The day's action largely boiled down to elite rising seniors stepping forward in the designated Showcase games, but a few new faces emerged as well.
Diamond Stone, C, Young Legends — Stone was the day's top performer. He didn't open his game in scintillating fashion and rose to the occasion as his squad blew a huge lead, prior to recapturing the lead at the end and ultimately salting away the contest. His 36 points and 16 rebounds tell the story: He was a physical force playing very hard against an extremely gifted opponent (Josh Jackson) and made an impact on both ends of the floor. He looks more mature physically and may have gained perhaps a touch of athleticism as well, even if he never becomes a Dwight Howard in terms of explosiveness. Regardless, he looked like a top-five national prospect and reaffirmed his status within the Class of 2015.
Malik Newman, SG, MWA Elite — There's an NCAA rule stating that, at a live event for college coaches, no game can tip off after 10:00. Because officials from the prior game called it extraordinarily tight — think November of this past college basketball season — Newman's squad didn't take the floor until 9:15 with another game to follow theirs. That forced event organizers to go to a running clock and abbreviated second half. Newman thus did not enjoy much opportunity to exert much impact, but he still made a few NBA-worthy scoring plays that suggest he'll remain a contender for No. 1 in the rising senior class. He isn't a pure shooter but is a game shooter, relying on rhythm and concentration more than form. He buries contested shots, is comfortable fading on 16-food corner fadeways and has the ability to drive and hang at the rim, drawing contact and and-ones. I'll get a more comprehensive look at him on Saturday.
Aric Holman, C/PF, Louisville Magic — This skinny, long-armed big man is something of a project, but he boasts solid mid-major potential. At 6-9, he obviously boasts excellent size for the college post and can play center without an issue, should he not develop into a power forward the way he'd like. He's a slightly above-average athlete and uses his length to block some shots. He also surprised me with one post move that included a drop step and lefty hook off the glass. He missed it, but the attempt was promising.
Jeremiah Bell, PG/SG, Louisville Magic — A strong guard who can defend either backcourt position, Bell boasts outstanding speed in the open floor. He puts his head down and isn't a natural floor general, but he handles and passes okay for the point. He doesn't boast a pure jump shot due to a hitch but knocks down some long attempts thanks to nice elevation and good touch. He's one to watch for mids in a class that's starting at point guard.
Landry Shamet, SG, 2015 Pumas — I need to watch another game because, frankly, he didn't play terribly well, but Shamet boasts high mid and perhaps lower high-major ability. He's a good shooter and outstanding passer with adequate quickness as well. The question is whether he'll be able to get his shot against top athletes.
Makol Mawien, PF, Utah Prospects — He wasn't overly productive during my time on his court, but I still came away thinking that higher, regional mid-majors should create a dot for Mawien on their radars. His reflexes may be lacking from a high-major perspective, but he made a couple of difficult catches, plucked a few rebounds and ran the floor. This is the kind of player who genuinely benefits from a travel team event of this caliber. He now exists on the Scout radar, too.
Jimmy Whitt, SG, KC Run GMC — As with Newman, Whitt's night became a casualty of the running clock. But he proved head to head against Newman and just generally that he's a high-major guard with an excellent skill level and intelligent. Whitt possesses a command of the action, buries mid-range jumper after mid-range jumper, and is a fine handler for shooting guard while also being a fairly quick athlete. He generated a great deal of enthusiasm from the coaches in attendance.
Josh Jackson, WF, 1 Nation — He can play better than he did tonight, and we've certainly witnessed him do it. Jackson wasn't bad, mind you, just not a showstopper as he has been at times in the past. But he has grown to a legitimate 6-6 and remains a ferocious athlete with elite speed, handling and body control in the open floor. There may not be a player in the country who can defend him in transition. His issue tonight was his halfcourt game, which was lackluster due to his errant jump shot and general lack of identity in that context. To become a complete player, he must add that dimension to his game. That said, he already stars on defense, bursting through passing lanes to create one-man breaks and elevating for blocks from all angles. He stuffed one Diamond Stone shot attempt from a straight-up position that drew an audible reaction from the coaches sitting courtside.
Barret Benson, C, Illinois Wolves — During the brief portion of their game that I saw, Benson stood out as a potentially consistent low post scorer. He needs to improve his mobility and lateral quickness as much as he can, but he's a sturdy insider who turns aggressively over either shoulder with his back to the basket and has the skill and instinct to get a shot onto the rim. At this early stage, that's highly noteworthy.
With so many events for coaches to consider this weekend, the Jayhawk drew a terrific accumulation on day one. Many of those likely will ship out for the West Coast on Saturday to observe the EYBL action in Sacramento, but their presence was felt here and Under Armour has served notice that its attention have captured the attention of some very important people.
By no means is this list intended to be inclusive, but here are some of the head coaches I spotted: Bill Self, Kevin Ollie, Larry Brown, Mark Gottfried, Scott Drew, John Thompson III, Rick Ray, Gregg Marshall. Additionally, bluebloods such as Kentucky, Duke, Indiana and UCLA also sent representatives to observe the proceedings.