Xavier Henry, 6-6, SG/SF, Putnam City, 2009
Committed to Memphis
Regardless of the injury, Henry appears to be a good, but not great athlete who relies primarily on his physical strength and superior skill-set at the high school level. He has an extremely well-developed frame that clearly (and understandably) isn't at its full potential yet conditioning wise, noticeably sporting some baby fat. With great size as a 6-6 pure wing player, Henry has more than adequate tools for an NBA prospect at his position.
Obviously a very advanced and instinctive scorer, Henry is equally adept as a slasher and shooter, showing an extremely powerful first step which he uses to overpower defenders on the way to the lane. He's also a good ball-handler, looking very comfortable creating his own shot with either hand, and doing a very good job getting to the paint and drawing contact when he puts his mind to it. He drew 13 free throws in the matchup with St. Anthony's, converting on 10 of them. At times he has a tendency to over-penetrate and run into brick walls, though, which led to a number of turnovers in this game.
Henry also has great potential as a shooter, looking very much capable of creating separation from his defender with the excellent elevation he displays on his pull-up jumper. He seems to have deep range and great touch on his jumper and is obviously very much a shot-maker from the perimeter, although in this particular game he clearly fell in love with his jump-shot and forced the issue excessively.
St. Anthony's box and one and matchup zone caused him to hit just 4 of his 15 shots from beyond the arc, and Henry looked extremely frustrated throughout the game. He tends to cock the ball a little bit and release it on the way down, making his stroke very inconsistent on this day. Shoring up his release point as he elevates off the ground should be one of the things Henry should focus on, as well as improving his shot-selection. It was hard to read too much into this particular game due to the fact that his team was clearly overmatched both personnel wise and on the sidelines, going up against one of the greatest coaches in the history of high school basketball in Bob Hurley.
Defensively, Henry obviously has his work cut out for him, as he puts very little effort into this side of the ball, showing poor fundamentals as well. Coach John Calipari will have to work with him extensively on this part of his game, along with helping him become a more complete player, rather than just a scorer.
Despite his poor showing (5-19 shooting from the field), it's very obvious why Henry carries the reputation he does, something that we should see more of as the season moves on. It's not quite clear whether he possesses the long-term upside of some of the other top-ranked recruits in his class, although there is a lot to like already about his size, scoring instincts and skill-level.
DeMarcus Cousins, 6-10, PF/C, LeFlore, 2009
Uncommitted: (Memphis, Kansas State, N.C. State, etc)
The potential, as always, is incredibly obvious. With a massive frame, long arms, great size and terrific fluidity and mobility considering his build, Cousins has not only the physical attributes of an NBA big man, but also many of the skills. He has great touch both facing and with his back to the basket, hitting a number of outside shots as well as some excellent hook shots and turnaround jumpers in the lane. He can also create his own shot beautifully from the high post, putting the ball on the floor nicely, and pivoting and spinning into a gorgeous finger roll. Few big men at the college level, let alone high school, can create their own shot with such ease both inside and outside the paint, which is what makes him so unique.
The problem is that everything else he does on the court makes him stand out just as much, and not in a positive way. Cousins was matched up with a very tough and physical defender in Maryland bound James Padgett, and he looked extremely frustrated with the contact he was forced to take around the basket. Padgett bodied him up all game long and really got underneath Cousins' skin, causing him to get extremely distracted. His questionable conditioning came into play already in the first quarter, as he began sucking wind very early on, and he became completely exhausted in the fourth quarter, walking around with his hands on his hips. He repeatedly settled for tough fade-away jumpers outside the paint, and much preferred to hang out on the perimeter rather than deal with the contact from Padgett inside.
Defensively, Cousins put little to no effort in, showing very poor fundamentals and obviously saving himself for his team's offensive possessions. He was always the last player getting back up the floor, sometimes just not making his way over at all, something that surprisingly happened both on the offensive and defensive end. He looked extremely lazy throughout the game, giving up the distinct impression that he just wasn't interested in playing.
