April 25, 2014

Stone goes big on opening night

THE RIVALS150: Class of 2014 - Class of 2015

GARDNER, Kan. -If a coach wanted to see the No. 1 player from each the 2015 and 2016 class to kick off April's live evaluation weekend, then he needed to be at the Under Armour Jayhawk Invitational in suburban Kansas City on Friday night. 2015's Malik Newman and 2016's Josh Jackson were both in the house. Both put on shows, but 2015's No. 3 player Diamond Stone stole their thunder a bit with an impressive night.

Stone goes off

You don't have to watch for long or be an expert to figure out that the Milwaukee (Wisc.) based Young Legends want to feed Diamond Stone the ball as often as possible. It is a plan that makes sense. After all, Stone is the No. 3 player in the class of 2015 and knows what to do with the ball when he gets it.

The Young Legends game against 2016 No. 1 Josh Jackson and One Nation turned into a long and drawn out affair thanks to aspiring college refs blowing their whistles any chance they got. But that didn't stop Stone from looking awfully impressive while racking up 36 points and 16 rebounds to lead his team to a win.

The 6-foot-10 junior is a throwback post player who understands how to use his size and skill. Stone has done an excellent job of getting into shape and he showed some added explosiveness while going to the rim. He made mid range jumpers, he used fakes and spins near the rim and then stepped to the free throw line to make a boatload of free throws.

Anybody hoping to figure out who leads for Stone is going to be in the dark. He declined to speak specifically about any schools but in the crowd watching were the likes of Bill Self, Kevin Ollie, Scott Drew, John Thompson III, Larry Brown, Mark Gottfried and many more along with assistants from Kentucky, Michigan State, Duke and more.

Not a lot of time needed for Newman to impress

Because of NCAA rules that require no games tip off after 10 p.m. at a live period event, the game between KC Run GMC and MWA Elite had to be shortened so that the evening's final game could tip off in time. Despite only having 26 minutes of running clock to work with and his MWA squad struggling a bit, 2015's top player Malik Newman went to work.

The 6-foot-4 combo guard combo guard from Jackson (Miss.) Callaway backed up his status as the top player in his class while showing off the complete arsenal offensively. Newman has always been a prolific jump shooter and he hit a few from deep. Most noticeable, though, was his added strength and explosiveness. Newman has never lacked for explosion, but more physical maturity has been very good to him in the athleticism department.

Whether or not his added strength and burst have anything to do with it, Newman seems to be more confident attacking the paint via the dribble. His first step is both quick and strong and he looks comfortable driving right or left.

Like Stone, Newman declined to discuss specific schools. Mississippi State's Rick Ray didn't miss a single game Newman played during last July's live period and he was up front and center for him on Friday night. Kansas, Connecticut, Baylor, SMU and N.C. State had their head coaches watching and Kentucky had an assistant on hand.

One of the schools of thought is that Newman and the previously mentioned Stone have discussed being a package deal in college. Part of Saturday's plan is to get a better feel for how likely that may be.

Friday night notes from the Jayhawk Invitational

The No. 74 player in the class of 2015, 6-foot-2 combo guard Jimmy Whitt didn't back down from Newman one bit. The KC Run GMC player from Columbia (Mo.) Hickman easily backed up his ranking as well. Whitt's game is all about scoring off the dribble and he has an entire arsenal of mid-range pull-ups, floaters and runners. Whitt is smooth, has tremendous length and is sneaky bouncy to go along with great quickness. He is, however, lacking in strength and still has to be a more consistent shooter from deep. Whitt has been a major target of Arkansas and head coach Mike Anderson was there. Kansas State's Bruce Weber was there to see him and SMU made sure Larry Brown plus two assistants were there to watch him.

Things didn't get off to the best of starts for 2016's No. 1 Josh Jackson. Playing at the Jayhawk with One Nation, Jackson and his team were pretty sloppy early while Diamond Stone was going to work on the interior. In the second half, though, Jackson and One Nation turned up the pressure and he was able to show the goods to coaches. With freaky quickness and athleticism, Jackson is elite physically even if he lacks strength.

His ability to handle the ball, lose defenders, change directions and run by everybody in the open floor is sublime. There is not a better open court player in America, regardless of class. Jackson also has the tools to be superior defensively and he had some nice plays on that end as well. By our tally, Jackson scored 18 of his 20 in the second half. It's also notable that Jackson looks to have grown to at least 6-foot-7. That he still shoots his jumper a little bit off of his right shoulder is a concern, but his physical tools and natural instincts are of the highest level.

Another five-star in attendance at the Jayhawk is 2015's No. 12 player Chance Comanche. His Earl Watson Elite Black team managed to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory on Friday night, but the 6-foot-10 power forward out of Los Angeles (Calif.) View Park was plenty impressive while scoring 23. Comanche is not particularly strong, in fact he is very lean. But, his body type should carry more weight without hurting his mobility and that is key. Comanche isn't a super leaper, but he is as mobile and quick as any big man in the country. Especially from one end of the floor to another. He can make jumpers to 15 feet, has soft touch and is a big time player. Assistants from places like UCLA and California were watching while Comanche also seemed to draw a lot of attention from John Thompson III of Georgetown and Mark Gottfried of N.C. State.

Three-star shooting guard Landry Shamet has been making waves recently with offers from Creighton, Wichita State, Colorado, Drake and more. Friday night, he had head the Shockers, Buffaloes and the Bulldogs to go along with several assistants from several other mid to high majors on hand. In his first game, Shamet struggled some with his shooting and foul trouble. He did, however, showcase his high level passing.

Point guard Noah Blackwell looks better since we last saw him. He's not afraid to shoot a jumper from deep, can handle and is a good passer. The three-star from Roseville (Calif.) Woodcreek is playing with Team Superstar and listed offers from Oregon State, St. Mary's, Loyola Marymount, Long Beach State, Sacramento State, UC Davis, New Mexico and Northern Arizona. Blackwell mentioned heavy interest (but no offer yet) from San Diego State and several Pac 12's are starting to sniff around.

Showing some nice flashes for Team Superstar was Washington commitment Marquese Chriss. The No. 76 player in 2015 is a good 6-foot-8, quite athletic and has soft touch to 17 feet. He let his emotions get to him a little early on and that threw him off his game. Finally for Team Superstar, three-star guard Braxton Huggins came up big when it mattered. An unsigned senior, Huggins has pretty good size, athleticism and plays with a great motor. His game isn't always pretty, but by the end of the game he has accumulated plenty of stats. Won the game for Team Superstar by stealing an inbounds pass and burying a 12 footer as time ran out.

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


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