Top Prospects at the 2007 Amare Stoudemire Invitational Classic

Top Prospects at the 2007 Amare Stoudemire Invitational Classic
Jan 02, 2008, 02:35 am
Sandwiched in-between two days at the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, I also got a chance to stop in at the Amare Stoudemire Invitational Classic in Davenport, Florida. This event had more of a sneaker camp atmosphere to it, and was as well organized in its first year of being established. Nevertheless, Nike managed to bring in some excellent high schools from around the country, which provided the ASIC with some serious star power. In our first of two articles we’ll look at the top prospects in attendance— Al-Farouq Aminu, Renardo Sidney and Jordan Hamilton.

Al-Farouq Aminu, 6-8, SF/PF, Senior, Norcross High School
Committed to Wake Forest

We seemed to come away with more questions than answers after taking in blue-chip prospect Al-Farouq Aminu (#8, #11 Rivals), as he played fairly poorly relative to expectations in the two separate occasions we watched him. Billed as either the #1 or #2 small forward prospect in the country by the various recruiting services, Aminu played mostly the 4 and the 5 for Norcross at this tournament, and looked noticeably more productive at those positions than he did when he decided to step outside and show off his perimeter game.

On first glance, it’s not hard to see what people like about him. Standing 6-8, with a very nice frame, Aminu has an excellent wingspan and terrific athleticism to complete a very intriguing physical profile. He’s instinctive and explosive off his feet, and possesses an excellent first step to get around the big men that defended him when he decided to face up and attack the basket with his dribble.

A force inside the paint whenever he truly put his mind to it, Aminu absolutely dominated the glass with his terrific combination of length, leaping ability and outstanding hands. He has excellent touch around the basket and can finish nicely after making a quick catch thanks to his excellent reactivity and extension around the hoop. He also has solid footwork in the paint for a player his age, being able to finish with some nice pivot moves and generally just get around players with his quickness.

Aminu got himself into quite a bit of trouble in the two games we saw by forcing the issue with his ball-handling. He often created his own shot wildly from the perimeter and then just barreled his way into the paint for an offensive foul, showing poor body control in the process. In transition play (where he’s obviously most comfortable) this isn’t as much of an issue as it is in a half-court, where he doesn’t quite have the advanced ball-handling skill needed yet to weave his way in and out of traffic. On one occasion for example he looked outstanding grabbing a defensive rebound and then taking off going coast to coast with outstanding speed, only to bulldoze his way into the paint and get called for a charge when a brave guard stepped in his way.

His perimeter shot also looked like a major weakness at this point, bricking most of the outside shots he took both in warm-ups and in the actual games. His shot doesn’t look broke, but it certainly needs some work before he’ll truly be able to play on the perimeter full time, at least in terms of having some range on his shot. He attempted some pull-up jumpers which didn’t look all that bad, but did not fall for him at this tournament. From 12-14 feet he looked pretty solid, though.

Defensively, Aminu has very good lateral quickness, allowing him to make some nice plays from time to time. The problem is his effort is often lacking, only really looking like he’s going full speed when things are clicking for him offensively. His body language often leaves a bit to be desired here, as his motor is inconsistent and he’s noticeably immature in the way he approaches the game still. He seemed to disappear for long stretches in the games we saw him play.

All in all, Aminu seems to have excellent tools to play the game, and also an emerging skill-set both facing the basket and inside the paint, but he failed to overly impress with what he showed in the two games we took in. He obviously usually plays much better, thus his lofty recruiting rankings. He seems to have great potential to develop at the collegiate level at Wake Forest, and it will be interesting to see what type of role he’s used in initially when he arrives.

Renardo Sidney, 6-9, Power Forward, Junior, Fairfax
5-Star Recruit (Ohio State, USC, Florida, etc)

Mixed emotions are what we get when watching Renardo Sidney (#2, #1 Rivals) play. On one hand you cannot deny the incredible talent this young man possesses with the ball in his hands. But on the other, you just cannot ignore the way he looks and the disturbing manner in which he conducts himself out on the floor. His upside is incredibly high, but the early signs we’re seeing are quite troubling, and it remains to be seen if he has what it takes to put it all together and come anywhere close to reaching his full potential.

Physically, Sidney has a nice package, even if he’s overweight and noticeably out of shape. He’s a pretty athletic player regardless, nothing extraordinary, but able to beat his man with a nice first step facing the basket, and also finish emphatically with a good first and second bounce around the rim when given the opportunity to do. His frame is excellent, but is currently carrying quite a bit of baby fat, and could clearly stand to lose 15-20 pounds. Even in his current chubby state, you can see that he could be extremely athletic if he ever committed himself to the task.

What makes Sidney really special, though, is the outstanding skill-set he possesses for a player his size. He’s very comfortable facing the basket, where he can put the ball on the floor nicely and create his own shot with outstanding ball-handling skills, going either left or right. He can pull-up off the dribble or finish with an elegant floater once he gets inside the lane, or even execute a strong pivot move going right along the baseline, and then pulling back sharply with his left to finish with a pretty layup. These are typically moves that 6-9 players are not supposed to execute, particularly not juniors in high school.

If left alone on the perimeter, Sidney will not hesitate for even a second to spot up and nail a smooth looking 3-pointer. He elevates off the floor to create separation from his defender more like a wing player rather than a big man would.

