The 2018 Hoop Exchange Fall Festival produced a number of outstanding performances by players taking part in the Individual Showcase events that ran both Saturday and Sunday. Below are just a few of the players that caught are attention.
At the end of Saturday, we asked a long-time scout who he liked and we weren’t surprised by his response: Michael Phillips. The 6’7 junior out of St. John’s Creekside overwhelms opponents and onlookers with his effort, enthusiasm, energy and overall zest for the game. He converted a turn-around jumper from the mid-post, scored inside thru contact, and more than once grabbed defensive rebounds and went end-to-end for baskets.
Gary Jones, a 6’10 junior from Tampa Sickles, was a new name to us on Saturday. Obviously, his size draws attention but the young post player was productive. He controlled his rebounding area on the defensive end, challenged shots, and displayed good hands and soft touch around the basket. While not as athletic as some, Jones still moves up and down the floor well in transition. As he gets stronger and becomes more comfortable with his size, his production will significantly increase.
Participating both Saturday and Sunday in the separate Individual Showcase events, 6’2 junior guard Bradley Douglas out of Eustis proved to be one of the better players in attendance both days. Both strong and quick, he repeatedly got by defenders and scored through contact. He continues to improve as a perimeter shooter and on both days in the games we observed he strung together a series of makes from beyond the three-point line. Douglas was also one of the few who played tenacious defense over the course of the two-day event.
Junior forward Jalen Haynes continues to develop at a rapid pace. The 6’8 Dillard Panther was his typical productive self when it came to rebounding the ball and scoring inside. On Saturday, Haynes showed an improved ability to score off the drive in traffic as he converted multiple three point play opportunities in the game we focused on. Haynes perimeter scoring skills seem to still be a work-in-progress but if he continues to improve as he has over the past year, that perceived weakness should become a strength in due time.
A 6’3 senior guard out of Holy Trinity Episcopal in Melbourne, Andru Nickson came out very aggressive on the offensive end on Sunday. He quickly converted a transition basket, knocked down a three pointer coming off a ball screen and then scored at the basket after a drive, ultimately converting a three point play. A good athlete that is also a football prospect, Nickson brings a lot of tenacity to the defensive end.
If wearing warm-up pants instead of shorts allows Nicolas Louis-Jacques to shoot the ball as well as he did on Sunday, then he may want to petition to wear those all the time. A 6’4 junior wing from Miami Killian, he converted three deep balls in succession early in the contest. He didn’t stop there as he scored on drives and offensive rebounds, and made some nice passes to teammates for baskets. A good athlete, Jacques’ game will continue to improve as he gets physically stronger over the next couple of years.
Though we saw him just a few weeks ago at another event, Kanye Jones, a 6’3 sophomore guard from Orlando The First Academy, continues to impress with a smooth, overall game. He’s become very adept at scoring with either hand when driving to the basket, converting pull-up jumpers in transition, and connecting on catch-and-shoot threes. A good rebounder from the backcourt, Jones is quick to push the pace in transition once he gets possession of the basketball.
A 6’5 sophomore wing out of Jacksonville Lee, Alex Fudge was another “young gun” that put on a shot-making show during Saturday’s individual showcase. The lithe and athletic Fudge went four for four from beyond the arc in the contest. Though he wasn’t as successful at converting drives into points, Fudge wasn’t hesitant about attacking the defensive off the bounce. With his length and quickness, he could evolve into a versatile defender.
While we don’t buy into his listed height at 6’4 (more like 6’2), we do buy into the idea that Orlando University sophomore guard Emmanuel Maldonado is a player to watch in the Class of 2021. A very confidant player, he takes pride in his ability to challenge the defense and exploit whatever opening they give him. If given room, Maldonado will knock down perimeter jumpers. If played too tight, expect him to head to the basket. He’s a fair passer on the move and makes his free throws at a high rate.