National prep basketball event planners only hope to have the success that the organizers of the Spalding Hoophall Classic enjoyed in planning this year's event. The annual event looks to draw some of the top teams and individual talent in the country, and this year's installment of the Hoophall Classic accomplished this task in resounding fashion. This event could not have had a better collection of teams: Mater Dei, Oak Hill and St. Benedict's -- the top three teams in the country, according to ESPN RISE FAB 50 -- all took to the hardwood in this prestigious event.
The Springfield faithful braved a vaunted New England snowstorm and temperatures hovering around zero degrees all weekend to witness some of the top players in the ESPNU 100, as well as the ESPNU Super 60. Players such as Xavier Henry (Oklahoma City/Putnam City), Derrick Favors (Atlanta/South), DeMarcus Cousins (Mobile, Ala./LeFlore) and Tristan Thompson (Newark, N.J./St. Benedict's) did not disappoint; their stellar play helped heat up the frigid Northeast, at least for a couple of days.
Derrick Favors, PF (6-9)
Senior, Atlanta/South Atlanta
Favors' impact on the game comes through astounding athletic ability. He plays above the rim and constantly makes highlight-worthy plays on both ends of the court. Favors will start a break with a defensive rebound or a blocked shot, which he does equally well on the ball and as a weakside defender. Once in the open court, he will beat almost everyone down the court and catch alley-oops in traffic well above the rim. He has very quick leaping ability and reaction skills, which makes him a very effective offensive rebounder. As a glass-eater, he rebounds the ball in and out of his area very well. Favors also can handle the ball in transition when he needs to do so, but he should look to improve in this area. He has shown growth while playing with his back to the basket, but he needs to continue to improve his footwork and moves with his back to the basket -- he has a tendency to fade when he shoots turnaround jumpers, when the defense stops him from going to the rim for emphatic finishes. Favors also will take jump shots, but he needs to increase his consistency and touch from the perimeter. He'll benefit immensely from improving his jump hook in the post, and once that happens, he'll dominate even more than he does now.
Tristan Thompson, PF (6-9)
Junior, Ontario, Canada/St. Benedict's (N.J.)
Thompson has only scratched the surface of his immense talent, and his best basketball is ahead of him. However, his play at this point justifies his lofty ranking in the Class of 2010. Thompson has an unparalleled combination of length, athleticism and a never-ending motor, and he can make plays on both ends of the court. This lefty has very solid footwork in the post, and though thin now, he possesses more strength than his body indicates. Thompson does a tremendous job of scoring in the mid-post area, using the turn-and-face move to set up his assortment of spin moves once he gets to the paint. Thompson also has an explosive pro-hop move that allows him to cover ample ground when he uses it in the paint. He has explosive leaping ability, which allows him to finish above the rim, in traffic in the paint, which he does frequently after he snares offensive rebounds. Thompson also handles the ball on the break and can make plays in transition. He needs to continue to work on his perimeter shot and to add strength and muscle to his frame. On the defensive end, Thompson excels as a shot-blocker because of his length and leaping ability. He also does a great job of moving his feet on the perimeter when he has to defend on the wing.
Keith Gallon, PF (6-9)
Senior, Houston/Oak Hill Academy (Va.)
Gallon, though a wide-body, has an impressive set of skills that the opposition should never underestimate. Although he has solid footwork in the post, "Tiny" will have to work to improve his post moves and add counter moves to his offensive arsenal, which will help negate any athletic disadvantages that he may face. Gallon has lost weight, but he will need to improve his conditioning in order to compete for extended periods of time in the paint on the next level. Gallon has very good range on his jumper and will hit perimeter shots from beyond 3-point range -- though he has a tendency to drift to the perimeter too much. His shooting ability makes him a nice fit as a trailer on the fast break. Gallon handles the ball well for a big man -- an added luxury when opposing teams press and Gallon's team needs him to help break the press. Gallon has a very nice feel for the game and passes well for a big man. He has to continue to work on his composure when he does not receive the ball enough for his liking.
