CINCINNATI -- As usual, the professional, well-organized staff of the Amateur Athletic Union did an outstanding job of conducting the 15 and under national championships, running from July 11 to 16. This six-day tournament showcased some terrific young talent. To see so many freshmen and sophomores with such skill and size indicates that the future of basketball in this country is bright. To reach their potential, these young men need to develop their games, build on what they did well and learn from what they struggled with during the tournament. Hats off as well to the coaches in this event; they coached the game with passion.
In the championship game, the Memphis Stallions defeated All Ohio Red, 75-66. For Memphis, Adonis Thomas led the way with 17 points and numerous assists. He was the difference in this close championship game. All Ohio Red had three players in double-figures.
It's all potential until they develop and mature, so let's look at some promising prospects.
Top 5 performers
Adonis Thomas, 6-5, 190
SF, 2011 (Memphis/Melrose)
Thomas is a big-time athlete who can play in the post or on the perimeter. He beats the opposition with his scoring and passing. His ball skills are good enough for him contribute on the perimeter. He is long, athletic and skilled. He is a good rebounder who routinely grabs boards in traffic and takes the ball up the floor to score or assist. He is a decent midrange shooter but needs to improve his range to become a big time perimeter threat. He will make the occasional 3, but needs to improve his consistency on the shot. He is an aggressive defender and is at his best as a post defender at this time. He is a mismatch as a front-court post -- Thomas is too quick and athletic for most players in his age group. Thomas is a top-40 player in the Class of 2011 nationally.
Mychal Ammons, 6-4, 190
2G/SF, 2011 (Vicksburg, Miss.)
Ammons is a super smooth wing. He is a big-time scorer who rarely forces the action. He prefers to let the game come to him, and when it does, he makes something happen. He is effective off the dribble or catching and shooting. He has range to 3-point land but excels with the midrange game. Ammons can drive the ball -- he prefers to go right -- and get to the basket with regularity. When he gets in the lane he shows great body control, scoring or dishing with equal proficiency. He is a competitor and has all the tools for greatness. He is a solid defender and rebounder -- he takes pride in all aspects of his game. His shot mechanics are solid but could use a little tweaking to improve his consistency. He is a top-20 player in the Class of 2011.
James (J.D.) Weatherspoon, 6-6, 195
PF, 2010, (Columbus, Ohio/Northland)
Weatherspoon is a super athletic combo forward. He is a lefty who is more comfortable on the block at this point. He is good inside 12 feet, using his quickness and athleticism to score on solid post moves, tips and short jumpers. He is one of the top-10 leapers in the class. Weatherspoon gets at least one highlight-reel dunk in e game. He is a solid defender, though he sometimes struggles because he leaves his feet too much to block shots instead of playing position defense. He is a good shot-blocker for his position when he is selective. He has range to 15 feet and is a solid face-up jump shooter to that range. He needs to improve his ballhandling and keep his head up when driving to the basket in order to become a more effective scorer. Weatherspoon is a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2010.
Johnny O'Bryant, 6-9, 215
PF/C, 2011 (Cleveland, Miss./Eastside)
O'Bryant is a big-time post talent in the Class of 2011. He is athletic and active. He may be a little raw offensively, but his skill level improves from one game to the next. He catches passes in the post with strong hands and scores with a nice touch. In the post, he possesses a good feel for his defender when making his move. He is effective putting the ball on the floor and scoring against other post players. His range extends to just beyond 12 feet at this point. O'Bryant is an adept rebounder and a decent shot-blocker. His size and athletic ability give him unlimited potential. He is solid defensively but his length makes him a potentially dynamic defensive force. O'Bryant is considered one of the top-25 prospects in the Class of 2011.
Bradley Beal, 6-2, 175<
2G, 2011 (St. Louis/Chaminade)
Beal is a smooth scoring wing. He is an excellent shooter from midrange who can score off the dribble or the catch. He is solid off the bounce and can get to his spots on the floor and unleash a feathery jumper. He has a solid bank shot that he hits when set or on the move. He is also an astute passer. He does not force much and is a natural scorer. Beal is a decent defender and is still growing -- he has grown at least an inch already this year. Though he's not a point guard, he has a high enough basketball IQ to play the position in a pinch. Beal is a top-75 prospect in the Class of 2011.
Top 5 surprises
Andre Drummond, 6-9, 210
PF/C, 2011 (Hartford, Conn./Capitol Prep)
Drummond is a long drink of water. He is a solid athlete inside, a force offensively and defensively in the paint. Offensively, he scores in the paint with short jumpers and jump hooks. He is good around the basket with his length and athletic ability. He also has solid hands on post feeds that lead him to the basket. He is a shot-blocker on defense. Drummond runs the floor solidly but could use a little more intensity. He can disappear at times. He is also a solid ball handler for his size. He has range on his shot out to around 12 feet, but he is more comfortable inside seven feet. Drummond has loads of potential and will be a name to remember in the near future. He is a top-75 prospect in the Class of 2011.
