LAS VEGAS -- The month of July has been a long grind for players, coaches and scouts alike. The end of the tunnel can be seen, though, and on Saturday players were fighting through fatigue to make impressions. Nobody in Las Vegas made a bigger impression on Rivals.com than rising junior combo guard Kwe Parker who proved that he is much more than just a freakish leaper.
Parker rounding out game
Make no mistake, rising junior combo guard Kwe Parker is as freakishly athletic a player as you will find in America. Nobody will argue that. However, there have been questions about exactly how much game Parker has outside of being able to jump really high.
On Saturday, Parker answered many of those questions during a sensational 33-point performance against Salt Lake Metro in the Fab 48.
Of course, Parker made his fair share of plays that were possible only because of his absurd leaping ability. At one point, he jumped so high on a baseline alley-oop that he surprised even himself when, after catching the ball and realizing how high in the air he was, yelled out "Oh my God" before slamming the ball home with two hands.
As impressive as plays like the one described above are, the other things Parker showed were more important. Parker showed both a tight and creative handle with the ball, he broke down defenders at will with the bounce and he shot deep jumpers and made crisp passes. For an "athlete", it was one heck of an all-around performance and there is little doubt that he will make his way into the next round of 2016 rankings.
"We can all play good and have good games," Parker said. "I'm trying not to use my athleticism so much. I'm trying to prove that I can play winning ball. I feel like I can play either the one or the two."
Word from sources was that Parker backed up his afternoon play during a late playoff game and he currently has plans to visit UVA for an elite camp in August and is also set to hit Rutgers in late August, along with Miami and Tennessee in October.
Big games for James
Rising senior shooting guard Christian James had spent most of the last year inside the Rivals150. However, during the most recent update to the class of 2015's rankings, the 6-foot-3 product of Houston just slid out. It looks like he might be playing himself back in.
Aggressive, strong and confident, James looked much more like the player that hit the floor last summer and during his junior season when he took the floor with the Houston Hoops at the Las Vegas Classic on Saturday.
James drove to the rim, invited and finished through contact and played an all-around solid game. He felt good about his game, but noted that it had a lot to do with his team playing well.
"We are playing together as a team and it has been good for all of us," James said. "I've been playing well and I'm trying to get guys involved and attack when I can."
James said that he'll look to trim things down when he gets home from Las Vegas, but he is happy to have finished out his grassroots basketball career on a high note.
"During Peach Jam and in Las Vegas has been my best ball," James said. "I'm staying aggressive, attacking the rim and playing to get my teammates involved."
News and notes
The Blue Squad here in Vegas is a team of hoopers from Senegal that are spread out all over the globe. They took a tough loss to the Mac Irvin Fire, but not without impressing. Two players stood out in particular. Six-foot-nine power forward Abdouleye Ndoye, who could end up a class of 2015 prospect, and 6-foot-8 class of 2016 power forward Mamadi Diakite can both ball.
Per his coach, there is a chance that Ndoye -- who currently plays for French club team Chalon -- could come to the U.S. to play a season of ball. Or, he could stay overseas and come over for college. Or -- and his coach didn't say this -- it looks like Ndoye could consider pro opportunities. During a 36-point performance, he did everything. His jumper was pure from as far out as 25 feet, he rebounded, he posted and he looked like the kind of player who could set off a major recruiting battle. Will he ever make it stateside? Only time will tell. But if Ndoye is even 75 percent of the player he showed on Saturday, then he is somebody Rivals.com would strongly consider assigning five-star status to.
A thin leaper who is incredibly quick off the floor, Diakite has actually been in the U.S. for a bit now. A product of St. George (Va.) Blue Ridge, he is a bit raw around the edges but drips with potential. He runs, explodes off the floor, showed both a left and right hand jump hook and played hard. More research needs to be done on him, but it is pretty easy to see him as a high-major prospect.
A five-star prospect, it couldn't have been easy for Kobi Simmons to learn that he had been cut from USA Basketball's 17U National Squad. Rather than feel sorry for himself, Simmons hopped on the first plane out of Colorado Springs and made it to Las Vegas to play with the Atlanta Celtics in the Super 64. During a win over the New York Rens, Simmons was terrific in every aspect. Playing with a surprisingly high amount of energy given how he ended up in Vegas, Simmons was all over the floor. He found teammates for dunks, buried deep jumpers and made exciting finishes on the break.
Unfortunately, Texas-based Pro Skills wasn't even remotely tested during the Las Vegas Classic playoff game that Rivals.com watched. Because they were so much better than their opponents, it was tough to make any real evaluations regarding a team that is pretty loaded with mostly underclass talent. Class of 2016 big man Schnider Herard is big and strong and a legitimate high-major big man who uses his strength and size to bury defenders in the post. He also has good hands. The other guy on Pro Skills that really needs to be watched closely -- and make no mistake 2015 D'Jery Baptiste, 2016 Harrison Henderson and 2017 Trae Young are all fine prospects -- is class of 2017 power forward Isaiah Jasey. At around 6-foot-8 or maybe even 6-foot-9, Jasey has a great frame, runs well, blocks shots, rebounds and already has a high level of skill. He is one to look forward to tracking down the road.
At the beginning of the month, we wrote that Skal Labissiere was pretty much the only person capable of holding himself back. Based on what Rivals.com has seen during the month of July, the 6-foot-11 five-star has played better than every other elite big man in the class of 2015. Playing with M33M on Saturday night, Labissiere toyed with opponents hitting jumpers, blocking shots and running the floor. At No. 14, he looks a bit underranked right now.