NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- If you're looking for available talent, you have two choices. You can get in your car for a few days and drive through a series or charming New England towns or you can attend the New England Prep Showcase for three days and sit in the same gym.
We opted for the more economical route and spent this past weekend at the showcase, eyeballing a handful of would-be all-americans, a few available prospects and a flurry of up-and-coming younger talents. This was the month's most talent-laden event.
P.J. Hairston (Greensboro, N.C./Hargrave)
2011, SG, 6-foot-6, 220 pounds
He left the event after filing two strong efforts, which should be good enough to cement his McDonald's All-American status. The key for Hairston is that he shed the extra baggage which opened him up to play lighter and with more energy. His jump shot is prolific and he needs virtually no space to click it off. Th UNC commit showed increasing flashes of going off the bounce, but basically he was one of the best performers at the showcase and the top wing player in attendance.
Khem Birch (Montreal, Can./Notre Dame Prep)
2011, C, 6-9, 210 pounds
The Canadian generated the biggest news of the event. He began the showcase as a junior and by the second day of the event he relocated to the senior class. Birch is a fifth-year player this season and his timetable for college hoops begins next fall; he signed over the weekend with Pittsburgh. He reminds us of a young Derrick Favors by the way he runs the floor, chases shots and has room to grow as an offensive player. Now that he's a senior, he'll be examined with a more critical eye and relocated to No. 9 in our senior list.
Maurice Harkless (Jamaica, N.Y./South Kent)
2011, SF, 6-6, 200 pounds
Coach Steve Lavin's class contains plenty of good prospects, but the coach is going to need some of them to be ready to play right away. Harkless gives St. John's not only a talented prospect, but a freshman who will be ready for the college game. A top 50 player, he can swing between forward positions, has good feel and his touch inside the 3-point line makes him a reliable threat. In a large freshman class, look for Harkless to emerge as a player Lavin can trust early in his career.
Jakarr Sampson (Akron, Ohio/Brewster)
2011, SF, 6-8, 200 pounds
He's heading home for the holiday break feeling good about his play. Sampson posted a double-double in his second game, a marked improvement both in production and energy from his first outing. The best way to describe his game begins with a discussion on his elite athleticism and closes with his propensity to stuff the stat sheet. The owner of an infectious smile, it won't take long for him to endear himself to the Red Storm fans.
Shaquille Thomas (Newark, N.J./NIA Prep)
2011, SF, 6-6 185 pounds
You are what you consistently do. For Thomas, that means slashing to the cup and finishing at the rim, both of which he excels at doing. The surprise came when he knocked down a 3-pointer to put his team into overtime in the opener. At Cincinnati, expect him to evolve into a similar role where he can hit the paint and be counted on to get to the line.
K.C. Whitaker (Ashburn, Va./Fishburne Military)
2011, SG, 6-5, 185 pounds
This is a good story. Whittaker missed his senior season with a broken wrist so the prep year was needed. UAB got involved and signed the shooter. He's a lefty with size and a competitive edge. With his team, he runs point and though we think he can be a secondary option there, he'll have to beef up the handle against pressure. As a shooter, his quick release is lethal.
Eye on the underclassmen
Andre Drummond (Oakdale, Conn./St. Thomas More)
2012, C, 6-10, 275 pounds
His Saturday effort will be one of the signature moments of the season. After a ho-hum opener, Drummond went back to the basics which meant dominating inside to the tune of 20 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks. He's so big, others fear his presence and we aren't sure he's entirely comfortable, yet, being the biggest man in the room. Athletically, he is more advances operating than anyone his size should be and is a cross between Al Jefferson and Dwight Howard. Drummond finished with both hands and rejected shots with each as well. He's physically intimidating, but cut from the quiet and reserved mold. Ten years from now, he'll thank his high school coach for having the foresight to coach him hard and demand him to play to a higher set of expectations. This young man has a shot at being one of the decade's best big men.
