2011 National Prep Showcase: Elite 2012 Prospects

2011 National Prep Showcase: Elite 2012 Prospects
Nov 23, 2011, 11:56 am
DraftExpress was once again in attendance at the National Prep Showcase in New Haven, Connecticut where some of the nation's top prep schools were in action. We take a closer look at some of the elite 2012 prospects, including Mitch McGary, Ricky Ledo, T.J. Warren, Hanner Perea and JaKarr Sampson.

Mitch McGary, 6'10, Post-Grad, Center, Brewster Academy
Committed To Michigan

Jonathan Givony

This wasn't a particularly impressive weekend for the very highly regarded Mitch McGary (#2 ESPN, #2 Scout, #3 Rivals), who struggled to find much of a rhythm in either of the two games he played in. Hence, this may not have been the optimal place to evaluate him, but it also isn't our first time watching him.

McGary nevertheless has quite a few things going for him as a prospect, which helps explain why he was able to be such a dominant force on the AAU circuit this past summer. He possesses an excellent frame, standing 6-10 with terrific bulk, which he's able to use very well to his advantage at this level of competition. McGary is not an exceptional athlete, showing good, but not great explosiveness for a NBA big man, but definitely makes the most of the tools he has.

McGary runs the floor extremely hard and plays with an unbelievable amount of energy, diving on the floor for loose balls and having no qualms about using his body to assert himself inside the paint. He clearly has a huge passion for the game, pounding his chest at any opportunity, firing up his teammates and being a very positive influence both on and off the floor. He boxes out opponents well and is a massive presence on the glass, often going out and grabbing rebounds well out of his area thanks to sheer desire.

Defensively, he can be a bit wild at times, but has more than enough bulk to hold his own in the paint and shows the willingness and awareness to rotate over and get stops. His lateral quickness is just average, though, which will likely relegate him to the center position long-term.

Offensively, McGary does not appear to be an overly skilled player at this point in time. His back to the basket game consists mostly of overpowering his opponents with brute force, as his footwork is fairly raw. He attempted to show off his perimeter game at this tournament, putting the ball on the floor somewhat wildly and pulling up for jump shots, but did not find much success. He did show some solid passing ability, though, again looking like an unselfish and committed teammate, which will surely be appreciated by John Beilein at Michigan.

There's little doubt that McGary will have an instant impact at Michigan with his terrific size and energy level. Few players in the Big Ten can match up with him physically, and that coupled with his aggressiveness and tenacity will allow him to produce from day one.

How much upside McGary still has to grow into remains somewhat of a question mark, though. Born in June of 1992, he's significantly older than almost any of his colleagues in the 2012 high school class. He'll turn 20 nearly six months before playing his first game at Michigan, making him the same age or older than some players who have already been drafted or are currently sophomores in college, such as Tobias Harris, Harrison Barnes or Jeremy Lamb.

There is some concern that he's been building up his reputation on the AAU circuit by using his adult frame to overpower players much younger and less physically developed than him over the past year. He went from being almost a total unknown at last year's National Prep Showcase to arguably the #1 prospect in high school basketball according to some. If Michigan fans and media members are expecting Kevin Love or Jared Sullinger, they could be disappointed.

While McGary will need to polish up his skill-level and develop his all-around game to continue to produce at the same rate moving forward, there is definitely a huge market for hulking, hard working big men who play the game with a chip on their shoulder. The only question now is how high the expectations will be, and whether he'll be able to live up to them.

Ricky Ledo, 6-6, Post-Grad, PG/SG/SF, South Kent, Committed to Providence

Joe Treutlein

One of the most naturally talented, highly skilled players at this event, Ricky Ledo (#22 ESPN, #25 Scout, #8 Rivals) showed the good and bad of his game this weekend, but clearly seems to have matured somewhat since the last time we saw him, being focused and playing smart basketball most of the time.

On the offensive end, Ledo is nothing short of a superb talent, as he's an extremely potent scorer both attacking the basket and hitting perimeter jumpers. He seems to have taken his jump shot to the next level since we last saw him, as he hit an outstanding 9-for-17 threes in the two games here this weekend. More impressive is that most of them came pulling up off the dribble, where Ledo shows excellent balance, clear cut NBA range, and the ability and confidence to hit a shot with a hand in his face.