Even though he's obviously a big talent, Cousins isn't that much of a sure-fire NBA lock to be mailing it in just yet. He's just an average athlete at best by NBA standards, showing underwhelming leaping ability and just-decent quickness getting up and down the floor. There have been plenty of similarly ranked high school big men (see James Lang, DeAngelo Collins, Jackie Butler, etc) who never panned out despite racking up huge accolades as prep players, so he's not yet reached the point that he can flip the light switch on and off whenever he pleases. Hopefully this is just a product of Cousins' youth, and he will mature in college (he's reportedly a lock for Memphis according to the word here) and fulfill his immense potential.
Tristan Thompson, 6'9, Power Forward, 2010, Texas
On the offensive end, Thompson does most of his damage in the paint, where he has the groundwork of a post game in place. He has no right hand to speak of at this stage, but he shows flashes of drop-steps and turnaround jumpers that he finishes with good touch and follows up strong when he doesn't. He also will disguise his lack of a right hand by faking a spin left shoulder, showing a decent grasp of counter-moves for someone his age. His moves aren't highly defined yet, but you can see the immense potential in the amount of range he covers on his moves when he makes them, being able to extend for good separation with ease.
Thompson doesn't have much of a jumper yet, but he shows flashes of ball-handling abilities, looking uncomfortable in the halfcourt but fairly comfortable in transition where he finished on a nice end-to-end dunk here. Thompson was strong in transition and attacking the glass in this game, using his good hands, long arms, and quickness getting off the floor to finish with ease.
Defensively, he shows a fairly good basketball IQ for his age, showing a good understanding of pick-and-roll defense along with the lateral quickness and stance to stick with guards when he switches off on the perimeter. In the lane, he shows pretty good timing and awareness on shot blocks while he's active moving around the floor. He's prone to going through the motions at times, looking lackadaisical on some possessions, but nothing severe.
Looking forward, it's easy to understand why Thompson is so highly rated in his class, though he clearly still has much work to do. While his frame is capable of holding a bit more bulk, he doesn't have a prototypical power forward's body with his narrowish shoulders, so developing more perimeter skills to become more of a combo forward should be highly considered, though growing another inch or two wouldn't hurt either. His potential is clearly off the charts, and his combination of physical attributes (length/athleticism), budding skills and seemingly very strong intangibles paint a very bright picture moving forward.
Josh Selby, 6'2, Shooting Guard, 2010, Tennessee
Selby does most of his damage attacking the basket, where he is incredibly tough to stop. He uses his first step and ball-handling abilities to get past his man, but is at his best once he gets into the lane, where he exhibits great body control and creativity, scoring in a variety of ways. In his one game here alone, he scored with his left and right hand, off the glass, using reverses, through contact, with finger rolls, and even by throwing down a dunk off an athletic put-back.
Selby scored equally well in the half-court and in transition, while also dishing out a few nice passes on the break. He didn't show much of a point guard game here at all, however, playing a lot of time off the ball and usually only looking for his own offense when he did get the ball. It'll be interesting to see if he shows any point guard skills at Tennessee, but he should be able to secure minutes and produce as a scorer regardless.
Selby didn't make much use of his jump shot here, only shooting the ball 2 or 3 times on the game, and when he did he didn't have good results. His form looks solid enough, though he didn't seem to have proper balance on most of his attempts. Working on this aspect of his game should be a priority.
Defensively, Selby shows a good stance and is fairly active, making use of his good physical tools. Selby obviously has a terrific combination of athleticism and scoring instincts, and there is no question that he has all the makings of a superb college scorer very early on at Tennessee. If he develops a steady jumper and also shows some resemblance of playmaking ability, he looks like someone that could really become a top-notch prospect.
Travis Wear, 6-9, Power Forward, Mater Dei, 2009
Committed to North Carolina
6-9, mobile, highly coordinated and very fluid, Wear is about as fundamentally sound a power forward as you'll find. He spent considerable time in the paint in this particular matchup, calling for the ball, and showing nice footwork and wherewithal posting up. He has great hands and a beautiful jump-hook, also looking comfortable going to a turnaround jumper. He utilizes shot-fakes and jabs nicely, being capable of putting the ball on the floor with either hand from the perimeter in under control fashion, and rarely making mistakes. He moves off the ball nicely and respects his team's spacing, executing Mater Dei's crisp half-court sets, and looking very unselfish in the process. He also has excellent mechanics on his jump-shot, possessing range that extends out to the 3-point line. In short, Wear is a complete offensive player already as a teenager, which is an extremely impressive sight to behold.
