Monday, May 17, 2010

Ulis Represents Ohio in Elite Camp

While I was in Houston, Texas for the second session of Nike's new EYBL this past weekend, I discovered that John Lucas was holding his annual John Lucas International Middle School Combine at Bellaire High School. Having heard great things about this elite camp in the past, I took some time to run by the event to get a feel for what was going down. This is the third year for the Lucas camp and once again, only the top 7th & 8th graders were selected to participate. Although the camp was made up of mostly Texas kids, because of the reputation of the event, elite level kids from as far as Washington D.C. and the Bahamas made their way to the Houston suburb.

Although most of the players in attendance were much too young to appreciate the mark John Lucas made on the NBA, it was evident that Lucas' no nonsense style got their attention during the 2-day event. In terms of the format, roughly 60 kids were divided into six teams of 10 players each. The camp tipped off on Saturday afternoon with a welcome, followed by stretching and skills and drills stations. The eight skill stations were intense and focused on skill development, and were as much a part of the overall rankings and evaluation as were the 5 games each kid played. After an inspirational presentation by super scout Van Coleman, the kids were given a demonstration of the camp offense each team would be running, and later that afternoon the first series of games began.

Make no mistake, invitations to this event were not handed out to just anybody. With the help of local scout Jim Hicks, founder of RCS Sports in Houston, the top 30 Houston-area kids were identified and selected through Camp Right Way, a qualification camp of sorts. In addition to selecting the top local kids, nominations were sought on a national level for truly elite kids from across the company. There are a couple of unique features to this camp, including the fact the John Lucas himself gave each and every player in attendance a personal and verbal evaluation of their game at the conclusion of the event. Unlike some elite camps, Lucas purposely did not want to know who the "top kids" were in advance of the camp; rather, he wanted the player's game to determine who the eventual top kids really were. Also, this camp was not as much about exposure as it was honing basketball skills and increasing basketball IQs. Also, unlike most camps of it's kind, there was no all-star at the conclusion of the camp.

Despite the camp's focus on development, attention was being paid to the players who stood out and separated themselves during the event. Although I had to get back to the Nike event, I did inquire from the scouts and other observers who the top performers were. From what I heard, Lima's Tyler Ulis, arguably Ohio's top 8th grader, represented the Buckeye State well. According to Clay Dade, founder of the Jr. All-American Camp, Ulis' advanced game was on full display, as he showed an impressive skill package, poise beyond his years, and a high basketball IQ. Below is a list of standout players according to Jim Hicks and Clay Dade.

Top Players: (Top 10 in Bold)

6'0 Costa Anderson-Atlanta, GA
5'8 Nicholas Bennett-Houston, TX
5'9 James Blackman-Ft. Wayne, IN
6'5 Joe Burton Porter, TX
6'3 Jonathan Carson-Milwaukee, WI
6'4 Jordan Cornish-Slidell, LA
6'7 Jackson Davis-Lexington, KY

6'2 Trey Dilworth-Pllugerville, TX
5'8 Brandon Etienne-Houston, TX
6'3 Austin Grandstaff-Rowlett, TX
6'8 Dakari Johnson-Lexington, KY
6'5 Kejuan Johnson-Atlanta, GA (7th Grade)
6'6 Jalen Lindsey-Franklin, TN
5'6 Jerron Love- Bronx, NY
6'2 Kelly Oubre-Houston, TX
5'4 Jay Prince-Houston, TX
6'2 Christian Sanders-Houston, TX
6'5 Marvin Saunders-Bahamas
5'9 Johnnie Schuler, Jr-Washington, DC
6'6 Melvin Swift-Houston, TX
5'11 Alonzo Trier-Rowlett, TX
6'5 JC Washington-Houston, TX
5'7 Jarred West-New Orleans, LA
6'3 Justice Winslow-Houston, TX
5'4 Tyler Ulis-Lima, Ohio

According to James Ulis, Tyler's father, "the event was an excellent training and development type camp. The camp was well run and the staff was very knowledgeable." Ulis was most impressed with the fact that, "the kids were held accountable, team play was emphasized, and the camp was very competitive." As a final note, Ulis was glad he took his son to the event and would definitely recommend the camp to other parents. To see the pictures I took at the event, visit the Buckeye Prep Facebook Fan Page. Finally, see the comment section of this story for additional information.


