Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wright has the Right Stuff

Najih "Nye" Wright-2023 PG Lorain
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Ohio’s class of 2023 is loaded with talent.  Najih “Nye” Wright (5’0/PG/Lorain/2023) is an example of the talent level this class has to offer.  We’ve seen Wright perform at a high level at our elite showcases, and in fact, we tabbed to in participate in the prestigious Ohio North vs South All-Star Game last year.  Well, he’s out with a new video that clearly displays the breath of his talent.

In terms of his game, Wright is a three-level scorer who can shoot from deep both off the bounce and in catch and shoot situations, knock down floaters or get all the way to the rim where he finishes at a high rate.  He has elite ball skills, which he uses to break down defenders and get into the paint where he either scores or dishes. His court vision and passing skills are also elite, and his ability to finish with both hands is impressive for a player so young.  Wright’s great in transition, can pull up on a dime and shoot it and is already proficient at euro stepping and finishing.

We already have Wright ranked among the top 20 in the state, but another solid performance in the Ohio North vs South game and the Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase in September could propel him into the top 10.  Take a look and Wright’s mix tape below and we're sure you will agree the kid can ball!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Johnson Pockets a Pair of Early Offers

Mechie Johnson-6'0" PG 2021 Garfield Heights, OH.
He hasn’t played a minute of high school basketball yet, but after a big weekend at the Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis last weekend, where he averaged 25 points per game, Garfield Height’s Meechie Johnson (6’0/PG/2021) has already picked up a pair of scholarship offers from Maryland Eastern Shore and Southeast Missouri. “Maryland Eastern Shore called yesterday and Southeast Missouri called today,” said Johnson’s father. “We were running with Michael Duncan’s OBC squad in Indy last week and we got a call when we goy home,” continued the elder Johnson.

Because we have seen Johnsons play and develop since the 4th grade, and he’s been a consistent standout out performer and all-star at our Buckeye Prep events, we are not at all surprised that college coaches have already taken notice of Johnson’s talent. We recently saw Johnson in action at the NEO event in Cleveland and he was simply amazing.  Not only are his handle, court vision and the ability to find open teammates at an elite level, he has added the ability to knock down deep threes consistently.  He’s highly skilled, but his IQ and will to win set him apart from his peers.

“It’s nice [getting offers], but we got to stay in the gym and keep working hard.  It’s too early [to relax],” Meechie’s father added.  From what we’ve seen of Johnson’s development, he should expect many more offers by the time he’s running the uncle’s offense early in his high school career. You can catch Johnson in action in September, when he will represent Ohio in the Ohio vs Michigan All-Star Game as part of the Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase set for September 9th and 10th.   I always tell young guys, people are always watching and taking notice of elite talent and an early age!  Congratulations to Johnson and his family!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Artic Rush Upends #2 Ranked Lima Gators

2022 Arctic Rush 
Last week, the 8th ranked Artic Rush (2022) upended the 2nd ranked Lima Gators 54-43 in the Gym Rat GRBA Nationals.  The Rush’s 4-2 run during the event included wins over Gym Rats 2022-Ramer (64-60), Club 1 Miller (77-29), Kalamazoo Legends (53-36) and Lima Gators (59-40).  Rush’s run ended in the semi-finals with a 54-43 loss to the Indy Heat NWA.  It should be noted that Indy Heat NWA went on to beat Team Teague in the championship game. Standout players for Artic Rush included Jared Frey, Trey Robertson and Doogie James.  Frey averaged 18 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steal per game, while Robertson averaged 12 points and James added 10 points per game.

Other ranked teams (Ohio) in the event included #3 Ohio Basketball Club and #12 ranked Ohio Hoopsters.  For the season, Artic Rush finished an impressive 44-10 and either won or lost to the eventual tournament champion in bracket play in every tournament they entered. We saw them at our Buckeye Prep Summer Showdown where it became clear that they were extremely talented, well coached and more than deserving of a top 10 ranking.  With their performance in Fort Wayne last week, they will make a significant jump in our Power rankings.