Defensively, Wear puts in the effort and clearly has great fundamentals, getting low in a stance and doing his best to contest shots. He lacks great lateral quickness, and could still stand to add some weight to his excellent frame. As a rebounder he did not stand out.
Wear might lack some of the long-term upside that some of his fellow class-mates posses, as he's obviously not a great athlete (although he's not a poor one either), but he's certainly smart and skilled enough to be effective at the collegiate level. It's hard to understand why he's ranked so low compared to some of his peers in this underwhelming class, as from what we've seen, there is no question that he deserves to be a McDonald's All-American. For Roy Williams to get two power forwards of Wear's caliber (his brother is very similar) is almost unfair to the rest of the ACC, as they are very likely to stick around in Chapel Hill for the long haul.
Chris Colvin, 6'3, PG/SG, Iowa State, 2009
Whether he plays point guard or shooting guard, Colvin looks to be a very good pickup for Iowa State. At 6'3 with decent length and a solid frame, he'd have excellent size at the point, while he's also a very good athlete. While his team here had multiple ball-handlers, Colvin played the most like a point guard, and showed flashes of the ability to run a team full-time, bringing the ball up the floor, probing the defense, making smart passes, driving-and-kicking, and pushing the ball ahead in transition. He made quite a few good passes for open shots that weren't converted, making his 3 assists on the game slightly misleading.
On the down side, Colvin had a few bad stretches where he'd try and force the issue on drives with ill-advised spin moves, trying to take the game over for his team when the opposition built a lead. His decision-making was errant at times and he has somewhat of a score-first mentality, making you wonder if he can handle a full-time point guard role.
Looking at his skills, Colvin has a nice set for a high school senior, having an advanced dribble-drive game that incorporates crossovers, behind-the-back dribbles, spin moves, hop steps, changes of speed, and changes of direction. In the lane, he shows good ability to adjust with good body control along with an ability to pull up or go to the basket. He has a lot of confidence in his abilities, taking shots with a hand in his face and showing no hesitation to drive into a crowd, sometimes to his detriment.
Defensively, Colvin has very good tools and was a ball hawk here, pulling in 3 steals and making one very athletic block in transition on an opposing forward. His man-to-man defense was also aggressive with a solid stance.
Looking forward, Colvin has the chance to make a strong impact on Iowa State in the early going, and his long-term potential is considerable if he can make a full transition to the point guard position. He needs to work on his decision-making skills and point guard mentality the most, while adding a bit more strength to his frame wouldn't hurt either.
Devon Collier, 6-8, Power Forward, St. Anthony's, 2010
Uncommitted: (St. John's, Villanova, Fordham, Syracuse, Seton Hall, etc)
James Padgett, 6'8, Power Forward, Maryland, 2009
Padgett's offensive game relies heavily on his post-up game, where he has a strong array of moves with a very good grasp of counter-moves, scoring in a variety of ways here. He spins away from or into his man, he finishes with his left and right hand, he utilizes dropsteps and turnaround jumpers, and he shows a good command of fakes. In addition to his post-up game, Padgett was a terror on the boards, pulling in 8 offensive rebounds on the game and scoring with finesse and power on put-back opportunities. On the downside, despite getting to the line 5 times this game, he only made 1 free throw, illustrating a likely problem area in his game.
Outside of the painted area, Padgett didn't show much here, and developing a mid-range jumper should be among his priorities, as at 6'8, it'd help him out to have a perimeter game to complement his inside game.
Defensively, Padgett was active, making one nice block in the lane, while also not getting scored on much as his opponent Demarcus Cousins was to intent to settle for perimeter shots rather than posting him up. Padgett bodied him up and was extremely physical with him, frustrating him immensely with his toughness and tenacity.
Looking forward, Padgett should be able to contribute fairly quickly for Maryland as a garbage-type player, but his long-term potential will likely depend on him developing a more polished skill-set.
