Yags’ Point Forward - Final NPS Player Notes
The ’17-’18 season is officially underway now that the best prep programs in the nation made their opening statements at Albertus Magnus last weekend. I always like to let things sink in for few days before looking back on the action and taking inventory. It helps me to avoid being a prisoner of the moment and allows me not to make snap judgements based on the recency theory. That said, here are some of the things I took away from the 3-day event:
BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE
Jalen Pickett, 6’3” PG/Wing, SPIRE ’18 – Pickett spent the summer playing for the Albany City Rocks in the EYBL and finished as one of the most efficient offensive players across all sneaker circuits. Expecting Pickett to repeat his sterling 137.2 Offensive Rating during the prep season would be unreasonable. Or would it? Pickett put on an absolute show against a strong Tilton squad on Sunday morning. He scored at all three levels, facilitated for his teammates and ripped down big rebounds in SPIRE’s 102-91 win. Pickett finished with 32 points (12-19 FG/6-8 3pt/2-2 FT) to go along with 7 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists. If Pickett’s recruitment doesn’t see a bump after his showing throughout the week in New England, I’m not sure what he has to do to make it happen.
BEST PERFORMANCES BY NEW ENGLAND PROSPECTS
Simisola Shittu, 6’9” Big/Wing/PG, Vermont (Vanderbilt) – I’ve maintained that Shittu should be a consensus top-5 player in the national Class of 2018 since his arrival at Vermont last fall. He didn’t do anything but make my sentiments stronger at the Prep Showcase. Shittu’s ball-handling has gotten tighter and he now uses his 7’1” wingspan to control the ball lower to the floor. His vision and passing instincts have become sharper. He’s beginning to figure out the foundation and mechanics that yield the best results for him when it comes to his jumper. He’s more in-tuned with his balance and rhythm at the foul line. He’s taking more efficient routes to get into the lane offensively, to disrupt passing lanes defensivley and to battle for rebounds on both ends. Even though he wasn’t at his most efficient (8-22 FG), Shittu was still dominant and finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists in Vermont’s lone contest. I was able to see RJ Barrett, Cameron Reddish and Bol Bol extensively this summer. I got my first real in-depth, uninterrupted look at Zion Williamson last week in North Carolina when he dropped 45 points against The Christ School in his senior season debut. I think the world of UNC-commit Nassir Little. That said, Simi Shittu has the skillset, physical tools, tenacious desire to improve/succeed/win and sky-high potential to be the best player from the Class of 2018 before it’s all said and done!
Simi Shittu (@LanX_Sims) continues to expand his skillset, proving that he's nowhere near satisfied with being a top-5 player in the Class of 2018. Shittu led @VTAcademyHoops with 25pts/14reb/5stl/4ast at the 2017 @NERRHoops Prep Showcase... pic.twitter.com/CmIyDl4l9s— Mike Yagmin (@MikeYagmiNERR) November 20, 2017
Nate Laszewski, 6’10” Wing/Big, Northfield-Mt Hermon (Notre Dame) – When Laszewski gets rolling, you’d be hard-pressed to find prettier mechanics or a more natural shooting stroke. And man, did he get rolling on Friday night against Sunrise! Laszewski rattled off eight 3’s, including a couple from NBA distance, and had the crowd convinced that the ball would find the bottom of the net every time it left his hand. The future-Fighting Irish sniper finished with 28 points (10-15 FG/8-11 3pt), 5 rebounds and 2 assists in NMH’s 85-67 win.
Dana Tate, 6’7” Wing/Big, MacDuffie (Rhode Island) – Playing in their first game together as a unit, it took MacDuffie a little while to gather their bearings and settle in. But as soon as Tate recognized that he was the most dominant force on the floor, he demanded the ball and there was no turning back. Tate finished with 22 points (9-18 FG/2-4 3pt/2-4 FT), 16 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and dragged his younger bros to a 62-58 victory over a well-coached Blair squad.
MOST CLUTCH PERFORMANCE
Diego Willis, 6’3” PG/Wing, The Academy Spain ‘18 – The Academy slept-walked through most of the first half against South Kent on Saturday and were down 33-7 before they could open their eyes. Once they perked up, Willis kicked it into overdrive and knocked down one big triple after the next. Willis put on the toughest showing (IMHO) at an NERR national prep event since 2013, when Zach Lewis’ 14-point outburst in the final 90 seconds against NMH erased a double-digit deficit and sent Fishburne Military into OT with the eventual-National Champs. Willis finished with 27 points (10-15 FG/7-11 3pt) and 11 rebounds in The Academy’s 76-67 win, including dagger 3’s to tie the game, give his team the lead and put the final nail in the coffin.
*Eric Ayala’s dagger triple with time expiring was a close second. It wasn’t an easy decision, especially when you consider his New England history. I see you, EA!
