Rick Lewis Phenom 150

NC Top 80 2015

To say that North Carolina is a hotbed of grassroots basketball is an understatement, and one of the most pivotal and influential people involved in the AAU and high school scene is Rick Lewis, a nationally know basketball scout whose company, Phenom Hoop Report, organizes and runs dozens of events throughout the year. Rick and his partner Jamie Shaw cover the region thoroughly and people who have known me for some time or follow me on various social media know that I have long been a supporter of Rick’s events and his approach to the sport.

One of my favorite business books is ‘Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive‘ by Harvey McKay and that title certainly describes what it feels like to try and run a reputable, upstanding business (or even non-profit) in the world of grassroots basketball, and Rick has managed to do just that.

As a person who has organized my own Southeast Summer Showcase for the past 5 years, Rick is also one of the few people I can talk with about the issues that come up when running events. He and I have talked about our events over the years and he, like myself, is dedicated to constantly figuring out what his company can do better and improve it.

One of his more brilliant ideas was introduced last year, and I’d like to see it implemented in a lot more events. I call it ‘The Rick Lewis Rule‘ or even the ‘Rick Lewis Three Dribble Rule‘…I know Rick well enough that he doesn’t care about getting credit, but I feel it’s important to note the strategy, why he implemented it, and why I think more individual showcases should implement it. And if I’m going to ‘borrow’ (steal) Rick’s idea and use it, I feel I should at least give credit where it is due. I hope more high school coaches will use it in practices, too.

As a high school basketball scout, I need to see halfcourt offense, for multiple reasons. The primary reason is that once players get to the college level, they are going to have to play against half court sets all of the time – in fact, most of the time. In high school and AAU players who are extremely athletic can look very good because they get breakaway dunks and can finish in transition over smaller, more slow-footed defenders. However, when those same players are faced with an equally athletic defender in a halfcourt set, suddenly they can look pretty average.

The second reason is I need to see if a player can actually create their own shot, if they understand spacing, if they can shoot consistently against a close out, all of the things they will need to do as an individual to play better team ball – and one of the biggest part of being a valuable part of a winning team is being able to pass the ball. I love watching teams that understand ball movement. I get more excited watching a team whip the ball around the perimeter to the weak side for an open look than I do a transition dunk. And you know what? Players that know how to move the ball around are far more rare than athletic dunkers. Don’t believe me? Consider that Lebron is a good dunker but a Hall of Fame passer and you’ll understand. Lebron James is the best passing forward in NBA history – he won’t make the Hall of Fame because of his dunks (no one does) but he will in large part because of his passing ability.

Over the years I’ve watched thousands of guards play at the high school and AAU level and one thing is abundantly clear – players aren’t great at passing in general and there is an epidemic of guards who don’t understand how -or why- to throw an entry pass to the post. If you are a wing player, throwing and entry pass should be more common than a behind-the-back dribble, but teams will run multiple sets, several times up and down the floor, with the guards and wings never even looking at the post to throw a pass. The highest percentage offense a basketball team can have, and most players on the perimeter don’t use it. When running an individual showcase, it’s extremely common for the games to turn into track meets – the fastest wing players shoot the gaps, get steals and transition shots (often poorly chosen shots) while the post players are left to trail behind, never getting into the offense or even rebounding position. It’s a struggle to organize the games in such a way to facilitate real offense against real defense, which helps the players improve but also shows attending college coaches what the players can actually do.

Of course, there’s also the problem of players overdribbling, trying too much one-on-one, overlooking teammates…it all stems from the ragged style of play where there is no real team work or movement.

