Over the course of a few days in May, a collection of top-ranked high school basketball players descended on Memphis for the Allen Iverson Roundball Classic, an NBA-sanctioned event (meaning NBA personnel could attend to whet their appetites for future employees) hosted by one-time Memphis Grizzly, Allen Iverson.
This time of year is typically the season for post-season all-star/All-American games with the McDonald’s game, Jordan Brand Classic, and probably some others that aren’t coming to mind. In this second year of global Covid disruptions, most events are on hiatus, but not the Iverson Classic which stood alone as the sole national event this year. Spread across three days, there were (allegedly) competitive scrimmages withheld from the masses, dunk and three-point contests, a one-on-one tournament, and finally, the main event, an all-star game on Saturday night (May 8th) 28 of the top high school players in the country (27 boys and one girl). The game was streamed through SUVtv for a not unreasonable $9.99 and is available on-demand. Before I get into the players, notes on the stream and game:
SUV, as usual, provides competent and mostly knowledgeable announcers.
For viewers who enjoy rewind/fast forward hot key features (think five-second forward/back), SUV’s video player does not include these features. This is inexplicable.
The white jerseys have light-colored (light gold? White?) numbers making it difficult at times to determine who’s who. Similar to the video player, this is a small nuisance likely only impacting a handful of viewers, but even the announcers were tripped up at times.
The rosters (and all players are included below) are accurate
The head coaches of each team were Stephen Jackson and Rasheed Wallace. Both were engaged and vocal. From my lens, the gravitas of these former players contributed to sustained energy and competitiveness from the players. All-star games have long been the domain of coasting, but imagine your 18-year-old self defying Sheed or SJax.
Black Team (number next to each player is their jersey number):
#1 Paolo Banchero: Seattle kid with 11/12/02 (18.5 years old) b-day, somewhere between 6-9 and 6-11 (he’s not 6-11 despite what ESPN has listed) depending on source, 5* Duke commit, mocked #2 in 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-3 high-school rank:
All we heard all week was how him and Chet Holmgren competed hard against each other all week and, for me, they’re the most tantalizing players and prospects.
Banchero settled for a lot of jumpers in the game, both off-the-catch and off-the-bounce, but I’m not too concerned as he has sound mechanics and some of the shots felt like they in search of rhythm.
Banchero’s combination of size, movement and ball skills are somewhat mesmerizing. So many bigs his age are rail thin, still growing into their bodies and creating uncertainty as long-term prospect, but Banchero already has a solid frame complimented by a clean handle, tight cross and effective hesitation. Combined with strong body mechanics and mobility, the aggregate is extraordinary.
Given his general focus/engagement and build, I was surprised to see him pummeled on the o-glass by Holmgren who’s length, timing, and underestimated strength caused Banchero problems all day. Holmgren had at least four o-rebs that were a direct result of out-working Banchero.
Banchero’s defense doesn’t worry me because he’s a smart player who has a solid motor, but I don’t necessarily see him as a high-impact defender long-term; particularly with him going to Duke where Coach K seems to have given up on teaching defense to big men.
#21 AJ Griffin: son of former NBA player and current assistant coach, Adrian Griffin, 8/25/03 (17.7) b-day (2nd youngest player in game), 6-7 or 6-8, listed at 200 pounds but there’s no way he’s that light, 5* Duke commit, mocked #6 in 2022 ESPN mock, no consensus on HS rank due to not having played in over a year, but pre-hiatus, was consistently top-10 in national ranks and top-3 in Draft Twitter circles:
Griffin looks like he spent the past year locked in the weight room alternating between shoulder presses and lat pulldowns. He’s fucking huge and gives off some Kawhi Leonard vibes as a power wing – although he’s nowhere near weaponizing that power right now.
The handle is slick and he hit someone with a nasty inside out that I should’ve clipped, but didn’t. My bad.
Range extends beyond NBA three line without effort.
In love with pull-ups and it’s a pretty shot with a variety of dribble moves to set it up, but lot of settling.
