Shabazz Muhammad, 6-6, SG/SF, Bishop Gorman, 2012
Shabazz Muhammad (#1 Scout, #1 Rivals, #1 ESPN) made quite a statement at the HoopHall Classic, unequivocally showing once again why he's considered the #1 prospect in the 2012 high school class. Muhammad scored 37 points in a win over Dematha Catholic, regarded as one of the best teams in America, shooting 12 of 22 from the field and 12 of 14 from the free throw line.
Muhammad may not be the biggest or most athletic swingman we've seen at the high school level, but his combination of length, scoring instincts, aggressiveness and smarts gives him considerable upside and should allow him to make an instant impact in college next year.
A fairly complete offensive player, Muhammad can put up points in bunches from anywhere on the floor, both in transition or in the half-court. He attacks the rim relentlessly with his solid first step and finishes with authority whenever possible, showing good upper body strength taking hits in the paint and drawing fouls.
If the paint is closed off, Muhammad can pull up off the dribble smoothly with range out to the 3-point line, having the ability to just throw the ball in the basket thanks to his excellent touch.
Also a very effective post-up threat, Muhammad isn't afraid to go into the paint to find touches if the defense is overplaying him on the perimeter. He's a prolific offensive rebounder at the high school level thanks to his long wingspan, strong leaping ability, and the excellent intensity he brings on each possession, allowing him to find plenty of easy points simply by outworking the competition.
Muhammad still has room to grow as a ball-handler in the half-court, particularly with his ability to drive and finish with his right hand. This isn't much of an issue at the very up-tempo high school level, but is something teams could focus on in the future in advanced scouting reports. He isn't known as a great catch and shoot threat with his feet set either, something that we weren't able to see much of in this setting.
Muhammad displayed a very high basketball IQ in Springfield, rarely forcing the issue and willingly passing out of double teams when defenders inevitably collapsed on him. Unlike many players his age, he has no problem playing off the ball and doesn't get discouraged when things don't run through him on every possession, which is a very good trait.
Another thing scouts will like to see is the competitiveness Muhammad shows on the defensive end. He uses his length and strength effectively to stay in front of his matchup and contest shots, looking willing and able to make his presence felt here and on the glass.
While Muhammad may not possess the can't miss superstar upside of former #1 overall recruits such as Dwight Howard or LeBron James, his scoring instincts and physical and mental toughness make him a pretty safe bet to develop into a very good NBA player, along the lines of James Harden, for example. It's tough to rule out significant improvement considering his age and the productivity he's displayed thus far, so its likely too early to put a ceiling on him. We'll have to see what he looks like once he reaches the college ranks to get a better read for his true potential.
Kyle Anderson, 6-9, PG/SG/SF, St. Anthony's, 2012
Committed to UCLA
Another game and another win for Kyle Anderson (#4 Scout, #2 Rivals, #5 ESPN), who is now 45-0 in a St. Anthony's uniform.
The most unconventional player in high school basketball did it in his typical fashion here in Springfield, filling up the stat sheet with 18 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks.
Standing 6-9 in shoes, with a 7-2 wingspan, Anderson has the size of a power forward but the skill-set of a guard. He's often the biggest player on the floor at high school level, which allows him to impact the game in a variety of ways thanks to his very unique versatility. Anderson handles the ball in transition and will often initiate his team's offense in the half-court, but usually sits at the back of his team's zone and acts as its paint protector on the other side of the floor.
Offensively, Anderson is an excellent ball-handler for his size, using his length to maintain a low and controlled dribble, while playing at his own unique pace. Despite possessing an underwhelming first step and average quickness, his outstanding footwork and ability to change speeds fluidly keeps defenders off balance while he surveys the court from his terrific vantage point. Anderson has a tremendous basketball IQ and excellent vision, giving him the ability to pass ahead in transition beautifully and find the open man unselfishly with pinpoint accuracy in the half-court. This is the reason he's viewed by some as a future point forward or even a point guard, and has drawn perhaps unfair (or at least premature) comparisons to the likes of Magic Johnson and Jalen Rose.
Anderson has yet to fully hone his playmaking and shot-creating ability in the half-court, as he's a bit turnover prone when attempting to drive all the way into the paint. He rarely fully beats his man off the dribble and tends to spin into traffic looking for whistles, forcing up off balance, low-percentage floaters when that doesn't work out. He doesn't elevate well around the basket and already is a noticeably below average athlete at the high school level, so there are question marks about how this part of his game might translate as the competition level stiffens.
