Sunday was the second and final day of the 2015 Best of the Best event. On this day, we saw some of the top freshman and sophomores in the state of Florida showcase their talent. Here is who stood out.
2018 Forward Darius Days (The Rock)– Days was arguably the best player of the day. He produced at several aspects of the game including: scoring, rebounding, blocking an occasional shot, playing with good energy consistently, and showing a ton of athleticism. From the opening warm-up session, Days set the tone that he would be a force all day and he was. He has some intriguing defensive versatility because of his wide frame, solid foot speed, and his overall aggression. His motor is his key. When he felt challenged by an opposing player, he responded well. There where times, however, that he seemed to play down to his competition, and we’re assuming, because he wasn’t being challenged like he was during one of the afternoon sessions going back-and-forth with Oakleaf’s Nassir Little. Days is a capable slasher, but would be well served to improve his handle and his ability to get in and out of his dribble quicker. Additionally he’ll have to improve his jump shot and expand his range– especially if he wants to play as a combo forward who can stretch the floor. He took a couple of three pointers, so we’re assuming he’s trying to develop that area of his game. Overall, Days’ athleticism, motor, and versatility make him a player to watch in Florida’s 2018 class.
2018 Point Guard Elijah Weaver (Oldsmar Christian)– This was the second day in a row for Weaver, who played up yesterday against the juniors and seniors. To be honest, we liked the action we saw from Weaver yesterday compared to today. Today his playmaking was up and down. He still showed the composure, the skilled passing and floor vision, but his ball handling was an area that showed to be even more of a red flag than we’d seen on Saturday. We mentioned in yesterday’s write up that he looked mechanical. Today, he did as well. To clarify, when he handles the ball he tends to stay straight up and he struggles at time to get in and out of his dribble. Additionally, he has a tough time getting low when he’s handling the ball. Both days we liked that he looked to push the pace when the floor was open and Weaver attacked when he saw that the lane was open to him. Court awareness is an area that he definitely excels in.
2018 Shooting Guard Jeremiah Saunders (Sagemont)– Saunders is a player that, for us, caught our eye in the mid day game sessions. He showed some good bounce and willingness to attack off the dribble and finish strong above the rim. He showed flashes of a perimeter jumper that will need to get more consistent to play off the ball. Additionally his ball handling will need to get tighter. Standing 6-foot-3-inches, you hope that he will grow another inch or two so he has the preferred positional height for the next level. However, if he can round out his overall game and add strength, Saunders has a chance to compete at the next level.
2018 Point Guard Rondo Segu (Olympia)– This is a second weekend in a row viewing Segu. As you may recall from last week’s Each 1 Teach 1 Nike Exposure event write up, Segu is an impressive ball handler and playmaker. However, this week we focused on his defense and liked what we saw. Rondo has the ability to speed opposing players up and use his quick hands and feet to create a turnover. Once he gets his hands on the ball, he’s a blue in the open floor. He’s got a good balance of score and pass and proves to be an unselfish open floor point guard. He keeps his head up and usually finds the right teammate. He played under control this weekend, which was good to see, as he made the right play more often than not.
2018 Forward Nassir Little (Oakleaf)– Little was another Each 1 Teach 1 attendee last weekend that we looked forward to seeing for a second straight viewing this weekend. Both he and Darius Days had an excellent back-and-forth athletic duel as both finished strong above the rim against each other soliciting plenty of cheers from the surrounding players and coaches. It was easily the best one-on-one match up of the day. Nassir consistently demonstrated his physical skills getting to the rim against any opposing player put in front of him. He had times where he struggled to finish, but there’s no question that when he’s determined to get to the rim he does just that at this level. The morning session saw players go through two-on-one drills where you would have two offensively players start a fast break while they faced a back-peddling individual defender trying to keep them from scoring. Little proved to be the best defender in this drill making it very difficult for the offensive players to convert.
2018 Point Guard Damon Harge Jr. (Orlando Christian Prep)– Harge has made a name for himself as a quick ball handler and a player who is tough to stay in front of for opposing players. In our viewing today, nothing in that regard changed as he put a few players on skates with his handle. On the plus side, Harge is filling out his body more. He is a slasher when he looks to score, but from what we’ve seen, it feels more and more like his ability to get to the rim has become too much of a go-to. His jump shot is still an area of concern and it lacks the consistency needed to be a threat in his game. Harge continues to be a pass-first point who keeps his head up and advances the basketball. With the positives that can be said about Harge, you hope that he can continue to expand his game.
2018 Power Forward Jaxson Strates (Lake Highland)– Strates was arguably the most productive big today. Strates played with energy and effort at both ends making plays, blocking some shots, and running the floor. Jaxson filled the lanes well and showed he can be a solid trailing big that can finish a play on the break. Strates does lack athleticism and explosion to be an above rim finisher, but he took contact well and converted more often than not. If he adds strength and continues to fill out his body, that part of his game should improve over time. Strates’ offensive game will have to develop as a whole, from adding go-to moves as a post player to developing his jump shot. He did show some nice touch at times. Overall, there is enough to like about Jaxson and he’ll be one to keep an eye on.