Could see the rust from long time off, but both the current ability and long-term potential outstrip any lack of rhythm.
#2 JD Davison: Alabama native with 10/3/02 (18.6) b-day, 6-2 or 6-3 (I’d lean to 6-2), with a solid 180-poundsd, 5* Alabama commit, not included in 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-13 in class:
Got a coveted Givony tweet about his play
Showed some flair for passing/reading floor that hadn’t popped as well in other viewings.
Power guard who used his strength/athleticism well a couple times including shrugging off Jaden Akins on a dribble drive and recovering on a Nolan Hickman ball fake to get the block on second jump.
Not sure if he shot a jumper.
#26 Johnathan Lawson: member of Memphis basketballing Lawson family, 10/7/02 (18.6) b-day, listed at 6-6 170 but looks taller, 4*Memphis commit (de-committed from Oregon), mostly a top-100 rank:
Jersey number was strangely a different color from teammates
Didn’t focus too closely on him, but lack of physical development seems to be holding back better body control
#11 Tyrese Hunter: Wisconsin kid with 8/11/03 (17.8) b-day, listed at 6-1 175, high 4* Iowa State commit, consensus top-40:
My first viewing of Hunter
Able to breakdown primary defender with handle/quickness; handle is tight, improvisational
Good speed, fluid movement
Good feel, able to read/react to defense both on/off ball à low-key, probably the secret ingredient to his effectiveness
In part because I hadn’t seen him before, but walked away really being impressed by him
#15 TyTy Washington: big time rankings riser with 11/15/01 (19.5) b-day, 6-3 or 6-4, 5* de-commit from Creighton with crystal balls pointing to Kentucky, #13 on ESPN 2022 mock, ranks between #12 and 21 depending on source:
Able to create for self and others as lead guard – can beat the primary defender and make plus-decisions at second and third levels à drive-and-kick game solid, floater game solid
Totally in-flow here, comfortable as primary or off-ball; plays well with others which was important to see after seeing him force things a bit at Geico
Good range and shoots an easy ball
Showed some defensive awareness with early rotation/anticipation
In general, a joy
#5 Peyton Watson: Cali kid with 9/11/02 (18.7) b-day, listed 6-8 but could be taller, 5* UCLA commit, #6 on ESPN 2022 mock, consensus top-10 in class:
Am generally a big-time Watson fan, but he was quiet in this one – some of which could be attributed to normally being a ball-dominant offensive player and needing to find place alongside three high-level guards (TyTy, Hunter, Davison).
Lanky kid with long strides
Showed good body control/concentration with off-hand finish against Chet Holmgren contest
Not a player I typically think of as big-time athlete, but pulled out an impressive windmill on breakaway
#5 Hunter Sallis: from Omaha with 3/26/03 (18.1) b-day, listed at 6-5 but could be taller, 5* Gonzaga commit, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, ranks between 7 and 14:
Like Tyrese Hunter, this was my first time seeing Sallis, but like Watson, seemed like struggled a bit to get into an off-ball role.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but Sallis’s athleticism exceeded my expectations; he gets up well off two feet, had an electric windmill in transition, and showed some impressive speed/burst getting out in a sprint.
I’m intrigued, but not wowed.
#23 Bryce McGowens: out of South Carolina with 11/8/02 (18.5) b-day, listed at 6-6, high 4* or low 5* depending on who you ask committed to Nebraska after de-committing from FSU, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock:
McGowens is a slender wing who’s still growing into his body. In this game, similarly to Sallis and Watson, he played more off-the-ball than he’s accustomed to, but unlike the other two, it felt like a more natural fit.
Had couple of read/reacts and improvisations on a help side steal and drive into Chet’s chest for free throws that were good to see as in-the-flow, unforced impact. (This idea of in-rhythm, organic impact versus forced impact is something that I’ll return to throughout. In an all-star setting like this where you have 28 players who are accustomed to being focal points, getting a feeling for how players assimilate into team construct in unfamiliar capacities isn’t a panacea for scouting or projection, but it is helpful to get a feel for how a player will adapt in different situations.)
