July 28, 2008

ASU 2009 Evaluations

Arizona State has two Top-100 commitments in the 2009 class and is looking to take pledges from perhaps two more recruits from the class, with a primary emphasis on frontcourt players, seeing as how its current commits are combo guard Jared Cunningham and wing Trent Lockett.

During the second evaluation period in July, ASUDevils.com has watched most of the prospects seemingly under consideration by the ASU coaching staff. From this spring through the end of July, we've seen each of the following prospects play in no fewer than five games and most in 10-plus games.

Center/Power Forwards (4/5):

Anthony Stover -- A huge upside recruit who blocked more than 10 shots in his first game of the adidas Super 64 event against a team that had no idea what hit them. Stover had about four blocks in the first few minutes before they realized what was going on. Tremendous natural gift on the defensive end for sniffing out shot attempts anywhere around the paint and being ready to lift off the floor. The 6-foot-9.5 Stover (with a 7-foot-5 wingspan) is raw offensively, as has been noted here and elsewhere, but he shows signs of promise. Most significantly, he has good feet and is well coordinated in terms of the mechanics of what he's trying to do with his lower body in the post. He just doesn't have the upper body strength or quite know how to use his shoulders and arms to create space and allow him to complete his moves. He's going to be a major impact defensive performer at the highest level and get you the equivalent of "points" on that end of the floor with his ability to disrupt shot. Offensively, he has a chance to become a player who can be effective in the post, but it's not a foregone conclusion just yet. Still, for what he is sure to provide, there is no doubt he's a top-level Pac-10 player.

Brandon Davies -- A personal favorite of ours since watching him for the first time this spring, Davies played exceedingly well in front of ASU coaches on Tuesday, with 24 points in a big win for his Utah Pump N Run Red squad and he followed that up with 23 points in an effort Wednesday. Davies has been tagged with the "mid-major" level by several prominent west coast scouts but don't believe it; this guy can play in the Pac-10, or a similar conference and be very successful. At about 6-7 or slightly taller, Davies is a tad undersized for a power forward/center, but he has a terrific basketball body, strong with long arms, and he gets off the floor quickly around the basket, with skill and finesse on his post moves, plus he has a mid-range jumper that is pure and even knocked down two 3-pointers on Wednesday. Although we weren't in attendance, evaluators in Los Angeles agreed that he played very well in the opening round of the Best of Summer tournament. We wouldn't be surprised if Davies' recruitment blows up as much or more than another other frontcourt player in the west, because there just aren't many high major power forward/centers to go around -- probably only 4-5.

Sam Dower -- A teammate of Lockett on Net Gain Sports, this 6-foot-9, 220-pounder started off somewhat slow in the adidas Super 64 pool play, but then turned it on in bracket play of the Gold Division, helping his team to a victory with a 24-point performance on Friday afternoon. A southpaw who reminds some of a lesser version of former NBA star Sam Perkins, Dower has some range on his jumper and must be guarded to the 3-point line, though he has an unusual release with a slow get off time. He has the ability to take bigger defenders off the dribble to his strong hand and he can score on the block, but only turning over his right shoulder (baseline on the right block and to the middle of the paint on the left block), but that's rather common for developing post players. Some have questioned his motor and we can see that, but on Sunday at the Desert Duel Memorial event, Net Gain played twice and Dower competed well, chasing down and blocking several shots off the glass in transition and working hard to establish post position. His shot wasn't falling and he had some tough luck in the post after making nice moves. Dower has a lot of room for growth at both ends but he has potential to be above average at both ends at the high major level.

Devonte Elliott -- Playing for I-Can All Stars, Elliott is about 6-foot-9, very long with a good frame to build upon. He'll probably gain 30-40 pounds in the next two years. How good he becomes will depend on his work ethic and desire. Right now he's relatively raw with major upside based on size, athleticism and the fact that he has a decent shot to beyond the 3-point line. He reminds us a bit of former Sun Devil Tommie Smith, but perhaps not quite as bouncy off the floor, though he has a little more range on his jumper at the same stage. Elliott is essentially a face the basket power forward with decent quicks, not much in the way of post moves yet, though he tries to get work done in the paint. He's physically not quite developed enough to finish his moves consistently right now either working in the post or driving to the basket off the dribble and so he gets stripped or loses the ball a lot. Still, occasionally, he'll put the ball on the floor two-three times and dunk on someone's head and you take notice of what he can become. Elliott runs the floor well and shows potential to be disruptive on the defensive end, as well as be a decent rebounder. But he's furthest away right now among the aforementioned players in terms of his ability to make an impact at either end of the floor right away. Elliott probably has the biggest boom/bust potential of the power forward/center prospects we've discussed here. He could become a pro, or turn into an also-ran player at the highest college level.