As a shot creator, Ledo has no problems getting separation and creating both going to the rim and pulling up from mid or long range. He possess a very low, controlled dribble with all the advanced dribbling he needs, while showing good instincts as well. He won't blow you away with his first step or vertical leap, being a more fluid and agile than highly explosive athlete, but still has more than enough quickness to get by at any level and also changes speeds and directions well.

Ledo does a good job finishing around the basket, showing great touch and creativity while being capable of finishing with both lay-ups and floaters as well as using either hand. He's also done a good job developing his playmaking skills, showing an improved feel in this area to take advantage of his excellent vision and passing abilities, something that was frequently on display here on both drive-and-dishes and drive-and-kicks. While not a pure point guard and probably best suited to play the two guard in the long run given his scoring abilities, Ledo reminds of O.J. Mayo with his unselfishness and versatility (while also being similar in size and athleticism, but not strength).

On the defensive end, things were somewhat of a mixed bag for Ledo, not unlike what we observed the last time we saw him, but the highs were much higher this time, as he showed multiple prolonged flashes of high focus, high effort, and strong vocal leadership with his teammates. He's capable of being a very good defender both on and off the ball, and certainly is at times, but there are still times when he can get frustrated and not put in the effort on this end of the court, particularly when things aren't going well for him offensively.

Looking forward, Ledo is clearly headed in the right direction with his development and appears to be making an effort to eliminate many of his old habits, but considering his rough background, it's not something that's going to happen overnight. Ledo transferred schools once again this season, marking the nth time he's done so in his high school career, and his poor body language and erratic decision-making do still pop up from time to time. He'll certainly be a player to keep a close eye on in college from day one, and if he continues maturing as a player and person he's capable of being as strong a prospect as virtually any guard in this class.

T.J. Warren, 6-8, Post-Grad, SF/PF, Brewster Academy, Committed to North Carolina State

Joe Treutlein

One of the most gifted pure scorers we saw this weekend, T.J. Warren (#23 ESPN, #22 Scout, #23 Rivals) has an interesting package of skills for a forward prospect, to go along with an excellent feel for the game.

Standing 6'8 with a thick frame and good strength, Warren has excellent size for a small forward, but is undersized for a power forward, while he is likely a below average athlete for either position from a quickness and explosiveness standpoint.

What makes Warren such a high level prospect is his ability to put the ball in the basket from all over the floor and his overall feel for doing so, something that was only partly on display this weekend given the role he sometimes has to play on his extremely talented team. In the game we saw, Warren did most of his damage finishing on lay-ups in the halfcourt in transition, showing good creativity and touch around the rim along with fantastic hands and an excellent ability to get open in good position, as he scored 22 points on excellent 10-for-12 shooting from the field.

Warren also flashed some perimeter abilities here, but largely didn't utilize his highly developed dribble-drive and spot-shooting game, arguably his best assets as a prospect at this stage. Warren doesn't have a blazing first step or incredibly advanced ball-handling, but he has a very controlled dribble, an excellent ability to make subtle changes of direction, and a knack for putting the ball in the basket no matter where he is on the floor. He also isn't shy about throwing around his well-built frame and using his great size advantage against opposing 3's, being a good finisher inside despite a mostly below-the-rim game. Warren's equally impressive as a shooter, having a high and quick release with clear cut three-point range, making him a very dangerous scorer in all regards.

Looking forward, Warren has the makings of an excellent college player with some serious scoring abilities, something that gives him a nice foundation to build upon looking ahead to the next level. Maximizing his athletic abilities and continuing to develop his overall game will be key for him, but it's tough to gauge his long term potential before seeing how his game translates against college competition and real half-court defenses.

Hanner Perea, 6-9, Post-Grad, PF/C, La Lumiere, Committed to Indiana

Joe Treutlein

Not much has changed for Hanner Perea (#47 ESPN, #31 Scout, #16 Rivals) since the last time we saw him, as he remains largely the same player on the court and hasn't moved noticeably in the rankings of recruiting services. A truly unbelievable athlete with equally impressive length, Perea still remains largely unpolished while showing an inconsistent motor and awareness, something that was on display in the two games he played this weekend.