How good of a shooter Anderson will become down the road will likely play a significant role in the way he's evaluated at the professional level. Right now he sports a slow, deliberate release on his jumper, even if he's capable of making shots with his feet set, and at times off the dribble. The fact that he is able to get his shot off at his size with his high release point helps out quite a bit, he just needs to become more consistent with time and repetition.
The biggest question marks Anderson will face are likely to revolve around his play on the defensive end. On one hand he can absolutely fill up the stat sheet with steals, blocks and rebounds thanks to his tremendous length and anticipationability. On the other hand, he struggles to move laterally on the perimeter, getting beaten regularly off the dribble when forced to step out and guard smaller players.
He's likely best suited defending the small forward position, which means he'll need to play next to the right type of non-ball dominant guards to fully utilize his strengths on the offensive end.
Anderson's unique strengths and weaknesses make him one of the more unconventional players we've evaluated at the high school level, and provide for a wide array of opinions for how he might develop down the road. It will be very interesting (and entertaining) to see how his career plays out, starting at UCLA, where he'll be playing his college basketball under Ben Howland.
Kaleb Tarczewski, 7-0, Center, St. Mark's, 2012
Committed to Arizona
7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski (#8 Scout, #20 Rivals, #6 ESPN) continues to develop at his own pace, getting a little better every time we see him.
Looking noticeably stronger in the upper body, Tarczewski put together a workman-like 22 point, 6 rebound performance in a win in Springfield, tacking on 5 assists, 6 turnovers and 3 blocks for good measure. Playing against an extremely undersized Friends Central squad, nothing he did was particularly flashy, as most of his points came off simple moves inside the paint.
As we've noted before, Tarczewski has excellent size at 7-0, to go along with good mobility and a rapidly improving frame. Not a prolific shot-creator, he's capable of finishing with authority when opportunities are created for him, as he has good hands and gets off the ground fairly well. His back to the basket repertoire is simple, but fundamentally sound, mostly consisting of jump-hooks and up and under moves, sometimes using the glass. While he surely lacks a degree of aggressiveness asserting himself at times inside the paint, particularly in terms of carving out post-position and demanding the ball, he also doesn't force the issue, showing solid vision passing out of double teams.
Tarczewski will hit the occasional turnaround jumper, but doesn't show much range at this stage, something he'll likely continue to work on over time.
Defensively, Tarczewski is not a high flyer, but is nevertheless capable of making his presence felt inside, blocking shots with both hands. Like all big men, he needs to continue to work on his ability to step outside the paint and guard the pick and roll, but he already shows a decent framework to build off. At this level he's rarely challenged by another player his own size, so it will be interesting to see how quickly he's able to adapt at the college level. He's not particularly quick laterally, so he will need to show a better motor than he has thus far contesting shots and playing with consistently high energy to play up to his full potential on this end of the floor.
Tarczewski will have plenty of NBA eyes on him from the moment he steps out on the floor at Arizona. It may take him some time for him to adapt to the college level initially, but he surely has the talent to be a solid contributor as a freshman.
Steven Adams, 7'0, Center, Notre Dame Prep, Post-Grad
Committed to Pittsburgh
Steven Adams (#7 Scout, #4 Rivals, unranked ESPN) didn't have a great performance at the Hoophall Classic, but it's not unexpected seeing how he's been with his team and in the United States in general for just a week. Having just finished high school in New Zealand, Adams joined his new team and is obviously still getting up to speed with both his new teammates and the heightened level of competition he's seeing going up against his peers.
There really wasn't much new to take away from Adams' game since the last time we've seen him, as he remains an excellent physical specimen with a high motor and still developing skill set. Adams struggled to get consistently involved here, especially on the offensive end, and finished with a modest line of just five points and four rebounds in 21 minutes.
Adams frequently fought for deep post position on the offensive end, but was mostly ignored by his guards or not rewarded with re-post opportunities when he kicked the ball out. He did a solid job fighting for put-back opportunities on his own, scoring both of his baskets in that manner. He didn't show much from an offensive skills perspective overall, being limited to mostly hustle plays for his contributions.
