The 3rd edition of Under Armour’s new UA Next Combine Series platform rolled into the MAP Sports Facility in Los Angeles, California on Saturday and again played host to many of the region’s most elite 8th graders. The event attracted kids from California, Arizona, Washington, Nevada and Utah. Unique to the LA stop was the fact the event was held at the same time and location as Under Armour’s 3rd session of the ultra-competitive UA Association high school league. Consequently, UA Next Combine participants had the opportunity to play right next to UA’s top high school teams and players, thus getting a bird’s eye view of what’s “next!”
In our opinion, no one played better on Saturday than Nico Mannion (6’0/PG/Scottsdale, AZ). We’ve been hearing a lot of great things about Mannion since we first saw him play 3 years ago, and his high level play more than justified the considerable hype. Mannion has an elite skill set that includes the ability to work off ball screens, score at all three levels and find open teammates. Mannion is a smart floor general with an advanced understanding and feel for the game. In addition, he’s patient, poised and understands how to run a team. We liked everything about his game, and he clearly projects as a high-major PG with continued growth and development.
While we’re talking about elite guard play, we might as well mention Devin Askew (6’0/PG/Sacramento, CA), who really demonstrated significant improvement since the last time we saw him over 1 year ago. Although he has always seemed to play in the shadows of elite guys like Shamar Morrow and Kyree Walker on a loaded Oakland Soldiers squad, Askew showed he’s a bona fide star in his own right. Askew is highly skilled, crafty, can hit the catch and shoot three-ball, pull up for the mid-range or work the pick and roll all the way to the basket. Although he’s a pass first floor general, he can get his shot anytime he wants. Askew also displayed great court vision as well as the ability and willingness to get his teammates involved. Mannion and Askew in the same backcourt is simply unfair, and that’s exactly what we saw on Saturday. At the end of the day, based on what we saw in LA, Devin Askew has arrived!
|Mannion, Beauchamp, Askew, Woods & Taitz|
Noah Taitz (6’2/combo/Henderson, NV) won’t wow you with his size, length or explosiveness, but if you like tough, hardnosed skilled guys then you might appreciate what Taitz brings to the table. Sneaky athletic, Taitz has an elite motor and is more than willing to get on the floor for a 50/50 ball. He showed he could both get to the cup and sit down on defense. We suspect Taitz’s future high school coach is going to love him. Khamron Cantrell (6’3/WF/LA, CA) is another good looking prospect with good size for his position, surprising bounce and the ability to rebound and push the rock 94 feet for the score. We loved Cantrell’s crossover dribble and 3-point stroke. From what we saw, Cantrell has a good chance of playing college basketball in a few years. Austin Cook (6’4/WF/Montclair, CA) impressed us with his size, toughness, ball skills, and ability to go strong to the cup and finishes with contact. Also, Cook has perfected the jab step and employs it to either beat his man off the dribble or to step into a jump shot. We also liked Cook’s ability play inside or outside depending on the size of his defender, and the fact he can step out side and drain the trifecta.
|Green, Cantrell, Strawther, Frank & Cook|
He may have been one of the smallest players at the combine, but Jordan Nowden (5’7/PG/Fountain Valley, CA) was one of the quickest. A blur with the rock and always in attack mode, Nowden found his way in the paint on a consistent basis, where more times than not he was able to get his shot off among the trees and still finish. Nowden has the ball on a string and is an excellent playmaker. He also does well communicating with his teammates and running his team, which is a must for an undersized PG hoping to play ball at the next level. Every time we looked up Dareyon Davis (5’10/PG/Moreno Valley, CA) just seemed to be at the right place at the right time and making positive plays. With a good nose for the ball, Davis is smart, has a nice motor and is the kind of glue guy every team needs. The same thing can be said about Anthony Spencer (5’8/PG/Pacific Palisades, CA), who although diminutive, is cat quick, tough as nails and is always probing the defense for a seam. He has an elite motor and is a pesky on-ball defender. He may not pass the look test to some, but he passes the baller test to us.
|Bowden, Jones, Davis & Spencer|
Although the LA stop did not have the size, freak athletes and star power of the first 2 events, we were pleased with some of the talent at the top of the field. Next up is a trip to Houston, Texas where there is an abundance of talent and where we will truly find out if “everything is bigger in Texas.”