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LAS VEGAS AAU WEEKEND UPDATE: FLORIDA RAMS FLEX MUSCLES; RECRUITING UPDATES GALORE
By Raphielle Johnson
The first open weekend of the spring/summer meant action throughout the country, including Las Vegas with Sin City hosting three events. The biggest of the three was the adidas VIP Exclusive Run, which featured most of the nation’s best programs under the three stripes banner.
The program that stole the show this weekend at adidas was the Florida Rams, whose 16u and 17u teams both won championships. The 17 and under team is well-known by this point, as they’re led by one of the country’s top prospects in the 2013 class in Chris Walker.
A slender forward who can run the floor and finish with the best of them, Walker played well on both ends of the floor for much of the weekend and likely had one of the early frontrunners for dunk of the AAU season. But he had plenty of help as well, especially from Florida commit Kasey Hill.
The 2013 point guard ran the show for the Rams, displaying the ability to get to the basket off the bounce at will. Hill also did a good job of distributing the basketball, setting up Walker and Kansas commit Brannen Greene frequently.
Greene wasn’t always on with his perimeter jumper but he kept at it, and Greene is talented enough to attack the rim as well. But if there’s one thing that he’ll need to continue to work on as the spring/summer wears on it’s getting his teammates involved more. Do that and a player who’s already difficult to stop becomes an even tougher matchup.
But those three are all names that have been discussed for quite some time. The one 2013 Ram who helped himself the most this weekend: guard DeMarcus Croaker. Very effective off the dribble, Croaker played very well this weekend.
Also standing out were interior banger Nurra Zanna, who may not have the height of a BCS conference big man right now but he’s more than physical enough to hold his own in the paint. They had the look of the best elite team in the field and the Rams backed it up, beating Garner Elite-Coleman 77-64 in the title game.
The Florida Rams 16u team had some standouts as well, with guards Adonys Henriquez and Lance Tejada leading the way. Tejada played well enough in the tournament to be named MVP of the 16u bracket, joining Hill as honorees for the Rams.
Tejada ran the show while Henriquez manned the two at most times, and with both being 2014 prospects these two will be heard from quite often in the months ahead.
The program that enjoyed the most success at the Pangos Spring Spectacular was the Las Vegas Prospects, whose 15u and 16u teams both won championships. Meanwhile in the 17u Invitational bracket Play Hard Play Smart, led by 2013 wing Dakarai Allen, won the championship.
Allen was solid in his play over the weekend, showing off his ability to get to the basket off the dribble. And there’s plenty of room for improvement as well, meaning that a big summer could make him an even more enticing prospect for Pac-12 teams.
The Indiana Elite entry won the 15u bracket at adidas, knocking off Dream Vision’s 2015 squad in the title game 86-76. Indiana Elite also took care of the Compton Magic 2015s in the semifinals, and for fans of recruiting these are three squads they may want to familiarize themselves with ahead of time.
Guard Hyron Edwards was named MVP of the tournament due to his play in the title game but he wasn’t the only Elite 2015 player to perform well this weekend. Everett Duncan and Chandler White are two players bound to make waves in Big Ten recruiting circles in due time if they haven’t already.
Both were able to attack the basket with White being the physically stronger of the two at this time. Everett’s brother Stanley is another Indiana Elite 2015 player with the potential to be very good in the future, and that can be said for a number of players on that roster.
Dream Vision’s 2015 squad is very good, and the standout over the weekend was guard Jeremy Hemsley. Hemsley was in attack mode most of the weekend, using his dribble to get to the basket on many occasions.
Also playing well for them was Stephen Thompson, a slender wing with a long wingspan. Syracuse fans should be quite familiar with that name, as his father played a key role on Jim Boeheim’s teams during the late-80s. Kendall Small completes the trio of guards that will be a handful on the grassroots scene for years to come.
Playing well for the Compton Magic 2015 team were big men Nick Pallas and Nick Pete. They get the job done in different ways, with Pallas being a banger and Pete an athletic forward who can run the floor and finish.
No change on the Chris Obekpa front
The adidas VIP Exclusive Run meant another chance to watch New Heights, featuring 2012 big man Chris Obekpa. Still in need of refinement on the offensive end of the floor, Obekpa displayed his game-changing ability on the defensive end of the floor. He runs the floor well and hits the glass, blocking multiple shots in the painted area.
As for his recruitment the usual suspects remain, including Cincinnati (who had Mick Cronin watching Obekpa’s every move all weekend), DePaul, Providence and Connecticut according to his coach. Nothing has changed in regards to plans to visit Oregon in the near future, and a final decision won’t come until sometime in May.
UConn‘s mass exodus is something they’ll keep tabs on as well. While there is the positive of immediate playing time in Storrs, there’s also the clear concern with regards to the Huskies’ postseason ban in 2013.
Individual Player Recruiting Updates:
Hassan Martin (New Heights; G/F, 2013)
The wing from Staten Island currently holds offers from Fordham and Iowa State. Schools that have shown interest include Creighton, Providence and Saint Joseph’s. Martin said after New Heights’ win over New Orleans Elite on Saturday afternoon that he hopes to set up unofficial visits to Creighton, Iowa State and Providence for next month.
Jarrell Martin (New Orleans Elite; F, 2013)
Martin currently holds offers from Louisville, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Alabama and LSU. Martin’s looking for a teams whose system fits his style of play, television exposure and the chance to enter a program and contribute immediately.
Jordan Washington (New Heights; F, 2013)
Washington doesn’t hold any offers currently but he has heard from Villanova, Marquette, South Carolina, Cincinnati and Arizona. In terms of the school he’d be more than happy to attend, that would be Villanova. Washington, who has taken an unofficial visit to Villanova, cited the fact that it’s a good school and he liked the environment as well.
