NEW YORK -- The Big Apple Basketball Challenge presented a chance to evaluate some of the better young prospects in the New York City area, pitting some of the top Catholic school basketball teams against some of top public school teams over a two-day period recently. Most teams have just started their seasons and it showed, as some looked very sluggish in their efforts to become more familiar with one another.
Sidiki Johnson, PF (6-foot-7)
Sophomore, Bronx, N.Y./St. Raymond
Johnson easily accomplishes many tasks on the court, a very impressive feat given his young age. He has good length and uses it to his advantage on both ends of the court. Johnson has a nice jump hook with his right hand over his left shoulder in the post and should get that shot even more as his strength increases. He can get the ball in the mid-post and utilize the turn-and-face to drive past slower big men on his way to the rim. He will also use the drop-step in the post when playing with his back to the basket. When Johnson gets the ball in the post off a pass or offensive rebound, he has to do a better job of keeping the ball high and not bring it down to his waist, making it fair game for the little guys to come and swipe it away. He runs the floor well and should get points in transition as well as in the half-court sets. Johnson also has to do a better job of finishing at the rim in traffic. On defense, Johnson does a good job of contesting or blocking shots by getting in the best position to block shots as opposed to wildly attempting to swat at shots out of his area.
Keith Spellman, SG (6-2)
Senior, Brooklyn, N.Y./Thomas Jefferson
Spellman has outstanding athleticism and quickness, which makes him an absolute terror in the open court. He attacks the rim with great focus and intensity, placing an incredible amount of pressure on opposing defenses, especially when the opposing team misses and he can get the ball in transition. Once at the rim, Spellman impressively finishes with either his left or right (dominant) hand. He also has good leaping ability and length, which allows him to get to the rim and adjust in the air when bigs try to block his layup attempts. Spellman has a nice left-to-right spin move that he uses on a routine basis. He has good-sized hands, therefore his ability to handle the ball should continue to improve. He will shoot the 3-pointer if left open, but he could stand to improve his accuracy and consistency. However, Spellman would become a better shooter if he took better shots and didn't lose control when penetrating.
Ronald Baker, SG (6-2)
Senior, Bronx, N.Y./Wings Academy
Baker has explosive scoring ability and can light it up in a hurry. He has no conscience when launching jumpers and will hit spot-up jumpers from well beyond 3-point range. He ranks as a streaky shooter, and would eliminate some of the streakiness if he used better shot selection. He has unorthodox form, but he gets the shot off with a good amount of success. Baker also has good quickness and can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. Once in the paint, he can finish at the rim with either hand. However, he has a tendency to over-penetrate and get into trouble in the paint. Baker would benefit from adding more strength and muscle to his frame, incorporating a mid-range pull-up to his arsenal and increasing his defensive intensity, as well as doing a better job of getting his teammates involved.
Antoine Brown, PG (6-1)
Senior, Brooklyn, N.Y./Bishop Loughlin
Brown, a lefty, has good range on his jumper that extends beyond the 3-point line. He also has very good lift on his shot and gets it off rather quickly, which makes it difficult to defend. He usually makes jumpers consistently, but when he misses, he kicks out his leg just a little, which serves to turn his body and prevents him from keeping his shoulders square to the basket. Brown will also benefit from adding a mid-range pull-up to his offensive game. He has a very quick first step, which he uses to get into the paint and finish with his right or left. As he improves his shot selection, Brown will become an even better offensive player and shooter. He finds open players off his penetration and delivers spectacular passes to his teammates, but he has to cut down on his tendency to try to thread the needle, which often results in turnovers.
OD Anosike, PF/C (6-8)
Senior, Staten Island, N.Y./St. Peters
Anosike has very high basketball intelligence, which he uses to help make his teammates better. Though he's a big man, he excels at passing the ball and uses his great vision to spot open teammates for scoring chances. He handles the ball very well for a big man -- a tool that makes him very valuable because his ball-handling skills allow him to help in press-breaking situations. Anosike has very good length, big hands and a very good quick second jump which makes him a very good rebounder -- especially on the offensive end. Once he gets the offensive rebound, Anosike goes right back up for the finish. However, he has to become stronger, which he should do if he wants to become a better finisher at the rim in traffic. When he gets the ball in the post, Anosike likes to set up on the right block and use a quick spin move, but he needs to improve his footwork and lessen his tendency to travel when he gets the ball down low.
Davontay Grace, PG (6-1)
Sophomore, Brooklyn, N.Y./Thomas Jefferson
Grace has a thick body, which he uses to generate an incredible amount of power. Despite his powerful build, he has a good amount of quickness, which he uses to drive past opposing defenders. Grace ranks as a shoot-first point guard who loves to create off the bounce. He has tendency to go on streaks, making a number of shots followed by a number of consecutive misses. If he makes a couple, he tends to get caught up in the moment and take a number of bad shots. When connecting, Grace will pull up off the dribble in transition and surprise defenders with 3-pointers. When he misses his jumpers, he falls away from the basket and does not finish his shot or hold his follow-through. He plays the game at a breakneck pace and would benefit from adding a change-of-pace dribble to his game. This would allow him to process the court and make better decisions with the ball. When Grace focuses on passing, he does a good job of finding open teammates. He has good ballhandling skills but needs to alleviate his habit of over-dribbling. If he learns to get defenders on his hip, which he should accomplish given his frame, Grace would not have to work as hard to beat defenders. Given his quickness and frame, he could also become a dominant perimeter defender.
