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May 28, 2013
Chicago Classic: What we learned
The Adidas Chicago Classic was another Memorial Day travel team event full of top players and teams from around the nation. While several ranked prospects, and fresh faces, impressed over three days of competition, it was a pair of players from the class of 2016 who ended up stealing the show. Those two rising sophomores, and some other storylines, highlight what we learned from the Adidas Chicago Classic.
Worth the hype
Since the day they stepped onto campus at their local high schools, Braxton Blackwell and De'Ron Davis have received an enormous amount of hype. Both 2016 prospects are said to be among the top 10 or so freshmen in the nation, and they have the potential to go to any college they want when the time comes.
In Chicago, both proved that hype to be more fact than fiction, putting together one excellent performance after another. With the class of 2016 receiving extreme praise on a nation level from scouts, coaches and media, these two surely belong on any list of elite prospects. They are likely future five-star prospects.
Blackwell is a 6-foot-6 small forward from Nashville (Tenn.) Christ Presbyterian Academy with a mature all-around game. For a rising sophomore, he's got a great skill set. He can handle the ball in the open court, and he loves to make the extra pass for an assist. Blackwell is an above-average athlete with good strength in his frame, and he uses those physical tools to be an efficient shot blocker and rebounder on the defensive end.
Davis is a high- or low-post power forward with good passing skills and the ability to score with his back to the basket, especially with a right-handed hook shot. At 6-foot-9, he's stronger, bigger and way more athletic than most of his competition at his age group, and the Aurora (Col.) Overland big man knows how to dominate the game by using those physical traits.
From the opening tipoff of the first game to the final buzzer when his Milwaukee Runnin' Rebels squad was bounced from the tournament in the semifinals, power forward Kevon Looney was by far the top 2014 prospect in Chicago.
The No. 8 prospect in the Rivals150 out of Milwaukee (Wis.) Hamilton had big game after big game, including an impressive triple-double performance against IBA Select in which he recorded in excess of 10 blocked shots.
Looney used his size, 6-foot-9, and high-level athleticism all weekend to impact the game on the glass and on defense, and he focused on his perimeter skills to score on offense. Looney handled the ball more than he usually does on a Runnin' Rebels team that has strong guard play, and he shot from deep more often and much more efficiently than we have seen him do in previous events this spring.
The five-star prospect didn't have a ton of new information about his recruitment to share; however, he mentioned Connecticut and UCLA as new schools that he's adding to his list. He denied rumors that he is a strong Duke lean.
He's got game
He might not have much of a reputation yet, but as the class of 2015 develops you're going to hear more about Pocatello (Idaho) Century combo guard Malek Harwell. The high-scoring shooter from the Utah Pump-N-Run 16-and-under team had a breakout weekend, creating a buzz as he drew nearly every scout and media member in attendance to his final game of the tournament.
Harwell is an elite shooter with a quick release and deep range on his pull-up jumper, which he loves to shoot driving to his left in ball-screen situations. At 6-foot-3 and with the ability to handle the ball, Harwell has the potential to be a high-major combo guard.
Makinde London, Kelan Martin and Brandone Francis made Eric Bossi's list last week of 15 prospects from the 2014 class who are fighting their way toward a Rivals150 ranking. In Chicago, all three furthered their hot springs and increased their chances of becoming ranked players.
Perhaps the most impressive, and with by far the smallest reputation, London was at times dominant for his Nashville Celtics team. The Spring Hill (Tenn.) Summit power forward has elite-level athleticism. At 6-foot-8, he is developing a skill set that will let him be more efficient in putting the ball on the floor out of the high post and he has a high motor with a competitive drive.
London listed VCU, Texas, Tennessee, Wichita State, Mississippi State and Marshall as his top suitors, but expect that list to grow in quantity and intensity as schools recruit the-flying power forward.
Martin has earned a lot of praise this spring with Indiana Elite, because the Louisville (Ky.) Ballard combo forward has been a scoring and playmaking machine off of the dribble at several Adidas events. At 6-foot-6, Martin is a bit of a tweener, but he can flat out score in a variety of ways and he presents matchup problems with his combination of wing skills and strength. To continue his success at the next level, he needs to buy in more at the defensive end of the court and be as efficient a rebounder on that end as he is on offense. The potential is there for him to be one of the top late-blooming forwards in the land.
Finally, Francis came off a huge junior season at Arlington (Fla.) Country Day and continued his high level of play on the spring circuit with Florida Elite. The 6-foot-5 guard has a fiery demeanor, he can score in bunches, and he is one of the better leaders on the circuit. With an aggressive mindset to attack the rim, but also skills in the midrange game, Francis has established himself as one of the more difficult matchups on the Adidas trail. He has led his team to multiple championships at some of the biggest events in the nation in April and May.
Indiana, Florida, Florida State, Cincinnati, West Virginia and South Carolina are some of the schools that have offered Francis this spring, and the intensity in this recruitment should pick up, especially when Francis rises to four-star status as he is expected to do in the next Rivals150.