Craig Victor (New Orleans Elite; F, 2014)
The New Orleans native currently holds offers from Georgetown, Tennessee, LSU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Alabama and Kansas. North Carolina has shown some interest according to Victor but has yet to offer. He’s looking for a school that’s family-oriented with other good recruits coming in, as well as a competitive conference and a good education.
Naasir Williams (New Heights; G, 2014)
Williams currently holds offers from Norfolk State and Robert Morris, with interest being shown by Appalachian State, Quinnipiac, Monmouth, Drexel, Marist and Fordham. Williams has already taken unofficial visits to Marist, Monmouth and Quinnipiac.
More Player Notes:
- 2014 forward Noah Vonleh and 2014 guard Kaleb Joseph were the two best players for Mass Rivals this weekend, which should come as no surprise to those who have watched them play. Vonleh is one of the most talented players in his class, and while he’s more than capable on the perimeter when he avoids falling in love with that part of the floor Vonleh can be flat-out dominant.
Joseph did a good job of running the show at the point, displaying the ability to get to the rim off the dribble and set up teammates for quality looks. Programs in attendance for their win over Indiana Elite on Saturday included Cincinnati (Mick Cronin), Florida (Billy Donovan), New Mexico (Steve Alford), North Carolina (Roy Williams), Arizona, Boston College, Kansas State,Providence and Connecticut.
- 2013 guard Kahlil Dukes received some good news on Sunday per his Twitter account in the form of his first high-major offer with USC being the school. The Trojans had an assistant on hand (front row) during CBC’s loss to the Franchize All-Stars on Sunday afternoon.
Also in attendance were coaches from Temple, Stony Brook (head coach Steve Pikiell), Kansas State (Bruce Weber), Wichita State and Texas. Guards Levy Gillespie and Jared Wilson-Frame are two 2014 guards to keep an eye on when watching CBC the remainder of the spring/summer.
Playing well for the All-Stars in that game was 2013 guard Kiefer Douse, a smooth player who performed well in regards to getting to the basket off the dribble. And 2014 forward Mavin Saunders has a good build, which allowed him to finish in spite of contact on multiple occasions.
- One 2012 player who could be a solid get for a low major program is Garrett Neilan, who played well for the Cali Rebels this weekend. Neilan was able to knock down some shots from the perimeter but he’s better when looking to work inside of the arc.
- 2013 forward Zena Edsomwan displayed some serious power in the paint over the weekend for Belmont Shore. The Harvard commit didn’t get many chances to post his man up but whatever touches he did get were going to be dunk attempts given how hard he went after it. The Crimson will get a good one, as going prep next season should help him improve even more.
- 2013 point guard Ikenna Ireogbu showed that he can play under control, something that was an issue last summer. He didn’t get much playing time at Oak Hill this past season, but maybe having the chance to watch Tyler Lewis operate rubbed off on Ireogbu some. 2015 guard Tyler Dorsey showed off his smooth game for Belmont Shore as well.
- 2013 forward Chauncey Hill (Compton Magic Elite) picked up an offer from Cal-State Bakersfield this weekend. He doesn’t have the most refined game offensively but the Fairfax High product has a very good motor and communicates well with his teammates.
- Two Indiana Elite 17u players who played well over the course of the weekend were guard Alex Etherington and forward Mark Donnal. Etherington may not be the shooter that older brother Austin (now at Indiana) is but he can knock down perimeter shots while also getting to the basket. Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber took in one of his games, and an offer from K-State came shortly thereafter.
As for Donnal, he displayed good hands and some solid offensive moves in the post. On occasion Donnal stepped out to 15 feet, knocking down a couple jumpers, but the good thing about him is that he didn’t fall in love with perimeter shots. Forward Francko House is another name on that team to keep tabs on.
- 2014 guard Dorian Pickens picked up an offer from Arizona State due to his play over the weekend, something that should come as no surprise given how he played in Phoenix a couple weeks ago. Pickens picked up where he left off for the Arizona Stars, knocking down shots from beyond the arc and also making some tough drives to the basket.
- Another player that the Sun Devils seemed to take interest in is 2013 guard Elliott Pitts, who had a very good weekend for the Bay Area Hoosiers at the Spring Spectacular. Head coach Herb Sendek took a look at Pitts in action, and the slender guard can score in a variety of ways.
- The New England Playaz looked to be loaded with quality young big men, and coaches are beginning to notice. Aaron Falzon and Collin MacManus are both 2015 prospects on the 16s squad, with MacManus and Dream Vision standout Stephen Zimmerman facing off on Friday night in a showcase game. Both were solid, essentially canceling each other out in a game won by Dream Vision.
For the 17s it was 2013 forward John Powell and 2015 forward Jarred Reuter who stood out, and 2014 forward Karem Kanter was solid as well. The Playaz will be heard from this summer, but those 2014 and 2015 years have the makings of being a serious juggernaut.
- 2013 forward Soma Edo (Dallas Mustangs) has the athleticism to be an intriguing talent for a mid-major program. Edo didn’t display much in the way of post moves but he’s got a good motor and isn’t afraid of getting physical in the paint.
- 2012 forward Norvel Pelle was in action for Buckets Academy, who reached the title game of the 17u Platinum bracket in the Pangos event. In attendance for his game on Saturday morning were head coaches Steve Alford (New Mexico) and Fred Hoiberg (Iowa State; left at halftime) along with and assistant from San Diego State.
Pelle, who originally committed to St. John’s, is clearly talented but the academics are a serious concern. If he qualifies he can help a team out.