Much to our dismay, three of the top prospects on our list to watch tomorrow did not make it out of the first day of their lose or go home portion of the tournament bracket. Jerryd Bayless (6'3 SG, Undecided) and Jamelle Horne (6'7 SG/SF, Arizona) of EBO were upset by D.Harris, while Anthony Randolph (6'10, PF/SF, Undecided) of the Dallas Mustangs lost to Urban DFW. We did not have a chance to watch these prospects compete as we planned on making it out to see them tomorrow against stronger competition. We did manage to acquire a DVD of an EBO game from here in Vegas, however. Another top prospect in this class who we did manage to watch play (twice) already, DeAndre Jordan, was also bounced in the first round and will be headed home with plenty to work on for his senior year of high school. Hes a project right now, with a capital P.
Thoughts on the Star Prospects of Day Three
Greg Monroe, 6'10 PF, New Orleans Panthers
At 6'10, Monroe is a freak athlete, gliding up and down the floor and getting off his feet incredibly quick. He looks great with the ball in his hands in the open floor, and his first step was good enough to get past whatever Team Final big man was attempting to guard him. His handle needs work, particularly with his much weaker right hand (his off hand), but one gets the feeling that it is only a matter of time before he is operating comfortably on the perimeter. But Monroe is far from your typical perimeter-oriented big man that shies away from contact in the paint. He can certainly bring more consistent effort on the block, but displays great footwork and the ability to create his own shot in a multitude of ways. He appears to be equally comfortable with his back to or facing the basket. Monroe is a phenomenal shot blocker, showing great timing, long arms, and incredibly quick leaping ability. In this game, Team Final apparently didnt prepare for his ability to alter shots, and continued to drive blindly into his reach. Monroe ended the game with at least 7 blocks, and altered countless others.
While the early review on Monroe is largely positive, it should be mentioned that his development curve is just beginning. Like many young bigs, Monroe still tends to focus on his immediate space when it comes to defense and loose balls, and clearly gets down the floor much more quickly on the offensive end than on defense. His hands are remarkable once he is executing a scoring move, but look a bit weaker when he is corralling a pass or going after a loose ball. Due to this and his insistence on operating on the perimeter, Monroe committed at least eight turnovers in this game. Body strength is an issue as well, though he is further along than plenty of big men at this stage. His footwork and understanding of how to get his shot off near the basket is outstanding, but he missed a lot of very makeable shots today. Experience and polish will clearly help with this.
After viewing several of the top prospects in the class of 2008 over the past several days, I was starting to wonder where the wow factor was in this rising junior class. However, Greg Monroe clearly fits the bill. He is still very raw, but the athleticism and feel are undeniable. Comparisons are difficult at the moment, as Monroe has the tools to develop into whatever type of player he wants to be. Monroes recruitment is still in its infancy, but he appears to be enjoying all the new-found attention. Plenty of heavy hitters (Rick Pitino and Louisville, John Brady and LSU, Mississippi State, Connecticut, North Carolina to name a few) were in attendance this afternoon, and Monroe is clearly going to be a priority for any high major that thinks they have a chance. Judging by todays performance, it wont be long before the name Greg Monroe is a staple in NBA Draft circles.
Gary Johnson, 6'6 PF, Houston Hoops
Johnson looks like a college stud in the making, absolutely destroying the highly touted front court of the King James Shooting Stars, featuring Kosta Koufos and Delvon Roe. Johnson is an undersized hoss in the mold of a PJ Tucker or Jeff Adrien, tenacious around the basket with a relentless motor and incredible work ethic. He has the best post moves of any big man weve seen here in Vegas, fantastic hands and a great touch around the hoop. He runs the floor extremely hard, has a terrific nose for the basket and is extremely quick to get off his feet and throw down a dunk. His pivots and spin moves got him to the free throw line countless times in this game, and he has the touch to convert there at a very good rate. As a rebounder he excels just as much due to his combination of quickness, hands, timing, tenacity and his 7-1 wingspan. He anticipates well and goes out of his area to collect rebounds on both the offensive and defense glass.