Here’s where Rick’s ‘3 dribble rule’ comes in. In recent events, Rick introduced a basic rule that players are only allowed 3 dribbles in the frontcourt or it would result in an offensive turnover. That one change dramatically alters how players can run an offense, and it’s for the better. Players are forced to move, pass and work as a unit to try and create an open shot. However, this did not eliminate enough of the transition ‘open court, no defense’ play that happens, so in a recent event, he added some additional rules as the games continued. In the players’ second game of the day he instituted a rule of ‘maximum of 3 dribbles in the frontcourt with a 2 pass minimum’ before a shot could be taken. This eliminates a lot of the transition game and forces players to wait on teammates. Finally, Rick wanted to address the overlooking of the post entry pass, and the last game of the day he added another wrinkle – players still had to make 2 passes but one of the passes before a shot could be taken had to be an entry pass to the post. It didn’t matter if the post had to pass back out, it just means that the pass has to go into the post at least once during the halfcourt set.

So, here’s what I observed as a scout after these rules were implemented. Suddenly very few players seemed to know what to do. They would dribble, pass around the perimeter, and dribble again, aimlessly. Meanwhile I watched as the center had already sealed his man on the blocks, only to watch his teammates overlook him and pass the ball back around and he had to slide across the lane and work to establish position on the other side. I saw players who had looked amazing during the morning games suddenly look like they’d never actually played organized basketball before. And I saw one player who completely understood what was happening and started yelling instructions to his teammates: “set a pick!” or “hit the post!”.

This is why I love the experiment and Rick’s rules: the player who understood exactly how to move the ball under the new rules suddenly helped his team start scoring; they built a quick lead. The center started getting touches and either scoring or passing out to an open teammate. It’s real offense. When coaches talk about playing ‘the right way’, this is the kind of thing they mean: doing consistent things as a unit that will improve your chances of winning, not just relying on luck or athleticism.

So as of now, I’m dubbing this ‘3 dribbles’ rule as the ‘Rick Lewis Rule‘. If you merchandise T-shirts with this rule on it, please send the royalties to Rick.

Marcus Shockley is the creator, along with a band of talented (but possibly misguided) misfits, of BasketballElite.com, the Southeast Summer Showcase and has scouted and written about basketball for longer than any person should openly admit. You can follow his rantings on sports, life and acceptable flavors of ice cream on Twitter @m_shockley

Phenom Hoop Report

Phenom Hoop Report and Basketball Elite are pleased to announce a new partnership which will create the largest independent scouting service in the Southeast.

Phenom Hoop Report, which operates the Phenom basketball showcase series and several AAU events in the North Carolina and Virginia areas, is teaming up with Basketball Elite, who also covers much of the Southeast region as well as offering some national coverage. The scouting reports offered by Basketball Elite’s scouts will now be part of the Phenom Hoop Report service.

“We are pleased to have Marcus Shockley and James Blackburn part of the Phenom Hoop Report,” said Rick Lewis, owner of Phenom Hoop Report, “By consolidating two of the most prestigious brands in the state, we will be better able to serve the players and coaches at a higher level. I have personally known Marcus and James for over five years and have much admiration and respect for their work and professionalism. Their vision dovetails with the vision of the Phenom Hoop Report.”

“This partnership is really a perfect combination of two organizations that are focused on offering real solutions for helping athletes and colleges find each other,” said Marcus Shockley, the Director of Basketball Elite. “Phenom Hoop report has the same mission as we do, which is to cover every square inch of basketball recruiting in the region with as much accuracy as possible, and offering a real alternative for parents and colleges across the region. We’ve always supported each other and this just makes perfect sense. Together, we will be able to offer what I feel is the absolute highest quality scouting and events service in the region and one of the best in the nation.”

In addition to combining the scouting resources and player database under the Phenom Hoops umbrella, both organizations will be partnering on several additional events this coming year, including broadcasting the NC Top 80 event on March 29, 2014. The NC Top 80 is an exclusive invite-only basketball showcase which will feature the top 80 prospects from North Carolina, including many ACC recruiting targets.

Phenom Hoop Report also organizes the Phenom showcase series, including the Phenom 150 in March, this year to be held in Greensboro, NC, and is expanding this year with several new AAU events. Basketball Elite organizes the Southeast Summer Showcase, held in June. This year’s Southeast Summer Showcase will be held in Winston-Salem, NC.