Ari Stewart, 6-7, SF/PF, Wheeler, 2009
Committed to Wake Forest
Lamar Patterson, 6-5, Power Forward, St. Benedict's, 2009
Committed to Pitt
Other than Derrick Favors, Patterson was perhaps the best rebounder we saw this past weekend at the Spalding HoopHall Classic in Springfield, MS. He was absolutely relentless on both ends of the court, establishing great position inside time and time again. On the offensive glass, he did a superb job of finishing the play off with put backs or drawing fouls to get to the line. He has a great nose for the ball, anticipating where they would bounce and moving his opponents under the basket and out of the play with his strong lower body. Without failure, he would always put his body on someone and make contact to gain the advantage on the glass.
Patterson was a work horse inside, playing more physical than any other player on the court, which translated to 9 first half rebounds (13 for the game). That physicality, the fixture of Patterson's game, did not stop on the defensive end. From the opening defensive possession of the game for St. Benedict's (NJ) Prep, Patterson (listed at only 6'5) showed his tenacity, as he was matched up with the 6'8 and muscular Richard Howell of Wheeler (GA) High School. As Howell was trying to get position inside, Patterson fronted him denying one pass, than he three quartered him denying another, which finally led to a frustrated Howell shoving Patterson away and committing an offensive foul.
That possession sums up the kind of player he is for what he lacks in height he makes up in heart. He played terrific post defensive throughout, had a couple deflections and even took two charges as he rotated well on the help side.
His offensive game is solid in the painted area, but doesn't extend much further than that. At the rim, he is rather crafty as he uses lean back up and unders and to get bigger opponents to bite and commit fouls. He also finishes everything inside, never shying away from contact just powering up. His shot needs work as he currently holds the ball over his head and shoots down causing his shots to fall short and displaying a slow release in the process.
His ball handling and passing skills are the weakest aspects of his game right now. He had a couple nice drives to the basket, but doesn't have the explosiveness or skills to do it against Big East competition. He forced a few passes as he tried to thread the needle a couple times and committed 4 turnovers to only 2 assists on the day.
He's certainly a severely undersized power forward and will have to add some more muscle to a developing body that appears to be filling out. He will be overmatched on most nights next year and be playing against the best that college basketball has to offer. Despite his limitations however, his feel for the game, interior skills, and relentless attitude make Patterson a potential rotation guy next season.
Tyler Lamb, 6-4, Shooting Guard, Mater Dei, 2010
Committed to UCLA
Lamb doesn't really stand out physically on first glance, being a 6-3 or 6-4 skinny combo guard with an average frame and just decent athleticism. He doesn't appear to be much of a scorer either, as he's a decent shooter and average shot-creator, while he struggled to finish around the basket in the few occasions he tried getting there. He is extremely unselfish, though, showing some potential to possibly develop some point guard skills down the road, being a very good passer (particularly with his post-entry looks) and highly intelligent moving the ball around in Mater Dei's half-court sets. Fundamentally sound defensively, Lamb looked like a very competitive player, playing extremely hard and doing a good job hustling after rebounds. He's a role player in high school, and will almost certainly be a role player in college, which is exactly what Ben Howland will need from him at UCLA. There is a lot to be said for signing players from great high school programs that already know how to win, work and execute, and Howland seems to understand that as well as anyone.
Marcus Jordan, 6'3, Shooting Guard, 2009, Undecided
At 6'3, Jordan is undersized for a shooting guard and doesn't appear to have much of a point guard's mentality or creative abilities, but he has a very strong build for his size and plays larger than he is. Athletically, Jordan is not incredibly explosive or quick, but he's still a decent athlete by college standards and he also has decent length.
Offensively, Jordan is a competent ball-handler and has a pretty nice jump shot, despite a tendency to fade on his shots a bit. He has range out to the three-point line and can shoot the ball pulling up or spotting up. He didn't show much attacking the basket here, but did hit two nice right-handed floaters in the lane. He isn't a player who imposes his will on the game much offensively, getting most of his shots in the flow of the offense and picking his spots wisely.
Defensively is where Jordan shines, showing very good instincts and a great nose for the ball, breaking up plays and attacking the boards. He has no hesitance to use his strong frame to fight for a ball in a crowd, and pulled in two steals this game doing so.
At this stage of his development, Jordan doesn't wow you in any one area, but he has the type of solid all-around game and workmanlike mentality that will likely help him develop into a valuable rotation player for a competitive high-major school.