Saturday, July 18, 2009
Future Mountaineer Cottrill stars
By John Fitzpatrick Scouts Inc.
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- The 2009 Triple S Harley Davidson Jam Fest was an extremely well run event at the spectacular facilities of West Virginia University. Rob Kennedy and his Hoop Group Team led by Steve Ott again organized and ran this first-class event with precision. The summer is full of great events with high-level play on the court, but the combination of great facilities and an extremely well organized program has allowed this tournament of more than 220 teams to become a must stop on the summer circuit for both college coaches and youth teams in the Northeast.
The level of play in this tournament grew by the hour as the teams moved from pool play into bracket play very quickly. As the more accomplished teams advanced, the intensity became white hot. The quarter final round of the U-17 bracket showcased some of the most hotly-contested games of the summer -- all four quarter final games were decided by fewer than 3 points.
The surprise team of the tournament had to be the God's Glory 17 and under team from Washington, DC. Coach Harmon's group engineered victories over two very highly respected teams on the way to the championship game. Their wins over Expressions Elite of Massachusetts in the second round and Team NJ Elite in the semifinals could go down as the biggest surprises of the summer. God's Glory showed a toughness, scoring ability, and "refuse to lose" attitude throughout the tournament. They were rewarded with the trip to the finals, where they met up with the eventual champion, Ohio Basketball Club. OBC was led by the future West Virginia University commit, Noah Cottrill (Poca, W. Va./ Mountain State Academy).
The final game in the U-17 bracket between God's Glory and the Ohio Basketball Club was very entertaining theater, but the talented group from Ohio prevailed 86-70. The OBC was led by the aggressive play Cottrell who demonstrated all elements of his game while leading his team with 32 points, mostly from outside the 3 point arc. TJ McConnell (Bridgeville, Pa./Chartiers Valley), a 5-9 point guard who committed to Duquesne, paired with Cottrell to form a championship backcourt that could not be controlled.
Maurice Walker, Forward (6-10, 248)
2010, Toronto/Brewster Academy, Team Takeover
Walker is gifted with the attributes of a very successful basketball athlete. He is very strong and has a huge frame to add muscle and tighten up as he matures. During the tournament this week, he showed a relentless effort to bang inside with the men and his natural gifts served him well. He hammered down many impressive dunks in traffic and ran the floor very well for a man of his size. Walker is not afraid of contact. Right now, he needs to continue to demand the ball in the post as his teammates sometime overlooked this talented big man. His back to the basket jump hook and drop step are very polished going to his right hand, but he needs to continue to improve on some counter moves and going to his weak hand.
Noah Cottrill, Point (6-3, 185)
2010 Poca, W. Va./ Mountain State Academy, Ohio Basketball Club
Cottrill's confidence and presence on the floor were felt throughout the tournament. He willed his team into the finals and onto a championship win. He had 32 points and eight assists in the finals; he pushed the tempo of the game and brought his entire team to a higher level. This 2010 WVU commitment has a court presence unparalleled in the high school ranks this year. Cottrill is a perfect fit for the Mountaineers and should be able to thrive under Bob Huggins. Between 3-pointers, which he knocked down, his aggressive mentality had him pushing the ball quickly up the floor and leading his teammates on many great passes that led directly to layups. His speed with the ball is very impressive, and Cottrill's passing certainly kept his teammates aggressively playing a fast breaking game, but he also showed a great desire on the defensive end to harass the ball and take a charge on an out of control opponent. The excitement of playing in front of Coach Huggins and the WVU staff and fans electrified the building.
Nate Lubick, Power Forward (6-8, 220)
2010 Southborough, Mass./Saint Mark's School, New England Playaz
Georgetown recruit Nate Lubick is a gifted passer.
This skilled forward has the body of an inside banger, but the passing ability, vision, and basketball IQ of a quality Big East forward. He will take his skills to Georgetown University next season and be a perfect fit in John Thompson's program. During this tournament, he was just coming off an ankle injury that had him a little tentative during the first few games in Morgantown, but as the tournament progressed, his confidence in his rehabbed ankle allowed him to show his skills and his toughness. During the tournament, he exhibited an outstanding awareness offensively and understood fully how to utilize his big frame to position himself for easy open shots. Many skilled big men don't exhibit his same level of energy at both ends of the court, and he was able to wear down every opponent he faced. No big forward in this tournament demonstrated the same vision in the half-court offense. This allowed him to get his teammates easy, open shots. When defenders tried to press up on him and body him away from the basket, they were quickly reminded that a back door cut often leads to a lay-up. While facing up on the outside, if teams did not respect his shot, they were quickly made to pay as he dropped several perimeter jumpers during the course of the tournament.
