Archive for September, 2012

Standing Out from The Crowd

By Marcus Shockley

It’s no secret I’m a serious hip-hop fan. Having grown up on everything from the raw street level rhymes of Grandmaster Flash to Public Enemy to the modern lyrics of Little Wayne, rap and basketball have always gone hand in hand to me. I love several types of music, but nothing seems more in tune with basketball’s freestyle freedom that the urban beat of hip hop.

I love people who stand out, who take a chance.

Somewhere between NWA and Little John, producers figured out a formula that sold crazy amounts of music and they’ve been mining that field ever since. As a result, much of rap today is about as interesting as, well, Olympic curling at 4 am. But there are still those superstar creators that have found their way to the forefront – Mos Def, Bustah Rhymes, Missy Elliot – and I love artists like K’Naan or D-Black who simultaneously remind me of watching BET Rap City in the ’90s and a reality show at the same time.

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Okay, so what does this have to do with basketball, really?

Scouting basketball is not easy in many cases. If you are really looking for players, you may arrive at a game without having any idea if there is anyone even worth scouting. As the game progresses, you look for signs that some players might be someone to pay attention to. You are looking, frankly, for players who stand out.

So how does a player stand out?

Most players have the mistaken notion that it’s all about points and scoring. I’ve seen players pour in 40 points in a game – while the player they were defending scored 42. That’s not a way to stand out. Sure, you can score, but you got beat. It doesn’t matter if you scored 100 if your team lost by 30 points.

Scoring or getting a nice highlight play is one way to at least get initial attention, but there are other ways – a big block, a couple of steals, grabbing rebounds. But believe it or not, as a scout, we are supposed to see much more than what one player does when they have the ball in their hands. Many times during a game I’m not even watching the ball. If I saw a player that I wanted to pay attention to earlier, I might be watching what he does without the ball.

If a player on a team is repeatedly slashing to the hoop from the left elbow and scoring, I will make sure I watch who’s guarding him on that elbow. If it’s the same player playing matador defense, I’m going to notice it. I’m also going to notice if the defense switches another player over and suddenly the path to the defense closes down.

The point I want to get across is one that we’ve talked about before. Standing out usually comes from a lot of things on the floor – playing all out at all times, taking defense seriously, being vocal on the court. You don’t have to have the ball to do any of that. Most players – I can tell you, from seeing thousands of them – don’t do these things. The vast majority of high school players do not stand out in any way.

The best way to stand out is not to try and impress a college coach or a scout whenever they are in the building; the best players are always playing hard, and it doesn’t matter if there’s a coach in the gym or not. H. Jackson Brown, Jr. once famously wrote, “Our character is defined by what we choose to do when we think no one is looking”.

The key word in Brown’s quote is that we think no one is looking. What we do when we believe no one is observing us is the truest person we are. The best way to have people see you as a certain type of person – or player – is to focus on actually being that type of player all of the time.

In order to stand out, we must focus on being someone who always stands out.

Blue Chip Basketball Academy Lepreece Lynch 2012

By James Blackburn and Marcus Shockley

The Basketball Elite scouting staff made its way out to Forsyth Country Day School on Monday night to check out the opening night of the Triad Fall League. There were two games played with plenty of talent in both. The games are played without coaches and it is interesting to see what players step up and lead both vocally and by example. The league also gives us a great chance to watch and scout some local players from the Winston-Salem area before the actual season begins and after the AAU season has ended. It is also interesting to see how much some players have improved from the short time between the end of July to September.

Game 1 was played between the Wolfpack and the Deacons. The Wolfpack jumped out to an early lead and held on to defeat the Deacons 66-53 behind the strong play of Cory Hanes (2015, 6’5”, Forsyth Country Day) and Sam Buckner (2013, 6’0”, West Forsyth HS).

Hanes is a strong wing who looked more comfortable playing on the perimeter this game. He rebounds the ball well and runs the floor which led to easy buckets. Already being recruited by colleges at every level, look for Hanes to have a big impact this HS season.

Buckner scored and reached the paint practically at will this game. He can finish with either hand at the rim and is a solid ball handler and athlete.