Fans and coaches are encouraged to follow the individual scouts and partners for Phenom Hoop Report and Basketball Elite:

Rick Lewis

Marcus Shockley

Jamie Shaw

James Blackburn

Justin Byerly

Charles Clark

For more information, visit PhenomHoopReport.com and BasketballElite.com..

Phenom 150 Fall 2013 Session 1 Winston-Salem

By Marcus Shockley

Notes from the Fall Phenom 150, Session 1, held in Winston-Salem, NC on October 6, 2013. With approximately 180 players in attendance, it’s extremely hard to see every good player, but here are some players who stood out to me and my notes on them from this event. I did note that a few teams were playing extremely hard, getting after it in a way that I normally would see in high profile elite AAU.

Emmett Tilley (G, 6’2″, 2016) Northern Durham HS (NC) I started tracking Tilley last year, and I liked his basic skill set. However, he’s become a serious collegiate prospect since then, adding weight and quickness. He often just looked a step ahead of the other players on the floor. His look ahead passing is elite, he has a very quick first step, can finish with contact or hit the mid range jumper. He has a good build and will continue to add strength over the next 3 years. Division I colleges should actively getting involved with him now. We had added Tilley to our scouting database and subscribing colleges can read our full scouting reports on his progress here. Tilley plays AAU with the Garner Road Bulldogs.

C.J. Bryce (SF, 6’5, 2015) One of, if not the most explosive athlete in the gym today. Putback timing is his calling card, and timing is something that translates to every level of basketball. Easily gets above the rim, great touch on the ball, can finesse the ball over players on the move without even hinting at a charge. Great bounce and agility. Colleges should be actively recruiting him.

Clay Mounce (SG/SF, 6’4, 2016) Mt. Airy HS (NC) Solid athlete with good bounce and quick hands. I really liked what I saw from Mounce and I think he has solid potential as a collegiate prospect. Has good size and length – will need to continue to add strength but is active off of the ball and really makes an impact. I will need to see more during the high school season but I already see him as a player that colleges should be definitely watching and scouting.

Derek McKnight (PG, 6’2″, 2015) Gaston Day (NC) One of the quickest crossovers I’ve seen all summer. What I like about McKnight’s game is how confidently he understands what he wants to do when he gets the ball. He never looks like he has to ponder over what move to make – his attacks look almost choreographed. One thing I rarely see from young players is the understanding that in basketball, there is a chess match at work – if your defender sags, you shoot over him. If he plays you close, you put the ball on the floor and try to push past him. McKnight always looks like he sees what the defense does and instantly reacts with the counter punch.

James Tillman (SF, 6’4, 2014) Kings Mountain HS (NC) Tillman is a high motor, explosive player who showed he’s been working on his outside shot as well. Tillman has already proven during his high school career that he is a banger who can finish with contact, but over the past year he’s shown a serious first step and and ability to finish above the rim. Makes excellent passes into the post as well. Add in the aforementioned shooting and motor and you can see why more and more colleges are making the trip to the his school on the NC/SC border to check him out.

Christian Adams (G, 6’4, ’15) Calvary Baptist (NC) One of the more underrated workers in the region, Adams goes full speed and has great patience, great size for his position. Strong, can handle the ball at the point, play off the ball at the 2-guard and even can can slide down to the 3 if needed. His strengths are his work ethic, decision making, ballhandling, passing, shooting touch and quick hands.

Zach Boggs (SG, 6’1″, 2016) Boggs has bulked up quite a bit and plays hard, non-stop. One of the complaints about showcase events that I always hear is how ‘nobody will pass the ball’, but then I see guys like Boggs, who are playing off of the ball, and yet find ways to be involved on almost every play. His play shows that conditioning, motor and awareness matter. Plays tough but under control. Can finish with contact.