2018 Power Forward Duncan DeMuth (Seminole)– Demuth and Strates proved to be another enjoyable match up. Both guys have a similar skill set, however, DeMuth appears to have better shooting ability at this stage, as he can face up and shoot it out the 12 feet comfortably. DeMuth looked to use picks and showed he could be developed to play in pick and roll or pick and pop situations. He showed he could catch and drive from the perimeter and finish at the rim with either hand with a soft touch. It’s evident that he has some deceptive athleticism. The 6’7″ big possesses a long and lanky frame that will need to fill out to help him be a better finisher– especially considering that he plays below the rim. Additionally you’d like to see him be more aggressive in getting after rebounds. We liked that he remained engaged defensively and competed. Overall, Demuth has some nice skills that can be built upon.
2018 Shooting Guard Jai Clark (Apopka)– Clark was a bright spot on his team today showing he can be a reliable go to scorer when called upon. He showed range and an ability to get to the rim. He excelled in transition and competed on both ends. Clark showed he has a sense of “go” and got after it, attacked, and shot it with confidence. As he adds more consistency to his jumper and tightens up his handle, he should develop in to a skilled scorer.
2018 Combo Guard Thierry Moliere (Jesuit)– Moliere was a new face for us and he proved to be a solid looking prospect. Thierry demonstrated his game has a nice balance of score and pass. He initiated the offense, played with good pace and control, and made plays either scoring or passing. He made simple, effective plays for his team. While he did show some solid ball handling, he’ll want to improve on his first step and tighten his handle so he can be more effective with his drives. Additionally, more reps for his jumper will help him expand his range. To his credit, he helped on the boards on both ends and provided a sense of calm for his team. Moliere will be a player we look to see again.
2018 Point Guard Serrell Smith (St. Pete)– Today Smith scored the ball well, made plays in transition and was constantly looking to make a bucket. Right now, Smith is a better slasher than shooter but he gets after it and looked to attack. While he is a capable playmaker and passer, his decision making was questionable at times when he looked to force plays that were not there. However, he has a toughness and confidence about him that is obvious, yet subtle. As he matures as a lead guard Serrell should be a reliable, go-to playmaker for St. Pete this season.
2019 Small Forward Marcus Goolsby (Dunnellon)– Goolsby, while still in the raw stages of his offensive game, was one of the better athletes among the freshman crop at this event. He showed he comes with a solid leaping ability and a willingness to attack and get above the rim in transition. His production was up and down today, but there was enough to make him a standout in his class. He’ll really have to focus on defining his skill set so his athleticism has more of a purpose. He guarded multiple positions, helped on the glass, and blocked some shots. During the early part of the day he competed at a high level and stayed engaged. However as the day wore on his production tailed off. Despite that, we saw enough to convince us that there is versatility to his game that can be developed.
2019 Point Guard Max Demeus (Somerset Canyons)– In the early part of the day, Demeus was a guy we were on the fence about. His shot selection wasn’t very good, his jump shot needs elevation, release point has to come up more, and he has to put some arc in to his shot to be a more successful shooter. For the most part, he missed a good portion of the three pointers that we saw him attempt. To be fair, he did have a stretch in the mid day sessions where he made three three pointers back-to-back. What we did like is that he looked to push the pace, challenged the transition defense and consistently found the cracks and crevices of the defense to get to the rim. He did have issues finishing though. On the defensive end he’ll want to focus on being more engaged and improve his foot speed. Overall, we liked that Demeus looked to make plays and look forward to seeing how he develops as a point guard.
When it came to young, up-and-coming athletes, two guys showed some real ability in that area– 2018 Kevin Simon (Oakridge) and 2020 Dudley Blackwell (Sagemont). Both guys have offensive games that he yet to be defined but their leaping ability is something to see. If these guys can develop their game and define their skills, they should be fun to watch.
Another couple of young guards who will be ones to keep an eye on– 2019 point guard Tre Mann (The Villages) played with poise and made some nice passes and 2019 point guard Isiah Kirby (Sagemont) made some noticeable plays as well. Both of these guys we’ll need to see again to provide more insight on their game.
Finally, there were a couple of shot blockers who were solid on the glass– 2018 forward Dorian James (Winter Haven) and 2019 forward C.J. Walker (Seminole) both made a nice statement for themselves in the paint. They showed some good energy and ran the floor hard. Their activity was certainly noticeable and we’ll keep an eye on how they refine the rest of their game.
Others to keep an eye on:
2018 PG Tyrieke Blakeney (Booker)
2018 PG Samir Stewart (Sagemont)
2019 PF James Pursley (Oldsmar)
2018 SG Ty Hands (Palm Beach Lakes)
2018 PG Jose Placer (Lake Highland)
2019 F Justyn King (Plant City)
2019 F Kaleb Coleman (Oakridge)
2020 F Gervon Dexter (Frostproof)
2018 SG Tino Petrovic (Oldsmar)
2019 PG Jaylen Josephn (Mater Academy)
2018 PG Jordan Goodson (Boone)