April 28, 2014

Dallas Gauntlet: Smith explodes

THE RIVALS150: Class of 2014 - Class of 2015

DUNCANVILLE, Tex. -- This year, Adidas has switched up how they run their grassroots circuit. Instead of one spring showcase event and a few in the summer, they have created the Adidas Gauntlet with multiple spring stops and league play before summer finals in Las Vegas. Sunday, five-star sophomore Dennis Smith stole the show at the Dallas Gauntlet, but he wasn't the only major talent in the gym.

Smith's uprising

When Rivals.com updated the class of 2016 rankings in late March, Dennis Smith entered the rankings as a five-star prospect and the No. 16 player in the country. There is no question that the 6-foot-2 point guard from Fayetteville (N.C.) Trinity Christian is a worthy five-star.

After watching Smith destroy a very talented Dream Vision squad while racking up 37 points, seven assists and six rebounds in an 87-76 win for his Team Loaded squad, it is pretty likely that a ranking of No. 16 wasn't near aggressive enough.

Simply put, Smith looks like a monster talent at the point guard position and a pretty good argument can be made that he should be considered the top point guard in his class. Taking things a step further, if Smith continues to play like he did during the Dallas Gauntlet stop, he will push for the national top five in 2016.

One of the most aggressive drivers in high school basketball regardless of class, Smith has an electric first step and is a beast off the dribble. He reads high ball-screens, changes directions and once he's past the first line of defense, he uses his superfluous athleticism to finish over much larger players in traffic. Smith is lean but already strong, has range past the three-point line, earns trips to the foul line and gives defenders little rest with his attack-mode mentality.

Because he is such an aggressive and attacking player, Smith commits some unnecessary turnovers and takes risks. With time and seasoning, though, there's no reason to think that he won't develop more polish as he matures.

Smith listed offers from Charlotte, VCU and N.C. State and mentioned he has started to hear from Duke, North Carolina and Louisville. New Wake Forest coach Danny Manning was watching him closely on Sunday and Wake will be offering as well. Most likely, many more high-level programs will join the fray after last weekend's action.

For his part, Smith said that he feels like he can get to the basket against any defense. He also felt the work he's been putting in would allow him to shine, so he's not surprised that he played so well on a big stage.

"I think I knew that it was going to happen," Smith said of the attention he's starting to receive. "They say what's done in the dark will come out in the light, I just didn't think it would happen so soon."

Adams impresses

Much like Dennis Smith, 2015's Jalen Adams is an athletic and aggressive guard who has a motor that doesn't quit. The product of Ashburnham (Mass.) Cushing Academy wasn't forcing his offense for Mass Rivals on Sunday, but the 6-foot-1 guard who ranks No. 27 in the class of 2015 was in total control of the game whenever he was on the floor in the Rivals' 66-50 win over New Orleans Elite.

A gifted scorer with a big-time first step and loads of confidence, Adams is more combo guard than true point guard. But, he sees the court very well and if his teammates get open, he will find them. On Sunday, Adams had six assists with zero turnovers and was pretty efficient with his minutes.

A marked man because his name has gotten out as a top prospect, Adams doesn't feel any extra pressure to perform at a high level.

"Not at all, I don't feel any pressure," Adams said. "It's still just playing basketball. I can do that."

On the recruiting front, Adams said that he felt there were four programs that are starting to put the most effort into his recruitment.

"Creighton, Connecticut, Georgia Tech and Kansas," said Adams when asked who was recruiting him the most aggressively. "Those four are coming at me real hard right now, probably more than anybody else."

Adams also listed offers from Providence, Rhode Island and Kansas State and said that he'd like to move towards finalizing things by the end of th summer. Many observers have felt that UConn and Kevin Ollie will be tough to beat -- especially coming off of a national championship -- and Adams said that Ollie has his full attention.

"He's really cool," said Adams. "I like him a lot. He's been there at the highest level before and knows what it takes for a player to get there."

Brown getting better

When you are already ranked No. 11 overall in your class, there's not a lot of room for upward movement. Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler's Jaylen Brown is working hard to make his way up the list, though. Playing with his Game Elite squad, the 6-foot-7 small forward was the talk of the Dallas Gauntlet after torching anybody who got in his way on Friday and Saturday. Sunday wasn't quite as dominant a day for Brown and he struggled a bit with turnovers, but his confidence and alpha dog mentality were quite evident.

There was a point during his junior season where Brown looked to be settling too easily for jumpers based on film study. Now, he is using his power and athleticism to get to the rim and he's being very smart about when to shoot jumpers. He will get physical and is an explosive finisher in transition.