Cory Hanes (SF, 6’5″, 2015) Hanes is incredibly strong, has great hands and loves to dunk on the move, especially if he can get both hands on the ball. He’s a banger but really suited to play the 3/4 at the college level. Plays through and absorbs contact like a football player, but plays under control. Runs the floor at full speed. Colleges who like hard nosed players (and who doesn’t) should be actively recruiting.

Bryan Rouse (G, 6′, 2014) Rouse finishes with contact extremely well, blasts up and down the floor and always seems to have his hands on the ball. Rouse finishes his plays in the paint with a move similar to one that I’ve seen Tyus Jones do so well- taking the contact, bouncing off of the defender, keeping his shoulders square and finishing the shot as the foul is called. Rouse is a solid athlete with good court vision. Recently committed to Wingate.

Brandon Roddy (PG, 6′, 2014) Monroe HS (NC) Roddy continues to improve, and I’ve been tracking him for about two years. What first caught my eye was his awareness – he’s got that great poise and patience, and he’s always sizing up what the defense is doing. He’s got point guard skills and at his height that’s where colleges will be looking to put him; however, it should be mentioned that he has combo guard ability in that he can play off of the ball, create his own shot on the move and understands defending different positions.

Spencer Scott (SG, 6’2, 2014) Charlotte Christian – Scott is the kind of player that coaches need on their team. You know the players you see who understand team ball, who will set a pick when it matters, who can knock down the jumper but also know when to pass it up, the kind of player who will be rock solid even if their name isn’t on the ranking lists. Scott is one of those guys. The biggest issues for guys like Scott is that in our world of mix tapes and prep-to-pros hype, college coaches need guys like him but ‘rock solid’, ‘reliable’, and ‘consistent’ don’t make headlines. Some smart college is going to get a smart solid player.

Lachlan Caple (G, 6’3″, 2016) First time seeing Caple, and I saw some flashes of passing wizardry and ballhandling that were impressive. Looks to attack with the pass into the defense with excellent vision.

Zach Hartle (SF, 6’4, 2015) Hartle has added bulk to make himself more of a presence in the paint. With a lot of 6’7″ and 6’8″ players on the courts, Hartle seemed to grab every loose rebound at times. I already know that he’s an adept passer and can shoot from deep, but the added strength make him more versatile in the paint.

Carson Mounce (C, 6’10”, 2015) Mounce looks like he’s gotten stronger and is still working on his post arsenal at this point. I would really like to see him develop more of a drop step and power, with a focus on footwork. He has good hands and a quick release, and with his size he should be able to develop his release into a reliable hook shot.

Sacha Killeya-Jones (C, 6’8″, 2016) Slender big man who has good length and is a developing shot blocker – does not go for fakes and makes it hard for smaller players to score in the paint. Needs to add strength but would love to see him work on developing his offensive post moves as well.

Jeff McIlwain (C, 6’9, 2015) Asheville Christian Academy – McIlwain is a half court post player with a solid frame and good hands. He works to establish position in the paint, seals well and asks for the ball. He does tend to put the ball on the floor too often – partly because he is a better ballhandler than most of the big men he’s going against, but I’d like to see him work on getting the ball to the rim with better footwork. Does not shy away from contact. Definitely a college big man, where he ends up will depend on his work ethic and how much strength he can add – his solid frame looks like he could continue to add quite a bit of muscle.

Harrison Burton (SG, 6’3″, 2015) The Rock Hill, SC player impressed me with his deliberate play on both ends. Really digs in on defense and plays with purpose on offense. Has good size for the guard spot. One of the few wings I saw who knew to run to the deep corners on the halfcourt.

Hawk Swearingen (G, 6’1″, 2015) Sedalia (MO) – I would call him a scorer but that really wouldn’t accurately explain his game. Swearingen is an assassin, yes, who shoots the ball like it’s a weapon, and he can do it in a variety of ways – from deep or going to the bucket in traffic. But he’s not the type of player who is bent on getting the ball and chucking it up – he works within the offense, throwing zip passes to open teammates, moving without the ball and passing up bad shots. So you might watch him for a few minutes and just see a guy content to defer to others, then the defense will sag and bang – he’ll scorch you. Don’t sleep – this kid’s a baller.

