ORLANDO -- The playoffs are starting to take form as teams advance in the championship bracket of the 2009 AAU Division I National Championship and the losers move into the consolation rounds. Throughout our time here at the Wide World of Sports Complex, the players have consistently impressed us.
The most noteworthy showing Wednesday came from a future North Carolina Tar Heel. If you want to see the best passer in high school basketball, look no further than Kendall Marshall (Dumfries, Va./Bishop O'Connell) of the class of 2010. Marshall dominates games with his passing and basketball IQ. Wednesday's action also served as a showcase for other rising point guard prospects. Class of 2011 point guard Shabazz Napier (Charlestown, Mass./Lawrence Academy) displayed a great feel for the game. The rising junior has the ability to score and run a team.
I said it before, but it bears repeating: Marshall is a gifted passer. In transition, he handles the ball intelligently and takes a mental picture of the court to see whether he can throw a pass ahead. He is extremely efficient with his dribble. Everything this young man does throughout a game has a purpose. He is sees the entire floor and makes the assist on target and on time. He makes all kinds of passes (penetration and kick, dump off from his drives, skip passes, and post feeds) that lead to open looks. I love the way he supports and encourages his teammates if they drop one of his passes -- that's a sign of a true leader. He's a good midrange shooter who needs to work on his jumper behind the arc. North Carolina is the perfect place for Marshall's skills.
Napier has a great feel for the game. He has great composure and court presence. Napier displayed a tight handle as he attacked the basket in transition. His arsenal of moves helps him consistently beat defenders off the dribble. Napier also does a great job driving, drawing and kicking the ball to open teammates. As Napier penetrates the lane, he displays excellent court vision. He is also a good passer on the move. At times, he overpenetrates and leaves his feet to pass, which results in a turnover. In most cases, his decision-making is solid. He also slashes in between defenders to finish acrobatic layups. Napier has excellent touch and body control as he hangs in the air. He also displays good athletic ability. This young lead guard can score when opportunities present themselves. He likes to shoot the dribble pull-up from behind the arc. Napier is a good on-ball defender and has all the tools to be a terrific all-around point guard with great upside.
Silas shows skills
Class of 2011 prospect Imoh Silas (Plymouth, N.H./Holderness) is a raw post prospect. He is a solid athlete who runs the floor well and plays hard at all times. He is still developing offensively. Right now, most of his points come off putbacks and tip-ins. He is a good rebounder who uses his long arms and solid athletic ability to snare caroms on the offensive and defensive boards. He is a skilled shot-blocker, with great timing that allows him to send back his opponents' shots. His game is very similar to Ben Wallace's.
Malik London (Chillicothe, Ohio) is a raw run-and-jump athlete. He is a little awkward but has been playing with tremendous energy lately, and he has really improved his stock. Offensively, he scores off the glass and has a decent face-up game to 14 feet. He needs to add strength, but he is effective inside. He has become a good rebounder with his length and athletic ability. Those same attributes make him a very effective shot-blocker. As long as London adds strength and continues to hone his game, the sky is the limit on his potential.
Devonte Pollard (Kemper County, Miss.) is a developing lefty big man. He is thin and definitely needs to add muscle to his frame, but his upside is tremendous. He already can score with his back to the basket. He has a decent jump hook and drop-step move. He is an above-average rebounder but can be bumped off the ball right now. He is a solid shot-blocker and a good athlete. Pollard has a chance to be special as he continues to develop.
John Stovall contributed to this report.
Paul Biancardi, who spent 2007-08 as an assistant coach on Rick Majerus' staff at Saint Louis University, is the national recruiting director for ESPN Scouts Inc. He has 18 years of coaching experience at the Division I level. He was an assistant at Boston University, Boston College and Ohio State before becoming the head coach at Wright State, where he earned Horizon League Coach of the Year honors in the 2003-04 season. He is on the selection committees for the Gatorade National Player of the Year award and the McDonald's All-America Game.