On Saturday, the All-Ohio Red 17's age group completed the sweep of AAU Nationals. The program run by Jerry Watson won the 15's, 16's and 17's group and by wide margins. Jared Sullinger, Juwan Staten and Adreian Payne anchor the older group and won nearly every event they participated in this year.
2. There's still a few guys flying below the radar.
In Las Vegas it was Chris Crawford that played his way into a few scholarship offers. In Orlando, it was Charles Hankerson and Michael Bradley that began building their reputations. Crawford, a 6-foot-3 combo guard, hit the game winning jumper to get the Memphis Magic an adidas Super 64 crown. Hankerson already had some looks and solidified his status as a player, while Bradley came out of nowhere and went toe-to-toe with Andre Drummond.
3. Andre Drummond is a serious talent.
Playing up at the AAU National's Drummond announced himself as a big time player, whether he's in the 2011 or 2012 class. The 6-foot-10 big man runs the floor, has soft hands and can already score around the rim. During the second day of AAU Nationals, Drummond put together a special effort and drew comparisons to Amare Stoudemire. His decision to reclassify to 2012 is still up in the air, but technically he's young enough to be in that class anyways.
4. Joe Jackson thrives in high-pressure situations.
It was incredible watching Jackson torture defenders late in games in Las Vegas. In the quarterfinals and semi-finals of the adidas Super 64 he helped force overtime, where the Magic squad would eventually win. His best shot came in the semi's when he drove 3/4 of the court and pulled up for a tying three as the buzzer sounded. For future reference, if you're the opposition get the ball out of his hands down the stretch.
It was clear in Las Vegas that Jones, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound big man, has some serious long-term potential. Playing for a team that virtually refuses to pass the ball to him inside, and Jones still managed to put together a monster effort on the main court against the Arizona Magic. Jones has a number of positive attributes, but it's his athleticism that sets him apart.
6. Marquis Teague may be the best lead guard in 2011.
After the King City Classic many were jumping on the Teague train. Marquis, whose brother is former Wake Forest standout Jeff Teague, is better than his older brother at the same stage in their careers. His speed and athleticism set him apart from his peers, but he's also turned himself into a quality lead guard that rarely makes mistakes with the ball. He dominated one of the summer's biggest events, and made it look easy.
7. Damontre Harris is putting it together.
Over the course of the past year, Harris, a 6-foot-9, 205-pound big man, has made drastic strides in overall game. But in Orlando at the AAU Nationals he may have punched his player's card, as he matched up with a handful of quality big men and more than held his own. Harris has extreme length, blocks shots, can step out and shoot jumpers and is becoming more aggressive on both ends of the floor. His progression has been impressive thus far, but his ceiling is much higher.
8. Terrence Jones is trying to become a McDonald's All-American.
Not many prospects had the July that Jones, a standout at Portland (Ore.) Jefferson, was able to put together. The versatile power forward took on all competition and led his team to the championship at the Center Stage event held on UNLV's campus. At 6-foot-8, possibly 6-foot-9, Jones is intriguing and has a unique game that has caught the eye of elite high major coaches. He's more confident in his game and he's certainly playing like it.
9. College coaches are fully aware of Shabazz Muhammad.
On the first day of the second evaluation period in Las Vegas, we snuck to a gym placed 25 miles or so off the strip. At least we thought we were sneaking away to catch Muhammad and his star-studded underclassmen team. Turns out it was a who's who of college coaches set to watch the talented 2012 prospect. Among the head coaches there were Jeff Capel, Roy Williams, Kevin O'Neill, Bill Self, Rick Barnes, Ben Howland, Norm Roberts and Matt Painter.
During July we laid eyes on both Plumlee and Zeller a number of times, and the two big men have very different games, but very effective in their own right. Plumlee, a brother of Mason and Miles, who are both at Duke, is a legit 6-foot-10, has an improving skill set on the block and is tough and aggressive inside. Zeller, who has a brother at UNC and a brother that played at Notre Dame, is a highly skilled 6-foot-9 power forward that runs the floor, can face up for jumpers and has a great set of hands. Both big men have talented siblings and both will be joining them as high major basketball players in a few years.