In addition, Paul McMillan’s 2022 All-Ohio Red lost to Team Takeover in the Peach Invitational last week.  All-Ohio Red was powered by Paul McMillan IV and Jerry Saunders.  Other standout performers included Bowen Hardman (had 29 points ve Nike South Beach), Cameron Miles, Khalil Luster and Jordan Hale-Frater. McMillan finished with 32 points in the final game. Red’s run at the event included wins over Nike South Beach, the Bryce Griggs led Nike Pro Skills and AAU National Champions CP3. McMillan’s squad rapped up their 2017 season with a gaudy 45-6 overall record, which includes wins over several nationally ranked teams such as Minnesota Spartins, Nike Pro Skills, Indiana Elite, New Jersey Hill Toppers and CP3..

Also we have to give a shout out to Greg Jonson’s 2021 Cincinnati Royals who finished in 9th place at the AAU Nationals a week ago.  The Royals’ trek to the title included wins over Next Level Show (60-38), Riverside Hawks (61-51) and LA Blue Chip Academy (41-39). The Royals were bounced from title consideration with a 78-62 loss to Kessel Heat Black in the second round.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

UA Next Combine Series DC Top Wings and Bigs

Julius Ellerbe, Darrius Tilghman, Nanna Njoku, Mohammed Aminu & Victory Nagoya
The UA Next Combine Series had its final stop in Washington DC and the talent level was high as was expected.  Let’s take a look at the front court players that impressed us during the one day event.  Our analysis will cover the top wings and bigs that attended.  Julius Ellerbe (6’5 WF Temple Hills, MD) was the top wing and overall number one player at the conclusion of the event.  Julius is a do it all wing that has the potential to stay in that elite top 25 status in the class of 2021.  He can play the point forward or play more his natural position on the wing.  He rebounds very well for his position and then he is able to lead the break.  Ellerbe can get buckets if needed either by attacking the basket or knocking down his jumper with range out to the 3 point line.  He plays the right way and loves to make plays for others as we saw him drive and kick to the three point shooter. 

Darrius Tilghman (6’3 WF Baltimore, MD) is a high energy wing that is always in attack mode.  Darrius is an athlete that attacks the rim with reckless abandon.  He can knock down the mid-range jumper and has the ability to be a lock down defender.  One of the better scorers in the event, we can see Tilghman as a household name for years to come.  Nnanna Njoku (6’9 PF Newark, DE) was the top big in the event.  He is a big body that understands how to get position on the low block and go to work.  A lost art, Nnanna has back to the basket post moves that he can finish at a high percentage with either hand.  Rebounding at a high rate and having good passing ability out of double teams Njoku is a big man that is very effective and plays to his strengths.  One thing that really impressed us is that he runs the floor hard and was the beneficiary of a lot of rebound put backs. 

Mohmmed Aminu (6’5 WF Temple Hills, MD) is a scoring machine with a high motor.  He is a mismatch problem at 6’5 with guard skills he can beat you off the dribble and get to the basket anytime he wants and he is also an under rated passer.  Aminu rebounds at a high level both offensively where he gets a lot of put backs or defensively where he can push and lead the break either going coast to coast or dropping off an assist to a teammate.  Defensively he has good hands to play the passing lanes and comes up with steals and we also saw him knock down a 3 ball.

Jai Smith (6’9 PF Middletown, NY) is a long active big man that plays both sides of the ball.  He plays extremely hard and runs the floor which is not a given in today’s game.  Jai seems to always be around the ball grabbing all the rebounds and defensively he is a shot blocking machine.  He is developing his handle where he can situationally handle the rock and he finishes strong through contact trying to dunk everything.  Smith is also knocking down the mid to short range jumper and he converts at a good percentage from the FT line. 

Jakai Robinson (6’4 WF Fort Washington, MD) is a big strong wing with a college ready body.  He is very patient and takes what the defense gives him.  This lefty attacks off the dribble and makes the right reads either shooting or setting up his teammates.  Robinson can play the point forward as he has a good feel for the game and a high basketball IQ.  As a bonus he has a nice stroke from the FT line as we believe he could live at the line with his skill set and ability to get to the rim.  Defensively he can guard 1 through 4 which shows his versatility. 

Victory Naboya (6’8 PF Upper Marlboro, MD) might have had the most upside and is a long way from his ceiling.  Victory is just scratching the surface offensively but he is ultra-athletic playing above the rim.  We saw him make a sweeping baby hook attacking the basket off the dribble so he shows the potential as an emerging offensive player but right now he is a game changer on defense blocking shots and cleaning the glass with offensive and defensive rebounds. 

