 34 points in a pool play game, then 28 points in DC Assault's quarterfinal win over the NC Gaters. Big bodied shooter in the Mitch Richmond mold. Can get to the basket and score inside. Excellent rebounder from the guard spot. Needs to work on lateral quickness and agility to defend the guard spot in college.
Griffin certainly doesn't pass the initial look test as a high major prospect, but he is a very good shooter who makes big plays when it counts in games. Griffin helped lead Philly MJC to a 17 and under semi-finals berth in Charlottesville, and he made the most of his opportunities in a tough loss to Boo Williams, scoring 26 points on 10-18 shooting, including 6 three balls. At 6-foot-2, he may not be done growing. Needs to continue to get stronger and work on his ball handling skills. Combo-guard right now, may end up a more of a two in college.
Hayes scored an amazing 50 points in a pool play matchup. The 6-foot-1 guard from Hughes HS in Cincinnati is a "take over the game" type scorer. Explosive in the open court and a very good perimeter shooter, he may have been the biggest surprise in the 16 and under group. Scored 26 points in the Queen City Prophets' semi-finals defeat to the Playaz.
Lawal showcased his long frame and superior athleticism while leading the Georgia Stars to a spot in the 16 and under finals. He's silky smooth, yet powerful attacking the basket and rebounding the ball. Has a nice touch on the mid-range jumper. Looked a little shorter than advertised, but more than made up for it with his impressive wingspan. Lawal scored 17 points in a semi-finals win and 14 in their loss to the Playaz in the finals.
Mayo is the number one rated player in the Class of 2007, and while he played up to his lofty standards, much of his supporting cast did not in the D-1 Greyhounds' lackluster tournament performance. Mayo had a pedestrian 21 points in a surprisingly close win over the NC Bulls. Then a superb 29 point, 10 board, and 5 assist performance in a loss to Sam Rines. Mayo has near perfect form on his jumpshot and is a fabulous ballhandler and passer, but other than Bill Walker, there wasn't really anyone else on his team who could finish.
McKenzie, normally a NY Gaucho, joined Sam Rines in Charlottesville, and was a key component to their run into the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champs the Playaz. Quick, confident floor leader with an erratic perimeter jumper. Has the speed and athletic ability to get into the lane and finish, though he'll need to get stronger to be more effective.
Price, a 6-foot-9 260 pound wide body, helped lead the Georgia Stars to the championship game in the 16 and under division with a terrific performance in the semi-finals. However, his inconsistency was evident in the quarterfinals and, especially, the finals, as he was continually outquicked inside and beaten up and down the floor by the smaller, faster Playaz frontcourt. Price is an aggressive finisher inside when he catches it in good position. He sometimes forces the action, which gets him into trouble with turnovers. Big upside, but hasn't put it all together yet.
Raji was a force of nature on Saturday night against the D-one Sports team from North Carolina, scoring 40 points and collecting in excess of 20 rebounds. Raji is a quick baseline slasher who's begun to take his game out to the perimeter. At 6-foot-5 and fairly slender, his future is on the wing. However, the production he gives in the paint with his effort cannot be discounted at the next level. He consistently puts up big numbers for the outstanding Playaz 16 and under team, and may be a guy who's turning the corner as a prospect.
Shazier may not be the player on Boo Williams' 16 and under squad with the most upside, but the 6-foot-1 combo-guard has been their most consistent player this spring. Shazier is a quick, steady point guard who can flat-out knock down open threes. Shazier also is not afraid to step up in big spots for Boo Williams, and nearly led them to a come from behind win against DC Assault in the quarterfinals with his shooting. He's got to improve his on the ball defense and do a better job off the dribble to take it to the next level.
Stokes had a huge coming out party in Charlottesville, and should have been named the tournament's most valuable player. The 6-foot-5 chiseled 2G shot the ball extremely well throughout the weekend, as he usually does, but showed off his handle and off the charts leaping ability as well. Stokes had a dunk over top of Vernon Macklin in the championship game that resonated throughout University Hall. Each week he looks more and more like a young JR Smith clone, but with a better handle.
No one in high school basketball leaps the way Bill Walker leaps. Playing mostly inside for an undermanned D-1 Greyhounds squad, Walker made the most of it, hammering down dunks from all different angles and coordinates. He didn't get much of a chance to show off his very good perimeter shooting touch, but he is without a doubt one of the most exciting players on the circuit right now. Tracy McGrady comparisons are in order.
Wallace was phenomenal on Friday night for D-One Sports when we saw him go for 20 points in a pool play win. He was playing with a lot more bounce in his step than we saw in Washington, DC last month. He used the dribble to get into scoring position, shot the three ball well, and looked like Vince Carter on the break. Wallace needs to play with more passion and energy on a consistent basis to really break through as an elite level guy. He certainly has the talent to get there.
Davis is a long, lanky center for DC Assault who physically will remind many of current Syracuse player Darryl Watkins. Moves very well up and down the floor at 6-foot-9, and is productive scoring around the basket. He has nice touch on his jumpshot that extends out to the three point line. His rapid improvement from last fall is frightening, considering he's only finishing up his freshman year in high school.
Evans finally had his big stage last weekend in Charlottesville, and he did not disapoint. Just oozes basketball ability. He is a natural ballhandler with a great feel for the passing game. Knocks down open jumpers routinely, but struggles some when challenged. Tends to drift back when shooting over defenders, and as a result shot a low percentage from beyond the arc. However, when he's moving towards the basket he's nearly unstoppable. The thing that is most impressive about Evans is that as terrific as he is now, he still has a ton of room to learn and grow, and plenty of time to do it.
Robinson stepped out of the shadow of Tyreke Evans on Friday night in pool play and dominated, scoring 26 points while leading his team to a come from behind win. Robinson is explosive off the dribble and very tough on the glass. He's 6-foot-4 now. If he grows a couple of inches we could be looking at a very talented swingman down the road. He was a man among boys in the 16 and under division. Needs to improve his jumper if he's going to be a permanent fixture on the wing.
Wright, a 6-foot-6 and a half freshman, was perhaps Boo Williams 16 and under squad's best prospect. He looks like he's going to grow several more inches, but even at his current height, he used his wingspan to dominate in spurts. Looks like, and plays like Vernon Macklin at the same stage, so we'll call him "Young Ticket". The Nansemond River HS prodigy could be the next big thing.