SAN DIEGO, CA - With 350 players from across the country packed into the gym at Alliance University for the adidas Phenom 150 camp on Friday, finding a place to start was a bit overwhelming. We started with guys with the biggest reputations and went away impressed with some of the top young talent in the country.
First impressions are lasting impressions
One of the downfalls of covering players in the recruiting world at such a young age is the raised expectations of players. Youngsters sometimes get caught in the trap of hype and circumstance that comes with strong opinions. Demetrius Walker is a poster child of that.
The 6-foot-4 wing from Fontana (Calif.) High School received national recognition in a Sports Illustrated article as a middle schooler. Thus began the hype machine. After a somewhat a down year by most SoCal observers, the hype turned into doubt.
If Walker had one thing to prove on the first night of the Phenom 150 camp, it is he is back. Or for us, he is just arriving. In our first close up view of the class of 2009 prospect, Walker impressed and played like the top player at the camp on Friday.
Walker was a man amongst boys. Physically, there are few players here at the camp that can match his size, strength and athleticism. Walker knows that and just bullied people around. His motor was always on go, pushing the red line at times, especially when he worked the glass. There were a couple of times that he came away with the board with three defenders clinging on as if they were trying to wrangle a tornado.
As soon as Walker snatched the board, he'd look up the floor and started the break. One of the reasons why people were quick to knock Walker was his shooting ability, or lack there of.
He was quick to address that, too, on Friday night as he knocked down three three-pointers in the first game and converted on a pair of others in the second game. Walker's mechanics aren't the sharpest on his shot but the ball goes in and popped the net more times than naught.
Putting all of the pre-camp talk aside, Walker put together a great opening night. He has the tools, at this stage, to shine.
While Walker had the locals going crazy, New Jersey guard Dexter Strickland was doing his thing and making believers on the other end of the gym. The 6-foot-3 guard from St. Patrick's High School was putting on a show as he blended his athleticism, scoring and point guard skills all together for a delicious opening night hoops smoothie.
Strickland just has the aura that the good ones have. It's a little bit of confidence, a little bit of smoothness and a lot of wowness. He creates for himself probably better than any other player that we watched on Friday. He's a very good passer and for a guy that has a rep for being such a great scorer, Strickland was quick to give up the rock and set other guys up. When it's time to turn it on offensively, he'll take it to another level.
For every ounce of hype Strickland has received from the hype-friendly area of the Big Apple, he certainly earned his stripes in his two games under his belt.
Walker's teammate, Bill Edwards, was equally impressive on Friday as the 6-foot-5 big man from Middletown (Ohio) High School went to work on the blocks and showed off skills away from the basket.
Edwards, the son of the former Wright State great of the same name, was active around the basket because of good guard play in the backcourt. The lefty helped himself out on the blocks by opening up his game more with a couple of step back mid range jumpers. Rebounding was another strong suit for his game on Friday, too. If Edwards can add size, there is no reason why he can't play in the Big Ten based on his play on opening night.
Get to know the name Tyrone Gardner. The 5-foot-11 point guard from Weaver High School in Hartford, Conn., was a magician with the ball both as a perimeter scorer and a pinpoint, and often times clever, passer.
The lefty was dialed in from deep, as he sank five three-pointers in one game and must have dropped at least seven assists. It helps when your wing mate is a player like Strickland.
Gardner is quick with the rock and gets into the lane with little trouble. Creating off the bounce is still a trait that needs to come forward but his name made it onto the watch list for a reason.
More notes from the notepad
You can't really blame Darian Kelly of Girard (KS) High School for his team's two losses. The well built guard made things happen on both ends of the floor. He attacked the rim at will and scored when he got to the cup. Athletically, he'll surprise you because of a sturdy frame. He may look a little heavy footed but he'll explode to, and above, the rim for blocks on defense and dunks on offense. His strength is penetrating to the iron. His jumper still needs to shine forth.
Houston is the place to find point guards in 2009. Stevie Rogers is one of the guys to watch from H-Town. He's quick to the lane, even quicker with the passes and knows who to get the rock to.
Coleson Rakestraw is a chip off the (C)ole block. His older brother (Cole) is a fine shooter from the class of 2007 and recently committed to Arkansas.
Joe Burton, a California product, is one of the bigger kids here (6-6, 245) but moves well for his size, rebounds well and has shown flashes of intrigue.
Glen Rice of NBA fame is in the house, watching his two Atlanta area sons, Glen, Jr. (2009) and Demitri (2009). Arkansas head coach Stan Heath is also here to see his son in action.
Early, early interest in the kids
Recruiting at this level is an interesting topic to tackle but with some kids picking programs after their freshmen year, collecting school lists for rising sophomores (class of 2009) may not seem so taboo anymore. With that said, here is a look at some of the early mentions by the players here in San Diego.
Demetrius Walker said he is hearing from North Carolina (where he will spend a week at later this summer for camp), UConn, Michigan State, UCLA, Arizona and Texas.
Bill Edwards rattled off a list of Xavier, Oklahoma State, Seton Hall and Providence.
Dexter Strickland will be a no-brainer prospect for the Big East schools and beyond. The stud guard said he has heard from Michigan State, Marquette, Rutgers, Georgetown, Florida State, Miami and several others.
D.J. Byrd picked up interest from Indiana, Xavier, Purdue and Ohio State after playing well with Indiana Elite 15U on the AAU circuit.
Dominic Cheek, a 6-foot-5, 170-pound wing from St. Anthony's (N.J.) said Seton Hall, Rutgers and Notre Dame have inquired early in the process.
Hi, my name is…
Meet the class of 2010. Yep, the freshmen to be class is starting to show its baby face. And by the looks of it, the class is holding a couple of gems in hand.
Jarell Eddie of North Carolina put on a dunk show in the afternoon session. The 6-foot-6, 198-pound combo forward is one of the top players in the class of 2010 here at the camp and showed why. He is quick off the floor for dunks, rebounds well, runs very well for his size and makes life tough for defenders because of his athleticism.
Tony Chenault from Philly has a lot of people talking about what a great he is going to be but the 6-foot-1 guard from Neumann-Goretti is still saving his best stuff. At least he is after the first day.
Jay Canty, a 6-foot-4 forward from North Carolina, was Mr. Versatility. He posted up, stepped out to hit the three ball, ran the floor well, knocked down a couple of mid range shots. He has tools. No doubt about that.
James Bell, a 6-foot-4 forward from Orlando, Fla., was a multi-skilled big man that handled the rock, rebounded well and sent a number of shots into the walls. He's quick off the floor and showed off a fine game on day one.
Point guard Jordan Richardson had it all working from the point. He made the extra pass, made his jumpers and displayed a good pull up jumper.