The National Prep Championship provided an opportunity for the top eight rated prep schools in the nation to do battle in a tournament, single-elimination style, regardless of class. With this collection of teams playing against one another, the tournament allowed me the chance to see matchups between some of the top players in the country before they close out their prep careers. McDonald's All-American Alex Oriakhi locked horns with a talented collection of South Kent interior players led by Jackie Carmichae. Oriakhi's Tilton teammate and fellow Connecticut signee Jamal-Coombs matched wits on the perimeter with fellow ESPNU 100 player Kevin Parrom.
In the title game of the event, Oriakhi led his fifth-seeded Tilton squad against the second-ranked Hargrave Military Academy, led by another talented big man, Charlotte commit Chris Braswell with Tilton coming out on top in a very spirited contest. Coombs-McDaniel, through his inspired play, garnered MVP honors in this competitive event.
Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, SF (6-6)
Senior, Boston, Mass./The Tilton School
Coombs-McDaniel does an incredible job of leading his squad. He plays as the ultimate band-aid player, shoring up whatever needs his team may have during a game. If his squad needs a bucket, Coombs-McDaniel will collect the board, if they need to score, he will get the bucket and if they need a defensive stop, Coombs-McDaniel will guard positions four positions on the court. He also plays the one through four positions on the offensive end of the court as well. Coombs will often bring the ball up and initiate the offense for his team. He does a good job of breaking down his man off the dribble and using his strength and craftiness to get to the paint. Once at the rim, Coombs-McDaniel has the strength and body control to adjust in the air, take contact, and still finish at the rim. He sometimes adjusts too much in the air and makes the shot more difficult in his attempts to draw fouls on the opposition. He has range that extends out to the 3-point line, though he can be streaky at times from distance. He does a great job playing the role of the vocal leader and the quarterback on the floor for his team. Coombs-McDaniel also has a very high basketball I.Q. and plays a heady brand of basketball.
Gerard Coleman, SG (6-3)
Junior, West Roxbury, Mass./The Tilton School
Coleman, despite his lack of muscle and strength, will attack the rim fearlessly. He covers a great deal of ground when he gets to the rim and will attempt to finish above the rim in traffic, drawing a high number of fouls. With added strength, Coleman will finish off a number of the plays and earn old-fashioned 3-point play opportunities. As the year has gone on, Coleman has become more and more assertive on the offensive end. He has range that extends out to the 3-point line and will also get jumpers in the mid-range, but he does not get his shooting hand (left) under the ball enough on his jumper, which results in a number of his jumpers landing short and hitting the front of the rim. He also does a good job of using his length and lateral quickness to harass opposing ball-handlers on the defensive end as well as play passing lanes for steals, which result in fast breaks and chances for Coleman to finish off the break in highlight reel style. With added strength, Coleman will become even better on the defensive end. As he improves his ball-handling skills, Coleman could become an even more devastating offensive player.
Malik Stith, PG (5-10)
Post-Grad, Long Island City, N.Y./Bridgton Academy
Stith calmly leads his teams and has a very stoic, poker face, never allowing the opposition to rattle or bother him. He does a great job of driving the basketball, especially when he penetrates to his right. At the rim, Stith also has enough strength and body control to adjust in the air and take contact, while still finishing the basket, despite his small stature. Beneath his expressionless face, lurks the heart of a lion with the intestinal fortitude to take big shots and handle the ball in crucial situations for his squad. Stith will also connect on daggers from beyond the 3-point line off the dribble, which will provide confidence and momentum for his team while killing the spirit of the opposition. He also does an adequate job of moving his feet on the defensive end, keeping opponents out of the lane, but taller point guards sometimes use their height advantage to shoot over Stith. He has good vision and does a great job of creating scoring chances for his teammates.
Thomas Robinson, PF (6-8)
Senior, Washington, D.C./Brewster Academy
Robinson snares boards in and out of his area with remarkable ease, using his length, good leaping ability, and sheer effort to out-work opposing big men. In fact, Robinson collects caroms better than anyone in the class. He may also play harder than anyone in the Class of 2009. He runs the floor well and will finish off the break in transition and run for timely blocks on unsuspecting opposing players that believe that they have an open lay-up. When he scores off the offensive boards, he uses his quick leaping ability and strength to power up for finishes above the rim in traffic. Robinson also has enough quickness and ball-handling skills to handle the ball in transition and drive to the basket for dunks. Though he can face the bucket and hit jumpers, he needs to improve his touch from the perimeter. Robinson also must improve his accuracy from the free-throw line, especially given the amount of contact that he draws due to his physical style of play.
Alex Oriakhi, PF (6-8)
Senior, Lowell, Mass./The Tilton School
Oriakhi, when engaged and committed, can utterly dominate a game on both ends of the court, using his size, strength, athleticism, and emotion to over-power opposing big men. He has problems at times when he does not face a formidable enough challenge from the opposition and his play and effort tend to fluctuate according to who he plays against. He has decent footwork in the post, but he has to alleviate his tendency to travel when he makes post moves at times. Oriakhi has shown a nice set of counter-moves that he should use more often when interior defenders take away his initial post move. He uses his left-hand very well in the post, especially when he scores with a little lefty (off-hand) jump hook with his back to the basket. He does a great job of collecting offensive rebounds and going up in traffic to finish above the rim, making effective use of the reverse-dunk rather often. He can also step away and hit jumpers in the 10-15 feet range, but he has a tendency to drop his hands and not finish his follow-through when he shoots turn-around jumpers. Oriakhi also draws a high number of fouls on the opposition; therefore he needs to improve his free-throw shooting by raising his release point. He needs to keep his effort and focus on the defensive end high, as he tends to only rebound the ball on the defensive end and contest shots sometimes, even though he has the ability to accomplish this task on a more consistent basis.
