We weren’t able to attend the entire Showtime Ballers Annual Kick-Off this past weekend at Lyman High School in Orlando but we did see enough teams that we feel we can offer a solid recap of the event. Unlike previous years, Diana Neal and the Showtime Ballers organization decided make this more of a jamboree than a tournament. In this first report, we’ll highlight a standout player on each of the teams that made an impact on us. We will follow up with more in the next couple of days.
Showtime Ballers 17U
We’ve seen 6’4 junior Ayinde Sprewell in a variety of settings over the past year and it is clear that he is at his best when the pace is uptempo and there is less structure. He is a dynamic finisher on the break and completes plays above the rim. With a quick first step he gets into the middle of the lane and breaks down the defense. Sprewell has excellent body control and scores with contact around the basket. He is above average at the free throw line but his jumper outside of fifteen feet is a bit inconsistent. At the defensive end, Sprewell anticipates the passing lanes well and is quick to rip off lazy passes and head the other way for scores. He could be a lock down defender if he were to resist the urge to reach in at every opportunity while guarding the ball. Sprewell got burned a few times that way. As the spring and summer progress, we hope that he will tighten up his ball-handling in traffic and improve the consistency and range of his outside jumper.
Jacksonville Lee Bulls 17U
Playing up a year, 6’0 sophomore guard Malik Channer of Dover Strawberry Crest near Tampa was a surprise. We are familiar with older brother Brandon who will be a freshman at JU in the fall but Malik seemed to be less of the prospect at the same age. His play this weekend makes us reassess that statement. Already, Channer is a much better outside shooter as he connected on several shots from behind the arc. His body has gotten stronger and more solid and with that he can now complete plays in traffic at the basket. Channer handled the ball well against pressure when we watched him and he showed he could make plays for others as well as himself. Defensively he was okay but will certainly need to improve as defending opposing point guards has become one of the most difficult jobs in basketball. If he can maintain his scoring skills while improving his ability to run a team, he will be an enticing prospect in a year or so.
E1T1 Elite 17U
The team is loaded with talent and many of the players we’ve mentioned quite a bit in the past. For us, this weekend seemed to be a bit of a breakout for 6’8 forward Chris Perry of Bartow. He has a good frame and strength and while not an explosive athlete, Perry runs the court well. At the offensive end Perry works hard to get and maintain position on the block. When he does get the ball inside he is patient and not too quick to make a move. Once he does go to the basket, he goes strong and with authority. Perry still needs some work on finishing those moves with buckets but the right attitude and footwork is there. Outside of three feet his offense is a mystery but that may not be a bad thing. Defensively he is physical and aggressively goes after rebounds.
Team Breakdown 17U
It certainly looks as though 6’8 senior Demetrius Henry of Oakland Park Northeast is going to take a prep year and continue to make the transition to the wing. That makes sense as he is young for his grade and could certainly use the extra year to bulk up and become an impact player when he arrives at the D-I level. In the game we watched, Henry displayed his usual skill set of running the floor in transition for scores, knocking down face up jumpers out to the arc, and getting more than his fair share of blocks and boards. Henry has get length and moves his feet well, allowing him to guard equally well in the post or to step out on the perimeter and defend smaller players. As the spring and summer progress, we hope to see him become more comfortable putting the ball on the floor to make plays as well as improving his mid-range game.
Boca PAL 16U
This is actually a 15U team that has added a few pieces from last year’s national 14U final four finisher and playing up a year. The player that makes the most impact for the team is 5’11 freshman point guard Jose Morales from Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons. While Morales may be physically small and slight, his heart is ginormous and his basketball IQ is off the charts. He is very fast with the ball, weaves in and out of tight spaces easily, and not only makes the right pass but the right kind of pass. Teammates love to play with him because they know they will get the ball at the right time and place to quickly score. Morales’ jump shot is a question mark at this time but he did connect on his two floaters in the lane. Defensively he has fast hands and feet and is very quick to loose balls, coming up with the majority of them.
Lee Bulls 16U
The future of the Lee Bulls is 6’3 sophomore Grayson Allen of Jacksonville Providence. The kid is an exciting player, with the ability to connect from deep at any time or throw one down on bigs when driving to the lane. Supposedly, he had a windmill dunk in a game on Saturday that nearly emptied the gym. Allen is a solid ball-handler, can create and score off the dribble, and get teammates easy buckets. Defensively he could be better guarding the ball but off the ball he is alert for tips and steals. Don’t be surprised if he spends a lot of time with the 17U squad during the live periods in April and July.
Team Breakdown 15U
The team only had six players on Friday night but they showed promise in a convincing win over an outmatched local squad. The player with the most impact in the contest was 6’4 freshman Anthony Lawrence from St. Pete Lakewood. He can play inside and out, has a good frame that will allow him to muscle up in the future without losing any quickness or run/jump athleticism. While his shooting needs to improve, he is able to get his points by pounding the offensive glass and running the floor. Lawrence rebounds well at both ends and handles the ball well enough that he can start the break after grabbing a defensive rebound. If he can improve his ability to make plays with the ball at the offensive end he will make quite an impact in the next few years at Lakewood.
We’ll have more from the Showtime Ballers Annual Kickoff later in the week.
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