THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- Like the other major shoe companies, Under Armour gathers their top teams in the spring. This weekend, every UA sponsored team is at the UA Invitational in The Woodlands just north of Houston. Rivals.com went hunting for underclass talent and the Team Breakdown 16U trio of Dewan Huell, Eric Hester and Troy Baxter headlined a group worthy of getting a little bit off the road.
Breaking it down
From a talent standpoint, one of the headlining teams in the 16U Division is Florida-based Team Breakdown. Even without 2016's No. 26 player Juwan Durham, the Breakdown bunch still featured No. 32 Dewan Huell and four-star prospects Eric Hester and Troy Baxter.
The highest ranked prospect on the floor, the 6-foot-9 Huell pretty much did as he pleased. The Floridian has a lean build, is very athletic and can really run. Huell gets to the rim quickly for slams, rebounds out of his area and changes ends of the floor in a hurry. For good measure, Huell showed good touch knocking in a couple of mid-range jumpers. Huell said that he felt he had offers from Kansas, Louisville, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Ole Miss, Memphis and Alabama to name a few.
Huell was very good and while he really didn't get tested, his approach in a blowout win was a good one.
"I just wanted to keep playing hard," Huell said. "I didn't want to let up and kept going strong."
Already claiming offers from the likes of Virginia Tech, Louisville, Ole Miss, Florida State, Miami and USF, combo guard Hester isn't exactly an unknown. However, the 6-foot-2 four-star prospect hasn't had a lot of national exposure. A good athlete who can handle the ball and run some point, Hester played mostly off the ball on Friday night and was feeling it with his jumper. Driving, transition play and defense could be calling cards for him, but being able to shoot consistently will open things up for him. There is some Kendrick Nunn to his game.
The wild card of the bunch is Baxter. A 6-foot-7 small forward from Gainesville (Fla.) The Rock, Baxter is as explosive an open court athlete as there is in the country. We aren't saying that he is James White, but the way he elevates off one foot on the break and puts his head up near rim level before dunks -- and he had several impressive jams Friday night -- is very reminiscent of the way White used to finish on the break. Baxter can also knock down a jumper and has enough size to play as a four in a small lineup. If he can tighten up his handle and learns to play with more consistent effort, his ceiling is pretty high.
According to Baxter his first and only offer so far came from Florida International. He mentioned Florida State, Miami, West Virginia, VCU, USF and UCF as showing interest.
Play on Playaz
While the UA Invitational is mostly comprised of Under Armour sponsored teams, there are some non-host brand affiliated squads in town. One of them is the New England Playaz and despite a rotation short on depth, the Playaz did some nice things.
Our understanding is that 6-foot-5 wing Wheeler is going to reclassify to the class of 2017 and play at Barrington (R.I.) St. Andrew's next year. Regardless of class, Wheeler is a nice-looking wing player. His No. 1 asset is his dangerous jumper. He doesn't just make them, he does so with a compact and mechanically sound form that is difficult for defenders to stop because of his size and length. List him as a small forward for now, but the skinny wing might have the ball skills to play as a big two guard down the road.
The younger brother of Erik and Alex Murphy, class of 2017 power forward Tomas Murphy is a nice-looking prospect himself. Murphy is already around 6-foot-7, plays tough and has a great motor. Young big men tend to kind of run haphazardly up the floor, but Murphy runs with real purpose. The second the ball starts going towards the offensive end he sprints the floor and heads straight for the block on the same side of the floor as the ball. He presents a strong target in the post, has good hands and fights on the glass. Like any young big man, how much more he grows and how much athleticism he adds will play a big role in his future, but right now Murphy is a very good player.
Grady, a slender combo guard, did some nice things. At around 6-foot-2, he has good height and feel off the dribble. He was able to push the ball in transition and get to the rim in the halfcourt.
Friday night notes
His overall production wasn't great. But there is little doubt Jalek Felton has the tools to be one of the best guard prospects in the class of 2017. At least 6-foot-2, Felton has good shoulders, long arms, handles very well and really sees the floor. He can really create off the dribble, has great change of direction and whips precision passes. However, he also gets a bit careless at times and makes some silly turnovers. His jumper looks to have potential and he is one to watch closely down the road.
Playing with Felton on Team Felton, big man Sacha Killeya-Jones is long-limbed and athletic. At about 6-foot-8 or so, Kelleya-Jones can really run the floor, gets up quickly for dunks and is pretty active as a rebounder and shot-blocker. His energy is good and he looks like a guy that could make his way onto high-major radars.
Another impressive player on Team Breakdown's 16U squad was 6-foot-2 two guard Herman Williams. An aggressor off the dribble, Williams is a powerful driver with explosion.
When checking out a 15U game, the hope is to find a few players to put in the memory bank as players to follow down the road. The game between New Heights 15's and Grassroots Indiana had several kids that we will follow.
Unfortunately, New Heights got caught up in traffic and the game was delayed, only allowing me one half to watch. There was enough time to make some notes, though. For Grassroots, Kris Wilkes is a lengthy combo forward with athleticism. Most of all, Wilkes is highly mobile and doesn't just run the floor, but has outstanding lateral quickness and change of direction. Wing Paul Scruggs is a power guard, the taller Zach Gunn is a shooter who has some finesse to his game and point guard Justin Roberts is able to use his shoulders to power through defenders and has good quickness with the ball.
For New Heights, shooting guard Keith Williams was really shouldering the load. A 6-foot-3, maybe 6-foot-4, wing from Bishop Laughlin, Williams was attacking via the dribble. In transition and out of halfcourt sets, Williams made strong and athletic drives to the rim, showed good command of his dribble and played as an aggressor. Also intriguing for New Heights 15's was small forward Sid Wilson. He is 6-foot-5, lean, fluid in the open floor and looks like he can handle the ball a little. Wilson moves and seems to process the game like a kid who could be pretty good down the road.