  1. -John Lucas International Middle School Combine

    A few of the top players 7th & 8th grade

    John Lucas, played in the NBA for 14 years. In 1976, John was first pick to the Houston Rockets. Thereafter, he coached 3 NBA teams. John's son, John Jr. also played in the NBA for 4 years. The 3rd annual John Lucas (international middle school combine) Nike Camp in Houston Texas was a blast and had to be the best in the Midwest for 2010. Some of the top athletes traveled near and far from states such as DC, GA, OK, LA, OH, NC, KY, TN, WI, MD, NY, TX & IN. A player even came from the Bahamas! Kelly Oubre (TX) 6'2 the guard picks his spots well and has a nice stroke of the ball. Joe Burton (TX) 6'3 has a power game. He's able to put the rock on the floor which makes him "scary good".

  2. Cont...

    Burton also has a 28.8 vertical. Tyler Ulis (OH) 5'5 point guard has good ability to run a team, he wasted no time beating his man with quick crossovers. Also, Tyler used his shoulders to prevent defenders from cutting his lane. Jalen Lindsey (TN) 6'1 runs the floor and is fluid in his movement. He makes it look easy. Lindsey runs the floor well and is improving his back to the basket game. Alonzo Trier (TX) 5'10, has good offensive skills and scores the ball very well. He grew a few inches and toned up. Trier played 2 guard and went to work whenever he got the rock. He goes to the basket with either hand and uses a combination of dribbles before releasing a wet jump shot.

  3. Cont...

    One of the top performers was Kejuan Johnson (GA), he's just too big. This ATL 6'5 kid is 13 years old and a human dunking machine. It's virtually impossible to stop him on this level. He's a 7th grader who's used to playing several grades up. Kejuan thrives off playing aggressive especially on his way to the rim. Nicholas Thomas (TX) 5'11 is a 2 guard who can shoot the open shot and used his wide frame to get easy points in the paint. He won MVP at the Dallas Texas Phenom camp. Thomas plays tight defense and he can lock down his man. Christian Sanders (TX) 6'2 was a high flying athlete who occasionally slam dunked in traffic. I call it self- distinction or player- separation. How many 8th graders do you know dunk in traffic? Sanders is a pure scorer that doesn't mind playing team basketball. James Blackmon (IN) 5'10 isn't just good, he's a great decision maker. James played calm under pressure and displayed consistent 3 point shooting ability. Blackmond oozes with confidence, you can see it in his demeanor. Dakari Johnson (KY) 6'8 and 240 lbs was a beast in the paint and feels comfortable playing in his big shoes. Dakari is a major prospect with the NYC Gauchos program. Johnson got the job done, when he dribbled through defenders and made difficult finishes. Austin Grandstaff 6'3 (TX) made efforts to prove he has the goods. Austin made tough shots in the paint and made defenders pay for sleeping on him. Against all odds there was no turning back for Grandstaff. Jerron, Austin, Mavin and Christian on the same team was too much. Davis Jackson (KY) 6'7 is an energetic big man, he upset defenders battling to get loose balls, put backs and rebounds. Davis made several vertical dunks with defenders standing right in front of him. When Jackson gets his defender up in the air, he'll usually finish with an up-and- under hand lay up. Mavin Saunders (Bahamas) 6'5 intimidated defenders with his deisal physique. He posed a threat for opponents hoping to deter him with their court presence. Mavin's muscle mass allowed him to create mismatches. Saunders constantly exercised his strength by sacraficing himself to get buckets. The clash between Saunders and KeJuan was verocious. Imagine a close cage fight; the real test of heart. Johnnathan Carson (WI) 6'3 has soft hands around the basket and a nice feel for the game. 'Jon Jon' plays light on his feet for a big man, he moves with finesse. Carson's very familiar with the camp life. James Cunningham (KY) 5'10 ran the show for his squad with shovel passes. James was able to protect the ball from defenders in the final seconds of 4th quarter to win the game. Trey Dilworth (TX) 6'4 has a good body and is a shooting guard on the rise. He made several dunks. Dilworth has a mid-range game as well as perimeter shot. Jerron Love 7th grade (NY) 5'6 was very impressive on both ends of the floor. Clark Francis (Hoop scoop) once wrote in 2008 "We have high praise for Jerron Love because his defense was one of the best in the camp". Well, at John Lucas's camp Jerron was considered the best ball handler! The talented floor general called pick-n-roll plays to get his teammates involve and used screens to go on shooting sprees. He drained a long 3 pointer that made the gym erupt. Justice Winslow (TX) 6'4 is a talented player with a great upside. He's good around the glass and gets rebounds. Winslow has nice size and is very athletic. Justice plays unselfish and displayed good court vision.

  4. Christian Sanders has a 39" vertical leap and rebounds very well but what does the best is shoot the basketball. He has a great mid range game and strokes the three with ease. He is a major D1 prospect.

  5. Where is Christian Sanders attending high school next year?

  6. Hopefully I will get a chance to see Christian at my next elite showcase scheduled for September 12th. If he needs an invitation email me at