His shot and mechanics are fluid and polished, but I often find myself wanting more with the overall output.
#0 Benny Williams: DMV kid born on 4/30/02 (19), listed at 6-8 (was 5-9 as a frosh in HS), high 4*/low 5*, committed to Syracuse, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-35:
I believe Williams was the last guy off the bench and in my imperfect notes and memory, he had a comparable role; forced to nibble around the edges and get shots/make plays as opportunity presented itself.
His jumper has always been a strength at his size and while I didn’t see him make one, the mechanics still look good.
Flashed some plus-awareness/BBIQ with a quick dump-off on an offensive rebound à it’s a small thing, but making heady plays in limited opportunity is about all you can ask.
#35 Matthew Cleveland: Atlanta native born 9/15/02 (18.7), listed at 6-7, high 4*/low 5* FSU commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-30, much higher in draft Twitter communities:
Big, strong, athletic, engaged, Cleveland has long been a draft Twitter darling that I’ve been closer to mainstream on (15-20ish) than draft Twitter and a lot of my reservation is revealing of my own limitation in focusing on his HS/AAU role as an on-ball, high-usage player where, in my viewings, he’s been over-aggressive with questionable decision making and shot selection.
If Watson and Sallis struggled towards total all-star integration, Cleveland was impressively in his element repeatedly making plays (backcutting an over-laying defender, combining awareness and athleticism on an emphatic help side block, making quick reads with the pass) and making a positive impact.
Showed impressive touch/concentration finishing through/over contests at rim.
Seems like a Florida State guy.
#4 Terquavion Smith: North Carolina kid with 12/31/02 (18.4) b-day, listed at 6-3, 4* NC State commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-100 player with top-rank of #73:
First experience with Smith and regrettably don’t have much to offer. He hit a nice floater, showed some touch, and defended well on-ball.
#33 Brandon Huntley-Hatfield: 8/6/03 b-day (17.8), listed at 6-9 230 but wouldn’t be surprised if he’s heavier, 5* Tennessee commit, not included on ESPN 2022 mock, anywhere from #5 to #20 in class:
Big, thick forward without a ton of explosiveness
Deep love for jab steps to setup sidestep and step-back threes – competent shooter; opened this game with back-to-back threes; shot 39% on 43 attempts in 2019 UAA season. 61% from FT on 23 attempts in same UAA sample.
Not a quick decision maker, ball tends to stick to his hands while he jabs/surveys.
Big body, but not particularly effective utilizing it; not a banger, was out-worked/out-physicaled by Michael Foster.
White Team (number next to each player is their jersey number):
#34 Chet Holmgren: Minnesotan with 5/1/02 (19) b-day, listed at 7-0, 195 pounds, 5* Gonzaga commit, #2 on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus #1 player in class:
Offensively, spent much more time in post/around paint than he did with his Minnehaha team. Unsurprisingly effective around basket with length and soft touch.
Coordination/handle continue to impress given size/build/age and reveal ability to create off bounce which he showed with drive-and-dish.
Despite frame, appears to be stronger than he looks as he was able to dislodge heavier/thicker Paolo on more than one occasion.
Combination of strength, length, and positioning made him a nightmare on offensive glass – much of which was at Paolo’s expense.
#11 Michael Foster: Milwaukee native played high school ball in Phoenix at Hillcrest, 1/16/03 (18.3) b-day, listed 6-9 233, 5* G-League Ignite signee, #32 on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-20 in class ranging from #7 to #17:
Burly and physical with elite production (32-points and 18-rebounds-per-game as a senior), the biggest knock on Foster is that he doesn’t know how to play and makes dumb decisions and while it was an all-star exhibition, early on Foster helped off of Huntley-Hatfield when he didn’t need to and gave up a wide open three.
Additionally, he struggled with his handle forcing dribble drives and getting stripped for TOs.
The burly physicality was evident though as he was a bully on the offensive glass, repeatedly pummeling Huntley-Hatfield under the hoop for putbacks.
