Yags’ Point Foward - Thoughts from the #SRC
NERR's Mike Yagmin offers his thoughts and analysis after watching this weekend's Scholar Roundball Classic at Babson College
Simi Shittu is one of the rare legit positionless players in the nation (I like to call them Big/Wing/PG). Through the first month of the season, Shittu has proven to be Vermont's primary ball handler, best playmaker, best passer, most consistent rebounder and most explosive athlete on both ends of the court.
Whenever you can apply those superlatives to a player who is close to 6'10" and owns a 7'1.5" wingspan, you have a special prospect on your hands. But when that player is also surrounded by teammates like Marcus Santos-Silva, an exemplary rebounder in his own right, and Jordan Nwora, one of the most dynamic scoring threats in the nation, and is still such an obvious standout, it becomes that much more clear that you're watching an elite talent.
Shittu is still considered an uber-athletic, rim-running big man with an elite motor by the majority of scouts and college coaches on a national level. Expect that to change when Vermont squares off against Putnam Science during this week's BasketBull showcase and next month's HoopHall Classic, both taking place in Springfield, MA. With a glut of high major programs sure to be in attendance at both events, Shittu will have the opportunity to unleash his growing skillset in front of some of the nation's blue bloods.
Wabissa Bede led Cushing to their second win over a AAA program in the last two weeks, as the Virginia Tech-bound Point Guard efficiently dropped 19 points and put his teammates in positions to succeed all night long. While Bede continues to cement his status as New England's best floor general, 6'4" junior David Duke continues his ascension as New England's newest high major prospect and biggest stock riser early in the season.
Duke's explosive athleticism, ability to defend multiple positions and improved outside stroke now allow him to be compared favorably to the best prospects in the 2018 class. The game seems to have slowed down for Duke from a mental perspective but it's his ability to consistently change speeds and explode past his defender that makes him so dangerous. Duke's legs simply look more fresh than everyone else on the floor, allowing him to rise up in traffic to either finish around the rim or grab rebounds out of his area.
Expect to see a similar explosive rise in Duke's recruitment over the next few months.
There was a lot of talk about Avon Old Farms' new Serbian connection during the preseason but clashing schedules didn't allow me to get a look at coach Tim Roller's latest additions until this weekend. I came away impressed at the present level of production and intrigued about their future potential.
6'7" wing Luka Vasic is a vibrant young man with a charismatic personality and refreshing smile when you speak with him off the court. Once he's on the floor however, it's a different story. Facing an NMH team with a handful of players committed to elite academic and basketball programs, Vasic wasted no time getting under the skin and in the face of his opponent. Vasic simply refused to back down and played a relentless style on both ends, even as the NMH lead grew late in the game.
Vasic, a Hartford-commit, scored a game-high 27 points and didn't discriminate in terms of where his buckets came from or who they came against. If bigger defenders gave Vasic space on the perimeter, he scored from 3. If smaller defenders raced to take away his outside shot, Vasic drove and finished above or around the rim. In the end, it was one of the most impressive individual performances of the weekend.
After the game, Vasic only wanted to sing the praises of his fellow countrymen and suggested that I catch another AOF game when brothers and Belgrade natives 6'10" Filip Petrusev, a Hartford-commit in the class of 2018, and 6'5" freshman David Petrusev are alongside him later in the year. With the talent that AOF can put on the floor on a nightly basis, it's a good suggestion for anyone in the area.
Avon Old Farms isn't the only NEPSAC A program that welcomed an infusion of talent in the offseason. Kent and Loomis Chaffee have given everyone reasons to believe they'll be serious contenders for the crown this season.
Loomis scored a huge win over St Andrew's last weekend to go along with a dominant win over Tabor in the Scholar Roundball Classic. A loss to Old Farms was sandwiched in between but the duo of 6'9" Nelson Boachie-Yiadom and 6'7" Jaiden Delaire give Loomis one of the most promising and productive young tandems in all of New England. Boachie-Yiadom showed an array of polished inside moves that allowed him to score 16 points in a rather easy manner against Tabor. He also proved to be one of 2018's biggest sleepers coming into the season, a title that won't last long given the improvements Boachie-Yiadom made during his time with the British National Team over the summer.
Delaire, who already holds offers from UMass and Iona along with interest from Old Dominion, teamed with Chol Marial this summer to give the Connecticut Basketball Club one of the most dynamic pair of young frontcourt players on the Under Armour circuit. Showing off a more polished floor game along with a desire to create from the wing and in transition, Delaire scored 18 points in Loomis' win this weekend. Delaire's rapid rate of improvement, humble workmanlike demeanor and 7-foot wingspan are just a few of the reasons to be excited for his future.
Once you throw veterans Reggie Gardner, a 6'3" PG/Wing committed to UNC-Central, and 6'4" wing Jesus Cruz into the mix with Boachie-Yiadom, Delaire, 6'8" junior Jake Glezen and a healthy version of 6'10" Swiss big man Ade Kerara, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Loomis' present potential as well.
Kent was outgunned by an extremely talented Vermont Academy squad after giving Northfield-Mt Hermon everything they could handle last weekend at St Andrew's. Thanks to the combination of 6' Colgate-commit Jordan Burns, 6'7" Columbia-commit Randall Brumant and the athleticism of 6'9" big Jerry Ben, who was previously committed to Cornell, Kent will find itself with a puncher's chance regardless of who they face in New England this season. The trio also makes them an "A" favorite.
Burns is tougher than a $2-steak and can score at all three levels offensively. He's also strong enough not to get backed down by bigger guards and owns the type of court awareness that allows him to fall into 4-5 rebounds a game. Colgate got a steal with the explosive playmaker out of San Antonio who is the type of athlete that you commonly find at mid-major programs across the country.
Ben has a high major frame and flashes a similar level of athleticism, albeit not on the most consistent basis. The Nigeria-native has a raw skillset offensively but he brings certain things to the court that simply cannot be taught, with disruptive length and the type of size/strength combo that will go unmatched on most nights. Brumant and 6'9" wing Brandon Horvath give Kent size and skill on the wings offensively, two players that can get their shot off against the majority of defenders they face.
While the group has taken some lumps over the last few weeks against some of the premier programs in New England, they'll certainly be doling out their fair share of beatings as they get deeper into their conference schedule.
Blair Academy put together their second impressive New England showing this weekend with wins over Kimball Union and Cheshire Academy. The trio of Anthony Mack (Wyoming), Deng Gak (Miami) and Matt Turner (Santa Clara) provided two more examples of why there's a good chance we see them back in New England when the Prep Championships take place in March.
As if coach Joe Mantegna's returning players weren't talented enough, he's also added a dynamic young prospect to the roster who may have as bright a future as any of the aforementioned studs.
After flashing his toughness in his team's win over Vermont Academy in the National Prep Showcase, Junub Char Choul backed it up with a few of the most explosive plays of the weekend at Babson. Choul, a 6'3" junior PG/Wing, uses his 6'7.5" wingspan and explosive bounce to fearlessly attack the rim with complete disregard of the defender in front of him.
Combine it with a sense of confidence that clearly shows he wouldn't be rattled in a big situation to go along with a background that allows him to keep a unique perspective of things that happen on the court and you've got a player that I want on my team when the game is on the line.
Remember the name Junub Char Choul, especially if you're a mid- to high-major college program in need of an explosive athlete in your 2018 recruit class!