Kamari Murphy, PF (6-7)
Sophomore, Brooklyn, N.Y./Bishop Ford
Even though Murphy's thin, he has very good length and uses it to his advantage, especially on the defensive end. He does a very good job of blocking shots, especially as an on-ball defender. He also makes very good use of his length by keeping the ball high when he receives it in the post or when he gets the ball off the glass. In addition to his length, he has very good leaping ability and athleticism, which makes him a very good player in transition. He also has solid footwork in the post when he receives the ball, but he needs a little more work in this area. Murphy gives good effort and will improve while tapping into his potential as he continues to mature and get stronger.
Corey Edwards, PG (5-10)
Sophomore, Middle Village, N.Y./Christ the King
Edwards has good, but not elite, quickness, which he uses to his advantage off the dribble when getting to the paint. He does not look for his own offense when in the teeth of the defense, preferring to dish the ball to open teammates. He has unbelievable vision and passing skills. Edwards keeps his head up on the break -- a characteristic that coaches love in a point guard -- and spots open teammates for layup attempts. But he needs to improve his consistency from the perimeter just to make sure that defenders remain honest. He also has a tendency to dribble into traffic or get into trouble at times. When Edwards faces a zone defense, he could help himself as well as his team by quickly driving the gaps in the zone and dishing to open teammates. At this point, Edwards has a tendency to overanalyze the zone and wait too long to make decisions. Using pass fakes will also make the zone move and open up lanes for him to pass or drive.
Peter Aguilar, SG (6-2)
Sophomore, Bronx, N.Y./Mount St. Michael
Aguilar has a polished game for such a young player, and uses it to score in a variety of ways. His versatility allows him to score at will. Despite possessing an abundance of offensive gifts, he does a good job of remaining within the team concept on the offensive end and rarely forces shots. Aguilar has good range on his jump shot and will connect from the 3-point line. He also does a good job of hitting the one-two dribble, pull-up jumper from mid-range. If defenders press up on him he has enough quickness to get to the paint and finish off plays at the rim. Aguilar also excels in the open court and does a great job of handling the ball while running at high speeds in transition. He usually makes the correct decision on the break as to whether he should pull up for jumpers or go all the way to the rim on the break. Aguilar's offensive game allows him to have a positive impact, but could improve his defensive intensity and focus.
Stephen Nwaukoni, PF (6-7)
Junior, Jamaica, N.Y./Thomas Edison
Nwaukoni has to continue to improve his touch around the basket and from the perimeter. He also needs to improve his footwork in the post when he receives the ball with his back to the basket. Nwaukoni excels as an offensive rebounder because he uses his good athleticism and leaping ability to retrieve shots after they fall from the glass. He rebounds both in as well as out of his area on the offensive glass. But once he gets the offensive rebound, he routinely does not convert lay-ins in traffic. He needs to improve his defensive rebounding and focus. Nwaukoni could become a better shot-blocker given his leaping ability and strong body. He also does a good job of running the floor and asserting himself in the transition game.
• Jatone Pierce-Bias, a 6-0 junior PG (St. Raymond/Bronx, N.Y.), plays with great poise. He can connect on jumpers from 3-point range as well as get jump shots in the mid-range. Pierce-Bias has good vision and passing skills, while leading the defensive charge for his team.
• Chazz Williams, a 5-9 PG (Brownsville, N.Y./Bishop Ford), has outstanding quickness and athleticism, which make him a highlight reel whenever he steps on the court. Williams possesses incredible quickness, but he has to harness this gift in order to get the best out of it.
• Another St. Raymond's prospect, 6-3 freshman G/F Nkereuwem Okoro (St. Raymond/Bronx, N.Y.), has a diversified game and a frame that will become even more impressive as he matures. Okoro hits the boards on both ends very well, but he will also score off the dribble. Look for this young player to rise up the ranks in the very near future.
• Chad Coachman, a 6-3 PG (Campus Magnet/Cambria Heights, N.Y.) and 2009 prospect, competes at a high level and vocally leads the charge for his team. Coachman possesses great quickness and fearlessly attacks the rim with aggression. If he becomes a better shooter from the perimeter, Coachman should have a solid college career.
• Lamount Samuell Jr., a 6-4 senior PG (Boys and Girls/Brooklyn, N.Y.), scores the basketball off the dribble with relative ease. He also has the intestinal fortitude to take and connect on crucial shots down the stretch for his team. If he learns to score going right as he does dribbling to his left, Samuell Jr. will become a difficult guard for opposing defenses.
• Ross Vizcaino, 6-4 senior SG/SF (John F. Kennedy/Bronx, N.Y.), has incredible range on his jump shot -- but can be streaky. He will shoot and connect on jumpers from well beyond 3-point range, and if he exercises better shot selection he could become an even better shooter from the perimeter.
Antonio Williams is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He previously worked as an NBA scout for Marty Blake Associates.