Brandon Kearney, 6-4, 175
Combo guard, 2011 (Detroit/Southeastern)
Kearney is a skilled combo guard. He is a solid scorer but could use a little more aggression and assertiveness offensively. He has an unselfish part of his game that is beyond his years. But, when game reaches the fourth quarter, he must to learn to take over when needed. He has the talent to do it. Kearney is an excellent passer, maybe the best part of his game at this point. He is long and a solid athlete. He is a solid shooter with range to 20 feet. He scores mostly on slashes into the paint or catch and shoot 3s. He is an OK defender at this point, but that should improve with additional strength. If he makes the weight room his best friend, the sky is the limit for this talent. Kearney is a top-50 prospect in the Class of 2011.
Dejuan Coleman, 6-7, 225
PF/C, 2012 (Syracuse, N.Y./Fowlen)
Coleman is a big-time prospect in the Class of 2012. He is big and strong and will be an impact player at the high school level as a freshman. He is already a strong rebounder inside. He is effective in the paint. He doesn't have a lot of post moves at this point, but he possesses a soft touch. Coleman is too big and strong for most of his peers at this point. He scores inside 5 feet on drop steps, tips and putbacks. He has good hands, along with footwork, that gets him to where he needs to be to score. Defensively, he is a presence in the paint with his big, space-eating body and wingspan. His body and look reminds you of former Syracuse and NBA great Derrick Coleman. Dejuan Coleman is a top-10 prospect in the 2012 nationally at this point.
Erik Moody, 6-1, 165
Combo guard, 2011, (Richmond, Ind./Benedictine)
Moody is an offensively skilled combo guard. He is good off the dribble – he's able to get to the basket or use his fancy dribble to free himself up for a smooth jump shot. Guys who can score off the dribble and create their own scoring opportunities are rare -- Moody can do that. He is a solid basketball athlete. He can create for others but prefers to create for himself. That makes him more of a 2 than a 1 at this point. He is a creative passer so his future may be at the point. He is an OK defender but should improve with time. Moody is a top-100 prospect in the Class of 2011.
Joel Scudder, 5-10 165
PG, 2011 (South Dearborn, Ind.)
Scudder is a tough lefty point guard cut in the mold of a John Stockton. He is more offensively minded at this point. He is a good 3-point shooter with range to 20 feet. His toughness stands out when you watch him play. He is a good scorer but is also adept at running a team. He is also a decent penetrator who creates for himself and his teammates. He is a willing defender who uses his toughness to frustrate his opponents. Scudder is a solid player that will be recruited at the mid-major and high-major levels. He would project to be a top-200 prospect in the Class of 2011.
• Class of 2011 prospect Shane Larkin is a six-foot scoring point guard for Team Champions out of Orlando. The team is coached by his father, former Cincinnati Reds great Barry Larkin. Shane is a talent in his own right; he is a Division I ball player and an excellent scorer.
• There were a few former big-time athletes in attendance: In addition to Larkin, former NBA and Syracuse 6-8 PF John Wallace was an assistant coach for the Upstate Elite (NY) Team, whiel former NBA and Arkansas Razorback 6-7 wing Todd Day was the coach for the Memphis Hawgs.
• A team from Reading, Penn., called Olivet Basketball Club has been wreaking havoc on the tournament. Coming into the tournament, they were not considered one of the favorites, but they knocked off Memphis YOMCA and the Richmond Squires en route to the final four. They are a solid team that plays good defense, shares the ball and shoots well. In other words: They play basketball the right way!
• The Future: There are a couple of big time rising eighth-graders here. Six-foot-4 Kris Jenkins is a big-time forward for D.C. Assault. He may be the second coming of Mike Beasley. Six-foot-3 Greg McClinton is a super wing for the Charlotte Royals. Both these kids have super careers ahead of them if they work hard at improving, listen to their coaches and respect the game at all times.
• The All Ohio Purple squad has played well here. They just missed making the sweet 16. They are a team of all eighth-graders. They are the same team that won last year's 13 and under AAU Nationals. Keep your eye out for 6-4 Adolphus Washington (2012) heading to Cincinnati's Rodger Bacon High next year.
Paul Biancardi is the national recruiting director for ESPN.com's basketball coverage and a studio analyst for ESPNU. He has 18 years of Division I coaching experience.