MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The Penny Hardaway ARS/Rescue Rooter National Hoopfest came to a rousing completion on Saturday night at White Station High, as Iowa State-bound Talen Horton-Tucker led Chicago Simeon to an overtime win over Memphis (Tenn.) East.
National Basketball Analyst Eric Bossi has takeaways on Horton-Tucker and much more from Saturday's action.
IOWA STATE BOUND HORTON-TUCKER HAS ALL-BIG 12 POTENTIAL
Iowa State fans are going to love Talen Horton-Tucker. In fact, he's the kind of hard-nosed, skilled and competitive all-around player who is likely going to earn the admiration of opposing fans in the Big 12 during his time in Ames.
Ever since Horton-Tucker first entered the Rivals.com rankings prior to his junior year he's been on a steady rise - and he's not done. What's more remarkable is the change his game has undergone. When he first burst onto the scene it was as a big-bodied jump shooter. As he's matured he has leaned up - while retaining his broad, powerful shoulders - and added athleticism, along with a lot of game off the dribble.
In the win over Memphis East, Horton-Tucker opened the game strong by nailing multiple threes and thrilling the crowd with an incredible block of an open floor dunk attempt. Then he finished things off at the free throw line in overtime to cap a 24- point, nine-rebound and three-assist evening.
The more I watch Horton-Tucker play, the more I think he's tracking as a player with legitimate All-Conference potential in the Big 12, and he's going to rise again during this week's rankings update.
LACK OF PRIORITIZATION OF FIVE-STAR N'FALY DANTE MAKES NO SENSE
In a day and age where sophomores - especially those tracking as potentially elite prospects - routinely have several scholarship offers and are heavily prioritized by major programs, the lack of recruiting attention for 2020 five-star big man N'Faly Dante doesn't make any sense to me.
According to Luke Barnwell, Dante's coach at Bel Aire (Kans.) Sunrise Christian, the big man was on campus at Kansas in August and the Jayhawks told him he had an offer. Others like LSU, Wichita State, Oregon and Iowa have also been involved, but as of yet nobody has gone all-in on Dante and there haven't been any schools making trips to Sunrise specifically because of him. It's been more of a case of checking in on the several ranked players in the program and basically being like "Oh yeah, we like that big athletic dude, too."
I suspect that time will change this lack of prioritization soon enough. Dante isn't just big. He's got a mean streak, he's a tremendous vertical athlete and he's already got some touch to 12 feet and gets things done on both ends. After seeing him for a third time this season, his top 10 status in 2020 looks pretty legitimate.
TYLER HARRIS HAS A KNACK FOR THE BIG MOMENT
It wouldn't be a surprise if four-star senior point guard Tyler Harris turned out to be a big fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers' Isaiah Thomas. Like Thomas, he's a sub 6-footer who plays with a gigantic chip on his shoulder and he always seems to do his best work in the fourth quarter.
After getting off to a slow start in a bit of an ugly game between his Cordova (Tenn.) squad and Olive Branch (Miss.) High, Harris cranked it up toward the end of the third quarter and through the fourth to finish with 24 points, five rebounds and a two-point win. He just seems to thrive when the game gets toughest and despite being one of the smaller players on the floor, he carries himself with the confidence of a much bigger and stronger player.
To date, Harris has used three of his official visits to see Colorado State, Iowa State and hometown Memphis. He indicated that he'll likely visit Tennessee next, at either the end of this month or in early February. He also listed NC State, Xavier and Clemson, but said he was unsure if he would use his fifth visit and that he'd likely decide after the high school season.
TWO HEADED PG MONSTER AT PAUL VI IS FUN TO WATCH
Fairfax (Va.) Paul VI has to have one of the most entertaining two-headed monsters at the point guard position of any school in America. Four-star junior Anthony Harris and five-star sophomore Jeremy Roach are both highly effective and operate with a synergy and understanding of each other's game that makes them tough to handle.
What strikes me the most about them, though, is that they appear to be completely selfless, team players who set their egos aside and go to work. Each has a claim to be the man, but operating together they are so good.
Harris is a little bigger, a little more physical and probably the more versatile defender of the two. Roach is maybe a bit more explosive and more of a creator and playmaker off the dribble.
They made life tough for five-star Vanderbilt-bound point guard Darius Garland and Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy while combining for 29 points and seven assists in a 63-50 win.
FINAL SATURDAY NOTES FROM MEMPHIS
.... First the good: Vanderbilt-bound five-star point guard Darius Garland has added 12 pounds of muscle since the summer and looks visibly stronger and better-suited for taking contact. He used it to get to the free throw line 10 times and into the lane, where he dished out five assists. On the other side of things, Garland struggled mightily with his shot, going just 4-for-19 from the field against a very physical Paul VI defense. Garland has feel and doesn't lack for toughness, but the scouting report next season is going to be to pound him physically at every opportunity
.... Ranked No. 1 in the country earlier this season, Memphis (Tenn.) East suffered it third loss in a row on Saturday night. I wouldn't exactly ring the alarm or hit the panic button though, because all three losses have been to outstanding teams in tightly contested games. Though they lost, senior point guard Alex Lomax, 2019's No. 2 player James Wiseman and 2019 four-star Chandler Lawson had moments.
Lomax didn't shoot the ball great, but the Wichita State-bound guard did have a triple double with 13 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. He's all about toughness and will be a fan favorite in Wichita. For the second night in a row Wiseman was saddled with early foul trouble that severely limited him. On top of that, his teammates - outside of Lomax - did a very poor job of getting him the ball in the post. He showed some flashes in the second half to finish with 12 points but has to become more assertive around the rim and on the glass, whether he's getting the ball or not. For his part, Lawson had as productive a game as I have ever seen him play. He kept East in the game early and came alive again late in a very nice 28-point, eight-rebound performance.
I had hoped to discuss with Wiseman the rumors about a possible move to the class of 2018. However, security told me it was time to go before he emerged from the locker room. Speaking from my scouting seat, I think that Wiseman would be best served not rushing the process and that another year of high school would be beneficial to him before heading to college.
.... I discussed Sunrise Christian's N'Faly Dante above, but also wanted to touch on four-star junior wing Malik Hall and three-star senior point guard Isaiah Budjoso. Hall is a prime target of several Midwestern high majors including Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Purdue and many others, and he's a steady, well-rounded wing with good size. He's one of those guys who quietly goes about his business and when you look at things after the game he's been very productive. Budjoso is headed to Loyola Chicago and should be a stud there. He's a big, tough point guard who has total respect of his teammates.
.... The city of Memphis is always loaded with talent, and WhiteHaven sophomore shooting guard Matthew Murrell certainly looks like one to keep an eye on. A 6-foot-2 scorer with athleticism and a good-looking jump shot, he's a guy with a big ceiling who should start to take a star turn over the next few years. He listed early offers from Jacksonville State and Iowa State.
.... Sound the late-bloomer alert on Chicago Simeon point guard Xavier Pinson. A one-time Kent State commitment, Pinson is a long, quick and athletic point guard with length and outstanding body control. He's playing more and more at his new school, and the added confidence since seeing him in early December is something else. He's got to get stronger and isn't a finished product, but the upside is there to be a very nice player down the road and since his decommitment from Kent State programs like DePaul, Dayton, Missouri, Saint Louis and Georgetown have inquired.