Adam Walden (6’9 C Columbia, MD) could end up being the top prospect in the building when these players are all seniors in 2021.  He looks like he has a few more inches in him so 7 foot is not out of the question.  Walden has a good frame with a soft touch as he can knock down the elbow jump shot or the short corner jumper.  He converts from the FT line and he rebounds at a high level.
Shane Dezonie (6’4 WF Tobyhanna, PA) is a strong wing that is well thought of on the national stage.  He runs with the top travel team in the country and he has played against the best.  Offensively Shane is at his best attacking the rim in the half court or in transition.  He takes what the defense gives him and he had his 3ball working in the game we watched as he knocked down a few catch and shoot 3 pointers.  If his jumper is clicking he is pretty much unstoppable.

Isaiah Cornish (6’5 WF Baltimore, MD) is a silky smooth wing that has a deadly jump shot.  Cornish game is one of those that projects long term for his position.  On the wing he was one of the better long range shooters at the event, he also finished well in transition and made the right basketball plays not trying to force something that was there.  As his body develops and he gets stronger it looks like sky is the limit for this youngster. 

Javonte Brown (6’9 C Toronto, CN) is all arms and legs right now which means he is still growing.  Brown is very raw but poses a problem defensively protecting the rim blocking shots.  Although developing offensively we saw him finish with both hands around the basket and knock down his FT’s with a soft touch.  As Javonte gets stronger and keeps working on his offensive package he will be a name to remember north of the border. Tristian Jeffries (6’4 WF Belle Mead, NJ) is a study built wing that can do a little bit of everything.  He runs with Dezonie on the same club team so they are tough to stop as your two wing scorers.  Jeffries has a smooth stroke from behind the 3 point line and can get to the rack off the dribble when he catches on the wing.  Also a good rebounder for his position and can guard multiple positions on the floor.

Zaakir Williamson (6’6 WF Philadelphia, PA) is a big body combo forward that feels comfortable catching the ball in space and either shooting the three or taking his man off the dribble.  Right now a mismatch problem either taking a smaller defender down to the post or a bigger defender out in space Williamson puts you in the mindset of a Boris Diaw or maybe even Draymond Green.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

NEO Showcase Full of Talent

Alonzo Gaffney, Zion Harmon, Mechie Johnson, Tarik Watson & Josiah Harris
On Sunday, we spent a few hours at Sonny Johnson’s NEO Showcase at Garfield Heights High School near Cleveland.  Although we saw only a fraction of the players in attendance, the players we did see shined brightly.  Clearly, the loudest noise came from the high school division where nationally known guys like Zion Harmon and Julian Neman (5’7/PG/Orlando, FL) were crowd favorites.  However, one of the best players in the gym was Cleveland’s own Alonzo Gaffney (6’8/PF/Garfield Heights), who put on a show with highlight highflying dunks and deep treys.  In terms of long-term prospects with next level potential, Gaffney may be the guy.  Point guard matchups ruled the day at the NEO event, as Newman picked battles with anyone brave enough to try and guard him.  Jaythan Bosch (2020/PG) was up to the challenge and his play on Sunday has been immortalized on video.  By now, most basketball fans have seen the videos of the match ups, so we will let the videos speak for themselves. Bosh has the rock on the string, has excellent court vision and easily finds open teammates if he can't get his own shot off. Newman's ball skills are epic; he's quick and heck and can shoot the cover off the ball. To be honest, I'm not sure how you guard the guy! We also have to give a shout out to Fred Mulbah, who whipped the crowd into a frenzy with his above the rim creativity in the dunk contest.  For his services, the PA junior took home the hardware.

In terms of the middle school guys, Meechie Johnson (2021/PG/Garfield Heights) was spectacular!  Not only did he display his ball skills and play making ability, his 3-ball was defenately dialed in.  In fact, at one point, we saw him drain 4 strait treys in a game where he had to have about 5 more.  Johnson’s ability to shoot from deep has made him even tougher to defend.  Ryan Conway (2021/CG/Baltimore, MD) proved why he has been one of the top guards in the country for several years.  His macth-up with Meechie Johnson was another crowd favorite, and the two both got buckets. Conway is strong to the cup, but is more than capable of stepping into a deep trey, or finding a cutting teammate for an easy bucket. In addition, Kobe Johnson (2021/PG/Cleveland) had good weekend, as did Will Jeffress, Darryl Peterson, Brandon Brown, Colin Albert Albert, Trevor Taylor, Deandre Boyd, Mozi Jackson, Davion Edmand, Jai Smith, Randy Brady, Ryan Conway, TyRion Donson, Makail Cottingham, Eric Rivers, Tae Perrie, Michael Lucarotti, Brandon Brown and Henry Raynor.

