THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- Sunday was championship day at the Under Armour Invitational just outside of Houston. Rayjon Tucker turned the Legends Sports Complex into his town by leading Team Charlotte to a 17U division championship, winning one thrilling game after another. The nation's top player in the class of 2016, Josh Jackson, was playing at a high level for 1 Nation while the DC Premier and Grassroots Indiana took home the 16 and 15U titles on the final day.
Team Charlotte earns title
It wasn't easy, but Jeff McInnis' Team Charlotte squad left Houston as champions of the 17 and under division. Team CLT made a comeback from double digits down in the round of 16. In the quarterfinals they needed a free throw late in the game to beat New Heights. Then in the semifinals against 1 Nation, Team CLT needed a rebound follow at the buzzer by Bruce Dixon to advance to the championship.
So, it was only fitting that rising senior wing Rayjon Tucker would have to help ignite a late rally so that they could knock off a tough DC Premier squad 61-56 in the finals. A 6-foot-4 small forward from Charlotte (N.C.) Northside Christian, Tucker wasn't always his team's leading scorer, but on a team full of kids who would run through brick walls for a win, Tucker was always his team's rock.
Late in the championship game, the high flyer helped to turn things around with dunks off an inbound pass alley-oop and a drive that gave the crowd and his team a late jolt of energy. Earlier in the day, Tucker was more of a scorer. Currently an unranked three-star propsect, Tucker will 100 percent be a part of the next Rivals150 for the class of 2015.
One of the most explosive athletes in America, Tucker plays with as much energy as any player Rivals.com has seen this spring. The junior didn't even take up basketball until just a few years ago but he's got a savvy veteran's nose for the ball and is a vocal leader on both ends of the floor. He also defends and rebounds at a high level. Tucker isn't yet a great ball handler or shooter, but the way he plays is similar to the way guys like Dezmine Wells and K.J. McDaniel played at the same stage in their careers.
"I just tried to play hard," Tucker told Rivals.com. "We had to grind it and do whatever it took for us to get the win.
According to Tucker, he recently received his first high major offer from Boston College. Presbyterian,Western Kentucky, Charlotte, UNC Greensboro, Wofford, Radford and Campbell. If he plays like he did in The Woodlands during July, Tucker will surely receive many other offers and his team is one that college coaches will enjoy watching play because of their high energy and aggressive style.
"Our guard play is really important," said Tucker. "We can get big guys on us and we are able to go by them off the dribble and we are all athletic."
Jackson brings it
Sophomore wing Josh Jackson is Rivals.com's top ranked player in the class of 2016. However, his spot at the top isn't undisputed and he is going to have to fight and play at a high level to keep that position. On Sunday, Jackson was playing at that high level on both ends of the floor for 1 Nation.
Yes, the 6-foot-7 wing from Detroit (Mich.) Consortium has to continue to work on his jump shot. Might as well get that out of the way. But, it isn't unusual that a sophomore wing would need to become a more consistent shooter. What is unusual for a sophomore, though, is Jackson's freaky quickness and play making ability off the dribble.
Jackson showed on Sunday why he should at the very least be considered the best open floor/transition player in the country. The pressure he puts on defenses while flying down the court as ball handler is extreme and it is nearly impossible to keep from getting to the rim. Jackson is also a very good passer, rebounds very well, has a nice post game for a wing and is on his one of the most defensively dangerous players in any class.
Even though he is just finishing his second year of high school, Jackson has another thing about him that all great prospects must have. The best players have the ability to lift the level of their teammates play and Jackson is already able to do that a pretty impressive level.
DC Premier and Grassroots Indiana take titles
In the 16 and under division, DC Premier was able to fight off New York City based New Heights to take home a championship. In the 15's, Grasroots Indiana held off KC Run GMC.
Leading the way for Premier was sub six-foot floor general Alani Moore. Moore is probably only about 5-foot-9 but he is extremely quick, can score and is a leader on the floor. Obviously, getting bigger and stronger will make him even more dangerous but he's also playing the position where you can get away with being a little smaller and his command of the game is outstanding. Moving forward, Moore is going to be a very interesting evaluation because of the way he leads his team and produces wins has to count for a lot.
A viewing in the 15 and under title game gave us a second chance to watch Grassroots Indiana after seeing them on opening night. Once again, slender forward Kris Wilkes really impressed with his ability to run the floor and get into position. Point guard Justin Roberts is also going to be a very good player. He has a good feel for the game, gets his team where they need to be in the offense and is tough on drives to the rim.
Final Sunday notes
As good as RayJon Tucker was for Team Charlotte, freshman shooting guard Ty-Shon Alexander was his squad's most impressive prospect. A 6-foot-3 two guard, Alexander didn't just look at home playing up in the 17U Division. He looked like one of the better players. Alexander has a good looking jump shot but what was most impressive was the way he aggressively drove to the rim in tight situations where big plays had to be made. Things can and will change with him and every other player in the class of 2017, but at this point he is easily a high major prospect.
Sunday gave us the chance to spend a little more time watching the Utah Prospects. 2015 point guard Jesse Wade is already committed to Gonzaga and he is a fun player. Wade can shoot the ball really well from deep but is also pretty good as a scorer and playmaker off the dribble. He will eventually add strength and his already high skill level will serve him well as he makes the transition to college. BYU has a commitment from faceup four man Zac Seljaas and he can really shoot the ball with accuracy. Pick and pop, catch and shoot anywhere between 12 and 20 feet it doesn't really matter because he fires home one jumper after another. He will play with some physicality and looks to be a very good fit for BYU down the line.
Also on the Prospects, big man Makol Mawien is still a little bit raw, but he has the potential to develop into a very good player at a pretty high level in college. He's pushing 6-foot-9, can really run the floor and while slender, has a great frame to build on. He shows pretty good touch around the rim and just needs more confidence and experience because the tools are there. He has offers from Utah, BYU, Utah State, Gonzaga and San Jose State among others.
From top to bottom, DC Premier's 17 and under squad is very balanced. During the championship game Rutgers commit Leroy Butts was their most productive player. He was operating from 15 feet and in and was efficient with his play in the championship game. Not quite as productive in the championship game but important to the Premier cause all weekend long was Marquez Letcher-Ellis. A 6-foot-7'ish Texan who attends Genesis Academy in Virginia, Letcher-Ellis is an out of the cannon athlete who attacks the glass, runs the floor and hunts slam dunks. He handles and shoots the ball a little too and will be an intriguing player to track this summer. Also playing well was combo guard Terrell Allen who is a capable sniper from deep.
Rivals150 guard Roosevelt Smart finished a strong weekend. The 6-foot-1 scorer has been very good for the Illinois Wolves all spring and is possibly their best player. A good athlete who can shoot or score off the dribble, he plays with a confidence and ease that keeps him from getting rattled by very much.
It wasn't just Josh Jackson making things happen for 1 Nation. Point guard Josh McFolley was very good on Sunday and Charles Penn used his athleticism to make a lot of plays. A rising senior, McFolley is a six-footer who can score it from deep or get by defenders with the dribble. Allen plays a bit of a combo forward roll for his team and uses his bouncy athleticism and long arms to go along with a 6-foot-6 frame to make plays at the rim. He comes up with a lot of loose balls and always tries to finish strong in the lane.
For KC Run GMC's 15 and under team, point guard Jacob Gilyard had a good morning. He is maybe 5-foot-8 and quite skinny, but he has a lot of confidence and will challenge opponents. He can shoot it a bit or make plays off the dribble and he plays in attack mode.