April 27, 2009

String Music Showcase Recap

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The inaugural String Music Showcase was a very successful event, especially considering this is its first year and its competing against more established tournaments. We spoke to several of the tournament officials, and they were extremely pleased with quality of competition. Expect the event to take off next year with games to be held within in a two mile radius, as contests at Lipscomb, Belmont, and Vanderbilt are tentatively scheduled. Having games centrally located is a tremendous asset for teams, spectators and scouts. There is also already talk of expanding the tournament next year onto several area campuses and perhaps even having it televised.

The 17 and Under championship game featured the Memphis Magic (Joe Jackson, Mardracus Wade, Tarik Black, Adonis Thomas, Todd Mayo) against the Illinois Titans (James Siakim). The Titans had just come off of a draining overtime comeback victory against the Nashville Celtics, and it looked like they had used up all the gas in the tank, as Memphis asserted early control and the Titans could never mount much of a rally. The Magic cruised to victory.

The 16 and Under championship game pitted the Nashville Celtics vs. the Derek Smith All-Stars. Due to a couple of injuries and schedule conflicts, the Celtics were short-handed with only seven players. However, the Celtics were undefeated heading into the championship, as were the All-Stars. The All-Stars were very good and deep at almost every position, and they built up an early 20-point lead over Nashville as the Celtics struggled offensively in the first half with fatigue. In the 2nd half, the Celtics scrapped their way back to make things interesting, cutting it to four points on a couple of occasions before finally succumbing to the All-Stars by six.

Here is a recap of some of the players we got to see, highlighting some Vandy targets or potential prospects first:

Casey Prather - Nashvile Celtics 17U team.
Prather was a bit lethargic and uninspiring in the morning game on Sunday, scoring 10 points and not finishing shots he normally makes in an easy victory. In the semifinals, it was a different story, as Prather came out focused and intense, and impacted the game all over the court--knocking down 3's, pull up jumpers, free throws and was his typical self on cleaning the glass. He finished with 26 points in this game, and asserted himself when his team needed it, but the Celtics blew a double digit lead late to lose to the Illinois Titans. Any fan of the game will love how Casey plays. He gets after it on both ends of the court, doesn't give up on rebounds, harasses defensively, and does it all with a cool, calm demeanor. Prather is a very unselfish, team player who could probably take a lot more shots than he does.

Mardracus Wade-Memphis Magic, 17u team. Wade is one of those players that grows on you the more you watch him. Overshadowed by elite PG prospect Joe Jackson and big-bodied Tarik Black inside, Wade sometimes can get lost or overlooked, but he makes key plays for his teams and is a good "steadying presence". He had really good handles, a good outside shot, and penetrates well. He plays good on the ball defense and is very poised and in control. He doesn't do anything that "wows" you, but is a solid players that comes up with timely plays for his team when needed.
Bamba "James" Siakim-Illinois Titans, 17u team. I am trying to confirm, but I believe Siakim has reclassified to the 2011 class. Siakim is an intriguing prospect-high motor, raw, very athletic, but plays like an undersized power forward. He had several jaw-dropping dunks and caught a couple of rebounds and went back up and dunked flat-footed on several occasions. Siakim seemed fairly comfortable shooting mid-range shots out to about 15 feet. He'll have to develop some additional perimeter skills to succeed on the next level. He was listed at 6'7" but most of the people I spoke with agreed he is more like 6'5", which means he will need to play a wing position on the next level.

Other High Major Players:
Joe Jackson, PG, Memphis Magic-it's easy to see why he's the #15th ranked player nationally for 2010. When you first see him, you're scratching your head wondering if he is D-1 material due to his stature. That thought usually goes away about 30 seconds after tip-off. Jackson was probably the most "fun" player to watch over the weekend. He is listed at 5'11", but that is being very generous. Jackson does whatever he wants with the ball, whenever he wants to do it. He has tremendous vision creativity, and patience.. He will get in the lane and finish or dish off to an open teammate with great ease. Shot it well from outside, defended well, and he will rise up and dunk on anyone with reckless abandon. He is uber-talented, and whoever is fortunate to land him is getting a real gem. The only flaw I saw in his game is that he really struggled from the free throw line.

Tarik Black, PF, Memphis Magic-ranked #61 in the country, Black has a power inside game. He tries to dunk everything that is inside the paint, and is a big, strong body. Reminds me somewhat of an Elton Brand-type. He didn't show a ton of ball skills outside, but he showed enough inside to prove that he is a high-major prospect.

Austin Hollins, Nashville Celtics-Austin is the son of the Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins. A virtual unknown just a couple of months ago, Hollins is now becoming a hot commodity as he established a name for himself at the Real Deal and continued his good play this weekend in Nashvile. A long, slender athlete, his length creates problems for the opposition when he's on defense, and he is a smooth operator on the offensive end, showing a good outside shot as well as a solid dribble-drive game. They only thing holding him back right now is his slight frame. As one AAU coach told me, "He has high-major skills and a mid-major body."
Todd Mayo & Adonis Thomas, Memphis Magic-Todd is the younger brother of OJ Mayo, and is a different type of player, but still very skilled. Thomas is a big-bodied 2011 recruit that played with the 17s, and should be a big time player if he keeps developing. He already has a good frame and footwork. When you bring Mayo and Thomas off the bench, you know you have a pretty good AAU team.

Also in attendance were Jarrel Eddie sp? (Va Tech commit) and Ian Miller (FSU commit) who ran with Team United.

Future Names to Keep an Eye On:

Alex Poythress, Nashville Celtics-only a freshman (class of 2012) and still very inexperienced, it's still easy to see that this kid has a lot of untapped potential . Standing at 6'6" or 6'7" with long arms and big hands, it's evident that Poythress is still thinking his way through what he's supposed to do, but has good natural instincts most don't have …he made a couple of plays that made you really take notice. At times, the Celtics used Poythress to guard the oppositions PG at the top of the key, and he picked the pockets of a couple of point guards and went coast to coast for a dunk, proving he was versatile enough to guard smaller players. Poythress also had a pretty good stroke from outside, attacks the ball on defense, and is definitely one to keep an eye on. He plays for Clarksville Northeast.

Levi Randolph, Nashville Celtics-(class of 2011) Currently receiving HM interest from the SEC and Big 12, Randolph played primarily the off-guard but also ran some point guard as he does in high school. Randolph displayed a wide array of skills handling the ball, shooting mid-range pull-ups, and knocking down several 3's. Likely a sg in college, as he may not be quick enough to play pg at that level. Randolph plays for Bob Jones High School in Alabama.

Grant Lang, All-Iowa-(class of 2011)-this left-handed marksman had good size (approximately 6'3" -6'4" and was fearless from behind the arc. I witnessed a couple of games where he single-handedly shot his team back in it. He also showed a good array of head fakes to get separation or drive for a medium range pullup. Looked like a high-major kid to me all the way if he continues to work on the other facets of his game. Lang played for both the 16s and 17s at times due to the absence of Harrison Barnes and others, and competed well in both divisions.

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