In the 7th grade division we saw some good things out of Josiah Harris who has returned to the top of his game.  He was good early, fell off a bit due to injury and growth issues, but is back to being a force in the paint.  We also noticed Sean Jones playing well again.  Other standouts in this division included Sonny Johnson Jr., Tavian Tatum, Isaac Gonzalez, Luke Debow, Steven Bodamer, Everton Browne, Nicholas Padilla Jr., Jalen Brown, Danny Young Jr., James Prescott, Detric Hearst Jr., Aden Lal, Zachary Lockhart, Roderick Coffee, Malik Moore, Mason Woods and Austin Cole.

Amaree Pickesn, Michah Tucker, Mikkel Tyne, Javen Vaughn & Jyles Brandon
In the 6th grade division Jayvion Moore (5’11/PF/Cleveland) looked good again since we saw him last week at the Buckeye Prep Summer Showdown. Chris White (5’6/SG/WF/Cleveland) and Malik Olafioye (5’5/PG/Detroit, MI) also caught our eye.  Other 6th grade standouts included Xavier Peterson, Duncan Moffitt, Calden Lecee, AJ Wheeler, Tyran Gray, Jakhary Towns, Jordan Fitzgibbon, Curtis Staie, Sam Brown, Anthony Bernard, Tye Curry, Samuels Korbyn, LA Hayes, Chase Welch, Davyn Dejongh, Adisa Molton and Akil Watson.

We really liked several 5th graders we saw such as Amaree Pickens (5’0/CG/Erie, PA), Tarik Watson (6’0/C/New York, NY), Mikkel Tyne (5’4/SG/Tronoto, CN), Maverick Binder (5’3/PG/Auburn, NB), Javen “Tank” Vaughn (4’9/PG/Dayton), Michah Tucker (5’4/CG/Alpharetta, GA), Jyles Brandon (5’3/CG/Bedford) John Mobley Jr. (4’8/PG/Columbus), Demarr Foster (PG/Lima) and Dominic Scott (4’7/PG/Paintsville, OH).  It's important to note that John Mobley's skill level is next level, and it's clear his countless hours in the gym are paying off. Exciting to watch! Other standouts included Gregory Brooks, Jarrett Taylor, Brandon Liepins, Logan Davis, Isaiah Brennerman, Bennett Meyers, Xavier Bowman, J Anthony Grimes, Anthony Januzzi and Mikey Johnson.

The 3rd/4th grade division had some studs as well, including Darryn Peterson, Malsi Pearson, Kodah Allen, Mike Jones, Williams Morris, Justice Griffith, CJ Thomas, Colton Rawlings, Colben Landrew, Daron Miles, Marcus Johnson, Yale Davis, Stephen Thomas, Keshawn Vanval, TJ Crumble, Kevin White, Milan Pere, Kenny Scott, Isaiah Rogers and Gunner Woods.  All in all, it was an exciting day of hoops.  Next up is the Buckeye Prep Elite Showcase set for September 16th & 17th in Columbus, OH.

Monday, June 26, 2017

UA Next Combine Washington-Top Guards

Amar'e Marshall, Carter Whitt, Brayon Freeman, Saveon Freeman & Ahmed Harrison
The UA Next Combine Series had its final stop in Washington DC and the talent level was as high as expected.  Let’s take a look at the backcourt players that impressed us during the one-day event.  Our analysis will cover the top point guards and combo guards that attended.  Amar’e Marshall (6’2 PG Montclair, NJ) was the top guard at the conclusion of the event.  He played both ends of the court, was very active on defense and was always in the passing lanes getting steals and going the other way for uncontested layups.  Marshall plays with great pace and is an elite passer that can drive and finish at the rim or knock down the 3ball.  What also impressed us that he rebounded at a high level for his position and he always seemed to be around the ball and in the right spots on the floor.  Last year a NJ guard Noah Farrakhan emerged as a top national PG at the UA Next Combine in DC and we believe that Marshall has next.