Josh Selby, SG (6-2)
Junior, Hyattsville, Md./Dematha Catholic
Selby has explosive athleticism and quickness, which he uses to great effect for his team, especially on the offensive end. Selby does not rank as a great outside shooter, but he will nail jumpers out to 3-point land when he gets his offensive going through penetration first. Selby uses his outstanding quickness and good ball-handling skills (aided by his big hands) to get into the teeth of the defense. Once in the paint, Selby has good leaping ability and stellar body control, which allows him to get shots off while under duress. He excels in the transition game and scores very easily on the break. Selby has to overcome his tendency to get out of control and try to do too much, but he should not curtail his fearless nature. As his shot-selection improves, Selby will continue to give opposing defenders fits. If he intends to play the point in college, he will have to look to get scoring chances for his teammates more often.
Travis Wear, PF (6-9)
Senior, Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei
Wear performs practically every task on the basketball court with ease. He uses his head on the court, and his high level of skill gives opponents headaches when they try to conjure up ways to stop him. Wear does not have great athleticism, but he has enough to keep defenders off-balance when he combines it with his skills. On the low block, he has impeccable footwork and can score using the jump hook with his right or left hand. He also shoots the jumper in the mid-post off the turn-and-face very well. His shooting ability allows him to fit perfectly in pick-and-pop situations and as a jump shooter as a trailer on the break. Wear can also play in the high post thanks to his ability to stick jumpers and make passes in the high-low game. Wear runs the court very well and does a nice job of using his body to get position in the paint for rebounding on both ends.
Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, SF (6-6)
Senior, Boston/Tilton School (N.H.)
Coombs-McDaniel has a positive impact on the game through his versatility. He has good size and strength, which allows him to excel on the perimeter. Coombs-McDaniel uses his size and decent quickness to get into the paint, and once at the rim, he uses his body control to adjust in the air for lay-ins, though he has a tendency to adjust too much in the air, making shots more difficult instead of relying on his strength to finish at the rim. Coombs-McDaniel has improved from the perimeter and will make 3s, though he has to stop his elbow from flying out on the jumper. He plays as a point-forward at times, which points to his high basketball IQ and leadership abilities. He also does a good job finding open teammates with his passing skills and vision. Coombs-McDaniel also displayed his defensive versatility by guarding multiple positions on the court. He sets the tone for his club through his effort and serves as a vocal leader.
Justin Jackson, SF (6-7)
Junior, Orlando, Fla./Montverde Academy
Jackson has very good athleticism and leaping ability. When he gets the ball from the wing, he attacks the paint with ferocity, looking to get to the rim. Jackson has very good body control and the ability to finish with either hand at the tin. However, he has a tendency to make himself smaller at times by adjusting in the air instead of using his leaping ability and good length to finish over defenders. As he gains more strength, Jackson will convert in traffic with more consistency. He has very quick leaping ability, which makes it difficult for the opposition to keep him off the offensive glass. He also rebounds the ball well in traffic on the defensive end and keeps the ball high with his elbows out, which deters smaller guards from coming in to rip the ball away. Jackson will benefit from improving his game from the perimeter and his ball-handling skills, in addition to learning to harness his considerable athletic ability.
Devon Collier, PF (6-7)
Junior, New York/St. Anthony (N.J.)
Collier has the ability to connect on jumpers with range that extends out to 3-point land, but he does not rank as a knock-down shooter at this point. He will also pop off screens and hit jumpers in the midrange area. He has a very high release, which, coupled with his good length, makes his shots very difficult to defend. Collier has the frame of a small forward and will have to increase his consistency from the perimeter and improve his ball-handling skills in order to play the 3 full time. At this juncture of his career, he seems better suited to play as a face-up power forward who will occasionally hit a 3. In order to play as a 4, he needs to become stronger to battle in the paint and improve his footwork with his back to the basket. Collier has the athleticism and quickness to defend multiple spots on the court, and he gives good effort on defense.
