HoopHall Classic Scouting Reports, Part One

HoopHall Classic Scouting Reports, Part One
Jan 20, 2009, 02:25 pm
We spent the last three days at the HoopHall Classic in Springfield, Mass, the birthplace of basketball, evaluating some of the top high school players in America. Our first report will focus on players such as Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech), Kenny Boynton (Florida), Keith Gallon (Oklahoma), Hassan Whiteside (Marshall), Alex Oriakhi (UConn) and James Bell (Villanova).

Derrick Favors, 6-10, PF/C, 2009, South Atlanta
Committed to Georgia Tech

Scott Nadler

One of the most anticipated games of the showcase occurred yesterday between South Atlanta (GA) High School and Oak Hill (VA) Academy - and it did not disappoint. There was a buzz in the gym unlike any other game as there were no empty seats in the bleachers and limited standing room as well. The preverbal buzz however was present less because of the matchup between two top ten teams, but more so because the presence of recent Georgia Tech commit, South Atlanta’s star, Derrick Favors (#1 Scout, #4 Rivals, #2 ESPN).

Favors has a frame and a build that is unlike any other player at the high school level. He’s tall at 6’10”, well defined with broad shoulders, and looks like a prototypical power forward with an excellent wingspan. He is an outstanding athlete – showing it in his ability to elevate for a lob pass and when running the floor in transition to finish on the break as well. He had a couple rebounds and dunks throughout the game that drew many ooh’s and aah’s.

His rebounding in the 1st half is what propelled South Atlanta to their early lead. He snapped, what seemed like every rebound early on and grabbed every one above the rim. His timing was great as well, judging perfectly where a ball would bounce on deep 3’s that were attempted. More importantly, his ability to outlet the ball to lead the break was critical. He immediately looked to half court to find a streaking guard leaking out. Even with this great praise and Favors collecting 10 first half rebounds, there were some flaws in this area.

For one, he never boxes out. This is understandable considering that he doesn’t have to at this level, but in the ACC that will have to change. Additionally, there were instances when he threw great outlets and other times where he rushed it and turned the ball over. Lastly, after an unbelievable first half on the boards, Favors disappeared a bit in the 3rd quarter, largely due to fatigue. He did reawake on the boards in the 4th – but not nearly at the same pace. When he can learn how to maintain his energy level for a full game, his rebounding statistics as well as other statistics will be off the charts.

His offensive game right now is still raw, but he’s definitely improving as he showed a willingness to try new moves. He attempted a few spins in the post, or face-up drives off an inside pivot, but seemed uncomfortable as he was stripped or tied up on several occasions. Other times he showed a nice looking face-up 15 foot jump shot with good mechanics, although right now it’s a bit flat, or quick drop steps for jump hooks over his left shoulder. His biggest problem was how fast he was going. He would catch and try to beat the double team so quickly that he would force the action, leading to bad misses or turnovers. When he can learn to be patient and use ball fakes his success rate will increase. Furthermore, he will need to develop more advanced moves, drop steps and up and unders together with better footwork will serve him well.

His decision making, something that troubles just about every high school player, must improve. He’ll hold the ball a split second too long or dribble one extra time, which throws off the play. Other times, he’ll try to show-off his guard skills by leading the break after a rebound or driving from the top of the key – two things Favors can’t quite do at this stage in his development, although it is nice to see his desire to expand his repertoire.

Although South Atlanta played zone for the whole game with Favors stationed on the left block, he still showed some promising signs on the defensive end. Any interior play by Oak Hill was disrupted by the mere presence of Favors. He forced the Oak Hill players into some tough shots inside and even altered a couple perimeter shots by sprinting out to contest them. As the game progressed however, his value deteriorated, as Favors looked tired and resorted to reaching in on penetrating guards and looked content in giving up open shots in his area. Fatigue was certainly a factor as Favors was seen holding his shorts on several possessions in the 2nd half. The substantial travel he’s been doing together with his team recently likely had a big role in that.

Something that was a bit concerning at times was Favors’ absence in scrums around the basket. There were occasions where there loose balls to be had, and Favors was nowhere to be found trying to get into the mix, instead letting his teammates fend for themselves and often giving up offensive possessions in the process. In a game that his team ultimately lose by 5 points, Favors probably could have done a little bit more in the second half to help South Atlanta come away with the victory. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed by the incredible talent that Favors possesses, and pretty much analyst we spoke with here in Springfield currently has him pegged as the #1 player in the 2009 high school class.