The negatives to his game would obviously be his well below average height at just 6-6 and the fact that he showed absolutely no perimeter game from what weve seen so far. He needs to work on his ball-handling skills and mid-range jumper and become a little better finishing around the hoop with his left hand. He looks like a solid four year player who will contribute from day one and therefore obviously a huge get for Texas. Off the court he appears to be just as mature as he is on it.
Kosta Koufos, 7'1 PF/C, King James Shooting Stars
Unfortunately however, conditioning seemed to be an issue with Kosta for the second day in a row. Multiple times throughout the game he looked awfully winded, and didnt run the floor anywhere near as well as he did in the opening minutes of the game.
This game also served as a nice test for Koufos, as he was forced to go up against the athletic duo of 6'7 Gary Johnson and 6'10 Isaiah Rusher. He went through the game without having his shot blocked, and played the best defense of anyone on the floor against the unstoppable Johnson. All in all, this was a solid performance for Koufos as he was able to hush critics who doubted his ability to score/defend smaller, more athletic big men.
Nolan Smith, 6'3 PG/SG, DC Assault
Although it is a given that Smith will be an excellent college player, he is very tough to project right now as far as the NBA is concerned. With his limited size, he is almost forced to play the point guard position in the NBA unless he drastically improves his outside shot. Nolan is also just an adequate ball handler, and will need to improve upon those skills as well to make the transition to point guard at the next level. With Brandon Jennings rumored transfer to Oak Hill next season however, there may be few available minutes at the point guard position, hindering Smiths development if he views that as his eventual position in the future.
Austin Freeman, 6'5 SG, DC Assault
Its a bit tough to get an accurate feel for players on DC Assault due to the fact that they have so many of the nations top players, but Freeman seems to always put up the most points of the group. Its going to be interesting to see how he accepts his role at Georgetown, and if hes able to live up to the lofty expectations that many within recruiting circle predict for him as a freshman.
Tyreke Evans, 6'4 SG/PG, Team Final, 2008
It was clear that Tyreke did have some skills, as he showed off a nice outside jumper and was very crafty once he got inside of the paint. It was just unfortunate that a player who is as talented of a scorer as he is is relegated to playing the point guard position when he would be much better suited off of the ball. The Philadelphia sophomore may have won the game against Greg Monroe, but he definitely lost the battle as to who was the number one player in the class of 2008 in our eyes.
Michael Beasley, 6'9 F (committed to Kansas State)
However, several red flags having nothing to do with raw talent are readily obvious in observing Beasley in the AAU setting. Beasley has all the tools to dominate this setting without breaking a sweat, but rarely does. This can be explained by the fact that he has three other McDonalds All-American candidates on his team, but Beasley should ought to be leading this team in scoring. The reality is that he is probably the fourth most productive member of DC Assault, behind Nolan Smith, Austin Freeman, and Julian Vaughn. There are highly regarded players here in Vegas much more tentative that Beasley, but he doesnt give consistent effort. He is very comfortable blending into the background, picking up garbage points with his athleticism and throwing in a nice midrange scoring move on occasion. Beasley clearly needs to work on his attitude, apparently more concerned with jawing at the officials than making plays in the second game we saw.
Bob Huggins could be the best thing that has happened to Michael Beasley thus far in his short basketball career. Huggins is unlikely to put up with Beasleys inconsistent effort and attitude issues. If Beasley buys in and becomes Huggins prototypical player, he will undoubtedly leave Kansas State with a spot in the top five waiting for him. The fact that Beasley will be the Wildcats undisputed number one option makes it even more likely that his college stay will be a short one. At the same time, it is easy to see Beasley clashing with Huggins intensity. It remains to be seen where Michael Beasley will end up, but it is very clear that his path will be very much worth following.