Count me as one of the hoops junkies that digs ESPN's expanding coverage of the summer AAU extravaganza. Instead of having to read through report after report on Rivals and ESPN, scour the Internet for minute long highlight videos, and wait for the McDonald's AA game to get a firm grasp of the talents of future NCAA and NBA stars, I can just watch for myself now and make my own deductions.
On to the player evaluations after the jump.
Texas Pro vs. Georgia Stars
Although they didn't have future 2014 top 5 player Emmanuel Mudiay, Texas Pro was still absolutely loaded and went on to win the game in OT.
SG Danuel House, Texas Pro
Bio: 6'6", 195 lbs.
House's stock has exploded this summer (from unheard of to basically a consensus 5*) and he was far and away the most impressive player on Texas Pro. Still a raw talent that can play either wing position, House is an electric athlete with innate finishing abilities at the rim. His combination of jumping ability, strength, and focus allows him to routinely convert seemingly impossible layups from ridiculous angles under extreme pressure from the defense.
He also has a good looking shot and can knock down the three-ball, although this is an area where he needs to become more consistent. I was extremely surprised and impressed by his ability to create opportunities for his teammates at the rim in halfcourt situations—he routinely slashed to the middle of the defense only to find a teammate open for an easy dunk inside.
Danuel is also a plus off-ball defender who will contest passing lanes and sprint out for highlight dunks at the other end if the opposing team's offense doesn't handle the ball with care. He does need to tighten up his dribbling ability and learn to look for teammates in fast-break situations more often, but all in all it was a very impressive performance for a player that seems to just be scratching the surface of his potential. House is a take all the way for UT and we seem to be in good position.
C Isaiah Austin, Texas Pro
Bio: 7'0", 200 lbs.
HS: Grace Prep
What a disappointment. I know Austin is one of those guys who has the sky as the limit on his potential (supposedly), but this performance was just downright embarrassing. He missed at least two wide-open, uncontested dunks, which is unacceptable for a 7-footer who has the kind of length that should allow him to dunk without jumping. He continually hovered around the perimeter on offense, afraid to take on big-bodied Tony Parker in the post, and was completely ineffective shooting from distance or driving. By the end of the game, his confidence was so far gone that he refused to even shoot despite basically not being guarded.
The commentators repeatedly tried to make excuses for him, saying it was admirable for him to even be there after since he had recently played another tournament, but those excuses won't cut it in two years when he leaves early for the NBA and is playing three or four games a week. He seems to have added muscle to his twig-like frame, but he's still just so weak he's basically a non-factor as a rebounder or post player against any kind of serious competition. He is a good shot blocker due to his length, but there's really no excuse for him not being an elite one. The fact that he's rated ahead of a guy like Mitch McGary is laughable.
F Danrad "Chicken" Knowles, Texas Pro
Bio: 6'9", 190 lbs.
HS: Homeschool Christian Youth Association
The Chicken is another player whose stock has been blowing up this summer, and with his game it's easy to see why. Like Austin, he's very lanky and skinny, but because he primarily plays as a SF on offense, it doesn't affect him nearly as much. Knowles is a good athlete who has a solid feel for the game and can knock down some shots, but overall just needs to improve his primacy when he's on the court. By that, I mean he needs to affect the game more often because he's such a multi-dimensional talent. More rebounds, more possession of the ball, more time in the post, etc. He needs to become more confident in his handle, as well. He definitely has potential, but he's not quite there yet as a "star" like House has grown into.
I would prefer UT held off offering him for now to see how we do with other prospects at the forward position.
F Alex Poythress, Georgia Stars
Bio: 6'7", 215 lbs.
HS: Northeast (TN)
Poythress blew me away with his no-nonsense style of game and impressive swagger. Built like a rock, Poythress has made the smooth transition from an athletic PF to an efficient SF in short time this summer. He's impossible to stop driving left or right because of his power and is a strong finisher at the rim against all comers. He also displayed a silky smooth stroke from NBA range that splashed the net (I believe he was 4-6 from deep on the day) all game.