Kenny Boynton, 6'2, Shooting Guard, 2009, American Heritage
Committed to Florida

Joseph Treutlein

Kenny Boynton (#8 Scout, #7 Rivals, #10 ESPN) led his team to a pretty easy victory here, scoring 28 points in 28 minutes. Boynton plays on a team severely lacking in talent, which makes it hard to evaluate him as an overall player, as he needs to be relied on to score constantly. Boynton went 9-for-25 in his one game here, also hitting 5 threes, dishing out 3 assists, and pulling in 7 rebounds. He started off the game on fire, but cooled off in the second half as his team slowly squandered their huge lead until having to scramble at the very end against an unimpressive group.

Looking at his game, Boynton is a smooth, but not incredibly explosive athlete with just average length for his size. While he's not an outstanding physical specimen, he makes up for it and then some in shot-making ability, being able to score the ball at will. He shows no hesitation to pull up from NBA three-point range, and he hit a few shots from there in this game. He can shoot spotting up or on the move, and shows no problems adjusting to a hand in his face. He’s truly an excellent shot maker, hitting a handful of very tough shots here.

Boynton is also pretty strong from mid-range, showing no problem shooting on the move from a variety of angles. The biggest problem with Boynton's shooting is his streaky nature, as he can be lights out for awhile, but then go just as cold, and he doesn't make adjustments to his game when his shot isn't falling.

The biggest thing Boynton could show is more of a game attacking the basket, as he too easily settles for pull-up contested jumpers, not showing a great game getting in the lane to score. He hit a few floaters here, enough to keep the defense honest, but far preferred to jack up shots from outside.

Defensively, he's a tough competitor with a good stance and lateral quickness, and that was on display here. He also has a nose for the ball and has no problem tracking down rebounds, helping his team in that way.

Boynton should be a strong contributor for Florida from day one, but word is he's looking to play point guard there, which is strange given the fact that he hasn't shown much point guard ability in high school. Improving that aspect of his game would do a lot for his long term stock, given his size, but he could also become a more versatile scorer as well, as it's unclear whether he'll get his jumpers off with the same ease against longer, more athletic defenders. Boynton is clearly a tremendous offensive talent, and if he can learn to play in a real basketball system and become more versatile, he’ll likely develop into an NBA caliber player.

Keith Gallon, 6'8, Power Forward, 2009, Oak Hill Academy
Committed to Oklahoma

Joseph Treutlein

Keith "Tiny" Gallon (#37 Scout, #31 Rivals, #14 ESPN) has been plagued by weight problems through much of his high school career, and while he's still quite thick for his size, he looks like he's in much better shape than the last time we saw him. His new dimensions put him much closer to a weight where he's be able to consistently produce, though he still could lose some more weight to maximize his ability.

Gallon brings a peculiar skill set and style of play to the table for a player his size. This could be seen clearly in his one game here, as he hit 6 three-pointers while not doing much damage in the painted area on the offensive end, feeling content to settle for his outside shot, which obviously was working for him. Gallon's post game looked pretty raw on the few attempts we saw, and it'd be in his best interest for him to show more willingness to attack the basket on the offensive end, taking advantage of his size and good hands, even if his lack of explosiveness around the rim makes it a little bit difficult going up against a shot-blocker like Derrick Favors.

Gallon also made some good contributions on the boards here, doing a great job banging with Derrick Favors, getting inside position, boxing out, and pulling down rebounds in a crowd. Defensively, he can use some work in man-to-man, though he shows good timing coming from the weak side for shot blocks with his great length. His lateral quickness is very average, though, and his poor conditioning surely doesn’t contribute in this area.

Looking forward, he should be able to contribute early in his career for Oklahoma, but he should lose some weight to better maximize his physical abilities and improve his conditioning, while also expanding his skill set and showing more willingness to score inside on the offensive end, complementing his strong spot-up shooting.

