Basketball recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer is traveling for almost the entire month of July. He just wrapped up coverage and evaluating prospects at the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio.
Today, Meyer takes a look at the top underclassmen that participated in the event. Below are five standouts that set themselves apart from the other participants in Akron.
LeBron James US Skills Academy top underclassmen
John Riek, Center, Centereach (N.Y.) Our Savior New American
Since the NIKE Hoop Jamboree, Riek has been one of the most talked-about prospects in the country. At the LeBron James US Skills Academy, Riek proved that his performance at the Jamboree wasn't a fluke. Actually, he raised his level of play against the top big men in the 2008 class. Nothing short of a dominating presence on defense, Riek went outside of his area to block shots and snag rebounds. Offensively he is still a work in progress, but he consistently commanded a double team and handled the ball with poise on the low block.
What a talented prospect. Tyler is big, nimble and explosive. He can do damage in a lot of different ways from the 3-point line and closer. He has an array of post moves well beyond anything you would expect from a 2010 prospect, and he can shoot it out to the arc. His ability to face up in the mid-range area is the most impressive aspect of his game. He can slash to the basket going left and right, and he has a sweet blend of explosiveness and body control. Those skills enable him to finish well, even when the shot is difficult.
Blessed with a man's body at a young age, Stephenson also has a man's game. Similar to Tyreke Evans in the 2008 class, Stephenson is a big combo guard who seems to get to the rim at will. Not quite as crafty with the ball as Evans, Stephenson is more powerful with his punishing drives to the basket. Stephenson also has a great pull-up game and a soft touch on his jumper. When he puts his mind to it, he can be a top-notch defender and rebounder as well.
Hamilton might not wow you with his athleticism, but he sure does produce results. Not a bad athlete by any means, Hamilton thrives on his size and craftiness more than athleticism. When the effort is there, he has a knack for finding the ball off the glass. He also has the ability to score the ball. Whether it is from behind the arc, a floater off the dribble or an opportunistic rebound, Hamilton puts up points. The next step in his development is bringing his defense closer to the level of his offense.
At the USA Basketball Festival, Cousins played a physical game on the defensive end. On the offensive end, he shot way too many jumpers. At the LeBron James US Skills Academy, Cousins had a very different approach offensively. He posted up more often, cut hard to the basket on the pick and roll and attacked the basket with the dribble instead of settling for jumpers. The physical approach paid off for him. Cousins punished defenders with his nearly 250-pound frame and scored at a much more efficient rate.