Game two was loaded with talent as the Tarheels beat the Bulldogs 80-65. The Tarheels were led by a pair of teammates in Christian Adams (PG, 2015, 6’3”), Darin Ketner (SG, 2014, 6’3”) of Calvary Baptist Day School, Cecil Moore (PG, 2014, 5’9”) and Lapreece Lynch (SG, 2013, 6’4”) of Mt. Tabor HS.

Christian Adams looked stronger and showcased his athleticism since the last time we have seen him. He is extremely versatile, can guard 4 positions, and can score both off the dribble and off the catch. Adams has a lot of upside and schools should start to take notice now.

Ketner played well and continued to rebound the ball on both ends as an undersized PF. He moves well with out the ball and can knock down the open 3 with consistency.

Lapreece Lynch was on a mission Monday night to prove that he was the best scorer in the gym. Lynch is a constant threat to score the ball and is always looking to attack the defense. He has the ability to change directions going full speed and keeps a high motor throughout. Look for Lynch to have a solid senior campaign after a big summer.

The Bulldogs were lead by a trio of talented players in Ty’Quan Bitting (C, 2013, 6’7”, Mt. Tabor HS), Colton Bishop (PG, 2014, 6’3”, Forsyth Country Day), and Riley Larue (SG, 2014, 6’2”, East Forsyth HS).

Bitting was a presence in the pain on both ends blocking shots and being efficient scoring the ball inside. He displayed a constant improving back to the basket game with a nice spin move into a hook shot that he deployed several times. With a D1 offer already under his belt, schools that are looking for a 2013 big man should watch him this year.

Colton Bishop was all over the floor in this game. He can finish at the rim with contact and shoot the ball with range beyond all the 3 point line. He has the ability to play either guard position with his tremendous passing and playmaking ability.

Larue is know as big time 3 point shooter, and backed it up by knocking down a pair of them tonight. He also used his strength to power his way to the painted area where he kicked out to open teammates.

Hoops Show Episode 9

On this week’s episode of The Hoops Show, Alex Schwartz of Northstar Basketball joins us to discuss the flurry of commitments from the Fall live period, including Anthony Barber’s decision.

NCAA live periods 2012

To the high school recruiting world, there are two factions of people involved each year; one one hand, the media, coaches and recruiting analysts are quite familiar with the landscape and have a solid working knowledge of the recruiting calendar. On the other hand, parents and recruits make up a group of people navigating the process for the first time.

If it often seems that the rules surrounding recruiting laid out by the NCAA are ever-changing, that’s pretty accurate. But one major aspect that is usually not clear is when a college coach can actually come and see a prospect play. These are generally referred to as ‘live’ periods, but there are several types of restricted ‘periods’ and the stipulations often seem dizzying and complex: during some periods, coaches can call but not speak to a player in person; at other times, coaches can’t talk to a prospect at all.

To help make sense of it each year, here are three specific points:

1. The high school season is live, at all times. At any time during the high school season, coaches can come, see, evaluate and recruit players. However, remember that this is also the same time period when college coaches are involved with their own seasons, so it’s not as if the coaches can spend all of their time tracking down potential prospects.

2. The NCAA lists all of the periods for recruiting at this link. Download this PDF, print it off, and refer to it. This also should tell you when playing AAU is most effective. This document is the single best tool for a parent or recruit to understand the different recruiting periods.

3. Remember that the rules are different for Division II and Division III coaches during non-scholastic periods.

No, it’s not simple, and yes, it changes all of the time. But it’s important not to listen to what everyone says and actually find out for yourself.

J.D. Lewis Fall League Session 1 2012

Session 1 of the J.D. Lewis Fall League wrapped up with four teams playing in the semi-finals and finals on the same day. The JD Lewis league still has the same high level of talent as always but has grown, and has added a 10-team second session starting this weekend. Julius Barnes led his Pacers team to an undefeated run capped by a title win. Barnes walked away with MVP honors and averaged 21.8 ppg during the session. Barnes’ partner in the backcourt, Antonio Watson, took home the MOP award.

