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Best of the Best Part 1 | Hardwood Hoops Central, LLC

Best of the Best Part 1

Best of the Best Part 1

This weekend the Lake Brantley Field House was the venue for the Best of the Best Showcase. Saturday saw juniors and seniors from all over the state compete. Below are the players that stood out to us.

2018 Point Guard Elijah Weaver (Oldsmar Christian)– Weaver has been a hot commodity as of late with many colleges coming by to see him in action. Today he showed flashes of the upside many college coaches are buzzing about. For us, his day was slow to start but by mid day he seemed to catch his stride. Weaver already has good positional size at 6’4″. He has good passing instincts and sees the floor well. We liked his ability to attack the paint and either find a teammate close to the rim or slashing to it from the perimeter or baseline. He plays with good poise and control and is pass first. Offensively, he still needs to improve his jumper from mid and long range. From what we saw today, he has a tendency to use stepbacks as his go-to shot. He also needs to improve his play off the ball, but on it, he has playmaking ability. Elijah seemed a bit mechanical at times with his dribble, but he he can use his size well enough to get to the rim. With Eric Hester on his way out, Weaver looks to be a fitting replacement for Oldsmar.

2017 Wing Michael Akuchie (St. Thomas Aquinas)– Akuchie looked great in the early morning drills making shots from mid and long range. When his shot is falling he’s an intriguing prospect. He has positional size, but lacks some of the quickness and athleticism to play on the perimeter. As games commenced, his shot and offensive output slowed down, which was disappointing, seeing as how he’d had a great start to the day and was a standout from the early morning session. To Akuchie’s credit, he does rebound fairly well at his position. Hopefully as Akuchie gets more reps he can develop in to a consistent scoring threat who can produce at the next level.

2017 Forward Ibrahim Doumbia (Miami Country Day)– Doumbia was the most consistent, athletic player of the day. He played with a high motor on both ends. He blocked shots when defending on the ball, chased down players from behind to get another block, and provided solid rim protection throughout the day. Doumbia did a good job of being active in and out of area rebounding the basketball. He handles the ball pretty well, although he’s primarily a straight line dribbler at this point. He showed flashes of being a jump shooter, but that part of his game still needs to catch up with the rest of his physical skills. His explosion was impressive all day and he was nearly impossible to keep from scoring in transition. When Doumbia can put together a complete offensive game, he has the potential to be an exciting wing who can also provide help protecting the rim and rebounding the basketball.

2016 Combo Guard Tyson Ward (Tampa Prep)– Ward looked to make plays all day and was one of the more exciting players to keep an eye on. He pushed the ball fast and kept a high pace for his team. Ward has long arms and is a pretty good athlete who can attack the rim in the half court or in the open floor. He did have some trouble finishing at times. Additionally, there were times where we would have liked to see him play under more control and make the simple play instead of going for the flashy play. When he did settle down, he showed he could see the floor well and become a capable playmaker who can score or find open teammates. Ward will want to continue to improve his shooting ability for when he is asked to play off the ball.

2017 Small Forward D.J. Russell (Potters House)– Russell played with a high motor consistently throughout the day. Russell is an interesting prospect because he has a typical power forward’s range (12-15 feet comfortably) but he has small forward size. He moves well and runs the floor, but isn’t an explosive player. However, he can finish strong above the rim when given the opportunity. D.J. has a rather wide frame that can prove tough to keep out of the lane at this level, but with his ball handling needing improvement he isn’t a consistent slashing threat. He shows some good touch and has flashes of back to the basket ability highlighted by a fadeaway jumper that he uses as a go-to down on the block. Defensively, he’ll want to improve his foot speed. At times today it didn’t look too bad. It’ll be interesting to see just how much of his game can translate to the next level. Unquestionably, his motor will be welcomed.

2017 Wing David Nickleberry (Windermere)– Nickleberry showcased exactly what you’ve come to expect of him. A point-forward type who does a good job creating for teammates. He handles well and has a smooth game. His shot continues to improve as he made some tough threes going two dribbles to his right and shooting back towards his left while being contested. He’s a solid rebounder and can start the break. His instincts as a passer make him a guy you feel comfortable starting the break because the first thing he does is look up the floor. However, there were times when he made some errant passes and that is something he’ll have to clean up. While his game is often described as smooth, his explosion and burst are areas that you hope will improve so his ability to slash will, in part, take his game up a notch. On defense, he has long arms and looks capable of being able to defend multiple positions at this leevl, but for us, there are concerns of foot speed when he faces bigger, quicker wings at the college level.