Where Perea is most dangerous is areas he can rely almost solely on his physical tools, namely shot blocking, rebounding, and finishing around the basket.

Perea's vertical leap is nothing short of breathtaking, especially when combined with his superb length, and this makes him very potent as a finisher on cuts, pick-and-rolls, and transition finishes. On the down side, however, Perea's hands and touch look questionable at times, as he can struggle pulling in passes and rebounds when using one hand and isn't the best finesse finisher, two things he'll need to work on given his skill set.

Perea doesn't show much else at this stage on the offensive end, though he did knock down a spot-up 12-foot jumper in one game, which he showed passable form on. Developing a consistent and respectable mid-range jumper would certainly be helpful for him in the long term to keep defenses honest and add some versatility to his game. At this stage, it appears to be the one skill he's closest to developing, as his post and face-up games are mostly non-existent.

On the defensive end, Perea is capable of making outstanding impact plays, having such great length that he can block shots in the lane without leaving his feet and having such great range with his length and leaping ability that he can track down rebounds all over the floor. When Perea uses his motor to put these traits to use, he can overcome his still developing awareness and fundamentals to be a useful player on this end of the court, but unfortunately there are times when he isn't playing to the best of his abilities. Considering his average feel for the game and poor skill-level, this is a major knock against him and something he must focus on improving as much as possible if he's to reach his full potential.

Looking forward, Perea hasn't shown much of a learning curve in the 14 months we've been following him, but it's obviously still early in his career and there's plenty of time for him to make improvements. His absurd physical gifts alone are a reason to keep an eye on him throughout his time in college, where hopefully his skill-level and production will start catching up to his physical tools.

JaKarr Sampson, 6-8, Post-Grad, SF/PF, Brewster Academy, Uncommitted

Joe Treutlein

A player we evaluated here last year and who was supposed to be heading to St. John's this year, JaKarr Sampson (#32 ESPN 2011, #41 Scout 2011, #51 Rivals 2011) was declared academically ineligible prior to this season and is back in prep school for another year. Sampson would've been the Red Storm's highest rated recruit according to most services, and watching him here it's easy to see why.

Sampson is one of the most physically gifted players we observed this weekend, possessing excellent length and athleticism, great size for the small forward position (and solid size for a combo forward), and a skinny, but wiry strong frame. What sets him apart as a prospect, however, is his outstanding ability on the defensive end, as he possesses outstanding tools and equally strong fundamentals to go along with them.

Sampson plays a very aggressive style both on and off the ball on defense, getting right up into his man, keeping his center of gravity low, and constantly moving his feet. He does a great job both contesting perimeter shots and sticking to his man like glue on drives to the basket, while his combination of length and athleticism make him theoretically capable of possibly defending all five positions at the college level. His isolation fundamentals, lateral quickness, and ability to stick with his man off the ball are all at extremely high levels, and he should be able to immediately contribute in this regard from day one collegiately.

On the offensive end, Sampson is far more limited as a player and nowhere near as polished, but he's found ways to consistently contribute and has done a good job learning to play to his strengths in his extended pre-collegiate career. The area Sampson is most effective contributing on offense is attacking on cuts and offensive rebounds, utilizing his physical tools and relentless motor to constantly look for straight lines to the rim. He is always looking for backdoor cut opportunities and is equally aggressive jetting to the rim as soon as a teammate puts a shot in the air, and he uses his tools very well to finish in these situations, something we didn't always see last year.

As far as his more conventional offense goes, Sampson is about as raw as you can get, being a very weak ball-handler and shooter. Sampson's shooting form is pretty bad, as he brings the ball across his body with an awkward motion with poor mechanics and equally poor accuracy. His dribble-drive game is marginally further along, due solely to his flashes of a great first step, but he doesn't really possess the control to take advantage of it on mostly straight-line drives, let alone anything else.

Looking forward, Sampson's excellent abilities on the defensive end, offensive glass, scoring on off-ball cuts, and his physical tools should allow him to be an instant impact college player in the right situation, and make him an intriguing role player prospect down the road. Given his prolonged time in prep school and the potentially low ceiling for his offensive skill set, Sampson may not develop into much more than what he already is, but his combination of skills and tools make him a potentially interesting and valuable prospect in the future.

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