Small Forward/Power Forward

Tyler Honeycutt -- The best player on the Pump N Run Elite squad, Honeycutt got into foul trouble in his first game on day one and languished on the bench, never really getting into the flow. In the team's second game, he erupted for about 20 points on an array of moves from all points on the floor and three 3-point shots. Defensively, he's one of the top wings we've seen in the class. Honeycutt blocks shots all over the floor, either on the ball coming over on help defense. He's seemingly good for at least one tip-in on the offensive end in every game. He's about as disruptive defensively as you can expect a 6-foot-8 combo forward to be. He's extremely versatile offensively; a great passer; sees the floor extremely well; has a natural understanding of spacing and moves well without the ball; he's a guy you can run plays for in the half-court offense. He's just a terrific, well-rounded prospect who can play multiple positions on the floor and be a standout from day one at the college level.

Keegan Hornbuckle -- A teammate of Stover on Double Pump, Hornbuckle was the talk of the day on Day 1 amongst scouts and coaches at adidas, with 29 points in an incredible showing punctuated by a "I-didn't-know-he-could-do-that" dunk and follow-up scream that had probably a dozen coaches in the gym saying either "Who is that?" or "Why aren't we on him?" or "I want to offer him." On Wednesday, however, Hornbuckle came back down to earth and played like the mid-major plus recruit we've thought him to be when watching him over the last six months. But the bottom line is, he's a versatile and talented combo forward at 6-6 who can shoot it and get a lot done offensively. He has some bounce offensively, moves well off the ball, picks his spots well -- almost too well -- is underestimated as an athlete and good in the team concept. Defensively he might be a liability in a man defense, but in a zone he's probably fine. At the very least, he's in the discussion as a backup option for a program like ASU at the position.

Marcus Ruppel -- Probably the best "under-the-radar" wing forward prospect in Arizona, a lot of mid-major coaches who should have known about him (and indeed, recruiting him) for months, were asking who he was on Sunday at the Desert Duel Memorial Tournament. Ruppel, 6-foot-6, is an above average athlete with bounce of the floor and the ability to shoot the basketball out beyond the 3-point line. He plays heard, wears his emotion on his sleeve -- not always a good thing -- and has good size with a very nice frame. He's at minimum a good mid-major prospect and he's potentially a sneaky "look what we found" high major recruit. The bottom line on Ruppel is whether he can impress coaches off the floor. If he's perceived as emotionally mature enough to play at the high major level, someone will give him a chance to do so, especially because the 2009 class is looking pretty weak and there simply isn't much talent to go around. Ruppel has a chance to be the Arizona sleeper recruit of the class.

Kawhi Leonard --Essentially an undersized power forward with offensive skill, Leonard probably isn't a high major recruit -- at least not unless you run a zone and put a premium on outside shooting ability. For a school like Arizona State, Leonard can fill a role like that and probably be counted on to do a relatively good job. He can knock down the college 3-pointer and get to the basket with some limited success off the dribble but he's not really a wing, at 6-foot-6. He's probably closer to being a taller, slightly more athletic version of Jerren Shipp than anything else. That's a pretty good player in a lot of systems. In a system like that at the mid-major level, college coaches should be jumping all over Leonard, and we suspect he'd be serviceable at the very least in a career in the Pac-10 for a team like ASU with its unique style of play.

Givon Crump --Older than most recruits in the 2009 class by at least a year (and by two years over some), Grump is a prep school prospect ranked in the Rivals150. At 6-foot-6, Crump has a lot of success shooting the ball even though he's not particularly textbook in his mechanics. The question is whether he has enough of a skill set surrounding that ability to shoot the ball to be a high major recruit. Certainly he's at minimum a lower-tier high major guy and he has offers at that level (and beyond) to back it up. But he could be more. We just haven't seen enough in the way of ball skills or more dynamic offensive skills beyond being a shooter to say that he definitely warrants high Pac-10 offers. He's probably more of a shooting power forward than a true small forward at this time.

E.J. Singler -- Sweet-shooting 6-foot-6 forward who isn't a high major athlete but will probably play at that level due to his ability to put the ball in the net from long range and his intelligent approach to the game. Singler is a liability defensively due to a lack of lateral quickness unless he happens to be going up against smallish four-men, or unless he's fortunate enough to playing in a zone, in which case his weaknesses are somewhat mitigated. Singer isn't going to be a guy who is creating offensive for himself or others; he's not a defender or rebounded; he's not a scorer. He's just a pure shooter. Still, he can fill a Rihards Kuksiks role for some team in need of big-time 3-point shooting.

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