PITTSBURGH -- The opening night of the Hoop Group Pitt Jamfest was jam-packed with college coaches taking in games from the Under Armour Association Challenge. In showcase format games, Under Armour-sponsored teams competed against each other, resulting in the majority of the top prospects in the event being under the same roof. Coaches from Kansas, Miami, Cincinnati, Ole Miss, Florida State, Florida, DePaul, Clemson, Pittsburgh and others were courtside as these players, among others, stood out in games that Rivals.com was on hand to see at North Hills High School.
Guess who's back
Last AAU season, the talk of the circuit was the junior-to-be team out of Memphis, Tenn. Team Thad took the scene by storm with its combination of talent and extreme tempo. A year later, and now in the oldest age group, 17-and-under, the newly Under Armour-sponsored group was back to its old tricks in a Friday night matchup with Atlanta Xpress.
While Team Thad was missing its top prospect in five-star forward LeRon Black, who was out with an ankle injury, the Memphis squad got stellar performances from two returnees in Rivals150 members Chris Chiozza and Marcanvis Hymon.
A speedy but undersized point guard, Chiozza pushed the tempo the way he usually does for Team Thad, resulting in a solid stat line of points, assists and steals. Chiozza is one of the more mature point guards in his class, and he understands that great passers advance the ball up the court through the air instead of off the dribble. Also with the ability to shoot the ball from deep, and even more efficiently in the dribble pull-up game from midrange, Chiozza used his skill and quickness to give Atlanta Xpress defenders fits. He is a high-level competitor, and his ability to lock up ball handlers in open space with that speed is what has college coaches the most excited about him as a prospect.
Team Thad head coach Norton Hurd told Rivals.com that Chiozza is hearing the most from USC, Baylor, Florida, Missouri and Miami. The Trojans are the latest to get involved under their new staff.
Hymon is one of the more versatile face-up power forwards in his class, and he has a nice combination of shooting ability and interior strength at 6-foot-7. Playing against much taller opponents, Hymon did a nice job of floating around the perimeter and knocking down jumpers while his matchup did his best to avoid leaving the paint. Hymon is not afraid to do the dirty work, either. The Rivals150 forward banged inside relentlessly, attacking rebounds with a high motor and showcasing his well-above-average athleticism.
According to Hurd, Cincinnati, Memphis and Arkansas have been recruiting Hymon the most of late.
It is getting harder and harder to find true centers. With Atlanta Xpress four-star big man Trayvon Reed, that won't be a problem. A massive prospect at a legit 7-foot-1, with a wingspan of more than 7-1/2 feet, Reed is one of the top shot-blocking prospects in the junior class. In the year since the last AAU season, he has made strong improvements to his game, including bulking up his frame to allow him to battle with thicker big men in the post.
Reed is starting to play with a higher motor, resulting in more offensive rebounds and putback dunks. He needs to improve some of his skills, but with his abilities as a shot blocker and his exceptional size, Reed should be a coveted prospect as the evaluation period unfolds.
Coaches from Georgia Tech, Kansas, USF, Miami and Florida State were among those checking out Reed on Friday night.
Another top performer for Atlanta Xpress was unsigned senior small forward Michael Tucker. A newly reclassified prospect to the 2014 class, Tucker was a Bradley commitment but has reopened his recruitment. He will attend Mount Zion Prep in North Carolina as a postgrad student. Tucker is a super-athletic wing with college strength and the ability to get to the basket off of the dribble. Now that he's a 2014 prospect, look for him to get even bigger scholarship offers based on his physical tools and his aggressiveness as a scorer.
Believing in Magic
The Louisville Cardinals captured a national championship in part because of the play of senior point guard Peyton Siva. On Friday in Pittsburgh, future Cardinal (and four-star 2014 point guard) Quentin Snider did his best Siva impression, leading his Louisville Magic squad to a win over perennial powerhouse DC Assault with a solid all-around performance.
Snider was excellent on defensive, getting deflections all over the court and creating steals to lead to easy buckets for his teammates. Because of some roster changes on his team, Snider is taking an increased scoring role this season. Through one game, that has been a huge success as the 6-foot floor general knocked down long jumper after long jumper while finishing through contact around the rim.
A confident leader who plays under control, Snider should fit perfectly into coach Rick Pitino's system at Louisville once he gets there in the fall of 2014.
Assaulting the competition
As good as Snider was on Friday night, he had his hands more than full with his matchup, four-star 2014 point guard Romelo Trimble. A strong guard with the ability to play either backcourt spot, Trimble has a mature floor game and is a vocal leader, traits that will come in handy during his transition to college.
Against a smaller but quicker guard in Snider, Trimble was forced to use his strength and length to try to keep Snider out of the lane, leading to mixed results. On offense, Trimble was much more efficient, knocking down long shots from behind the arc and making smart decisions with the ball to set up teammates for open shots. He's not the quickest player, but as a lead guard who rarely turns the ball over, Trimble is every bit a four-star guard who should be ready to play early in his college career.
Maryland has received an early commitment from Trimble, and staff members from the Terrapins were in the gym Friday night to monitor his progress.
We were impressed
The most impressive prospect on Friday night would have to be 2015 forward Derrick Jones. A Philadelphia sophomore from Archbishop John Carroll High School and the We-R-1 traveling squad, Jones emphatically proved that he is deserving of his No. 37 ranking in the 2015 Rivals150 by dominating the game with his length and athleticism.
At 6-foot-7, Jones is an explosive leaper who plays with a high motor and finds ways to influence plays on both ends with his athletic abilities. Quick off his feet and a vertical threat, Jones forced turnovers on defense, rebounded efficiently and scored around 20 points at the rim by outjumping his opponents.
As he develops more of a skill set and becomes more of a pure small forward, Jones could become a prospect who has as much upside as anyone in 2015. Coaches from Cincinnati, Xavier, Rutgers and Saint Joseph's checked in on Jones on Friday night.