Brown said he recently conducted in home visits with Florida, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, UCLA, Kentucky, Georgia and Kansas and that he's eying the end of the summer as a time to narrow things down on the recruiting front.

More notes from Adidas

One of the traditional summer powers, the Atlanta Celtics 17U group, is absolutely loaded with young talent. From the class of 2016, Joshua Langford currently ranks No. 21, Kobi Simmons ranks No. 28 and Braxton Blackwell ranks No. 29. From 2015, Kaiser Gates ranks No. 94 and then there is 2018's E.J. Montgomery who oozes potential.

After being bitten by the injury bug for much of the last year or so, it was good to see a healthy Langford. The 6-foot-4 guard has tremendous explosion, a solid build and a well-rounded floor game. He looked confident and the production followed. Simmons didn't have a big day, but you can see he is lengthy with outstanding quickness and he will be a big off-the-dribble threat. Blackwell is a bit of a combo forward who passes well and is an efficient scorer between the rim and 17 feet. Gates had a tough day shooting and Montgomery is really somebody to watch long term. We are very careful about saying too much about an 8th grader, but Montgomery is every bit of 6-foot-9, has a great basketball frame, good athleticism and he looks highly skilled. Fourteen-year-olds just aren't supposed to look like him.

Playing behind five-star juniors Stephen Zimmerman and Chase Jeter at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, 2016 big man Zach Collins has had to wait his turn. Rather than wait any longer, Collins has taken matters into his own hands. Six-foot-nine and skilled, the sophomore has really emerged and looks like a future four-star prospect. He has good mobility, excellent feel for the game and has earned recent offers from USC, New Mexico and UNLV.

He is still a little rough around the edges and has some work to do on his ball-handling, but Ray Smith is coming along even faster than expected. Thanks to a huge junior season at Las Vegas High, the 6-foot-7 wing made a huge jump up to No. 32 in the class of 2015. It looks like he is putting himself in position for another jump. A smooth athlete, Smith is a threat to shoot from range -- percentage isn't there yet but his shot looks good -- and he is a dynamic player in transition with the tools to emerge as a big-time defender. As long as he keeps on the path he is on, Smith will likely end up a five-star prospect.

Game Elite has a lot of talent in addition to Jaylen Brown. Rivals150 big man Shawntrez Davis has always been a fine athlete and had a good motor. Now, he is starting to fill out and play with more aggression. Among his early offers are Clemson, Mississippi State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, South Carolina and Kansas State.

The No. 24 player in the class of 2015, Brandon Ingram had a bad shooting morning in a Stackhouse Elite win over the Compton Magic, going just 3-for-17 from the floor. At 6-foot-8, Ingram is very thin and likes to shoot jumpers. When they are going down, he is pretty tough to stop because of his size and length for a wing player. When they aren't going down, he becomes pretty easy to defend because he isn't aggressive enough attacking the basket. Ingram did, however, do a nice job on the glass, grabbing nine rebounds and he showed off great passing instincts by dishing out nine assists. It says a lot about a prospect's potential when he has a bad game and ends up just one rebound and one assist short of a triple double in 29 minutes of action.

Already a two-time state champion and the Oregon state player of the year as a sophomore, Payton Pritchard of Team Fast is considered one of the most fundamentally sound floor generals in the country. Currently ranked No. 46 in the class of 2016, Pritchard easily backed that status up during the last game of the day. He isn't just a heady decision-maker, vocal leader and adroit jump shooter, Pritchard is a competitor with plenty of toughness. He's not afraid of anybody and brings the action to opponents. Dana Altman finished his evaluation period bird-dogging Pritchard and Oregon has offered. Other offers have come in from Oregon State, Oklahoma (where his father Terry played football) and Wisconsin. Pritchard also mentioned interest from Villanova, Virginia, Notre Dame, UCLA and Gonzaga.

Finally, I was able to spend some time watching Team Loaded Sherod win the 16-and-under division. Three players stood out to us during the time I was able to watch them. Bruising post player Papa Ndiaye, athletic four man Javin Montgomery-Delaurier and point guard Justice Kithcart. Ndiaye is a strong and active big man who was just bullying 16U players all over the place. He tracks loose balls for rebounds, finishes well around the rim and has a great motor. Speaking of motors, Montgomery-DeLaurier had maybe the best motor we saw all weekend. The 6-foot-7 power forward got one rebound after another, tipped lots of passes and just seemed to be all over the place. Finally, Kithcart is a speedy floor general who looks to be pretty shifty off the bounce. The entire Team Loaded Sherod group is a talented one and should be fun to watch down the road.

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


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