Flashed nice passing/awareness with a cross-court hook pass with a ton of velocity and accuracy to wide open shooter.
Unable to contain or deter Paolo in space.
#4 Kowacie Reeves: 1/31/03 (18.3) b-day, listed at 6-6 170, 4* Florida commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, ranked between #27 and #69 in class:
First time seeing Reeves, a long, bouncy wing out of Georgia
Jumper didn’t fall and didn’t see enough or close enough to get a feel for mechanics
Could see his well-regarded athleticism attacking the closeout for an and-1 dunk
#0 Jaden Akins: Michigan native with 2/25/03 (18.2) b-day, listed at 6-3 160 though assume that’s an outdated weight, 4* Spartan commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, consensus top-55 recruit:
Fluid, smooth athlete; movement in general is pleasant and balanced
Maybe overly reliant on jumpers and if it’s not falling, struggles to impact game especially in this setting
By my unofficial and incomplete tracking, was 0-4 from field with a pair of missed pull-ups, a missed catch-and-shoot, and a blown lob.
#8 Josh Minnot: Florida kid with 11/25/02 (18.5) birthday, listed 6-8 but lot of indications he’s 6-9 or 6-10, 4* Memphis commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, ranked between #35 and #68:
First time seeing Minnot; he’s slim, long, tall; saw he has a 7-2 wingspan but not convinced from eyeballs
Showed good body control and functional usage of aforementioned length with balance on change of direction and scoop finish around AJ Griffin
Aggressive in attack though occasionally forced the issue on rim attacks that resulted in off-balance attempts
Not prettiest form/release, hips seems slightly turned inwards, release on the abrupt side, but was able to at least a pair of threes
#2 Nolan Hickman: Seattle native with 5/7/03 (18) b-day, listed 6-1 180, high 4*/low 5* former Kentucky commit who’s currently undecided, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, roughly in 20-40 range in class:
Recently decommitted from Kentucky and building on a strong performance at the Geico Nationals
Decently put together with solid athleticism, high-level awareness, quick processing/decision making, and oodles of skill. Awareness and processing allow him to anticipate and react in ways that frequently put him in the right place at the right time – these aren’t accidents are evidence in clip below.
I’m not much for superlatives, but am mildly confident that Hickman was the best passer in this event though JD Davison was at least flashier on this day.
Mostly average shooter with a floater and maybe a bit better off catch at present
#32 Daimion Collins: hailing from the Lone Star State, born 1/23/02 (19.3), listed 6-9 210, 5* Kentucky commit, N/A on 2022 ESPN mock, generally accepted as a 10-15 recruit:
Collins is a lanky, bouncy 4/5 with defensive upside for days and a bit of a jump shot who maybe thinks it’s an excellent jumper.
He’s a good case study for my particularly haphazard scouting technique as an example of not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. To wit, last summer I witnessed the lithe Collins thoroughly outplayed and out-toughed by 2022 Vincent Iwuchukwu, a near-seven-foot big in a much more traditional back-to-the-basket model. Collins had his moments, but they were few and far between and he was generally mauled. Unfortunately, this left an indelible mark on me as a character defining defeat, not dissimilar to a thumping Scottie Lewis once put on Jaden McDaniels which upturned my whole idea of McDaniels or, from what I’ve heard of others, the merciless roasting Jaden Springer put on Jalen Suggs and his soft handle a couple summers ago. For my process, I have to consciously guard against the Iwuchukwu battle being a character-defining moment for Collins.
Contextual baggage aside, Collins was active and engaged in this game where he strung together deflections, hit ahead passes, and length-revealing dunks. The ill-advised jumpers (contested pull-up straddling the three-line) were still there, but largely overshadowed by his athleticism, length, and effort.
#10 Kendall Brown: another elite Minnesota native, born 5/11/03 (18), listed 6-8 205, 5* Baylor commit, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, top-15 in class:
Strong forward, with well-built frame, elite leaper, two-way playmaker who gives me Shawn Marion vibes.