One of my favorite things about Poythress, though, is his defensive intensity. He contests every shot at the rim and refuses to allow easy buckets no matter what the odds. His athleticism, strength, and desire make him a plus defender at the 3 and 4 positions, as well as a genuine shot-blocking presence.
Alex did get a bit out of control toward the end of the OT as he tried to put his team on his back when the Stars were down with less than a minute left, but at least he was trying to do what stars do—take over. He also needs to get a tad more comfortable with his handle, especially with his left hand. If he can, watch out because you have a budding collegiate star. Texas has supposedly offered, but I'm not sure how interested Poythress is in the Horns.
Houston Defenders vs. BABC
The state of Texas is just loaded with good AAU teams right now. Aside from Texas Pro and the Houston Defenders, there's also loaded teams like Houston Hoops (L.J. Rose, Rasheed Sulaimon, J-Mychal Reese) and the Texas Titans (Julius Randle, Matt Jones), along with Marcus Smart's gritty Texas Assault team. The Defenders simply out-talented defense-oriented BABC and Nerlens Noel in this game.
PG/SG Andrew/Aaron Harrison, Houston Defenders
Bio: 6'4", 205 lbs.
I lumped the Harrisons in together because while everybody is caught up in how Andrew is the PG and Aaron is the SG, they have basically redundant skill sets. The recruiting services have finally caught on to the fact that Aaron is basically just as good of a ball handler and slasher as Andrew, although not quite as good of a passer, so we're hearing a lot of talk about how they're interchangeable now.
Offensively, both kids have solid, but not spectacular dribbling ability, very good form on their jumpers, and a high basketball IQ. They are also very unselfish players who really look to get their teammates involved—sometimes even being too deliberate in this motivation. The great thing about having them as a tandem in the backcourt is that you are basically playing two oversized PGs and two well-sized off-guards at the same time on the offensive end, which gives their team a decided advantage in versatility. They are also extremely well built and can use their bodies to bully defenders to the basket.
Defensively, both players relish the challenge of locking down the opposing team's top perimeter player and both utilize their strong frames and good lateral quickness to stay in front of their men. Remember all those games where Texas was trying to juggle J'Covan Brown and Jordan Hamilton's offense with Doge Balbay and Justin Mason's defense? Yeah, all those problems go away when these kids step on the court.
Because of their maturity and versatility, any team that gets these kids is going to have one of the best backcourts in the country from the start of the season. I don't feel like the kids are that interested in UT, and a lot of that is due to their huge interest in going to a "basketball school." They're also enamored of John Calipari and Kentucky, a battle I don't like UT's odds against even with a kid from Austin High. They also have some serious Maryland connections, which could become even stronger once Shaq Cleare officially commits there.
C Shaq Cleare, Houston Defenders
Bio: 6'8", 270 lbs.
HS: The Village School
Cleare is a hulking mass inside who will almost never venture away from the post. He needs to lose at least 20 lbs. right now, because his entire frame is fatty. He's tough to stop once he gets the ball next to the basket, using power post moves to beat back defenders that simply aren't strong or big enough to contain him at this age. There's not really much to say other than that. He has very little jumping ability or athleticism due to his physique, isn't much of a force on the boards, and is not a threat to block against reasonably-sized competition. He looks like a less talented and shorter version of Dexter Pittman to me. Virtual lock for Maryland, where his (large) presence could help draw the Harrison twins.
PF Derrick Griffin, Houston Defenders
Bio: 6'6", 215
Griffin has said that if he grows another couple of inches he'll stick with basketball. Not a good plan, in my opinion. His only real basketball "skill" is his athleticism, which is absolutely elite. Other than dunking and blocking shots, though, he really can't do anything else on the court. He's got SF size with less skillset than Dwight Howard and benefits immeasurably from the creativity of the Harrisons.
Even if he grew a couple of inches, he'd still only be around 6'7" or 6'8" and wouldn't have a chance to make a career playing ball (at least, in America). Why not stick with football, where you're possibly the number one TE in the country? You can still play basketball as a guy off the bench in college and you have a great shot at making the NFL one day. I see him eventually coming to UT as a TE and playing with the basketball team as well, which would be a shot in the arm to a program that almost never seems to have a full roster nowadays.