Defensively, Adams looked a bit better, blocking an impressive three shots to go along with two steals, showing a similarly good motor on this end of the floor and also displaying an impressive sense of timing on his shot blocks. He did a great job using his full extension and mobility to block shots, doing a very good job in that regard.
Looking forward, Adams remains a very intriguing player in the long term, but you probably can't take much from this performance given his poor conditioning-level and limited time here in the US, along with just the nerves of playing in a setting like this for the first time. Spending the rest of the season playing prep ball prior to joining Pittsburgh next year should help his acclimation to the higher level of competition, but he'll have plenty of work to do developing his game once he gets on campus next season.
Grant Jerrett, 6-10, Power Forward/Center, La Verne Lutheran, 2012
Committed to Arizona
With his high hips, narrow upper body, skinny legs and awkward running style, Grant Jerrett (#23 Scout, #50 Rivals, #9 ESPN) hardly looks the part of an elite prospect on first glance.
He grows on you the more you watch, though, especially when taking his excellent skill-level into consideration.
Standing around 6-10 in shoes, with a 7-1 wingspan, Jerrett is a good, but not great athlete who still has work to do developing his 220 pound frame.
His main virtues lie on the offensive end, where he can finish well around the basket, handle the ball on the perimeter a bit, and shows range out to the 3-point line. Jerrett has excellent footwork and touch and the ability to dribble and finish with either hand, which is intriguing considering his size. He converted all nine of his free throw attempts here in Springfield, which isn't something you usually see from a player at his position.
Jerrett doesn't show much of a back to the basket game at the moment, being somewhat averse to contact inside the paint, something that will hopefully improve in time. Right now he's more likely to take a turnaround jumper than post up an undersized opponent, which is part of the reason he's developed somewhat of a soft reputation.
Defensively, Jerrett has a ways to go before he'll be able to satisfy the demands of his future college coach Sean Miller. Besides the occasional on-ball block or steal, he's not much of a presence on this end of the floor, not showing much emotion or a very high intensity level and looking somewhat hesistant to mix it up inside the paint. Toughness in big men sometimes comes with time and added strength, so we'll have to see how he continues to develop on this end of the floor.
A player eliciting a wide range of opinions in recruiting circles, we're a ways away still from being able to get a great read on Jerrett's NBA prospects at the moment. We'll have to see how well he's able to coexist with fellow top-10 Arizona recruit Kaleb Tarczewski next year, particularly how many minutes they are able to play together.
Amile Jefferson, 6'9, SF/PF, Friends Central, 2012
One of the higher ranked players at this event, Amile Jefferson (#20 Scout, #36 Rivals, #24 ESPN) didn't have a very impressive performance, struggling to consistently score against a very well coached team in St. Mark's.
Measured at 6'9 at the Kevin Durant Nike Skills Academy with a 7-foot wingspan and a skinny 197 pound frame that looks limited in the amount of weight it can add in the short term, Jefferson is a very good athlete with a still developing skill set, while also being somewhat stuck between positions at this stage.
On the offensive end, Jefferson appears most comfortable operating in the mid to high post range at this stage, where he can take advantage of a hybrid face-up/post-up game. Jefferson's ball-handling on face-up drives is fairly raw, but he's a bit farther along with his post moves, showing decent command of drop-steps and hook shots. Jefferson finishes well with touch around the basket, showing a nice array of running hooks and floaters to get the job done, but not showing much ability to score with power in the half court setting.
On the perimeter, Jefferson's dribble-drive game is pretty raw, not showing the ability to consistently get past his man and showing little beyond basic straight line drives when he does. He didn't exhibit much in terms of a perimeter jumper in his game here, and hasn't in the previous two times we've written about him either.
Defensively, Jefferson was mostly a non-factor, having to play the center position frequently on his team and struggling to match up with the much bigger and stronger Kaleb Tarczewski. He was very much a non-factor in help defense as well, not being much of a shot-blocking threat on the weakside. Projecting forward, he's probably most suited to defend either 3's or 4's, but it's not entirely clear which way he'll go, as there are questions about his ability to guard both.
Looking forward, Jefferson still is a raw prospect with some intriguing tools, but has a lot of work to do in developing his skill-level and overall feel for the game. What position he's best suited to play both offensively and defensively is yet to be seen, but developing consistent ways to contribute offensively should be his highest priority at the moment.