Tyrone Johnson, combo guard (6-3, 180)
2011 Plainfield, N.J./ Team New Jersey Elite
During the course of the tournament, many discussions were held by the fans and coaches in attendance. The debate as to who was the best player at the tournament will rage on for at least the next few days. Johnson's 43-point effort in one game during pool play certainly has him in the discussion. The soft-spoken, no nonsense, guard scored in transition on pure speed, and when needed, he was able to leave his defender behind with a variety of nifty dribble moves. However, it is his silky smooth spot-up 3-point shot that truly makes him a nightmare for his defender. The combination of speed, quickness, and unselfish play made him unstoppable. Back home in Plainfield, he has developed a reputation both as a football player and as a point guard who could bring him to the highest levels in either sport. Unlike many of his peers, he allows his game to do the talking and goes about his business with a very workman like demeanor. If he should choose basketball as his sport, he is being recruited heavily right now by Georgetown, West Virginia, Villanova, Indiana, and Seton Hall. He has built his reputation in New Jersey and that is why he is being recruited by most of the Big East, but coaches from the rest of the country will soon learn about Johnson. He is very unique in that he is a high level player at point guard and a high level player at the shooting guard, many players with those unique skills are described as combo-guards, but Tyrone adapts totally to the position he is playing. When he is a point guard, he is a good distributor and leader. When he moves to the off guard, he shows the movement without the ball and the shooting touch of a big time scorer.
DaJuan Coleman, Center (6-9, 255)
2012 Dewitt, N.Y./ Westchester Hawks
Coleman's body defies logic for someone so young. His huge frame, strength, and athletic ability would make you think he is going to be a sophomore in college, not a sophomore in high school. Another surprise is the emotional maturity he shows on the court. To Coleman's credit, he is a young man who is able to represent himself in a first-class manner on the court. He is gifted with long arms, a huge frame, speed and quickness of the highest level players in the country. While watching him play the first time, I did not look at my roster sheet, and thought that he was another Big East type center or power forward. Thirty minutes after the game, I found out that he was only a sophomore. My jaw dropped in surprise, and I am still in awe of this extremely young person's ability and physical maturity. Coleman scored on a variety of well schooled jump hooks, drop steps, and up and under moves that obviously have been drilled into him for many years. Not afraid of contact, he showed an equal ability to defend in the post and use his frame to prevent his opponents from scoring. His first possession that I watched was a dream play by any big man. The possession included a defensive rebound and outlet pass, then he ran the floor with enough speed to finish the play with a tip dunk of a missed layup. That type of effort, speed and awareness allowed me to fully understand the tremendous upside of this young prodigy. If he's able to continue to grow and improve, his ceiling is limitless.
Tyler Olander, Power Forward (6-9, 230)
2011 Worcester, Mass./Worcester Academy, Expressions Elite
Orlander is a very good young prospect whose raw frame is still growing. He has the look of a young colt just coming out of the barn. Each trip down the floor he showed growth and improvement from the previous possession. This young power forward appears to be on track to be an elite level Big East type 4 man. Right now, he is gaining strength and maturity, but he is already showing signs that he will become one of the best. He scores in transition and with his back to the basket, like you would expect from a high quality, young power forward. He runs the floor effortlessly and his natural strength allows him to position and score inside with ease. However, the biggest surprise was seeing him catch the ball outside the arc and drain several spot-up 3-pointers. After the defense began to press up on him and force him away from the easy, open 30point attempt, he put the ball on the floor and finished with authority on a baseline drive. His surprising all-around game should propel him to the highest levels.
