April 20, 2013

Hoop Group Pitt Jamfest Saturday

MORE: Hoop Group Pitt Jamfest Friday

The action really heated up in the second day of the Hoop Group Pitt Jamfest in Pittsburgh, as bracket play got further under way, and the competitive juices really started flowing. College coaches flooded all of the many gym locations in the Steel City, leading to several top performers seeing major jumps in their recruiting stocks. Here's a look at who stood out the most in games on Saturday.

The right flavor

Isaiah Whitehead, the highest-ranked 2014 prospect participating in the Pitt Jamfest, has felt the pressure to have a strong tournament with his Juice All-Stars team. Through three viewings by Rivals, the Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln shooting guard has more than impressed with his strong offensive feel for the game and playmaking abilities.

With good size and strength at the guard position at 6-foot-4 and more than 185 pounds, Whitehead makes up for an apparent lack of explosiveness with a combination of physicality, effort and savvy. He uses his body to carve out driving lanes and shield smaller defenders from trying to steal away the ball.

Like many New York City guards, Whitehead is a gifted ball-handler who is comfortable playing on or off the ball at either guard spot. On Saturday, the five-star junior showed promise as a passer, perimeter shooter and a slasher. He played with significantly more aggression as a playmaker than he did on Friday night.

Whitehead is a dangerous scoring threat in both the half- and full-court settings, and has enough creativity to his dribble game to draw the attention of the defense with his ability to change directions and pace to get places off the bounce.

After his final game on Saturday, Whitehead mentioned Louisville, Syracuse, Kentucky, St. John's, Florida and Memphis as some of his top schools. But he was quick to add that several other schools are involved.

Commenting on his college position, Whitehead told Rivals it isn't overly important to him, but that he wants to find a school where he can have the ball in his hands and try to create offense.

On the right track

No matter which AAU tournament you're at, by the time that Saturday afternoon rolls around there is always at least one prospect who every coach and scout is talking about. In Pittsburgh, that player is Richmond Squires forward Devin Robinson.

A 6-foot-7 combo forward from Christchurch (Va.) School, Robinson is a known commodity (evidenced by his three-star status and inclusion in the 2014 Rivals150), but college coaches are giving him titles like "most improved" and "most likely to breakout" after two excellent performances on Saturday.

Robinson is in between positions right now, but clearly prefers the perimeter attack, as he knocked down several long jumpers and gave defenders fits with his drives to the rim off of multiple dribbles. Also a long and nimble athlete, Robinson was active in transition and recorded several tip dunks and athletic finishes inside. He's still one of the thinner prospects on the circuit, but Robinson's size, versatility, skill-set and athleticism make him a very good prospect in the 2014 class, and if he's able to consistently produce he's going to be heavily sought by college coaches.

Approximately 20 college coaches stopped in for each of the two games that Robinson's Richmond Squires squad player on Saturday. The No. 106 player in his class mentioned Auburn, Xavier, Rutgers, VCU, Virginia Tech, Connecticut, Cincinnati and Clemson as schools that stand out.

Best of Baltimore

Players from Baltimore's Finest are told to take that team name very seriously. One prospect who has taken that advice to heart is 6-foot-8 jumping jack power forward Tariq Owens. The Laurel (Md.) Saint Vincent Pallotti product was extremely productive in two games on Saturday, using his exceptional athleticism and good motor to influence plays on both ends of the court.

Not only is Owens able to produce highlight plays such as blocked shots and dunks, the forward is also a reliable shooter from the mid-range area, leading to him giving his opponents fits with made buckets from different parts of the floor. Owens is going to have add bulk to his frame, but with his effort level, versatility and raw athleticism he promises to be a prospect who will draw more attention from college coaches, and one who could draw serious consideration to eventually jump into the 2014 Rivals150.

Owens said that VCU, Temple, Miami and Georgetown are the schools expressing the most interest in him at the moment. Other schools such as Maryland and Cincinnati took a hard look at him during Saturday's action.

Familiar face

East Coast college basketball fans, particularly followers of the old Big East, would be likely to quickly recognize DC Assault center Chinanu Onuaku as the younger brother of former Syracuse star postman Arinze Onuaku.