Even though he’s quite skilled on the perimeter, Sidney did most of his damage here inside the paint. He establishes deep position in the post with his wide body, and has outstanding hands to make tough catches, and then the wherewithal and touch to finish from difficult situations around the rim. If he sees a double team coming, he has the ability to find the open man as well. In this no-defense AAU-style setting, he scored at will with the greatest of ease, even if it was hard to judge sometimes just how much that means considering the lack of opposition he faced.

So you might be asking yourself by now…why the pessimism about his future in the beginning of this evaluation? That has a lot to do with the way things look out on the court while Sidney is showing this myriad of versatile skills.

For one, Sidney’s body language is as poor as you can get, and his behavior on the court is nothing short of disrespectful. He regularly screams at his teammates, the referees, his coach, and anyone else that stands in his way. Looking at the way he executes plays, it doesn’t really look like he wants to be out there for the most part, and you’ll see that with the non-existent effort he puts in regarding everything else besides his scoring. Defensively would be the main one, not even attempting to put a body on his man half the time. His conditioning is pretty poor as well, leading him to call his own substitutions whenever he pleases from what we saw from the bench, entering and exiting the game virtually whenever he pleases.

His behavior was so bad in the finals that the refs finally had enough and kicked him out of the game. Sidney was ejected for pushing a player who had fouled him out of bounds, drawing a well-deserved technical, and then a quick second technical after throwing a temper tantrum (kicking his legs in the air, pulling his jersey, voicing his displeasure) immediately afterwards. His parents were not happy at all, nor were the organizers, and the head coach of San Diego High School then proceeded to heckle the referee loudly for the rest of the game. It was a complete circus as you can probably imagine. No one seemed to have any issue with what Sidney did, all we heard were complaints about the nerve the referee had to eject him from the finals of such an important game.

Will Sidney mature as a player and person and grow out of the many extremely concerning issues we’re currently seeing? Maybe, maybe not. It’s pretty much up in the air if history has anything to say. There is no denying his talent, but you have to wonder if he really has what it takes to help a strong college program win games. The NBA is another story altogether at this point.

Jordan Hamilton, 6-7, SG/SF, Junior, Dominguez
5-Star Recruit (Texas, Cal, UConn, Arizona, etc)

The MVP of this event ended up being versatile 6-7 junior swingman Jordan Hamilton (#15 Scout, #8 Rivals), not surprising considering that he led his talent-depleted team to the championship, sometimes completely taking them on his back. Hamilton is the type of scorer every college program would like to have, since he makes life very easy on his coach with the way he can create offense for himself at will off the dribble or with his shooting from behind the arc.

Standing 6-7, Hamilton has good size for either wing spot, and also an excellent frame that can probably get leaner, but clearly looks ready to compete at the Division I level despite his youth. Most players this size at this age need to make a transition to playing on the perimeter full time. Not Hamilton. He’s already 100% comfortable out on the wing, appearing to have played out there his entire life.

Hamilton is someone who will likely be an impact scorer already as a freshman in college. His instincts here are outstanding, showing terrific creativity creating his own shot, and being extremely strong with the ball looking to get to the rim. He has very nice ball-handling skills, showing an array of crossover moves and excellent body control in tight spaces to get around players and finish at the rim. He’s physical and aggressive, taking contact pretty well around the basket, although he could clearly still stand to improve his finishing ability with his left hand. He can stop and pop and has a solid mid-range game already, particularly pulling up off the dribble while going left, a move he can execute even while behind the 3-point arc. He’s an excellent perimeter shooter, blessed with beautiful mechanics and the size to get his shot off almost whenever he pleased. In short, Hamilton is a scorer through and through, and that isn’t likely to end anytime soon.

Hamilton played a bit of a point forward role for his team, often being the one responsible for bringing the ball up the floor and getting his team into their “offense.” This shouldn’t be confused with him possessing any point guard skills, though, as he’s someone who only seems to create for others as a last resort, only after the possibilities of scoring himself have been fully exhausted. Considering the way he plays, you might even lean towards calling him a bit of a selfish player, as he often dribbles the ball with his head down and seems to have a bit of a star mentality with the way he handles himself. He got pretty frustrated in the final game for example trying to show his go-to ability against a pretty tough defender in Solomon Hill, clearing out his teammates with a pretty rude “get out of my way!” To his credit, though, Hamilton’s team was not the most talented, and he needed to be a bit selfish at times if they were going to win. There is a way to go about these things, though, which he’ll probably learn in the future when he’s surrounded by more talented teammates.

Despite the many strengths outlined above, Hamilton has his fair share of weaknesses as you might expect from a player his age. For one, he’s not a great athlete by any stretch, lacking some quickness and explosiveness that doesn’t seem to hurt him too much at this level, but could become more noticeable in college. Defensively, he does not seem to put in a great effort, which is not a great sign considering that his potential is already a bit limited here due to his average wingspan and lateral quickness. There are some concerns about his upside, as he’s somewhat of a man amongst boys when looking at the physical strength advantage he possesses against most of his matchups at this level. And as mentioned, he has a bit of a star mentality when it comes to his attitude and ability to create for others.

With that said, he’s obviously an extremely talented scorer and will be a dangerous weapon at a high level in college, so he’s certainly someone to keep an eye on.

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