Hassan Whiteside, 6'11, PF/C, 2009, Marshall

Joseph Treutlein

Hassan Whiteside (unranked Scout, Rivals, ESPN) is someone we saw and wrote about just a few weeks earlier, but his performance here was so strong that something had to be written to acknowledge it. Whiteside had a tremendous impact in his team’s game, scoring 9 points with 12 rebounds and 7 blocks, while contesting a handful more shots as well. You don’t find many players at the high school level with his combination of size, athleticism and freakish length, which makes him an extremely intriguing long-term prospect.

Whiteside hasn't done much to expand his game skill-wise, but he approached the game with a more focused and active demeanor here, making his present felt on both ends of the floor. With his excellent length, mobility, and quickness in getting off the floor, Whiteside is a huge threat on the defensive end, where he roamed the lane swatting shots all day, also stepping out on the perimeter for a couple blocks as well. He combines good timing and anticipation with his excellent physical tools to make him a huge presence in the middle.

Offensively, Whiteside didn't do much creating here, but was active attacking the glass and cutting to the basket, showing the willingness to take advantage of his physical tools, such as on one play where he strongly dunked over an opposing big man while also drawing the foul.

Whiteside could still do some more to add offensive skills to his game, and he can add some bulk to his thin frame, but he looks like a steal and a half for Marshall, assuming he receives academic eligibility, which is a question at this point based on some reports.

Alex Oriakhi, 6'9, PF/C, 2009, Connecticut

Joseph Treutlein

Alex Oriakhi (#14 Scout, #21 Rivals, #19 ESPN) had a very good game here, pulling in 17 rebounds (7 offensive) while scoring 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting. He brings a solid but unspectacular game to the table, and the same description applies to his athletic abilities. At 6'9, he has pretty good length and a nice build already, while his frame could hold a little more weight as well. He's highly mobile and coordinated, though he lacks a bit in quickness right now.

Looking at his game, Oriakhi got in done on the offensive end with a combination of simple, but efficient moves. Most of his scoring came off offensive rebounds, cuts to the basket, or in the post. In the post, he has a solid base of skills to work upon, with a drop step, turnaround jumper, and an ability to extend for reverse lay-ups, while also having the willingness to power through his defender for a foul.

Speaking of fouls, Oriakhi can definitely use some work from the free-throw line, where his form is inconsistent and not very deliberate. It showed in the box score, as he hit an abysmal 5-of-14 free throws. Going off this, it's probably safe to assume his mid-range jump shot is not a viable weapon yet, something we didn't see him try here.

Oriakhi also showed some flashes of a face-up game from 10 feet out, looking comfortable putting the ball on the floor for one or two dribbles and powering to the rim, but wasn't able to convert on his attempts here. Other than that, he's excellent on the offensive glass, as he gets good inside position, has a good nose for the ball, and makes use of his physical attributes in pursuit.

Looking forward, Oriakhi has all the makings of a very strong college player, but at his size and with his lack of versatility at the moment, he will certainly need to stick around UConn for a few years to polish up his all-around game. Maximizing his athletic abilities while expanding his skill set should be among his priorities, as there's no area of his game that couldn't use some improvement.

James Bell, 6-5, Small Forward, 2010, Montverde Academy
Committed to Villanova

Jonathan Givony

A key member of arguably the top recruiting class in the country thus far, Villanova commit James Bell (#61 Scout, #98 Rivals, #38 ESPN) did a nice job showing his credentials as a terrific role player for the collegiate level.

Slightly undersized for a small forward (or even the power forward position he plays at times), Bell is a physically developed, athletic wing player with a very versatile game. He is a tough, competitive player first and foremost, showing excellent defensive instincts, and being extremely physical both contesting shots on the perimeter and mixing things up inside. Despite his lack of size he showed no qualms about making his presence felt in the paint, primarily by crashing the glass, but also posting up.

An average ball-handler in the half-court, Bell can get to the basket thanks to his solid first step and aggressive mentality. He made a number of highlight reel passes to opponents cutting to the basket, and appears to be a real team player who plays extremely unselfishly---always cheering on his teammates in the game and from the bench. He displayed a very nice stroke from outside, hitting a couple of big 3-pointers in this game, although he also showed his age at times with some very poor decision making. Turnovers appear to be somewhat of an issue at this point, and he’s generally not the most polished player you’ll find offensively.

Obviously extremely young, and with a long ways to go before becoming a complete player, Bell has a really nice framework of tools and budding skills to build upon, and seems to be a really good fit for Jay Wright’s system at Villanova.

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