October 8, 2013

USA Basketball: What We Learned

MORE: Kansas lands five-star shooting guard

COLORADO SPRINGS -- Headed into last weekend's USA Basketball Developmental Team October minicamp, the loaded roster of players expected in Colorado Springs and the type of competition that USA Basketball events inspire made it hard not to set the bar of expectations high. Throughout the weekend, the assembled five- and four-star players not only met but cleared that bar with their play. Here's a look at What We Learned.

VAUGHN, OUBRE MAKE LETHAL DUO

The way things are looking, 2014 stars Rashad Vaughn and Kelly Oubre have a chance to be one of the most devastating wing duos the high school ranks have seen in quite some time when they team up at Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep. Ranked No. 7 and No. 12 nationally headed into USA weekend, Vaughn and Oubre backed up their lofty status.

Given that he is the higher-ranked prospect of the two, let's start with Vaughn. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Minneapolis did nothing to hurt his status as the No. 1 prospect at his position in the class of 2014. Since the summer, he has added strength to an already strong and powerful frame and his game has expanded.

A bit of a streak shooter from deep, Vaughn is never shy to pull the string on a deep jumper, but that is only one aspect of his game. What makes him so difficult to defend is that he can score at the rim and from midrange, and he is adept at creating his own shot off the dribble. He is too strong for defenders to take away his dribble often, he reads screens well and he is exceptional going to his left. With his explosive athleticism and ability to finish in the open court, Vaughn has every tool you would want out of a big-time shooting guard prospect and he looks like a future NBA player.

Like Vaughn, Oubre -- who committed to Kansas on Tuesday -- has ended up at Findlay for his senior season, only he arrives from the Houston area. A lefty who is pushing 6-foot-7, he is coming on strong and looks like he has taken a big leap in his development since Rivals.com last saw him during July.

The No. 2 shooting guard in the class, Oubre has always shown glimpses of greatness but at times lacked consistency. Consistency wasn't a problem in Colorado Springs, though, and his play matched the rumblings emanating from Las Vegas about him this fall. Oubre shot the ball at a high level from deep, he used his strong frame to bully defenders on his way to the hoop, and he showed more midrange game and consistency than he has in the past. All in all, he made a strong case to be moved into the national top 10.

Also important is that Vaughn and Oubre will have a very capable playmaker in the backcourt with them. Derryck Thornton, the No. 22 player in the class of 2016, was tremendous at USA Basketball. He is a clever playmaker who can penetrate and dish, and he'll see outstanding assist numbers as long as he is feeding those two.

BLACKMON'S FIVE-STAR STATUS HERE TO STAY

When Marion (Ind.) High shooting guard James Blackmon was elevated to five-star status and No. 23 overall in the 2014 Rivals150, some raised their eyebrows and wondered if he is really that good. The answer is yes, Blackmon is that good.

The 6-foot-2 senior was a flat-out assassin with his jumper in Colorado Springs, and he showed that he can do plenty of other things as well. He drove to the rim for finishes more athletic than some have thought he was capable of making. He made plays for others off the dribble while showing some combo guard skills, and he did it all while being incredibly efficient.

That efficiency is what really stands out about Blackmon. He never seems rushed, he always seems ready to shoot, and he rarely seems to make a mistake by forcing the issue. He should be a serious candidate for the McDonald's All-American Game.

There is a pitched battle going on to land the shooter. Blackmon says Indiana (where he de-committed), Kentucky, Michigan, Kansas, Michigan State and Louisville are under consideration but his recruitment is starting to shape up as a two-, possibly three-horse race between the Wildcats and Wolverines, with the Hoosiers hoping they can bring him back to Bloomington.

Wherever he ends up, he's going to score a lot of points.

TATUM, STONE MAKE THEIR CASES

Whitefish Bay (Wis.) Dominican junior Diamond Stone and St. Louis (Mo.) Chaminade sophomore Jayson Tatum rank No. 4 nationally in their respective classes. With their play in Colorado Springs, they are putting the heat on the three in front of them not to slip because they are looking to make a move up.

A 6-foot-10 center, Stone is a throwback player who dominates with his skill and basketball IQ and not because of freakish athleticism. Very well rounded and versed in low-post play, Stone has a full offensive repertoire. He is comfortable operating on either side of the lane. He scores with either hand on jump hooks, has great hands and has become a reliable shooter in pick-and-pop situations. Stone rebounds well, runs the floor and has been getting more athletic as he matures physically. In terms of pure skill level, he is second only to 2014's top overall player, Jahlil Okafor, when it comes to post players in the high school ranks.

Then there is Tatum. A long and lanky 6-foot-7 wing, he looks like he is primed to follow in the footsteps of previous Chaminade stars such as David Lee and Bradley Beal. He is a wing player with all types of versatility and lots of skill. Tatum can run the show for you on one possession and then post up on the next. He has always had good ball skills and above-average passing ability, but in Colorado Springs he showed an improved jump shot and much better athleticism than in the past. The mid-post game he is developing is virtually unstoppable, and he doesn't seem like he's done growing, judging by the big shoulders he's starting to fill out. He's gotten a little bigger each time we've seen him over the last year.

How much further each of these guys can climb remains to be seen, but it is clear they are looking to make a move up the rankings, meaning the guys ahead of them had better keep improving.

Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.




 

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