Monday, May 30, 2016

UA Next Combine Series-LA Recap

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
We also really liked Marjon Beauchamp (6’2/combo/Yakima, WA), an athletic combo guard with loads of upside potential.  Beauchamp was one of the top 2-3 players at the event with his ability to score from anywhere on the floor. Need a trey, Beauchamp can hit it; need a stop and pop mid-range, Beauchamp has that.  Getting to the rim, Beauchamp’s capable. Explosive with a quick first step, Beauchamp can be a problem. Moreover, we love Beauchamp’s length, athleticism and his willingness to also play defense.  We expect great things out of Beauchamp going forward.  Jalen Green (6’5/WF/Fresno, CA) went down early with an injury, but before he did, the long, athletic wing did some nice things.  Green has a good combination of size, athleticism and ball skills. Additionally, Green is proficient at scoring from beyond the arc, but he can also put it on the floor and get to the rim.  We also liked the fact he plays defense, and with his elite wingspan he plays the passing lanes well. Had he not gotten injured in the first round of games, Green would have had a chance to do more damage. He will need to put on some weight, but Green should be a good-looking prospect down the road. 

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
C.J. Woods (6’4/PF/Long Beach, CA) caught our attention on Saturday with his solid frame, strength and the ability to finish plays around the rim with guys hanging on him.  Woods’ post moves are still under development and he’s still a little raw, but his upside is still very evident.  As the day progressed Terren Frank (6’4/combo/Studio City, CA) just got better and better.  We liked Frank’s size, explosiveness, quick feet and face up game, as well as his activity around the cup.  He’s still a little raw and flying under the radar, but Franks the kind of kid that can come out of nowhere and end up be a force to be reckoned with.  We also loved his motor and the fact he embraces physical play and contact in the paint.  Julian Strawther (6’5/WF/Las Vegas, NV) is a long lefty who handles the ball well in transition, has good body control and can take the contact and still finish the play.  His play on Saturday suggests Strawther’s potential is significant.

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
Michael Pearson Jr. (5’9/PG/Tracy, CA) impressed us with his quickness, explosive first step and the ability to make solid basketball plays.  He’s not very big, but Pearson is a gamer who can hit shots if given space.  Jaden Jones (6’3/WF/Lakewood, CA) just looks the part as a long, lanky athlete with ample room to grow.  Although we only saw flashes of some of the things he could do, Jones could end up being good when he puts some pounds on his thin frame and grows a few more inches.  We will be watching.  Bajot Sahi (5’11/combo/Ceres, CA), who made solid plays, distributed the rock and finally convinced his defender he was a catch and shoot threat from deep.  His quick release allowed Sahi to squeeze off several kick out treys that found the bottom of the net.  Clark Slajchert (5’10/PG/Westlake Village, CA) showed us some things late in the day, including the ability to convert multiple 3-pointers, solid plays to the rack, mid-range jumpers all while finding cutting teammates. Delani Hunt (5’8/PG/ ) kept making plays and was productive later in the day, while Adam Schab (6’4/PF/Laguna Niguel, CA) proved he should not be left open, as he knocked down multiple treys in a game we watched.  Jahveon Medearis (6’1/combo/Downey, CA) hit a few shots from beyond the arc, but also knocked down midrange jumpers off the bounce. 

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.”

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