Simply put, if you thought that Arinze was good, you're going to be a fan of his younger brother.

Chinanu is a mobile 6-foot-11 five man with leaping ability, wide shoulders and a hard-working mentality every possession. He's still on the raw side with his offensive skills, but Onuaku is a very good rebounding big who uses his length to block shots, and seems to love to play the role of physical enforcer.

Already being recruited heavily by the likes of Georgetown, Cincinnati, Maryland, Seton Hall and Virginia Tech, Onuaku is poised to see a boost in his recruitment, as college coaches are putting true centers (especially centers who buy into giving great efforts defensively) at a premium in the recruiting game. As his reputation continues to grow as a shot-blocker with a motor, expect to hear more about the 6-foot-11 space eater from Upper Marlboro (Md.) Riverdale Baptist.

Quick hits

It's very early, but the class of 2016 has a chance to match the class of 2013 prospect for prospect as the current high school freshmen put their names on the map. One of those talented freshmen is 6-foot-6 forward Josh Jackson. A skilled small forward from Detroit (Mich.) Consortium who suits up with the Dorian's Pride 17u team, Jackson showed signs of great promise in a win on Saturday evening as he scored in a variety of ways. He's a long and athletic wing forward who can attack off the dribble, score in the paint off rebounds and is a big-time playmaker from the high post. Jackson is definitely the most talented 2016 prospect in Michigan, and should be a name that surfaces toward the top of when Rivals ranks the prospects in that class. Jackson told us that he has offers from Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Georgetown.

After a breakout performance on national television in January, Justin Bibbs is more recognizable among Midwestern college coaches. But after a couple of strong performances with his Ohio Basketball Club squad, the 6-foot-5 wing from Dayton (Ohio) who attends Montverde (Fla.) Academy, is making an even bigger name for himself. Bibbs drew coaches from Xavier, Virginia Tech, Cincinnati, Miami, Dayton and Memphis on Saturday, and didn't disappoint as he played with his normal high motor and showed some improved perimeter skills. A versatile wing with a strong build and good athleticism, Bibbs shot the ball exceptionally well from the perimeter, handled it on the break and did a nice job on the ball defensively as well. If he continues to hit perimeter shots on a consistent basis, look for Bibbs' recruitment to explode.

He's not the most sought-after guy on the circuit, but Cleveland (Ohio) Westlake power forward Gavin Skelly was the most efficient low-post scorer we saw on Saturday, as the Team Work prospect tallied 16 points in the paint in a loss to Team Charlotte. Skelly is an athletic 6-foot-8 power forward who is comfortable playing with his back to the basket or facing up and attacking from around 10 feet. Also good in the open floor, Skelly is able to beat his man down the court consistently, leading to easy dunks. Skelly lists offers from Bucknell, Elon, Miami (Ohio), Ohio University, William & Mary and Marshall.

There wasn't much hype surrounding the Philly Pride 17u team, but in a matchup with Devin Robinson and the Richmond Squires, a pair of unsigned seniors caught our eye as solid prospects. First up was 6-foot-8 center Yohanny Dalembert, the younger brother of NBA center Samuel Dalembert and a very good shot-blocker. Dalembert has a strong build, gets off his feet quickly with good timing to alter shots and likes to play physically down low. He's not overly skilled offensively, but he showed understanding of the screening game and finished with strength around the rim. Charlotte, Hofstra and Marshall are among those interested in taking Dalembert as a freshman next season, but the center is also considering prep school. Should he go the prep route and become a 2014 prospect, Memphis and South Carolina are among schools that have expressed interest.

The second unsigned senior on the Pride team was undersized but lion-hearted point guard Fateem Glenn. A good playmaker with a swagger to his offensive game, Glenn is a scoring guard who can also create shots for his teammates in pick and roll situations. He's a pesky defender, tough competitor and a decent perimeter shooter, leading us to believe he could become an above-average player on the Division I level. Glenn is leaning toward going the prep school route and becoming a 2014 prospect, but he does hold offers from Fairfield, Loyola Marymount, Coppin State and Maryland Eastern Shore.


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