THE WOODLANDS, Tex. -- By the time Saturday's action at the Under Armour Invitational had come to a close, only eight teams were left standing in the 17U division. One of them is the ATL Xpress and they can thank Danjel Purifoy for helping to get them there.
Purifoy lifts Xpress
The ATL Xpress were in big trouble during the first round of bracket play. A tough Philly Pride team had turned the game into a slow-paced, physical and grinding affair. Deep into the game, the Philly crew was simply out toughing the Xpress, at least until Danjel Purifoy decided that he wasn't going to let his team lose.
The 6-foot-6 forward from Alabama who currently ranks No. 65 in the class of 2015 answered the challenge in a big way. He didn't score a ton of points in the low-scoring affair, but Purifoy used his toughness, athleticism and high-running motor to make game-changing plays. He grabbed rebounds, put pressure on the defense by driving to the hoop and then he hit key free throws down the stretch as the Xpress completed a big comeback.
Later in the evening, Purifoy added the big offensive numbers to move the Xpress into Sunday's quarterfinal action by taking out Grassroots Indiana.
"We should have come out with a tough mentality early," Purifoy said. "I got the mentality that we needed to be tougher and just played. I like it physical like that."
During live period events that college coaches can scout, rules say all players on a summer team must be from either the state the team is based out of or a bordering state. Because of that, Missoula (Mont.) Hellgate's Tres Tinkle is unable to play with Los Angeles-based Earl Watson Elite. The Under Armour Invitational isn't open to Division 1 coaches, though, so the 6-foot-6 small forward who ranks No. 124 in the class of 2015 is moonlighting with EWE.
Based on what he did on Saturday, that ranking probably needs to go up a little bit. A tough and sound player, Tinkle changes the complexion of the game when he is on the floor. A good athlete and fierce competitor, he is one of those guys who always seems to grab key rebounds, hit a shot when needed and he doesn't need any extra encouragement to get physical with opponents. The son of Montana head coach Wayne Tinkle, he is just a fun and productive player to watch.
Not surprisingly, Tinkle's father would love to sign him, but there is no pressure to do so. The elder Tinkle is also in the mix for the Oregon State job (a team that had been recruiting Tres), so that could be an interesting opportunity. Tinkle's older sisters have played at Gonzaga and Stanford and both The Cardinal and Bulldogs are involved. Offers have come in from USC, Utah and Boston College while others like California, Arizona State, Harvard, Boise State, Notre Dame and Creighton have been steadily upping their interest level.
Sanders thinking fall
A four-star point guard from Kathleen (Fla.), Corey Sanders has always been one of the most entertaining players in the class of 2015. A true skywalker who can break defenders down off the dribble, Sanders ability to play at and above the rim for a 6-foot-1 player is uncanny. Still, at that size it is awfully tough to make a living trying to play above the rim at all times.
To his credit, Sanders has sensed that and has done an excellent job of rounding out his game. During a win over the Carolina Wolves in bracket play, Sanders was in total control of the game. He pushed the pace when it needed to be pushed, got to the rim when he needed to get to the rim, played defense and hit some shots when defenders backed off.
Of course, Sanders showed he has the juice in the open floor and he still had plenty of acrobatic finishes, but the balanced and efficient floor game was something that the No. 89 -- and rising -- player in 2015 can build upon down the road.
"We are always looking for somebody to pick the team up and as the point guard that has to be me," Sanders said. "I'm starting with my defense and then doing what I can do with the ball in my hands.
"They all tell me that they will give me some freedom and play in the open floor," Sanders said. "I'm watching a lot of college basketball to see how they really play."
More notes from Saturday
Finally, Washington commit Marquese Chriss continues to impress. It is important to stress that the near 6-foot-9 power forward isn't yet a finished product, but his tools are that of a potentially big-time prospect. Chriss has elite-level athleticism in the paint and what's important is that it is functional athleticism, meaning he doesn't need a bunch of space or to gather his momentum before elevating way above the rim. He can take a bump and adjust, runs like a deer in the open floor and shows good touch on mid-range jumpers. Chriss still has to get stronger and put together a more complete effort on the defensive end, but he's coming along rapidly. Currently ranked No. 76 nationally, Chriss is easily a top 50, perhaps a bit better, prospect in the class of 2015.
The No. 16 player in the class of 2015, Doral Moore's ranking has always been tied into his potential much more than his current production. However, the seven-footer from Georgia was very quiet even by his standards. The size, long arms, athleticism, good touch when he does shoot the ball and ability to control the lane defensively are all easy to see. On Saturday, though, he had little production and didn't look to exert his will on the game at all. Moore has all of the tools to be an elite prospect and to one day play at a very high level. However, he doesn't yet look overly confident and has to learn to impose his will on the game by turning up his intensity level.
It wasn't the best shooting day for four-star wing Tevin Mack of the Carolina Wolves. The No. 97 player in the class of 2015 is going to be making a move up the rankings though and his offensive aggressiveness, size for the wing and overall athleticism all go well with a jumper that has to be respected to the three-point line. Teammate Seventh Woods was elevated to a top five prospect in the class of 2016 after the winter and the move might have been a little too ambitious on the part of Rivals.com. The rising junior point guard is an absolute freak show athlete with incredible quickness and a spin that could make just about anybody jealous. At least two or three times a game he uses that athleticism to make a play that nobody else on the floor can think about making. Right now, though, Woods looks to be over-thinking the game a little and like the previously mentioned Moore, could stand to be more confident and aggressive on the floor.
Because we were able to get a pretty extended look at 2015's No. 3 player Diamond Stone just a few weeks ago, there was no need to focus on the big man from Milwaukee. However, we did watch a little bit and he was dominating as usual in the low post.
Class of 2016 big man Jayce Johnson continues to improve. A hard-working post player who is extremely adept at establishing and then holding position on the low block, Johnson plays a physical style that bothers some other bigs. He rebounds at a high rate, runs hard from rim to rim and is a well-rounded post player. Johnson isn't the most explosive leaper and at times that hampers him as a finisher, but for the most part it is hard to quibble with the young man's style and you have to love his motor and physicality. Johnson claims early offers from Arizona State, Cal, UNLV, Cal State Northridge and Utah to go along with interest from Stanford, Harvard and Gonzaga.
One of the day's best finds was class of 2016 point guard J.J. Caldwell. Playing with the Houston Defenders, the long-armed and tough six-footer was a problem for opposing point guards all day. He has a strong handle, probes defenses for openings and is under control when he makes quick and explosive drives into the paint. Based on the early returns, Caldwell looks like a kid that should be getting plenty of high-major type attention before it is all said and done.
When it comes to getting to the free throw line, few guards in the class of 2015 are as good as K.J. Walton. A physically punishing driver, Walton seems to live at the free throw line and when he's got his pull-up jumper working, he is a load for defenders. With his play for Grassroots Indiana this spring, Walton has made a pretty good case to move up a bit from his No. 107 ranking.
According to his coaches, 6-foot-10 rising senior big man Nick Marshall won't turn 17 until the end of the summer. That youth and the strides he is taking in his game are worth keeping a close eye on down the road. Marshall already has high-major size, is a pretty good athlete and works hard on the glass. His offense tends to come in spurts, but he has tools to work with and it will be interesting to see where he is with his game by the end of July.
Point guard Corinthian Ramsey of Dallas Showtyme was an interesting Saturday find. The point guard from Mansfield (Texas) Summit was scoring and distributing the ball very well. Ramsey is unafraid to launch jumpers, has very good quickness and is one of those smaller point guards who doesn't seem to be afraid of anybody. Arkansas State and Louisiana Lafayette have already offered the three-star prospect.