Naadir Tharpe, PF (6-8)
Sophomore, Worcester, Mass./Brewster Academy
Tharpe does not rank as a knockdown perimeter shooter, but he has the courage to hit big shots from the perimeter, especially from 3-point range. When he keeps his release point high and does not kick out his right leg too much, Tharpe has a relatively good amount of accuracy. He also has good quickness and effectively utilizes a change of pace dribble to keep opposing defenders off-balance and get himself into the paint. He has a tendency to overpenetrate at times and get into trouble. Adding more strength and a floater to his offensive game will help him immensely. Adding more strength will also help him on the defensive end, as he tends to struggle somewhat when attacked off the dribble by penetrating guards. Tharpe has very good vision and passing skills, easily finding open teammates for easy shots. He does a great job of sneaking balls into cracks for teammates and they sometimes seem surprised by Tharpe's deft passing ability.
Preye Preboye, SF (6-5)
Senior, Springfield, Mass./Winchendon School
Preboye leads his team through effort and seems to have the emotional pulse of his team. This tough competitor does not back down from anyone, teammate or foe, and will get in the face of his teammates when they do not exert maximum effort. He has very good quickness and gets his team extra scoring chances by playing passing lanes and getting steals for his team. Preboye also plays very good position defense on the wing, using his lateral strength and quickness to keep wing players out of the paint. This lefty has range that extends out to the 3-point line, but he does not rank as a great shooter at this point of his career. Given his leaping ability, he also needs to add a mid-range pull-up jumper to his arsenal. His quick first step allows him to get to the paint and improving his ball-handling skills will benefit Preboye considerably. He does a number of positive things for his team that do not show up in box scores.
Post-Grad, White Plains, N.Y./Notre Dame Prep
Kilpatrick has improve immensely off the dribble and does a much better job of scoring off the dribble, utilizing a mid-range pull-up jumper, though he needs to continue to work on this area of his offensive game. He has good strength and can also use this gift to free himself on the perimeter. He has a tendency to try to force the issue on the offensive end and times, which sometimes results in turnovers, but one cannot fault his aggressive nature on the offensive end. Kilpatrick has decent passing skills and vision, though he sometimes tries to force the ball into tight spaces. Kilpatrick also has range that extends out to the 3-point line and his very quick release can catch opponents off guard. He plays decent defense on the perimeter and he also does a good job of anticipating in passing lanes for steals. Kilpatrick gives maximum effort when on the court and rarely takes plays off.
Luke Hancock, SF (6-4)
Post-Grad, Roanoke, Va./Hargrave Military Academy
Hancock has range that extends out to the 3-point line and if the opposition does not account for him or a defenders does not close out with his hands up to deter Hancock from shooting or run him off the 3-point line, Hancock will stick the jumper from distance with great regularity. He will also take the ball to the hoop and finish, though he prefers to go right almost exclusively. Hancock needs to work on his ball-handling skills as well as his lateral quickness with the ball in his hands. He also has good leaping ability, which allows him to finish some plays above the rim and given his decent athleticism, he should have a more refined game off the dribble. Hancock will also benefit from improving his middle game by adding a pull-up jumper to his offensive arsenal.
Ledrick Eackles, SG (6-3)
Post-Grad, Zachary, La./Hargrave Military Academy
Eackles places an immense amount of pressure on opposing wing defenders through his very aggressive approach on the offensive end of the floor. Though as a tad undersized for the shooting guard slot, Eackles compensates for any lack of height through his extraordinary leaping ability and quickness. He has a lightning quick first step which makes it very difficult for opponents to keep him out of the paint. However, he sometimes makes his quickness advantage non-existent by playing too quickly, instead of using a change of speeds to keep defenders off –balance. Changing pace will also help Eackles in improving his decision-making. Eackles does have range on his jumper that extends out to the 3-point line, though he does not rank as a great shooter at this point. With his leaping ability, he would benefit from adding the mid-range pull-up to his offensive arsenal. He attacks the boards on the offensive end with great intensity and will finish off a number of plays above the rim, even on the break as well. He does a good job of playing passing lanes and collecting steals on the defensive end as well as keeping defenders in front of him. Eackles has a good mount of energy and rarely takes play off.
• Tilton head coach Marcus O' Neil does a very good job of coaching his squad. He has effectively mixes his star players with his role players and manages to get significant contributions from his bench players.
• Post-Grad 6-5 SF Jake Barnett (Wauwatosa, Wis./Notre Dame Prep) plays with a high level of energy and passion on both ends of the court and rarely takes plays off.
Barnett has a very efficient stroke from the perimeter with very little wasted motion or energy. His practically flawless shooting mechanics and high release give him the ability to connect from beyond 3-point range.
• Senior combo-guard Eric Gordon (Indianapolis, Ind./Hargrave Military Academy) can score off the dribble with relative ease, either using the mid-range pull-up or going all the way to the basket. As long as he gets to drive to his left, this righty can score with the best of them.
• Post-grad shooting-guard Freddie Riley (Ocala, Fla./Hargrave Military Academy) has the ability to connect on contested jumpers from well beyond 3-point range. As long he continues to improve his shot selection, Riley will become a difficult guard to defend on the perimeter on the next level.
• Post-grad Reggie Moore, a 6-1 PG (Post-Grad, Everett, Wash./Brewster Academy), has very explosive scoring ability. He can create his own shot off the dribble effortlessly, though he needs to cut down on his tendency to over-dribble and hunt down shots at times.
• Alex Kershaw, a 6-2 junior SG (Easton, Mass./The Tilton School) plays with an extraordinary amount of toughness. He takes pride in doing the dirty work for his squad and allowing for the stars to fulfill their roles as stars and not have to concern themselves with the grind as much.