We finalize our recap of the Hoop Exchange Fall Festival with a look at some of the players that stood out during Sunday’s individual showcase.
Christian Miller-Caldwell: A 6’5 senior wing out of Gainesville HS, “CMC” had things going from the first jump ball. He consistently got past the defense to the basket and scored in the half-court. His jump shot was on target, especially if given room coming off of ball-screens, and he demonstrated good passing instincts. Miller-Caldwell is a better athlete than given credit for and he has a knack for coming up with offensive rebounds.
Johnnie Williams: A 6’3 junior from Sarasota Booker, his reputation is that of a top-shelf athlete with powerful dunking capabilities. On Sunday, he showed a much improved skill level. He was 4-6 from deep and connected off the catch as well as the dribble. Williams contributed on the offensive glass, routinely getting to the ball before taller players. He’s got a strong frame and uses it wisely to get to the basket and finish in traffic.
Moussa Diabate: Listed at 6’10 (more like 6’8+), Diabate will be the start of the discussion when talking about players in the Class of 2021 in the state. Now at Florida Prep in Melbourne, Diabate has the length and leap that college coaches covet. His defensive footwork is such that he can step out and defend smaller players on the perimeter. Offensively, Diabate has some ball skills and his shooting form looks solid. He runs the floor well and is a solid rim protector. Words like “upside” and “potential” were created for him.
Frank “Tre” Gilliam: A 5’11 sophomore at St. Pete Gibbs, he didn’t score a whole lot on Sunday in the game we watched. Instead, we were impressed with his ability to quickly change directions, get into the lane, and find open teammates for easy baskets. Gilliam did a good job of keeping his opponent in front of him on the defensive end.
K’mani Doughty: A 6’5 junior now at Melbourne Florida Prep, Doughty should provide some balance for the Eagles this coming season. A well-built athlete that can play on the perimeter or inside, Doughty was most effective on Sunday scoring around the basket off of drives, offensive rebounds, or in transition. He is skilled enough to grab the defensive rebound and push the ball on the break on his own, then either find a teammate for a score or finish the play himself.
Shaquan Jules: The 6’6 junior at Windermere Prep dazzles with his athleticism. If left unchecked, Jules will rise above the pack and crush offensive rebounds. Though a bit undersized, he is a good rim protector and rebounder. Jules runs the floor well in transition and can step out and defend smaller players when necessary. Offensively, there is still work to be done but those can be taught. His physical gifts, on the other hand, can’t.
Omar Payne: A 6’9 junior out of Class 9A state champ Kissimmee Osceola, Payne is a fast riser on the national recruiting charts. The main reasons why are his defensive presence and ability to beat the defense down the floor in transition. His offense continues to evolve and he is showing signs of becoming a consistent threat from fifteen feet and in. As he gains strength via natural physical maturity, his value as a rebounder and offensive threat inside will grow significantly.
Samba Kane: Another big guy from Melbourne Florida Prep, the 6’11 senior, is the quintessential African import: He’s thin but swift and agile; protects the basket, gets off the floor quickly for rebounds; and is just scratching the surface of his potential as a basketball player. Right now his offense is limited to mostly putbacks, lobs, and scores inside after getting the ball from a penetrating opponent that forces a breakdown of the defense. As his body fills out, he should become a more reliable offensive option in the half-court.
Noble Crawford: A 6’3 senior at Lake Howell in Casselberry, Crawford was at his best in the day’s uptempo setting. He was fast up and down the floor, finished above the rim, and rebounded well against bigger foes. Crawford spent a lot of time at the foul line as a result of his attacking mentality, and he hit all of his free throws in the one game we watched. In the half-court, he showed some promise with a made three and later a score at the rim thru contact.
Lahat Thioune: Arguably the “best of the bigs” from Florida Prep, Thioune displayed more offensive refinement than his counterparts on Sunday. He has good footwork in the post, a soft touch on a jump hook in the lane, and doesn’t seem to be overly fazed by physical play inside. As one might expect, he impacts the game on the defensive end with his ability to alter or block shots as well as rebound and outlet the ball quickly.
Luke Anderson: The 6’8 combo forward from Lakeland HS does a little bit of everything. Offensively he handles the ball well on the perimeter, can score after a couple of bounces, knock down perimeter shots, and makes an impact on the offensive glass. Defensively he can step out and defend perimeter players and doesn’t shy away from physical contact in the post.
Collin Castleton: Most were surprised when the 6’10 senior out of Father Lopez in Daytona Beach took the court on Sunday. Having verbally committed to Michigan earlier in the week, there didn’t seem to be any need for him to participate in an event like this. Still, he was impressive with his ability to connect from the perimeter, pass the ball, and score around the basket. He should fit in well in Ann Arbor.
Darin Green, Jr.: The 6’4 junior from Tampa Wharton has made his reputation as a knockdown shooter from beyond the arc. He did that on Sunday, but also showed a bit more substance in other parts of his game. He used his length to be disruptive on defense and was a big contributor in the rebounding department.
Nicolas Strachan: A 6’6 sophomore out of Tallahassee Chiles, he intrigues with his above-average athleticism and solid frame. He scored well around the basket and moved well up and down the floor in transition. It will be interesting to see how his offensive skills develop over the next couple of seasons.