Here are some notes on the players competing on the final day.

Julius Barnes (PG, 5’9″, 2015) Garner HS (NC) – Barnes is a solid all-around guard who is an effective scorer; has a good hesitation dribble and squares up very well on his shot, gets good elevation on his jumper. Good upper body strength and should continue to get stronger. Doesn’t settle for the outside shot, will put pressure on the defense by slashing. Has a high motor on defense and is a good player to help defend against fast teams that like to run. Undersized and still tends to slash too deep against the bigs but a quiet leader who competes. Definitely a player to be watching and should be getting college interest. A college prospect; the ceiling is somewhat unknown because of his age and height.

Antonio Watson (PG/SG, 5’10″, 2015) Enloe HS (NC) – Watson is a tough-minded player who understands the game. But while he can add points and he’s a valuable combo guard who can play both on or off of the ball, I see Watson as the type of player who adds impact regardless of whether he scores. He’s effective on defense, he’s a vocal leader and he doesn’t back down. High motor. Recognizes offenses on the floor and reacts defensively, even making sure teammates are aware of what’s being run.

Austin Burnette (SF, 6’5″, 2015) Cardinal Gibbons HS (NC) Every time I see Burnette I come away more impressed. He’s a prototypical college small forward with an extremely high Basketball I.Q. Fluid and runs the floor like a wing, loves to move into the mid-range without the ball and can kill teams with his catch-and-shoot from the gaps. Has an excellent high release on his shot and good elevation. Burnette already has D1 interest and offers but I still think Division 1 colleges are probably overlooking him and should really be heavily recruiting him now.

Iran Bennett (C, 6’9″, 2016) Pace Academy – Great hands and a pure post player. Needs to improve conditioning and is currently a low motor player, but feet are nimble and definitely a high ceiling on him. Needs to stay active in the post but can catch and score with ease. Should be one of the better post prospects in the state and if he puts in the work – conditioning, footwork, free throw shooting – could be a really solid big man at the collegiate level. D1 prospect. Any area school should start paying attention this high school season. If Bennett reaches his potential, schools who sleep on him now will be kicking themselves.

Detaren Spuill (PG, 5’7″, 2016) Southeast Raleigh HS (NC) – Quick, hard nosed, aggressive guard who already has good build and plays hard in transition. More of a scorer than a pure PG right now, but playing well enough as a freshman to show that he has potential. Good defender in transition.

Isaiah Riley (SG/SF, 6’2″, 2016) Middle Creek HS (NC) – Has good length and agility. A little raw overall at this point but fluid and one to keep an eye on, obviously has the athletic tools to build on.

Harvey Griffin (SF, 6’3″, 2014) Wakefield HS (NC) Griffin is a very strong player – I put him in the category of B.J. Gladden of Olympic (committed to Akron), where they fill that solid banger at the 3 who can also play some 2, 4 or 5 when the time comes. Griffin is a physically strong player with broad build and a good shot blocker. Add in nimbleness to play the 3 and he’s a versatile wing/forward. Griffin should be getting D1 interest as of now.

Chase Tyler (PG/SG, 5’10″, 2014) Upper Room Christian Academy (NC) Tyler can shoot from deep and is an effective scorer. Will definitely be checking him out more this season at Upper Room.

Justin Reid (SG, 6’2″, 2015) Cardinal Gibbons HS (NC) – Reid is an effective scorer and can play at the 2 or the 3. Good slasher and has erupted for some solid scoring nights during the JDL.

William Walker (PG, 5’11′, 2014) Southeast Raleigh HS (NC) – Walker has good size and has bulked up so that he’s now a big guard; he is a true point with the handle to play the position at the college level. He understands the game and he knows where everyone should be on the floor. The one knock so far on Walker is his showing his leadership and knowledge on the floor, but that should come this season, and I expect him to have a breakout year where he owns the team.

Pervis Louder (SG, 6’1″, 2014) Enloe HS (NC) – Louder is a long wing player with big-time explosiveness. Louder is a player who I feel is under-recruited and definitely has Division 1 athleticism. Great first step – one of the best in the state. Can get his own shot, active, high motor. College athlete who is getting better quickly. Working on finishing consistently on offense but there’s a lot of potential there. Excellent student – has interest from the Ivy League and great grades – a D1 prospect.

