July 11, 2014

LBJ Skills Academy: Tatum makes his move

THE RIVALS150: Class of 2014 | 2015 | 2016

LAS VEGAS -- As it turns out, Friday at the LeBron James Skills Academy was a quick one. Due to injuries and fatigue, Nike decided to cancel the evening session of games meaning there was just one round of games -- with all eight camp teams playing at the same time -- to check out the scene. 2016's Jayson Tatum looked sensational while a strong group of 2017 prospects made their marks as well.

TATUM MAKING HIS MOVE

In the class of 2016, Jayson Tatum currently ranks No. 4 nationally. If he has his way, the 6-foot-7 guard from St. Louis (Mo.) Chaminade will be making his way up the list sooner than later. Especially if he continues to play like he did on Friday at LBJ.

One of the most skilled players in the country regardless of class, Tatum handles the ball like a point guard, can shoot with range and he has now added strength and athleticism to his repertoire. Because of his size and ability to play all over the floor, he is a total nightmare of a matchup.

Friday, he was catching the ball in isolation and just going to work on anybody who tried to stop him. If he couldn't find room to squeeze off a shot, he was finding teammates with pinpoint passes. Perhaps the biggest development was how hard he was playing defensively.

Tatum listed offers from St. Louis, Missouri, Duke, Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, Michigan State and Florida and said that he would like to tighten up his list sooner than later.

Bottom line, Tatum had the gym buzzing on Friday and has put those ranked ahead of him on notice that he is coming after them.

THE 2017 CROP IMPRESSES AT LBJ

This year, there are six players from the class of 2017 participating in camp. Generally, rising sophomores struggle at a camp with the talent level of LBJ but on Friday DeAndre Ayton, Troy Brown, Trevon Duval, Zach Brown, Brian Bowen and Cody Riley all looked like they belonged.

Let's start with Ayton. A seven-footer from San Diego (Calif.) Balboa City School, he is easily the best prospect that Rivals.com has seen in that class. His blend of size, athleticism and natural ability are incredible and he plays the game with a physical edge. Watching him play, it is hard to believe that he just finished his freshman year in high school and he may be as intriguing a prospect as there is in high school basketball, regardless of class.

Not too far behind in terms of impressiveness is Troy Brown. Playing in his home city, he showed the ability to do a little bit of everything at nearly 6-foot-6. He is an alert passer and strong ball handler who can run an offense or he can slide off the ball and make defenders pay with his jump shooting.

The rest of the rising sophomores showed flashes as well. Zach Brown has tremendous size and is already a very physical and skilled low post player. Duvall is a relentless driver of the basketball who plays with no fear. Bowen is a smooth wing who can strip nets from deep and Riley is a powerful and athletic combo forward who will go and take rebounds from bigger players.

BOLDEN MAKING A NAME FOR HIMSELF

Back in March, Rivals.com watched as Marques Bolden played sparingly for DeSoto (Texas) High in the Texas final four. How far he has come since then is nothing short of eye-popping.

Now ranked No. 31 in the class of 2016, the 6-foot-10 center continued his impressive run on Friday. He battled for boards, showed soft touch and protected the rim like a big man should. Bolden is excited about how far along his game has come and the attention he is receiving because of it, but he's not satisfied.

"I'm just staying positive about it," Bolden told Rivals.com. "It is nice to be getting all of this attention but I have to stay humble and keep playing hard and working hard."

Bolden feels that much of his development and exposure is due to his move to the Texas Titans and playing with them in Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League.

"It has been a matter of opportunity and playing with right team to get me exposure," said Bolden. "If I hadn't played in the EYBL with the Titans I don't think I would have gotten this type of attention."

According to Bolden he now has offers from Texas, Nebraska, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Miami and Baylor to go along with attention from Kansas, Illinois, Louisville, Creighton, UCLA and SMU.

"I think it is a lot of fun," said Bolden. "It's fun knowing that these types of coaches and people want me to play for them."

MORE FRIDAY NEWS AND NOTES

Power forward Ted Kapita plays a lot bigger and stronger than his listed 207 pounds. A relentless athlete around the rim with great length (near 7-foot-3 wingspan on a 6-foot-8 frame), Kapita is a high motor guy who rebounds, runs the floor and is a power broker around the rim. Already ranked No. 74 in the class of 2015, he has a lot of upside.

Five-star shooting guard Antonio Blakeney had it rolling on Friday. He is an explosive one-foot leaper off of drives and in transition to glides through the air for above the rim finishes. He was draining his trademark pull-up jumper and looks like a player who may not be done climbing up the rankings.

Haanif Cheatham and Cheick Diallo made a nice duo for their team on Friday. A 6-foot-5 wing, Cheatham does a little bit of everything. He handles, he passes, he defends and he makes just enough shots from deep to keep defenders honest. He is a utility wing who makes smart decisions and will help win a lot of ballgames in college. As for Diallo, there's really not much left to write that hasn't already been mentioned over and over again. While many players sat with minor bumps and bruises, Diallo kept his energy running high and played with passion.

SMU pledge Matthew McQuaid was shooting the cover off the ball on Friday. His range extends to the NBA three point line and he is playing with supreme confidence. Larry Brown had to like what he saw courtside.

A four-star combo guard, Jalen Coleman has long been known for his shooting and scoring. At LBJ, he assumed point guard duties and looked pretty effective running a team. Playing off the ball as a scorer is still his specialty, but if he can run a team for stretches he becomes much more valuable. Notre Dame's Mike Brey was watching closely and the Irish are heavily in the mix here along with others like Illinois, Michigan and UNLV.


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



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