ORLANDO -- The playoffs are underway after two days of grinding pool play at the 2009 AAU 17-and-under National Championship. We've seen tons of Division I-type talents in Orlando, but with each passing day we become more impressed.
Shane Larkin (Orlando/Dr. Phillips) might have been the most impressive player during Tuesday's action. He does everything on the floor. At just 5-foot-10, this scoring point guard is fearless and fun to watch. Not to be outdone, power forward Melsahn Basabe (Glen Cove, N.Y./St. Marks) of the New York Gauchos showed he is a force to be dealt with on the blocks. At 6-7, Basabe was a terror on the glass and finished through contact on a consistent basis. Basabe is a blue-collar forward who did all the dirty work to help the Gauchos to an overtime win.
Larkin is a scoring point guard who is always pushing the ball in transition, which places pressure on the defense. He will go coast to coast for the layup or stop and shoot a pull-up 3-pointer. In the half court, he can play well in a two-man pick-and-pop game; he can drive the lane with quickness or shoot behind a screen. He needs to utilize his floater more often when he gets in the lane and to develop a strong dribble pull-up jumper. At times, he overpenetrates and leaves his feet and that's when he gets in trouble with a turnover or bad shot. We know he can score and he must continue to hone his ability to create for his teammates and demonstrate that he can run a team with his scoring ability. You can easily see he enjoys the game and loves to compete.
Basabe was aggressive and very productive around the basket today. He ran the floor with great urgency and got a couple of baskets by simply outrunning the transition defense to the rim. He was terrific on the glass on both ends. Basabe was difficult to box out; he weaved around weak box outs for tip-ins and putback dunks. Defensively, he snatched balls in and out of his area and promptly delivered sharp outlet passes to the point guard. Basabe displayed a great nose for the ball. Offensively, he posts strong with a foot in the lane and he has developed a great habit of keeping his hands high to provide the passer a target. Basabe scored on a jump hook over his left shoulder and a couple of power drop steps. He must continue to sharpen his back-to-the-basket moves in order to score on taller post players. He also has the ability to put the ball on the floor and drive from the low wing or high post. He wins you over with his relentless pursuit of the ball. Basabe must learn not to gamble for steals on defense and extend his shooting range, but he is a good shot-blocker with excellent timing away form the ball. He also struggled at times at the free throw line because his follow through was inconsistent, his guide hand was under the ball and he shot flat footed. But overall, Basabe played like a warrior and has tremendous upside.
Monsters of the Midwest
The Illinois Rising Stars are a well-coached team that plays with great chemistry on the court. They have been in the final four of every tournament they have participated in this spring and summer except one under the coaching of Michael Weinstein. But what is even more impressive about the Rising Stars is that they have eight Division I players with a GPA of 3.0 or better, a group that includes standouts Lenzelle Smith (Ohio State), Ben Brust (Iowa), Alex Rossi (California) and Fred Heldring (William & Mary). That's getting it done on and off the court.
Trey Lewis (Garfield Heights, Ohio) is a solid point guard who can play wing guard when needed. The 2011 prospect is a very good shooter with his feet set. He is also good off the bounce and has an offensive game that includes floaters and pull ups. He has solid range on his jump shot to 22 feet. As a shooter, he is best when given time with his feet set. He can score off the dribble, but his accuracy isn't as good in that situation. He is a decent defender, using his quick hands and feet to disrupt his opponent. He is a decent passer and decision-maker.
Collins stays on point
Corbin Collins (High Point, N.C./Andrews) is a solid, pass-first point guard. The 2012 prospect has a strong body and uses it to penetrate into the lane. Poised beyond his years, Collins is excellent at running and leading his team. He is also a very good football player. He did not shoot much in the game I saw him, but he was excellent at leading and getting his team into its offensive sets. When he did shoot, his stoke looked solid out to 17 feet. Collins is a good defender with his strength and quickness. He is a solid prospect who should improve in time.
Michael Carter-Williams (Providence, R.I./St. Andrews) is a long and skilled combo guard. He is best as a point guard running his team. He is a good scorer who can slash very effectively to the basket, where he uses his size and length to create opportunities. He is a solid passer and a good creator. His size allows him to be a solid rebounder, especially for his position. Carter-Williams is a nice scorer with range to 20 feet. Defensively, he needs to get stronger, but he has great length, which allows him to play the passing lanes effectively.
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.