Roger Ray (PG, 5’10″, 2015) Upper Room Christian Academy (NC) – has a ball-on-a-string flashy handle and very quick feet. Pure PG with a solid build, can find players in transition or score. Should be getting serious college looks this season at Upper Room. D1 prospect.

Daron Gipson (PG, 5’8″, 2013) Neuse Christian Academy (NC) – There’s not much to dislike with Gipson. He has great poise on the court and the thing I really am impressed with is that he’s one of those ‘no blunders’ guards. Fast break? He’s going to make the right choice depending on the situation. Half court? He’s either going to cross over or use the changeup to get a shot inside or find a teammate. Solid ballhandler and passer and a true floor general. Knock on Gipson is his height, but I think he’s going to really show he can compete this season at Neuse. I see Gipson as a college prospect, his size may hold him back but this season he’ll have the chance to show he can defend bigger, athletic guards.

Zach Bruns (SG, 6’1″, 2013) Havelock HS (NC) There’s one thing opposing teams should know about Bruns up front – he can scorch it from deep. However, he’s not just a spot up set shooter. He’s active and fast, stays involved in the offense and has a high motor. He can also shoot on the move. Probably a great fit at the D2+ level but I’ve seen shooters like him with D1 offers who were much less mobile and he has a better handle than some of the pure shooters I saw in this year’s Peach Jam. Could be a real find for the right school.

Alex Ade (SF/PF, 6’3″, 2013) Cary Academy (NC) – Ade runs the floor very well and will play either the post or some wing; doesn’t have a great first step but is a decent defender in the post, can catch and score on the move and works to clean up misses off of the glass.

This week on The Hoops Show, we are talking about social media what athletes and colleges need to understand about interacting in a connected digital world. Guest this week is Shanna Bright, CEO of Beaming Bohemian.

By Marcus Shockley

European basketball players on bench

If you are a high school basketball players, odds are almost certain that you’re not going to be an NBA player.

There are 30 NBA franchises currently in existence. That means in a world of almost 7 billion people, there are a total of about 360 that will play in the NBA this coming season. Sure, a few guys will get called up from the D-League after some of those 360 players get injured, but the number is pretty close. That’s roughly the same number of people who are struck by lightning – literally – in the United States each year.

Even more so, the average career in the NBA is incredibly short. As of 2010, the average NBA player lasted 6 seasons. That means if a player played four years of college, by the time they are 28, they are most likely done with pro ball unless they hop overseas to scrounge out a few more years.

Yet, there are thousands of high school players who are not just trying to get a college basketball scholarship, but hoping to make it all the way to the pro level. Twitter is awash in players who proudly pronounce that they are chasing the NBA dream on their profiles, and AAU teams are well-stocked with players who all think they have a legitimate shot at getting a call on some future draft night.

Wealthy entrepreneur MJ DeMarco once wrote about what causes this kind of phenomenon, whether it takes the form of athletes trying to land that short-lived big paycheck or the thousands of people who flock to audition for American Idol, despite having almost zero chance of success. It is a culture uneducated in what it takes to achieve long-term success, and lacking that education, has become enamored with “events, over process”. To put it another way: people see someone get a huge paycheck when they are a number one draft pick, but no one sees the years of work, combined with some luck, that went into the player arriving at that payday. It’s the same principle that has created thousands of people who never save a dime but seriously see the lottery as the ticket to their financial future. Even if a player has the natural athletic ability to build towards a professional career, and even if that player works hard every single day to achieve that goal, there is still a strong chance that they won’t ever get that payday. Eli and Payton Manning have a brother, Cooper, who by some accounts was a better athlete than either of them, but was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, ending any chance of a pro or college career.

So why bring this up? Is it to dash young players’ dreams with a hard dose of reality?