MOST UNDERRATED PERFORMANCE
D.J. Mitchell, 6’2” Point Guard, Notre Dame Prep ’18 – A lot was unknown about this year’s Notre Dame squad heading into New Haven. Due to extenuating circumstances beyond his control, coach Ryan Hurd wasn’t even sure who would be on his roster until early-September. But as long as they’ve got Mitchell to lean on, ND Prep is going to be just fine. Mitchell’s 32-point, 9-rebound gem pushed preseason #2 IMG to the brink on Friday. The fact that Mitchell did it in such efficient fashion (12-24 FG/6-8 3pt), and with only a few weeks of practice with his new teammates, sent a message to the rest of the region.
Uncommitted and under-recruited 2018 prospects who helped themselves with their performance at the 2017 National Prep Showcase:
Kyle Lofton, 6’2” PG/Wing, Putnam Science – He kept the ball on a string, made the right decision the overwhelming majority of the time, put his teammates in position to succeed, scored at all three levels, and showed his great size as a lead guard who can easily defend any position on the perimeter due to his 6’8” wingspan. Lofton comfortably knocked down shots beyond the arch in both of Putnam’s outings. Lofton averaged 12pts/6reb/5ast/2stl in two games while turning the ball over just once. His versatility will catch the eye of a mid/high-major staff that values what his skillset. UMass has offered while a number of others have reached out.
Walter Ellis, 6’4” Wing, Brewster – Ellis showed off his smooth and true outside stroke in both games. He averaged 15.5 points while knocking down 8-14 from beyond the arch, most of them being daggers from the corner. With NBA bloodlines (son of 11-year vet LaPhonso Ellis) and the ability to drill 3’s consistently, it shouldn’t be long before Ellis sees his recruitment rise.
Jaylen Sebree, 6’6” Wing, IMG – Sebree put together one heck of a weekend, combining for 42 points while shooting 57.6% (15-26 FG) from the field and hitting 61.5% of his 3pt attempts (8-13) in IMG’s two contests. Sebree also helped out on the boards, hauling in 4.5 per game and giving mid/high-major staffs a glimpse at what he brings to the table.
Jermaine Couisnard, 6’5” Wing/PG, Montverde CBD – Equipped with a college-ready frame and great feel for when to change speeds, Cousinard opened some eyes in New Haven. Whenever his team needed a bucket, Cousinard demanded the ball and attacked the defense. He has great size, good length, the ability to knock down shots on the perimeter and enough skill to be a primary ball-handler for short clips. He averaged 18 points and 5 boards in Montverde’s two games.
Koreem Ozier, 6’1” Point Guard, Scotland Campus – Ozier came out like a man on a mission, averaging 19.5 points while hitting 62% (13-21 FG) of his shots from the floor to go along with 7.5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.5 steals in Scotland’s two wins. Ozier went a perfect 10-10 from the line in a 26-point, 13-rebound, 4-assist performance against IMG. Ozier earned an offer from Grambling State after that showing.
Kevin Zhang, 6’9” Wing, Montverde CBD – Consistency remains an issue with Zhang but any college coach who believes that their staff can get the best out of him on a nightly basis were sure to fall in love last weekend. Zhang put the ball on the deck, hit circus lay-ups, finished above the rim, knocked down fade-away 15-footers with a hand in his face and found open teammates when the defense collapsed on him. He finished with 25 points (8-15 FG/3-6 3pt/6-6 FT) against New Hampton and his team needed every bit of it, winning 74-70.
These younger prospects produced on the biggest stage for their teams and figure to see their recruitment rise as a result.
Trey McGowens, 6’3” PG/Wing, Hargrave 2019 – Electric! That is the best way to describe McGowens when he fearlessly takes flight. McGowens already has the ability to take over games at the prep level, despite being a member of the 2019 class. He averaged 19 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists in Hargrave’s two games and was a hot name in coaching circles over the weekend. The South Carolina-native has earned offers from NC State, South Carolina, Clemson, Tennessee, St. John’s, Seton Hall and TCU over the last month with more sure to come.
Maxwell Lorca-Lloyd, 6’9” Big, Northfield-Mt Hermon 2019 – Lorca didn’t lack in high-major potential prior to the weekend, already holding offers from the likes of California, Baylor, BYU and Penn State. But his efficient high-major production around the rim offensively and protecting the rim defensively earned him rave reviews in New Haven. Lorca averaged 12.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2 blocks in NMH’s two games while shooting 68.7% (11-16) from the floor. UConn and Harvard are now also in the mix.
