Eight players currently ranked in the Rivals150 were in action Friday and Saturday night at the Marshall County (Ky.) Hoopfest. Rivals.com was in the front row scouting these eight players, and in this edition of On the Bounce with Coach Meyer, Rivals.com National Scout Jerry Meyer provides a breakdown of their game, beginning with Julian Wright, who led his team to an upset win over Oak Hill Academy.
Julian Wright (6-foot-8, 214-pound small forward from Flossmoor High School in Homewood, Ill., No. 10 in the Rivals150)
Wright did what he does best in Flossmoor's contest versus Oak Hill, he willed his team to a victory. Not only is Wright a consummate competitor and leader, the point forward displayed the potential to be a Magic Johnson type player with his ability to handle the ball and find open teammates. Wright has the amazing ability to convert his penetrating dribble into a pass in the blink of an eye. Far from a pure shooter, Wright did make some nice midrange pull-up jumpers going left and made one three-pointer on the night to go along with his ability to get to the rim with either hand and finish with either hand. Beyond his tremendous leadership, Wright finished the night with 19 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. His last two points were the game winning free throws with 7 seconds on the clock.
Assuming Wright takes his determined game to Kansas next season and not the NBA, his versatility on both ends of the court will make him an invaluable player for the Jayhawks. He is capable of playing anywhere on the offensive end and guarding most any point guard up to most any power forward. Right now, the only thing keeping Wright from being the consummate complete player is a consistent outside jumper, and based on Wright's athleticism and desire, that jumper will more than likely come around.
Monta Ellis (6-foot-2, 160-pound combo guard from Lanier High School in Jackson, Miss., No. 9 in the Rivals150)
Like Wright, Ellis is an aggressive competitor with tremendous ability. Always known for his ability to attack off the dribble with his right hand in the open court, Ellis displayed a maturing game against Oak Hill on Friday night. With an improved ability to go left, Ellis got into the lane literally whenever he wanted. Once in the lane, he scored at will on both on balanced pull-up jumpers and with his trademark floaters and runners. When he did miss, the athletic jumping jack typically put back his miss. The official scorer had Ellis going 15 of 25 from inside the arc and grabbing 11 rebounds. Ellis also passed the ball very well coming off the high ball screen, often going to his left. He finished with a team high 6 assists. The one area where Ellis struggled was from behind the arc. Oak Hill was focused on contesting his pull-up three pointers and held him to 3 of 13 shooting from behind the arc.
Always amazingly fast with the ball in his right hand, Ellis is on his way to becoming a point guard and more than just a scorer, which makes him a more valuable NBA prospect. The consistency of his long range shot will improve when he eliminates forced shots and gets more arc on his trajectory. Look for Ellis to be a do everything guard at Mississippi State, or maybe more realistically, look for him to be in the 2005 NBA Draft with fellow southern guard Louis Williams.
Eric Devendorf (6-foot-3, 180-pound shooting guard from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., No. 16 in the Rivals150)
Marked with a scorer's mentality for both better and worse, Devendorf took the ball hard to the basket, most often with a crossover from right to left. He also picked up buckets by getting out in transition where he excels at making tough shots around the basket. With less than a pure stroke, Devendorf can also get very hot from outside. In his two games at Marshall County, it was very evident that Devendorf is a long way from being a point guard, however. In Oak Hill's loss on Saturday night, he had 8 turnovers against Flossmoor's pressure. In one critical stretch of the game, he turned the ball over 3 consecutive times before Coach Steve Smith could get him out of the game. On Friday night, Devendorf had a much better performance with 21 points on both 3 of 5 shooting inside and outside the arc. He also recorded 6 assists.
Devendorf will score points in bunches for Syracuse, but he will need to improve his decision making abilities with the ball to be the guard that the Orangemen envision as the next Gerry McNamara. The zone defense of Syracuse will also benefit Devendorf, who is working hard to become a better man-to-man defender under Coach Smith at Oak Hill.
Jamont Gordon (6-foot-3, 225-pound shooting guard from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., No. 15 in the Rivals150)
Gordon had a very solid first game 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting from the field and 3 of 5 shooting from the line. He also had a team high 7 assists and 6 rebounds. He struggle mightily to keep Monta Ellis in front of him on defense, but he is Oak Hill's number one defender as he guarded both Ellis and Julian Wright. In his second game against Flossmoor, Gordon had a very good first half, guarding Wright well, rebounding and scoring from both behind and inside the arc. However, in the second half, Gordon's game fell apart after Wright took him baseline and elevated to the other side of the rim for a vicious spinning dunk. After that point, Gordon struggled to guard Wright and made poor decisions, culminating in his foul of Wright 30 feet from the basket with 7 seconds on the clock and Oak Hill with a one point lead.