Kaleb Tarzcewski, C and Alex Murphy, SF (Southborough, Mass./St. Mark's)
The juniors combined for 43 points and 27 rebounds with Tarczewski going for 25 points and Murphy hauling in 17 rebounds in their lone appearance. Tarczewski was a battering ram at the rim, while Murphy showed off his mobility in going for a career rebounding high. Both are top 25 overall prospects and give St. Mark's a formidable 1-2 frontcourt punch.
Ricardo Ledo (South Kent, Conn./South Kent)
2012, SG, 6-6, 180 pounds
He came in with a well-earned reputation for scoring the basketball and he didn't hurt his brand. Ledo is a capable shooter, but he's best described as one of the top scorers in his grade. Ledo is best when he's in attack mode, but what we like about him is that he can make you pay from different spots on the floor.
Mitch McGary (Chesterton, Ind./Brewster)
2012, PF, 6-10, 250 pounds
The Hoosier State native headed north to beef up his grades and he's been a pleasant surprise on the court. The lefty goes 250 pounds and is a stump in the paint, owning his area. Leave him open and he'll pop a jumper over his man. High-majors came to see him and he's going to receive a lot of attention. Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan and Illinois top the list.
Anthony Cortesia (Cumana, Ven./Lee Academy)
2012, PF, 6-7, 200 pounds
Skilled, 6-7 wings are always enticing on the collegiate level. Cortesia lacks strength but makes up for it with his swagger. The operative adjective is "upside" and he oozes it. He can handle the ball and isn't afraid to mix it up off the dribble. There's a lot to work with and he's a new name to watch for. Kansas State is worthy of early mention.
Zach Auguste (Marlborough, Mass./New Hampton)
2012, PF, 6-9, 205 pounds
Kansas, Boston College, Pittsburgh and Syracuse are keeping tabs on him and for good reason; Notre Dame offered. Auguste is a mobile big man with room to grow his game. He tries offensive post moves, owns decent touch and chases shot blocks on defense. He probably hasn't lifted many weights and once the strength augments the natural talent, he'll slide into bonafide high-major status.
Evan Cummins (Westborough, Mass./Northfield-Mt. Hermon School)
2012, PF, 6-8, 225 pounds
Recruiters like skilled bigs who know their way around the floor. Cummins owns a hooper's IQ and he can play without the ball. The entire package of size, versatility and academics dictates a high-major recruitment where he could turn himself into a Ryan Kelly-style forward. Notre Dame, Stanford, Massachusetts, Providence, Boston and Davidson made early offers.
Stefan Jankovic (Croatia/Kiski School)
2012, PF, 6-9, 215 pounds
There's been a buzz building all fall and it deals with his size and skill level. Jankovic is 6-9 and the lure with him is that he puts it on the deck and has touch with his jump shot. He's got a game that almost mimics Chandler Parsons, though he's more apt to handle the basketball and his body needs work. Northwestern and Wake Forest were posted up strong watching him.
Kareem Canty (Queens, N.Y./Bridgton Academy)
2012, PG, 6-0, 185 pounds
He's transitioning from scorer to point man and he's having to work hard on flipping his mindset. Canty pressed the first two games, but stepped up and lifted Bridgton to a comeback win over Fork Union. Down the stretch he made a big jumper and hit his free throws. He's on the mid- to high-major fence in 2012 but understand this: big programs will search hard for points so Canty's stock can only go up. Alabama and Seton Hall have been aggressive in their pursuit of Canty.
• George Matthews (Phoenix, Ariz./Westwind Prep) signed last week with Utah and will give the Utes and immediate scoring threat.
• Markus Kennedy (Philadelphia, Pa./Brewster Academy) will help Villanova provided he can stay in reasonably good shape. He showed up here motivated and turned in a strong effort. Finding guys with size who can finish is hard to do these days.
• Point guard Elijah Carter (Elizabeth City, N.J./Brewster) is one of the top available point guards. He's on the mid- to high-major fence and its a numbers game in the spring. A probing passer and capable scorer, his phone will ring steadily.
Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.