Actually, it’s because I see far too much focus for players on getting that ‘event’ win without realizing that there are other options, and even if you are one of the fortunate few who might get that huge payday some day, you absolutely must have a plan for when your career is over. Most players who played pro ball in the 1980s are now broke, or close to it. Soon that will be true for the players of 90s as well. I’ve written about this fact before and related it to lottery winners, most of whom blow their entire lottery winnings in a few short years. As a side note, whenever I have written about this in the past, someone will often write to me and demand that I prove my assertions with hard data (despite the fact that I have previously cited the studies and data), but the truth is, no matter what the evidence, there are always going to be people who don’t get it. Most people are bad with money; suddenly having more money doesn’t magically make you a financial wizard.

The point is, don’t bank on an event that suddenly makes you rich for the rest of your life, and realize that the odds of getting to the NBA or any pro league are incredibly, incredibly high. Think about what you will do once your playing career is over, and consider what you might do if you were no longer involved in sports in any way. That should give some direction to your decisions.

The hardest part about all of this information is that it should be obvious, but people ignore it. Less than 1% of college players – far less – get to the NBA at all. These numbers are not hidden. If you are seriously pursuing a college career as an athlete, you must realize that the first goal is to get a free or reduced-cost education that you can use in the future, NOT to just keep playing ball until you find yourself on some pro team awash in big money.

Rondae Jefferson

By Daniel Benjamin

Rondae Jefferson (Chester HS; Chester): The 6-7, 215-pound small forward is very athletic and strong. He can create offense for himself as well as for others.

Jefferson has whittled his college choices down to Arizona, Florida, Memphis, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple and Texas.

Mike Young (Pittsburgh): The 6-8, 225-pound native Pittsburgher will play for St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, NJ in 2012-13. Young has a high motor to go along with legitimate post moves. He favors the spin move when he is in the low post.
Young verbally committed to Pittsburgh on August 4, 2012. He also received offers from Baylor, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia Tech, Miami, Rutgers, Seton Hall and West Virginia.

Brandon Austin (Imhotep Charter, Philadelphia): The 6-6, 180-pound guard has the ability to play three positions. Austin is very good around the rim especially in transition where he can use his speed and athleticism. He also possesses good ball handling skills and is an able passer.
Austin de-committed from Penn State from July 22, 2012. He has offers from Georgetown, Miami (FL), Penn St., Rutgers, Syracuse, Tennessee and Villanova. Austin has also garnered interest from UCLA, Baylor, Ohio St., Florida, Temple, Rutgers, Xavier and Kentucky.

Rysheed Jordan (Vaux Roberts HS, Philadelphia): The 6-4, 180-pound point guard likes to get to the hoop where he can use his length and athleticism to play above the rim. Jordan is excellent in transition and a very good distributor.
Jordan has received offers from Georgetown, Maryland, Kansas, Rutgers and Villanova. He also has drawn interest from UCLA, Temple, Syracuse, St. John’s, St. Joseph’s and La Salle.

Stephen Vasturia (St. Joseph’s Prep, Philadelphia): The 6-5, 190-pound guard can play either the one or two. Vasturia has the ability to pick defenses apart with his ball handling and precise passing. He makes good decisions and possesses a nice mid-to-long range game.
Vasturia committed to Notre Dame on October 31, 2011. He also had offers from Boston College, Davidson, Drexel, La Salle, Northwestern, St. Joseph’s and Temple.

B.J. Johnson (Lower Merion HS; Ardmore): The 6-6, 180-pound small forward is very athletic and has the ability to knock down long distance shots. Johnson still needs to work on his ball-handling and decision-making skills.
Johnson has received scholarship offers from Boston College, Clemson, Dayton, Rutgers, St. Joseph’s, Temple and Villanova. Cincinnati, Penn St., Pittsburgh and Providence have also shown interest in Johnson.

Julian Moore (Germantown Academy, Philadelphia): The 6-9, 220-pound power forward is fairly mobile and has a soft touch around the hoop. While Moore possesses quality low post moves, he also has the ability to pop out to the perimeter and drain 15-to-18 footers on a regular basis.

