There is a lot to unpack after a quality event like the Orlando Hoops Festival. Let’s get started.
Our Day Two recap highlighted the 45 point performance of Anfernee Simons of Team Breakdown. While he didn’t approach that number on Sunday, Simons still proved to be one of the top scorers in the country. Essentially playing three games in a span of less than 24 hours, Simons had games of 18, 45, and 20 points. The release on his shot is quick and he is able to knock it down off the dribble when tightly contested. Simons also is quite adept at getting to the basket and scoring over, around, or through contact as he has excellent body control and generous leaping ability. He is also a solid defender. The decision to take a prep year at IMG this coming season will benefit him by giving him the opportunity to get stronger to handle the rigors of play in the ACC with Louisville come the fall of 2018.
CP25 Gauntlet 2018’s La Darius Knight out of Dothan (AL) Ashford impressed with is ability to score baskets in bunches over the weekend. A long 6’5 wing with high-level athleticism, Knight was locked on target from beyond the arc. Over the course of the two games we saw him play on Saturday, he went 4-7 in game one and 4-6 in game two. Knight also piled up points by driving the ball to the basket and scoring that way. He rebounds well as a wing player and is a better-than-expected passer when involved in pick-and-roll situations. Knight’s length and lateral quickness allow him to guard different positions on the floor and he can be used in a variety of offensive and defensive schemes at the collegiate level.
Arguably the top 16U team in the Under Armor Association this past spring, the DC Blue Devils was one of the top teams in all of grassroots basketball this year. Their calling card was the post play of 6’9 twins Makhi and Makhel Mitchell. Blessed not only with height but with big frames, both are much more athletic than initially expected when it comes to moving up and down the floor in transition as well as protecting the rim or going after missed shots. Of the two, based on the games we watched, Makhi is a bit more polished offensively as he showed good footwork on post moves and a soft touch for tip-ins on his or teammates’ missed shots. Both are quick to outlet the ball once the rebound is secured and then get down the floor to establish post position. The twins didn’t take a jumper during the course of the game we watched but their free throws have good form so it wouldn’t surprise if they were effective in pick-and-pop situations as well as rolling to the basket after setting a ball screen. Defensively, their size and strength allows them to effectively deny post position and individually they move their feet well when having to guard on the perimeter.
From a pure prospect standpoint, there may have been none better at the event than 7’0 rising junior Ibrahima Diallo of the Florida Sons. While he may not put up big scoring numbers, Diallo more than makes up for it on the defensive end of the court. His size alone is enough to discourage opponents from attacking the basket but Diallo has good timing and rarely gets faked off of his feet. More than once he pretty much grabbed shots right out of the hands of players who thought they could “finish” with Diallo around. He runs the court well and gives a great effort at both ends of the floor. Offensively there is work to do but Diallo doesn’t panic when surrounded in the post. With two more years to work on his offensive game at Victory Rock Prep in Bradenton, expect Diallo to become as much of a terror on the offensive end as he is defensively before he moves on to the high D-I level.
We highlighted the play of Josh Leblanc for the Louisiana Elite 17U squad from the first day of play and the 6’7 rising senior from Baton Rouge was just as good on days two and three. He proved he can make shots from beyond the arc at a solid clip and that opens up his opportunities to take the ball strong to the basket and potentially embarrass defenders at the rim. Leblanc also has the skills to post up and doesn’t hesitate to take advantage of a size mismatch inside. More than once he grabbed the defensive rebound and sped up the court to lead the break. Defensively he can defend all five positions on the floor and has little problem when facing small, quick guards when switching ball screens. Several high major coaches spent a lot of time watching him this past week.
Another member of Louisiana Elite, Kobe Julien, seemed to get better with each passing game this weekend. Also out of Madison Prep in Baton Rouge, the 6’5 rising senior simply knows how to put the ball in the basket. While he may not “wow” with outrageous athleticism, he’s good enough in that category. Julien made his fair share of three point shots this past weekend but we came away more impressed with his ability to finish plays inside the arc. He’s adept at using his strength to get the defender on his hip and use body control and footwork to score in traffic. Julien runs the floor well and is more than willing to crash the glass from the perimeter.
Anthony Nelson was our “Player of the Day” on the final day and looking back over his body of work, he was arguably one of the better players every day. The 6’4 wing for the New York Lightning is a swift up and down the court and gracefully finishes in transition. In the half-court, the lefty was notable in his ability to create space at the elbows and connect on mid-range shots. If Nelson didn’t score when attacking the basket, more often than not he was fouled and got his points at the free throw line. Despite a thin frame, he was an active rebounder and didn’t shy away from contact. Defensively, his length and lateral quickness allow him to cover vast areas of the court and he is very effective when the defense is extended.
Jared Rhoden, a 6’6 wing from Our Savior Lutheran out of New York City, was another standout player for the NY Lightning. A double-digit per game scorer in the EYBL this past season, Rhoden has a smooth game and is seemingly always under control. He has text book form on his shot, handles the ball well for a guy his size, and is a solid passer along the perimeter or when driving the ball to the basket. Rhoden scored well on his drives thanks to excellent body control and an ability to focus on the target and not worry about getting fouled. He looks and plays like an ACC or Big East caliber recruit.
The Miami Tropics program has a well-deserved reputation for finding and developing standout guards. The next one will be Neftali Alvarez, a 6’1 rising senior out of Miami Christian. When we last saw him play, he drained a three pointer at the buzzer to give his high school team the state title. This weekend, he was a blur with the basketball in his hands, consistently blowing by defenders and making some very difficult shots in traffic. While more likely to attack the defense off the dribble, Alvarez has a solid perimeter shot. He’s still learning some of the nuances of point guard play and occasionally will over-penetrate or make an incorrect decision when it comes to pass vs. shot. Those times are becoming few and far between as he progresses. Defensively, he’s active, moves his feet well, and has quick hands when it comes to double-teaming or digging down in the post.