The University of South Florida held its Elite Camp this past Saturday and to say it was overflowing with talent would be an understatement. Many of the better players in the classes of 2019 thru 2023 were in attendance. We were familiar with several attendees from watching them play with various travel teams in the spring and summer, so we focused our attention on guys that we either hadn’t seen in a while or, in some cases, not at all.
Ernest Ross, Alachua Santa Fe: The 6’7 junior garnered rave reviews on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit this spring and summer. A quick leaper that is fast up and down the floor in transition, his physical gifts immediately catch attention. However, Ross’ skills are coming along quickly as he showed off a decent perimeter shot and an ability to grab rebounds and push the ball up the floor. We also were impressed with his rebounding activity, especially at the offensive end.
Javen Flowers-Smith, Pembroke Pines Charter: A speed demon at 5’10, the junior excelled at pushing the pace, collapsing the defense, and either scoring or finding open shooters. He consistently got into the lane and found ways to score. Flowers-Smith also proved to be a capable passer on the move and made good shot vs. pass decisions coming off ball-screens. As his perimeter shooting from behind the three-point line improves, so will his options for the next level.
Ben Middlebrooks, Fort Lauderdale Westminster Academy: The 6’9 sophomore had an outstanding freshman campaign and looks to be taking big strides in his development. He showed improvement in both athleticism and scoring skills when facing the basket. Middlebrooks protected the rim, grabbed those blocks, and quickly got the ball up the court to streaking teammates. While he did not knock down the one three pointer he took, we like him best when he works inside the arc, scoring in a variety a ways within fifteen feet of the basket.
Jaylen Martin, Tallahassee Florida High: The 6’5 sophomore wing excelled at getting to the basket for scores or quickly pulling up from mid-range and knocking down shots over defenders. His strength allows him to overpower most defenders and he has a knack for making shots in traffic. Martin didn’t attempt a three pointer in the game we watched but his ability to get to the rim and score more than compensates. He was also a determined rebounder and defender at the event.
Taylor Hendricks, Fort Lauderdale University School: The 6’7 sophomore didn’t get a lot of floor time in competitive games with the likes of Vernon Carey and Scottie Barnes on the Sharks last year. However, based on his play at the event, Hendricks learned a lot and had things going his way. He appears to be much stronger and uses his “new body” to great effect in pursuing rebounds and patrolling the paint on defense. He also showed off an effective perimeter shot out to the arc and proved productive in both pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop situations.
Roger McFarlene, Fort Lauderdale University School: The 6’3 senior was arguably one of the top performers at the event. He now complements a strong driving game with an effective perimeter shot, as Saturday he was knocking down shots off the dribble to the three point line as well as connecting on several catch-and-shoot opportunities. McFarlene also appears to be a more competent ball-handler and engaged defender. He will certainly be key to U-School’s run to a three-peat this coming season.
Anderes Staton-McCray, Orlando West Oaks: The 6’5 senior didn’t score a bunch in the game we watched until it came down to crunch time. He then knocked down a three, viciously blocked a shot a couple of possessions later, then scored the game winner on a drive to the rim with two seconds left. Prior to that, our notes are filled with “steal”, “good pass on drive”, “post pass”, “rebound-outlet to score”, and other subtle things that winners do.
Fray Nguimbi, Orlando West Oaks: It was certainly a coming out party for the 6’7 rising sophomore from West Oaks. Nguimbi rebounded at a high rate, ran the floor swiftly in transition, attacked the defense off the dribble from the perimeter and showed enough of a jumper to force the defense to guard him honestly. His quick first step usually got him by his defender and he finished well at the basket in traffic. There is a lot to like about his future.
Ernest Udeh, Orlando Dr. Phillips: The 6’8 sophomore was a revelation for us. A quick leaper with a long reach, he was usually first to rebounds at both ends of the court. Those two physical traits also make him a viable shot blocker. Offensively there is still work to be done, but Udeh runs the floor swiftly, gets up for lobs and put-backs, and is very active on the offensive glass, continuoulsy getting up two or three times to snag a miss.
Marquez Ray, Jacksonville Jackson: The 6’8 junior was a very pleasant surprise, especially at the offensive end. He has good size and a solid frame, proved he could make shots out to eighteen feet, and score inside with power moves on either block. A good but not over-whelming athlete, Ray dominated his rebounding area and challenged any opponent that ventured into the lane.
Donovan Draper, West Palm Beach Forest Hill: The 6’4 junior was seemingly around the ball at every opportunity. He defended full-court, got more than his fair share of loose balls, tipped or stole several errant passes and continually battled bigger players inside for rebounds. Draper did have a few moments where he tried to do too much but overall he makes things happen in a positive way for his team.
Devin Hines, Boca Raton St. Andrews: The 6’2 junior scored the ball like he was born in USF’s Yuengling Center. He caught fire from deep early and then used that to set up drives for scores. Hines was also quick to convert from defense to offense, beating people down the floor routinely for easy transition baskets. Defensively, he’s long and plays on that end with an aggressive mind set.