Moore verbally committed to Penn St. on July 27, 2012. He also had offers from La Salle, Drexel, James Madison, Boston University, VCU and Duquesne.

Andrew Dallier (Northfield-Mount Hermon School, Wexford): The 6-6, 190-pound small forward is very versatile and possesses a high basketball IQ. Dallier can score inside and outside as well as from the three-point line. He is also a gifted ball-handler and talented passer.
Dallier verbally committed to Yale on August 9, 2012. He also had offers from Brown and Cornell.

Miles Overton (St. Joseph’s Prep, Chester, PA): The 6-3, 195-pound shooting guard has a strong body which allows him to absorb contact when he attacks the rim. Overton is a knock down three-point shooter with deep range. He has a good mid-range game and handles the ball with confidence.
Overton has received offers from La Salle, St. Joseph’s, Temple and Pennsylvania. He has also garnered interest from James Madison, Rutgers, San Francisco, Seton Hall, Virginia, VCU, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Xavier.

Geno Thorpe (Pittsburgh): The 6-3, 175-pound point guard transferred from Shaler HS to West Oaks High School in Orlando for the upcoming 2012-13 school year. Thorpe has some versatility to his offensive game but is at his best when slashing to the hoop.
Thorpe verbally committed to Penn State on November 8, 2011. Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Wisconsin and Seton Hall also showed interest in Thorpe.

Hoops Show Episode 7

This week, The Hoops Show takes on player rankings – do they matter, or are they just for fans?

By Marcus Shockley

Two stories emerged this week which fell into the ‘ho-hum’ category in a sports media landscape more often consumed with free agent signings and recruiting scandals than the actual money engine that makes it all go.

Two cases of sports businessmen who make loads of cash without being able to win – or some cases, even play – games.

Jerry Jones
Consider first the story of Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, who purchased the Texas-based pro football team in 1989 for $150 million, and this week, Forbes magazine estimated that the Cowboys franchise was worth $2.1 billion. Now, Forbes’ valuations are not considered professional by any stretch of the imagination, and there’s some legitimate questions as to exactly how they would justify that number, but let’s look at the real numbers underneath: the Cowboys brought in $500 million in estimated revenue last season, by far the highest of any NFL franchise, and over $120 million higher than the 2nd-place New England Patriots.

Jerry Jones might not be much of a GM (and doesn’t want to hear otherwise) but he certainly knows how to turn a profit on the Cowboys. It’s interesting to note that Jones was highly leveraged when he bought the Cowboys, so his wealth today is almost entirely built from owning the team, unlike many current owners who arrive with their pockets already flush. Jones pursued sponsorship deals that the NFL fought him on, brought in massive amounts of new revenue and changed how the league actually markets and manages its properties. But the real caveat is that the Cowboys, who enjoyed initial success with two Super Bowl wins, have been a mediocre contender for the vast majority of Jones’ ownership.

One can only imagine what Jones would be able to do if the Cowboys can actually become a consistent winner. Jones does seem to have a love for the Cowboys that most owners do not have for their own teams, but perhaps the NFL should strongly consider Jones as the next league commissioner – as long as he could sever himself from his beloved Dallas franchise.

Silna But while Jones has proven to be a master at raking in profits while his team is abused on the field, even he is second fiddle to Ozzie and Daniel Silna, the former owners of the ABA’s Spirits of St. Louis. The Silnas have made massive amounts of cash over the years due to a bargain struck when the NBA and ABA merged, way back in 1976.
The Silnas’ team was to be excluded from the new league, and only accepted the terms after negotiating a percentage of the profits from the television revenue for the remaining ABA teams. The kicker? The deal is in perpetuity, as long as the NBA is in existence. That means the Silnas have been making millions in revenue without actually having a team. The only reason this has come to light now is that the Silnas are suing the NBA because they are getting cut out of international broadcast revenue. It’s not clear how successful the Silnas will be in getting a chunk of that revenue, as companies frequently will claim new sources of revenue are not part of established contracts, as Howard Stern found out with SiriusXM earlier this year.

But it’s not all wine and roses for the Silnas; they were some of the victims of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi fraud which lost billions of investor funds.