6'9" big Max Lorca (@maxlorcalloyd) is starting to see his prodigious potential yield consistent production. It's an extremely welcomed sight for @NMHbasketball & @PSACardinals but not so much for their opponents! pic.twitter.com/3iDVTGOZWB— Mike Yagmin (@MikeYagmiNERR) November 18, 2017
Tre Mitchell, 6’9” Big, Woodstock 2019 – Georgia Tech offered Mitchell the night before Woodstock’s first game in New Haven, so it wasn’t as though Mitchell came out of nowhere either. After showing off his soft shooting touch, a willingness to bang in the post and an uncanny ability to create for his teammates from the pinch-post, Mitchell only solidified his case as a major 2019 riser. Tennessee and Seton Hall have offered Mitchell since, adding to a list that includes Wake Forest, Penn State, Harvard and Yale.
James Bouknight, 6’5” Wing, MacDuffie 2019 – With Blair intentionally slowing the pace against MacDuffie, it would’ve been easy for Bouknight to defer to Tate and cruise to a win. But that’s simply not how Bouknight is built. Instead, he took advantage of the space his defender was giving him and nailed a key triple late in the game. Then another. He also showed his elite athleticism with a transition block that he slapped off the backboard around the top of the square. Bouknight finished with 14 points (5-11 FG/2-3 3pt/2-4 FT) to go along with 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 assists and a steal. Minnesota, Saint Louis and Kansas State have offered but if Bouknight’s skillset ever matches his raw athleticism, he’ll be the highest of high-major prospects.
Mika Adams-Woods, 6’3” PG/Wing, New Hampton 2019 – Coach Nick Whitmore has another City Rocks-product to build around going forward. Adams-Woods is a long, lean lefty with an explosive first step and a steady stroke from the perimeter. His movements are effortless and efficient while his actions are sharp but subtle. With great size and poise beyond his years, Adams-Woods is going to become a high-major target very soon. He scored 18 points in both games he played over the weekend, consistently getting into the lane or intelligently stepping back for an open look.
Symir Torrence, 6’3” PG/Wing, Vermont 2020 – This might come as a shock but Torrence comes from an Albany AAU program called the City Rocks. They provide New England with talent from time to time! Once Vermont gets their offensive compatibility figured out, Torrence is going to be a huge asset for Shittu and Thornton Scott. Not only does he have the size to engulf opposing point guards defensively with his 6’9” wingspan but Torrence is also as steady as they come with the ball in his hands, which will allow Shittu and Scott to work freely through picks and find open holes in the defense for easy buckets. Torrence’s simple mechanics allow him to get his shot off quickly in his natural motion and helped him drop 17 points (5-7 FG/4-5 3pt/3-3 FT) in the Prep Showcase finale. Cincinnati offered Torrence this fall but this 2020 prospect is going to have a long list of suitors before his prep career is finished.
YAGS’ 2017 NATIONAL PREP SHOWCASE TOP-25 PROSPECTS
Not based on their performance over the weekend, simply based on long-term potential as basketball prospects, regardless of class:
Simi Shittu, 6’9” Big/Wing/PG, Vermont ‘18 (Vanderbilt)
Anfernee Simons, 6’4” PG/Wing, IMG ‘18
Nate Laszewski, 6’10” Wing/Big, Northfield-Mt Hermon ‘18 (Notre Dame)
Derek Culver, 6’9” Big, Brewster ‘18 (West Virginia)
Miles Norris, 6’9” Wing, Brewster ’18 (Oregon)
Noah Kirkwood, 6’6” Wing/PG, Northfield-Mt Hermon ‘18 (Harvard)
Eric Ayala, 6’4” PG/Wing, IMG ’18 (Maryland)
Rasir Bolton, 6’2” Point Guard, Massanutten ’18 (Penn State)
Marcus Zegarowski, 6’2” Point Guard, Tilton ’18 (Creighton)
Dana Tate, 6’7” Wing/Big, MacDuffie ’18 (Rhode Island)
Kyle Lofton, 6’2” Point Guard, Putnam Science ‘18
Isaiah Mucius, 6’8” Wing, Brewster ’18 (Wake Forest)
Morris Udeze, 6’9” Big, Montverde CBD ’18 (Wichita State)
Hargrave is back to doing @HargraveHoops things at the 2017 @NERRHoops Prep Showcase! Led by Trey McGowens' VIOLENT ATHLETICISM and Tavin Lovan's consistent production, they take a 55-28 lead into the half... pic.twitter.com/mVGicfXxHq— Mike Yagmin (@MikeYagmiNERR) November 18, 2017
Trey McGowens, 6’3” PG/Wing, Hargrave ‘19
James Bouknight, 6’5” Wing, MacDuffie ‘19
Tre Mitchell, 6’9” Big, Woodstock ‘19
Akok Akok, 6’8” Wing, Putnam Science ‘19
Max Lorca, 6’10” Big, Northfield-Mt Hermon ‘19
Ismael Massoud, 6’8” Wing/PG, MacDuffie ‘19
Sherif Kenney, 6’4” PG/Wing, Brewster ‘19
Mika Adams-Woods, 6’3” PG/Wing, New Hampton ‘19