ORLANDO -- The action is heating up at Disney's Milk House as the 2009 AAU Super Showcase crowned a champion in the U-15 tournament and elimination play got under way in the U-16 bracket. Plenty of talented younger prospects are competing at a high level. With the April period closed for evaluating at nonscholastic events, many college coaches are on hand to scout some future standouts.
There were many terrific performances at the 2009 AAU 16 Super Showcase, but 2012 power forward/center Andre Drummond, 6-11, of the Connecticut Basketball Club (Middletown, Conn./St. Thomas More) was the cream of the crop. Drummond displayed the ability to finish above the rim in traffic and rebound with authority on both ends of the floor. The surprise performance of the day came from big man Egi Gjikondi (Malden, Mass./Cushing Academy) who led his BABC team with 22 points and 10 rebounds in a win over L.A. Razorbacks.
The U-15 AAU Super Showcase was filled with excitement this year with some of the best young talent in America on display. The championship game featured the Garner Roads Bulldogs from North Carolina versus Martin Brothers Select from Iowa. The Bulldogs are sponsored by David West of the New Orleans Hornets, who was there to support his team. Garner Roads defeated Martin Brothers in a hard-fought affair. The North Carolina boys had a balanced attack lead by wings Terry Henderson (Neuse, N.C./Baptist Christian) with 13 and T.J. Warren (Durham, N.C./Riverside) with 12. Martin Brothers was led by G Mike Gesell (Sioux City, Iowa) with 18 and PG Marcus Paige (Marion, Iowa/Linn-Mar) with 15.
Of course, tomorrow we'll be looking at some of the top upperclassmen who are on display in these Orlando events.
Drummond (Middletown, Conn./St. Thomas More) is a very mobile and athletic post who has excellent ball skills. He can make athletic scoring plays in transition with his ability to catch and finish at high speeds. At times, he runs the floor with short strides. When motivated, he stretches out and outruns other inside players with ease. Drummond scores with drives from the low wing and the high post area where he can elevate over defenders and finish through contact on a consistent basis. On the low block, Drummond again uses his athletic ability to drop step and score. He dunks on all clear paths to the rim and can finish over late weakside defenders. Drummond must work on his low post back-to-the-basket moves because he did not seem comfortable or fluid in that regard. Drummond is an excellent area rebounder on both ends. He is a tip dunker on the offensive end if not blocked out. Defensively, Drummond is a good shot-blocker. He will fight for low-post position but at times he relaxes and does not defend before the ball arrives, which causes him to draw fouls when defending a post of similar size. Drummond is a talented athlete with great upside. It should be fun watching him develop.
Gjikondi is a left-hander from Albania. He is a very efficient inside scorer and does an outstanding job on the offensive glass, working to get second-chance points with his size and active body. This young man invites contact on his way back up to the basket and is learning how to finish. He also scores from his teammates' penetration, receiving dump-off passes in the lane. Although he is still developing post moves with his back to the basket, Gjikondi has a nice touch inside. Facing the basket from 10 to 15 feet, he can drive the ball or make a jumper. Defensively, he must learn two things: when and how to help his teammates, and not to commit foolish fouls because of his physical play. He is a blue-collar player who gives an honest effort.
T.J. Warren is very skilled for such a young player. Warren can score inside and out. He uses his size very well inside on post-ups. He is also good off the dribble as he gets into the lane and uses his size and athletic ability to shoot over smaller opponents. He has solid range to 20 feet. He is a very good shooter with his feet set. Warren is a solid rebounder but not a great defender at this point. We expect him to improve with more discipline in the future. He was one of the key reasons the Garner Roads Bulldogs made their run the U-15 showcase that ended with their winning the championship.
King of the Hill
2013 PG Kasey Hill (Eustis, Fla.) is a very skilled and athletic combo guard. He is definitely one of the top players in the 2013 class so far. Offensively, Hill is a slasher and a creator. He is excellent at getting into the lane to score or dishing to an open teammate. He is very quick and has great bounce. He elevated over opponents for dunks several times during the tournament. His jump shot is a little inconsistent at this point, but his ability to score is not diminished. He can hit enough jumpers to 18 feet to keep his opponents honest. Hill is also a solid defender, which is hard to find among players his age.
Marcus Paige is a super-quick lefty point guard who can score and create with equal aplomb. Paige is thin but tough as nails and is a good shooter with range to 20 feet. He is a fine passer who is very good at finding his open teammates. Defensively, he is quick enough to be disruptive on the ball, though he will need to get bigger and stronger in order to sustain his position and defend better against penetration.
Class of 2011 point guard Everett Golson (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) is a smooth and athletic guard. He pushes the ball with speed and quickness and keeps constant pressure on the defense. Golston makes good decisions with the ball and does a good job setting the offense. His quickness allows him to be a great penetrator, and he can dribble through contact to make a scoring play or use his excellent court vision to deliver the ball to an open teammate. Feeding the post is also a strength of Golston's. He understands the advantage of getting the ball inside, then cutting or relocating for an open shot. Golston is an improved shooter who knocked down his open 3s today. He also has a nice floater going to his right. On defense he has great lateral foot speed and quick hands -- he applies good ball pressure and sets the tone for the whole defense. Golston is also a highly touted quarterback. This young lead guard was fun to watch as he dissected the opposing defense today.
John Stovall contributed to this report.
Paul Biancardi, who spent 2007-08 as an assistant coach on Rick Majerus' staff at Saint Louis University, is the national recruiting director for ESPN Scouts Inc. He has 18 years of coaching experience at the Division I level. He was an assistant at Boston University, Boston College and Ohio State before becoming the head coach at Wright State, where he earned Horizon League Coach of the Year honors in the 2003-04 season. He is on the selection committees for the Gatorade National Player of the Year award and the McDonald's All-America Game.