Wednesday, May 14, 2014

International Middle School Combine Loaded with Talent

Adams, Uyaelunmo, Marshall, Williams, Conner, Feinberg, Campbell & Barrett jr.
Last weekend the state of Texas was at the center of grassroots basketball, as Dallas played host to Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League, and Houston attracted approximately 180 of the most elite 7th and 8th graders in the country to the John Lucas International Middle School Combine. When we walked into the gym Saturday morning it was very clear from the start that the event was well organized and the coaching staff was serious about developing skills and demanding effort from the players.

Early on day one of the event, skill development was the emphasis, as players participated in 8 different team and individual skill development stations, including combine testing. Later in the evening the first round of basketball games tipped off. Individual match-ups are always a key in big time camps, and right from the opening game the camp featured a matchup between one of the nation’s top 8th grade point guards (Chase Adams) and one of the top 7th grade point guards in the country (Tyger Campbell). Although Campbell’s scoring output was superior, Adams was the most impressive and the most productive player on the court. When you talk about playmaking, no one does it better than Adams.  If you are a wing or a big, you want to play with Adams, who threw numerous pin point passes that found cutting players. Guys who ran the floor and kept moving were rewarded with a pass that usually led to an easy layup. He’s small, but defensively, he does his job by getting up under the opposing points guards and bothering them to the point they have to turn their backs to the offense. People hate on the little fella because of his diminutive size, but the Chicago native simply gets it done.

As is the case with most elite basketball camp, especially when the cameras are rolling and scouts are in the house, an impromptu dunk contest broke out early on the opening day. There were no judges, nor were trophies handed out, but Ladarius Marshall (6’6 8th grader from Jackson, MS) was the clear crowd favorite, and star of the unofficial event.  Marshall is an athletic freak, is aggressive, and tries to dunk everything in sight.  It wasn’t just the dunk contest; Marshall was just as efficient and exciting dunking in games as well. Stanley Cassius (6’4 8th grader from Encino, CA) was in the dunk contest as well, and probably would have finished second if the contest counted. Cassius is another extreme athlete worth watching.

Watford, Jackson, Days, Mathis & Smith
By most accounts, Canada’s Rowan Barrett. Jr. was discovered while playing for the Brampton Warriors in the hot new National Youth Basketball League (NYBL). Not only is he dominating the NYBL, Barrett was seen handling his business against the older guys at the Lucas camp. He’s still athletic, he is still skilled, and he proved he could score against bigger, more athletic players. Also in the NYBL is Noble Days, a 6’8 C from Racine, WI. Days is not a big scorer, but defensively he is an asset to his teams. Days logged in a solid camp in Houston, as did fellow NYBLers, Jonathan McGriff (D.C. Assault) and Kyle Sturdivant (Memphis War Eagles).

Conner Vanover (7’1 C 2018 Little Rock, AR) may not have popped up in other post event reports, probably because he is so thin and not yet strong enough to be a force in the post, but he is skilled as hell, and he can step outside and knock down the midrange or 3-pointer if left unguarded. I have to believe a 7’1 8th grader who is skilled and can stretch the defense has to be drawing a lot of attention from college coaches! Vanover has the length, but 6’9 EJ Williams was easily the biggest player in the camp. While Vanover is more productive further away from the bucket, Williams gets it done close to cup. As his footwork and hands develops, Williams’ upside is a great as any bigs in this class.

Solomon Uyaelunmo (6’9 8th grader Miramar, FL) ran on the same camp squad as Adams, and was the second best player on that team. Possessing good size, athleticism and a solid motor, the Miramar product has a chance. Another kid who probably flies under the radar and is absent from the national rankings is Michael Fineberg (6’4 8th grader Chatsworth, TX).  Bottom line, this kid can play.  He shoots it well, and he’s just athletic and crafty enough to beat his defender and get to the cup. Fineberg plays with a lot of swag and confidence.

Below is a list of other players that caught our eye.  The list is not meant to serve as rankings, as we did not see all of the players in the camp. In addition, there were a number of other standouts at the event, but either we did not see them play, or they did not standout in the game(s) we saw. With that said, between all of the scouting services in the gym, most of the standout performers should have been accounted for between us.

 Standout Performers (alphabetical)

Chase Adams-5’2 8th grader Chicago, IL
Michael Barber-6’2 8th grader Jackson, MS
Russell Barlow-6’8 8th grader Plano, TX
Rowan Barrett Jr.-6’4 7th grader Mississauga, CN
Jomaru Brown-6’0 8th grader Raleigh, NC
Jamal Edmonson-6’4 8th grader Charleston, SC
Michael Feinberg-6’4 8th grader Chatsworth, TX
Earnest “EJ” Jackson-5’7 7th grader Los Angeles, CA
Cameron Johnson-6’0 8th grader Springhill, TN
Jonathan Kabongo-6’3 8th grader Toronto, CA
Jaedon LeDee-6’5 8th grader Spring, TX
Jonathon McGriff-5’6 7th grader Bowie, MD
Ladarius Marshall-6’6 8th grader Jackson, MS
Montez Mathis-6’4 8th grader Edgewood, MD
LutherMuhammad-6’3 8th grader Newark, NJ
Payton Moore-6’3 8th grader Los Angeles, CA
Qon Murphy-6’4 8th grader Charlotte, NC
Jermaine Patterson-5’8 8th grader Bluffton, SC
DJ Peevy-5’11 8th grader Cibolo, MD
Reginald Perry-6’8 8th grader Tallahassee, FL
Tommie Pope-5’11 8th grader Portsmouth, VA
Kyle Slater- 6’4  8th grader Richmond, TX
L’Christian Smith-6’5 7th grader Dayton, OH
Stanley Cassius-6’4 8th grader Encino, CA)
Atiba Taylor-6’3 8th grader Hackensack, NJ
Solomon Uyaelunmo-6’9 8th grader Miramar, FL
Conner Vanover-7’1 8th grader Little Rock, AR
Damon Wall-5’10 8th grader Philadelphia, PA
Trendon Watford-6’6 7th grader Hoover, AL
Zachary Watson-6’5 8th grader Plano, TX
George Wilkerson III-6’5 8th grader Houston, TX
EJ Williams-6’9 8th grader Middletown, OH


  1. I don't understand why or what the point is of pointing out this in your write up...

    "He’s a Caucasian kid, but he plays with a lot of swag and confidence."

  2. I don't know why this comment would be made. I do know if it was said the other way around someone would be on the front page of yahoo.

  3. I liked the kid. It was meant as a compliment, while trying to describe his game. No need to try and make something out of it! No disrespect intended!