2017 Shooting Guard Cory Kaplan (Holy Trinity)– Kaplan was a new name for us at this event and you can add to that a pleasant surprise. He has solid positional size at 6’5″ and plays within himself. Cory showed good instincts as a playmaker creating off the dribble either getting to the rim or being patient and using his dribble to find open teammates. He looked to attack consistently and was pretty efficient for his team. His ball handling will have to improve and so will the consistency on his jumper, especially to play as an off guard. However, he has some deceptive quickness evident when he would catch and look to attack the paint off the dribble. One positive is that what he lacks in athleticism he seemed to make up for with some skill. We look forward to getting a second look at Kaplan down the road.

2016 F/C Rokas Milasius (First Baptist)– One of Kaplan’s teammates today, 6’10” Milasius was another new face to us. Rokas is still a pretty raw big, but there is a solid foundation to build on. He lacks explosion going up which limits his ability to finish above the rim. He’s also thin-framed which added to his limited leaping ability make it hard for him to be a consistent scorer in the paint. However, he did show some flashes of a decent touch around the rim and a guy who was willing to post up, call for the ball, and try and make a move to the rim. His back to the basket ability is still very raw and he must learn to hold his position in the post and seal off his man better. He did show that he could be developed overtime in to a guy who may be able to play some pick and pop. His ability to play in the pick and roll looks limited right now, however, he moves well enough that maybe that aspect could be developed down the line. Overall, Rokas is a project but worth taking a look at.

2016 F/C James Love (American Heritage)– Love was another 6’10” big who is still very raw. The upside for Love is as a rim protector. He blocked multiple shots either defending on the ball or in help situations. He showed a reliable first jump combined with timing. He has a thin frame and wasn’t very aggressive on the glass. Additionally his shooting touch has to improve. His instincts offensively where to flash to the free throw line area and attempt a short jumper, however, that proved to be inconsistent. He will also want to improve his hands as he had some difficulty catching drop passes around the rim, but when he did he showed solid explosion and finished above the rim. Overall, Love still seems to be in the stage of his game where he looks unsure, but there are some things to like that make him intriguing.

2016 Shooting Guard Travis Bianco (St. Pete)– Bianco has been an interesting prospect to us for a while now. At 6’5″ he has solid positional size and he has deceptive athleticism that you hope he will use more often in his game. Unfortunately his ball handling does limit him and he tends to want to shoot the three– which isn’t always consistent. He has potential to be a consistent threat on the break, filling to the lane, and finishing strong above the rim. His aggression comes and goes and we hope that becomes a consistent part of his game as he matures. Travis looks to help on the boards and today he looked to push the pace when he could. Defensively we’re not sure how successful he will be in guarding quicker, more athletic guards but hopefully he can be coached to be a reliable team defender.

2017 Point Guard Zack Dawson (South Miami)– Dawson used his athleticism well to constantly make plays in transition. He also found open teammates and was active, making plays throughout the day. He played a fast pace and put pressure on the transition defense. He must bring his shot release up and get more reps on his shot to develop his offensive game more. On the ball, besides scoring, he also made some nice passes that led to sores for teammates. The next time we’re in South Florida, Dawson will be a prospect we look to see again to get a more in-depth feel for his game to round out our evaluation of  his game.

2017 Combo Guard Marcus Cohen (Sickles)– Cohen seems to thrive in these events, at least recently, as this was the second time in three weeks we’ve seen him live. He likes to score in transition and had a very good stretch today where he did just that. While he can push the ball, he can slow it down and initiate the offense when he’s on the ball as the lead guard. He has solid handle and makes the simple play more often than not. His first step is solid, but he doesn’t quite have a lot of explosion and burst off the dribble. Additionally he’ll have to get more reps on his jump shot. Overall, we like what we have seen from Cohen. He has some nice instincts on the ball and comes off as a reliable guard at this level.

Here are some more players who college coaches should take a look at:

2017 PG K.J. Fitzgerald (Cardinal Newman)
2016 PG David Jones (Leto)
2016 G D-Juan Taylor-Hodge (Leesburg)
2017 Wing Tevin Florent (Osceola)
2016 PG Brandon Bornelus (Zion Lutheran)
2016 Wing Vontravious Richardson (Vero Beach)
2017 F A.J. Ford (St. Pete)
2017 PG Jordan Collins (Evans)
2017 G Jordan White (Strawberry Crest)
2016 F Eli Abaev (Zion Lutheran)
2017 F Derek Webster (Seffner)
2017 G Karim Sulton (Westwood)
2017 SG Jonathan Bryant (Oakleaf)
2016 PG Marcus Dodson (Lake Minneola)
2016 PF Glenn Miller II (St. Pete)
2016 PG Deontae Weaver (Dunnellon)
2017 F Shaquille Carter (Zion Lutheran)
2016 F Neeko Gainey (Gainesville)

Thanks to Marcus Mcgee, Ken Stephens, and staff for having us out!

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