Spencer Wilson (PG, 6’1″, 2015) Bishop McGuiness (NC) Wilson is deadly going to his left and has a smooth ability to shake the defender, freeing up an open shot – which he can nail consistently. Crafty and poised, Wilson has great awareness of what the defense is doing and has a plethora of moves to get that deadly shot open. His passing is solid and he’s going to be the player driving the offense for Bishop McGuinness this season. Good length.

Hunter Seacat (C, 6’9″, 2015) Already has the build to play in college and looks like he will continue to get stronger. Runs the floor and plays back to the basket, good hands. Good offensive footwork and will continue to add to his low post arsenal. Bodies up on defense and plays through contact. Has a few college offers and will no doubt add several more this high school season.

James West IV (PG, 5’11”, 2017) Over the past couple of years, West has shown an ability to play with older players because of his quick release and solid shooting, both from mid range and from deep. Now he shows extremely quick hands and more movement without the ball. I’ve said this before, but some players have a knack for getting the ball and getting some shots up, even when they are not running the point, and West is one of those players. West is the player who will snatch the ball from a big man when he puts the ball on the floor, but his quick release is his calling card.

Ruben Arroyo (F, 6’8″, 2015) Deep Run HS (VA) Solid athlete with some upside. Needs to add weight but has great quick bounce off of the floor, finesse touch and has the hang time to finish after contact. Gets his shots off after the catch in the post without bringing the ball down.

Timmy Walker, Jr. (PG, 6’1, 2016) Christ School (NC) – Excellent first step and great court vision. Quick, beats his man off the dribble to get inside the paint.

Will Tibbs (SF, 6’5″, 2014) Winston-Salem Prep (NC) Tibbs is a wing player with great length and can shoot the deep ball. But he’s active, not just a spot up shooter – he runs the floor extremely well on the break and has great hands. He continues to work and has been overlooked after having a really solid season last year for Prep. Tibbs is a player who should have more college interest than he does but if enough colleges give him looks this year, there is little doubt someone can use a high motor wing with collegiate range and length.

Gerald Peacock (G, 6’1″, 2015) Very quick transition player who wants to run. Aggressive, likes to push the ball right to the rim and looks for breaking players. A great fit for coaches who want to get up and down the floor, has the fast break mindset and will burn defenders who trot back on defense.

Spencer Osborne (G, 6’3″, 2014) Solid guard with good size and build, pushes the ball hard and keeps the defender on his heels. Strong and deliberate with the ball, high motor. Hard nosed and makes an impact with the dribble or the pass. Colleges looking to snatch up a solid 2014 player should be actively looking at him.

Austin Collins (G, 6’2″, 2014) Winston-Salem Prep (NC) – Collins has a good hesitation dribble and should have a breakout year at Prep – he was always a vital part of their title runs but will likely take over more of the point guard duties this season. Excellent passer, fast, gets into the teeth of the defense consistently. Another 2014 guard that colleges should be actively watching and in contact with.

Matt Kalaf (SF, 6’7″, 2016) Nuese Christian Academy (NC) – Great length and plays on the wing, quick hands and good passing from the wing. Sharp shooter who is a match up problem for smaller wings, has a lot of upside and definitely a collegiate prospect.

Cameron Gottfried (SG, 6’3″, 2014) Broughton HS (NC) Gottfried is a smart, high motor player with a good deep shot, high release and excellent athleticism. Likes to get out on the break and can finish above the rim.

Players added to the watch list for the upcoming season:

Tucker Thompson (C, 6’10”, 2014) Huntersville, NC

Bryant Vucich (C, 6’8″, 2015) Morrisville, NC – actually the second time I’ve seen Vucich and his high release and hook caught my eye both times.

Marshall Macheledt (C, 6’8″, 2014) Greensboro, NC

Kenny Bunton (PF, 6’5″, 2016) Chattanooga, TN

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