Didn’t show a ton of new this game, but that’s not a bad thing either: caught a pair of lobs, knocked down a pull-up from 16-feet, was a tad wild (spinning jumper and errant no-look pass) at times, remains a favorite of mine.
#24 Trey Alexander: Oklahoma native listed at 6-4 185, 4* recently decommitted from Auburn because the program allegedly “didn’t keep their word,” N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, ranked between #55 and #83:
Bit of a ball-dominant combo guard, mostly smooth with handle and pull-up game, good, not great as athlete
Alexander was put in a bit of a weird spot as the opponent matched him up with Raven Johnson, the only female player in the game. Johnson is a 5-9/5-10 5* committed to South Carolina. Alexander attacked the matchup with vim and vigor, attacking the smaller opponent on both sides of the ball, coming up with steals and beating her off the bounce multiple times.
It’s hard to take much away from this type of scenario except that Alexander played hard and his 55-83 slot feels accurate.
#23 Jordan Longino: Pennsylvanian listed at 6-5 195, 4* Villanova commit, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, ranked as high as #39 and low as #81:
My first experience with Longino, a thickly-built off-guard/small wing – his build could be somewhat confused based on an undershirt that possibly made him look bulkier than he actually is.
Showed plus-awareness and ability to quickly process/react to openings/opportunities with quick pass/reads; played a step ahead of the game.
Plays at measured pace, under control
Jay Wright had to be pleased see him make an early rotation and force a TO
Good body control with step-thru in transition.
Didn’t note him shooting any jumpers and I don’t have any shooting %s for him.
Walked away a fan, but patience is always the virtue with Villanova kids.
#12 Ahamad Bynum (Black Cat): Chicago kid with 2/21/03 (18.2) b-day, listed at 6-3 175, 4* committed to DePaul (since 2019), N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, consensus top-100:
Nicknamed “Black Cat,” my first time seeing him
Have seen him listed at both 6-3 and 6-1 but felt more in the 6-1/6-2 range
Aggressive instincts were there, but struggled to find any rhythm
#1 Daeshun Ruffin: Mississippi native listed at 5-10 160, 4* committed to Ole Miss, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, generally a top-55 recruit:
Surprisingly my first time seeing Ruffin as he’s been on the scene for several years.
Smaller lead guard, not just height, but build as well. Plays point, but loads of aggressiveness and scoring/attack instincts.
Good quickness with a low handle and electric spin move; showed some ++touch with a high-banker off the glass on the move
Able to hit threes off catch and bounce
Targeted in post by TyTy and beaten handily
#26 Bryce Hopkins: Illinois kid with 9/7/02 (18.7) b-day, listed at 6-7 220 but looks thicker than 220 and not in a bad way, 4* Kentucky commit after a Louisville decommit, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, top-30 recruit who got that coveted Givony love:
Thick-bodied, highly skilled forward with great feet and feel
Like Kendall Brown, didn’t see a lot of new stuff from Hopkins à he’s skilled/polished with a clean handle, a willingness to pass, and ability to grab-and-go off the board
Able to create space off-the-bounce with a tight cross and get to pull-up or rim
Don’t have stats on him and don’t have a good feel for his jumper. In other settings, he’s struggled to hit off the catch, but I haven’t noted any wonky mechanics.
I like Kentucky as a landing spot
#5 Trevor Keels: DMV kid with 8/26/03 b-day (17.7 – youngest player in game), listed at 6-5 210, 5* committed to Duke, N/A on ESPN 2022 mock, top-20 recruit:
Just second time seeing Keels as a senior after seeing several games of his previous years
Has outgrown some of baby fat and looks strong/thick; not an explosive athlete, but a good one with burst off the catch.
Was slow to get going in this game, but found confidence in second half with variety of drives and threes of catch and bounce.
Showed some creation with a drive-and-dump dime
Bit of a ball stopper with a penchant for pounding the ball in search of openings at the expense of decisively moving/attacking
A final note, despite being physically overmatched and somewhat targeted, the previously mentioned Raven Johnson was sound in effort and execution with quality passing/reads. She struggled to finish/hit shots, but was game as a competitor.