ORLANDO -- The semifinals of the 17-under AAU Super Showcase highlighted a great day of basketball for the final four teams that advanced through bracket play. Each 1 Teach 1 (Fla.) and Team Takeover (Md.) both advanced to the Gold Division championship game, which will be broadcasted on ESPNU Monday night at 7:30 ET. Mikael Hopkins (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha) was the standout player of the day. The surprise player of the day was Alex Rossi (Winnetka, Ill./New Trier). The California-bound gunslinger almost led Westchester Hawks to an upset victory over E1T1 in the semis when he drilled a 25-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime before losing 74-73.
Be sure to check out tonight's games featuring Team Final (Md.) and Albany City Rocks (N.Y.) at 5:30 ET followed by the Gold Division Championship game. Both will be televised on ESPNU.
As a 2011 prospect, Hopkins is developing into a presence on both sides of the ball. At 205 pounds, the 6-foot-9 junior is a smooth, skilled post player who scores inside and out and is beginning to play with a confidence that has elevated his overall game. He is well-schooled fundamentally around the basket, and is also able to pull his man away from the basket with by knocking down 15-foot jumpers. His body is not developed yet, but as he gains strength and size it will enable him to fight and bang down low. His game will start to elevate is if he can consistently dominate defensively like he did in the Super Showcase. He is long with the ability to alter shots and be a disruptive help-side defender. When he brings the attitude and effort to dominate, he transforms from a good player into an outstanding player who impacts a game.
Rossi can flat out shoot it! He is definitely one of the top 10 shooters in the Class of 2010. The kid makes tough shots coming off screens, and is deadly when he has his feet set and ready to catch-and-shoot. He moves well without the ball, and is excellent at reading screens. He has improved his ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim and his ability to pull up and stick a jumper after faking the shot. At 6-5, Rossi is a good-sized 2-guard who is rangy enough to defend the 2 or 3 position, and is an intelligent positional defender against quicker opponents. He wants the ball in pressure situations, and is a fearless assassin who can snipe you from long range.
Jones on point
2011 prospect Chris Jones (Memphis, Tenn./Melrose) is a dynamic scoring point guard. He is quick and athletic. Jones is a big-time scorer who can hit deep jumpers out to 22 feet or score off the bounce by getting into the lane for pull ups. He scored 30 points in the game I watched. He is not as good of a defender -- he basically took that end of the floor off. He could be a disrupter on defense with his quickness and jumping ability. He helps out some on the boards with his strong body. His ability to create is impressive, but his decision making needs work. Jones has the physical talent to be one of the best point guards in the class. He must continue to work on the weaker facets of his game to become a solid all-around point guard.
A fresh face
2012 PF Elijah Macon (Columbus, Ohio/Marion-Franklin) is a big time prospect. He is blessed with size, length and athletic ability. He is not very skilled yet offensively, but he is active and productive per his minutes on the floor. Offensively, Macon scores mostly off tips, putbacks and face up power moves to the basket. He is working on scoring over his left shoulder with a jump hook. He is decent facing the basket from 15 feet, where he can shoot or create off the dribble. He is an active and efficient rebounder with his long arms and athletic ability. Macon is also a good shot-blocker. He has enormous potential, and is currently the best prospect in the 2012 class from Ohio.
2010 prospect Aaron Craft (Findlay, Ohio/Liberty-Benton) is a tough all-around guard. He is the ultimate glue guy on a great team. He is an excellent hustler who makes winning plays all day long. Aaron is a solid shooter with range to 19 feet. He is effective off the bounce, but needs to get all the way to the basket on his drives. There is not much in between. He drives mostly to his right, though he has improved his left hand dribble. Defensively, he is a dynamo. He may be the best on-ball defender in the 2010 class nationally. Craft has committed to Ohio State where he should have a solid and productive career.
Mike LaPlante has spent nearly 20 years coaching college basketball. Most recently, he was the head coach at Jacksonville State University.