James Padgett, PF (6-8)
Senior, New York/Lincoln
Padgett willingly does a great deal of the dirty work for his squad. When the game becomes most heated, especially in the post, he does a great job maintaining his composure. He has good strength and bangs in the paint on both ends of the court. Padgett has very long arms, big hands and good leaping ability, which allows him to have an impact in the offensive and defensive rebounding categories. His reaction time can lag, but he gives good effort in the paint. His team does not look for him in the post much, but when he gets the ball with his back to the basket, he has solid footwork and post skills in addition to his impressive ability to finish with his right or left hand. Padgett uses his body and athletic gifts to play good position defense in the post and to contest shots on the defensive end. In addition to improving his touch around the hoop, he also needs to improve his ability to handle passes in traffic in the paint.
Cedric Lindsay, SG (6-0)
Junior, Washington, D.C./Gonzaga College High School
Lindsay has good but not electrifying quickness off the dribble. However, he does have a good amount of strength, which he uses to his advantage when he looks to score. Lindsay has the ability to use his adequate quickness and good strength to overpower smaller, weaker guards on his way to the rim. Once in the paint, Lindsay has a nice assortment of floaters that he uses to get points when he cannot get to the rim. At this point, he ranks as a scoring point guard and needs to improve his ability to involve his teammates, though when he does look for his teammates, Lindsay does a decent job of locating them for open shots. Lindsay uses his strength and quickness to pressure opposing ball-handlers into fatigue and turnovers.
The No. 1 player in the Class of 2009, 6-6 SG Xavier Henry, had his moments during the event. Henry displayed his range and touch from well beyond 3-point range, helping to ignite a rally for his team that came up short in the end. Henry, just returning to action after missing time because of a car accident, looked very rusty, but he showed glimpses of the form that made him the top prospect in this class. Expect him to not settle as much for the 3 and hurt the opposition off the bounce more when he regains his conditioning.
• Top 5 2009 prospect DeMarcus Cousins, a 6-9 center from Mobile, Ala./LeFlore, absolutely dominates games when he focuses on the task at hand. He has the tools to score on the low block as well as take his man away from the rim. Cousins also passes the ball well and throws solid outlet passes. However, he has to alleviate his tendency to loaf, sometimes not making it over half-court.
• Guard Kenny Boynton (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) continues to do an amazing job of scoring points in bunches. Once he gets his jumper going, he has the ability to connect on 3-pointer after 3-pointer and will even use the pull-jumper beyond the 3-point arc. However, he has to work on releasing the ball at his highest point of elevation rather than shooting on the way down.
• Ray Taylor, a 5-7 senior point guard from Plantation, Fla./American Heritage, sets the tone for his club with his high-octane, exciting style of play. Taylor has unbelievable quickness and effectively uses a change-of-pace dribble to get to the paint with ease. Taylor also has good vision and passing skills, which makes him a great fit for an up-tempo offensive attack.
• Six-foot-8 PF Alex Oriakhi (Lowell, Mass./Tilton School) initiated a number of fast breaks with his defensive rebounding and shot-blocking abilities. He also hit the offensive glass with great aggression and passion, creating a number of additional scoring chances for himself as well as his team. As long as Oriakhi plays with a sense of urgency, he will continue to have a positive impact on the game.
• Carson Desrosiers, a 6-10 junior center from Lawrence, Mass./Central Catholic, has a diverse skill set that allows him to operate effectively from almost anywhere on the floor. He has the ability to connect on jumpers with range that extends out to the 3-point line. Desrosiers can also score the ball from the paint, though he has to become significantly stronger to establish and hold position on the low block. He also needs to become more aggressive in his approach on the court, especially given his plethora of offensive tools.
• Preye Preboye, a 6-5 senior small forward from Springfield, Mass./Winchendon School, plays the game with a very high level of intensity. He gives maximum effort on both ends of the court and does a good job of using his athleticism and strength to complement his effort on the court. Preboye also stays within himself on the offensive end and could make a living as an energy player on the next level.