Gordon is a do everything wing player, who can rebound with the best but must improve his catch and shoot from behind the three-point line. Blessed with an NBA body and NBA athleticism, Gordon, like his teammate Devendorf must improve his decision making on the court. Although he has a long way to go in that area, Gordon has made significant strides under the tutelage of Coach Smith. Still not academically qualified, look for a number of schools to get involved with Gordon if he does qualify.
Tyler Hansbrough (6-foot-8, 224-pound power forward from Poplar Bluff (Mo.) High School, No. 8 in the Rivals150)
The high energy post man was nearly unstoppable around the basket. Against Arlington Country Day and their 7-foot-1, 240-pound center Jason Bennett and rugged forward Sammy Hernandez, Hansbrough scored 34 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Hansbrough was also 10 of 11 from the free throw line although he only made one face-up jumper out of his five face-up attempts. Scoring the rest of his field goals on put-backs and post moves, Hansbrough effectively used a right handed jump hook down low to score over Bennet, and he also made a couple turn- around jumper spinning to his right shoulder.
Hansbrough will thrive on running the court in North Carolina's up-tempo attack next season. He will also be able to step in immediately and score in the interior. While at North Carolina, Hansbrough will need to improve his face-up game to prepare for the NBA.
David Huertas (6-foot-4, 178-pound shooting guard from Arlington Country Day High School in Jacksonville, Fla., No. 104 in the Rivals150)
Huertas did a good job of attacking the rim while going for 17 points in Arlington Country Day's win over Poplar Bluff. Always known for his ability to shoot from long range, Huertas is expanding his scoring capabilities. In one play in particular, instead of heading for the three-point line off a screen, Huetas curled into the lane, shot faked after the catch and took the ball to the basket with his left hand and then finishing with his left in traffic. While not scoring, Huertas was solid with the ball, but he needs to continue to improve at handling the ball against pressure. Although a step slow on the defensive end, Huertas worked hard defensively.
Offensively, Huertas will thrive next year in Florida's transition game where he should get plenty of opportunities to operate on the wing in open spaces. His playing time most likely will hinge on his ability to defend and rebound in the athletic SEC.
J.P. Prince (6-foot-5, 183-pound point guard from White Station High School in Memphis, Tenn., No. 23 in the Rivals150)
Prince recorded a double-double in White Station's overtime loss to Carbondale with 18 points and 10 rebounds. The consummate assist man, Prince, like Julian Wright, continuously finds the open man both because of his unselfishness and his shaky outside shot. Whereas Wright specializes in the quick delivery pass, Prince specializes in getting into the lane, covering ground with his long strides and passing off one foot to perimeter shooters in a very European fashion. Although not much of an outside shooter, Prince did look good at the free throw line, going 4 of 5. Late in the game, Prince took and missed a couple guarded three-pointers with his team down three. It appeared as if Prince took the shots partly to prove that he can shoot from outside. Again, like Julian Wright, Prince does so many things well on the court that he can control a game without ever shooting from outside. Unlike Wright, Prince does have room to become a more hard nosed competitor.
Prince has a game perfectly suited for the wide open style at Arizona. With shooters and athletes around him, Prince will get them the ball where they can do damage. He also will guard multiple positions and ignite fastbreaks with his defensive rebounding abilities. As he gets stronger and improves his shot (needs more arc) at Arizona, his NBA stock will rise.
Jimmie Sutton (6-foot-10, 245-pound power forward from North Broward Prep in Boca Raton, Fla., No. 140 in the Rivals150)
One of the larger players in the class of 2005, Sutton can be a factor with his size alone. Although outplayed by Jeremy Barr in North Broward Prep's 7 point loss to Westbury Christian, Sutton did score 12 points on 3 of 3 shooting from the field and 6 of 8 shooting from the line. He also grabbed 6 rebounds. Not a great athlete and with a limited offensive arsenal, Sutton is a blue collar player who can defend and rebound.
Sutton will definitely give Florida a much needed physical presence. His offensive game should improve under Coach Donovan's staff, but he will have to work hard to keep up with the fast paced attack of the Gators.
*In the following editions of On the Bounce with Coach Meyer, the games of the top 2005 prospects not in the Rivals150 and the top underclassmen at the Marshall County Hoopfest will be evaluated.*