A great many teams and players that normally play at the 16U level played as 17U at The Battle at the Beach. Quite a few distinguished themselves.
Moussa Diabate, Night Rydas Elite: The 6’8 sophomore at DME Academy is a mainstay on the team’s 17U EYBL entry, but played with the 16Us this past weekend. In short, Diabate was dominant. Whether posting up or facing up from inside the arc, he is a bona fide bucket getter. It’s either two points, a trip to the foul line, or an “and one” opportunity. His perimeter jump shot is becoming more lethal as evidenced by his three for three from three performance in the game we watched. Add to that his tenacious rebounding, Diabate’s ability to change ends swiftly, and ability to come over from the weak side and change shots makes him one of the better players in the national class of 2021.
Ramses Melendez, Team Parsons: The 6’5 sophomore wing out of Kissimmee Central Point continues to scorch the nets this spring. Give him room from NBA range, and he will consistently drain three point shots. Play up too close for the jumper, and Melendez is right by the defender looking to get all the way to the basket for a bucket, free throws, or both. He’s a bit on the thin side but he’s wiry strong and not afraid to absorb or distribute physical punishment. Melendez is a solid ball-handler and passer who will find open teammates for easy shots if his path to the basket is blocked.
Emmanuel Maldonado, 1 Family: The 6’2 sophomore out of Downey Christian in Orlando plays without fear and has a short memory. If a play doesn’t go his way, he quickly moves on. However, very few plays do not go his way. Maldonado is excellent at reading ball-screens and making the correct decision. He’s savvy at creating space and knocking down shots as well as getting the ball quickly to the screener rolling to the basket if that is the right play. He excels at pushing the pace and advances the ball rapidly via the pass or dribble. With range to the arc on his jump shot, solid court vision and a high basketball IQ, Maldonado is one of the better point guard prospects in Florida’s 2021 class.
John Lattimer, Triple Double Academy: The 5’10 sophomore from Apopka was the starting point guard for the Blue Darters this past year and helped lead them to a #1 state ranking in Class 9A near the end of the season. Lattimer exhibits several leadership traits with this group as most of them played JV or Freshman ball this past season. He’s a vocal leader, gets people in the right places, and directs traffic on both offense and defense. Lattimer is at his best when he can push the pace. He puts a great deal of pressure on opposing ball-handlers and forced many mistakes this past weekend. Those mistakes quickly turned into points or assists for Lattimer. His perimeter game is reliable from inside the three point line but consistency is still needed from behind the arc.
Ausar & Amen Thompson, Florida Pro: The 6’4 twins from Pine Crest are freshman, so they were playing up two levels this past weekend. You wouldn’t know it. It is futile to classify either Thompson with a position; they both just go out there and ball! Long, lithe, and athletic, Ansur and Amen are both highly skilled and highly cerebral on the basketball court. Both score from all three levels, are very active defensively, and handle and pass the ball very well. No doubt each will gain strength and muscle mass as they physically mature. The ceiling is very high for this pair.
Jarvey Gainey, 1 Family: The 6’2 guard from Ocala Trinity Catholic took a while to get going, but once he did it was hard to put the fire out. A proficient three point shooter off the catch, Gainey showed this past weekend that he can drive the ball and score with floaters in the lane or along the baseline, as well as knock down shots coming off ball screens inside the three point line. Gainey has long arms and makes good use of them at the defensive end. He anticipates well and gets many tips and deflections.
Noah Tover, Florida Pro: The 6’3 guard out of Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian is an impact player at either guard spot. Playing the point, he’s a solid ball-handler and set-up guy when driving to the basket. Playing off the ball, he has legitimate three point range on his shot and can score at the basket in traffic. He’s a much better athlete than given credit for and he more than holds his own on the defensive end and when it comes to rebounding the ball.
Michael James, Night Rydas Elite: The 6’4 wing from Wekiva wasn’t overly flashy on Saturday, just very consistent and productive. He knocked down his looks from behind the arc, got to the offensive glass to make points, attacked the basket in transition, and scored inside when matched up by a smaller defender. James also was active defensively, helping inside to block shots or take charges. This was one of the most complete games we have seen from him and hopefully not the last.