Right behind Marshall was Carter Whitt (6’1 PG Raleigh, NC) who was the best pure PG in attendance.  Equipped with great court vision, a high IQ, and a good feel for the game, Whitt is a winner and makes everyone around him better.  He has a nice pull up jumper off the bounce and we saw him make many great lead passes for assists along with hitting defenders with his nifty crossover and exploding to the rim either and finishing or dropping off a pass to one of his teammates for an easy bucket. 

Brayon Freeman (6’0 PG Washington, DC) came to play and wasn’t too far behind Marshall and Whitt.  Brayon, who will be attending national powerhouse Dematha Catholic next year, will be a key contributor to their success over the next four years.  He is a crafty guard that is more of a scorer than a facilitator at this point in his development, but he has the ability to run a team and facilitate the offense.  We saw him lull his defender to sleep with his nifty handle and then hit a turnaround jump shot.  He will also hit you with his crossover and does a great job getting into the lane and finishing in traffic.  Freeman always seems that he is getting to the rim and he has a nice stroke from the line as he is getting fouled a lot attacking the basket.

Saveon Jackson (5’11 CG Greenbelt, MD) was one of the best athletes in the building, not to mention this kid can ball.  Jackson has good court vision and he is always in attack mode.  Very athletic finishing at the rim and he rebounds at a high level for a guard.  Saveon made a nice alley oop pass to one of his teammates and also had one of the better defensive plays of the day as he ran down a player on a breakaway and did a Lebron James type block pinning the shot off the glass. 

Rounding out our top five guards is Ahmad Harrison (5’10 PG Baltimore, MD.)  Harrison is a long-armed guard that looks like he has some inches to grow.  He is the floor general for one of the top teams in the country Team Thrill.  One of the better on-ball defenders in the country he always plays hard on both ends.  He makes the right plays on offense either scoring it himself or setting up his teammates.  Harrison is a good finisher in transition and we saw him make a tough contested layup on the break. Next in line was Freddie Young (6’1 PG Ewing, NJ) who you could tell he really enjoyed passing the ball and getting his teammates involved.  He has nice size for the position and he always pushed the ball with his head up advancing the ball with nice lead passes or throwing nifty bounce passes.  Yong also rebounds well for his position, which allows him to start the break quicker. 

Freddie Young, Avery Brown, Zion Russell, Ryan Conway, Kyle Duke, Tae Perie & Tariq Eubanks
Avery Brown (6’0 PG Bridgeport, CT) is a dynamic point guard that plays well beyond his years.  He can score in bunches or be a facilitator.  We saw him drive hard to the lane and kick to the corner for a wide-open 3ball.  He is strong and compact which allows him to finish in traffic with either hand and he is an above average 3-point shooter as we saw him knock down a pull up 3 pointer off the dribble.  What also impressed us in a camp type setting is that he made the extra pass to get a better shot for his teammates. 

Zion Russell (6’0 CG Upper Marlboro, MD) is quick and explosive and can get to any spot on the floor that he wants.  We saw him display a nice crossover dribble to set up his defenders and attack the paint.  He is a bully going to the basket and is strong enough to finish and ones, but he also displayed a nice euro step in transition.  We also saw him throw a nice lob entry post pass.  Ryan Conway (6’1 CG Lutherville, MD) is a scoring machine.  He didn’t have his best day, but this kid might be the best pure scorer in the country in the class of 2021.  Conway can score from all three levels, but what makes him so deadly is that he’s a knock down 3-point shooter as well.  I liked the fact that he was making a conscience effort to make plays for his teammates by distributing the ball. 

Kyle Duke (6’1 PG Toronto, CN) is a do it all point guard that was coming off an injury so he wasn’t 100% coming into the combine.  Duke is considered the top point guard north of the border and has shown his skills in the states a few times this year playing against elite competition.  He can score from all three levels and has the ability to run a team and he can lock up on the defensive end.

Tae Perie (5’8 CG Barberton, OH) is a flashy lefty guard that isn’t afraid to let it go from deep behind the arc.  Tae knocked down a bunch of 3 pointers with range to the NBA line.  He also has nice handles that help him navigate through the defense.  Tariq Eubanks (5’9 PG Buffalo, NY) is a quick point guard that is always going downhill and putting pressure on the defense and trying to get into the paint to either score or drive and kick.  We liked the energy that Tariq brought and the passion that he played with.  Stay tuned for our breakdown of top wings and bigs.

Photo Credit goes to Kelly Kline