Laurent Revard, Small Forward (6-5, 218)
2010 Northfield, MA/ Mount Herman High School/ Expressions Elite
One of the true sleepers in the tournament was this young man from Massachusetts. He doesn't pass the look test of an elite level player. His body appears slower than his production on the court. In watching very closely, he surprised me time and time again with his defensive ability to challenge the shot of much quicker and smaller players. Each time his opponent drove into the lane, Revard was able to move his feet to stay in front of a driving jitter bug and challenge the final shot. His basketball IQ and court vision enabled him to consistently locate the right teammate for the next pass. However, what allowed him to stand out was his ability to effortlessly knock down 3 after 3. The thing that separates him from many other shooters, and what makes him intriguing to the next level, is his big frame and strength that allows him to play against the stronger elite level players in this tournament effectively. I'm not saying he's a shoe-in for the highest level, but he certainly brings something to the table that many of today's athletes don't provide. He can score, doesn't turn it over, can finish on the break, won't get knocked off the ball because of his size, and no one shot better throughout the tournament.
Donte Thomas, Scoring Guard (6-2, 185)
2011 Washington, D.C./ Ballou High School, God's Glory
This slashing wing guard helped lead his team into the finals of the U-17 bracket. Thomas can score, shoot and defend. Moreover, this kid's a winner. His movement without the basketball would remind many of players from a different era. He was constantly in motion and making himself a difficult defensive assignment. Time and time again Thomas curled off of baseline screens to receive the ball in the middle of the lane and then he would step back, creating space, for an easy 14-foot jump shot. After seeing him do it three or four times in a game during pool play, I thought his opponent may be able to take that part of his game away, but his ability to create space on that curl cut combined with his quick release allowed him to beat his defender time and time again. The God's Glory team made it to the finals because of his scoring ability and their overall team play. Thomas really separated himself as a player with a very bright future.
Derrick Gordon, Combo Guard (6-3, 175)
2011 Plainfield, N.J./ St. Patrick's, Team New Jersey Elite
Gordon is a very good scorer and an outstanding basketball player. During the tournament, he teamed with Tyrone Johnson to form a very elite backcourt. In the semi final game against the God's Glory team, Tyrone Johnson sprained his ankle in the first half. The injury was not enough to keep Johnson out of the game, but it was enough to move Gordon into a primary role, as the team's main ball handler and scorer. Gordon's toughness and nose for the basketball were evident throughout the early rounds of the tournament, on his under-sized team he found himself in position to have to rebound and have to provide the toughness needed to win. After Johnson was injured, Gordon's role changed, and he elevated his game and handled the added responsibility with ease. He has the handle of a point guard, the quickness and speed of a wing guard, and the grit of a winner. He did not show the ability to shoot consistently from outside the arc, but I'm sure as this athlete matures, he will be able to master that skill.
Kadeem Greene, Small Forward (6-8, 215)
2010 Charlotte, N.C./ United Christian Faith, Team Takeover (Canada)
This big-time athlete demonstrated time and time again his ability to get to the rim off the dribble and to out run his opponent in transition. Greene has the look of a typical SEC small forward. His long arms and basketball body will grow as he matures and gets in the weight room. Right now, he is one of the fastest and highest risers at the tournament. His ability to run the court in transition and finish on the break separated him from almost all in attendance. His Team Takeover squad advanced to the semi finals based on his abilities to score in transition. In the coming year, expect Greene to add to his game and to push his shooting range out to the 3-point arc. Greene is a true high level slasher that is getting good looks from Division One programs up and down the East Coast.
• One player who really stood out and controlled the entire final game with his speed with the ball and quickness was 6-foot super jet Eugene Watkins (Washington, D.C./Ballou). No one was able to keep this young man out of the lane during the entire tournament. His leadership ability propelled God's Glory into the final game and nearly pulled off the stunning upset.
• Mid-major schools need to keep an eye on 6-5 Antonio Jennifer (Washington, D.C./McKinley Tech). He showed great promise with the God's Glory team. For anyone who had the good fortune of watching Kevin Durant play in High School for Montrose Christian High School will be able to understand this statement. Kevin had the unique ability to make shots from extremely deep range. Kevin seemed to just throw the ball up, and it seemed to go in and his release was effortless. Antonio seems to have that same ability to effortlessly make three point attempts from very long range.
John Fitzpatrick has coached in the college ranks for more than 20 years with stops at the Naval Academy, Fordham, Wichita State, Ball State, Houston, Virginia and Wright State.