HOUSTON, TEXAS - Rivals.com snuck over to watch some of the top talent in the 16 and under pool on opening night at the Kingwood Classic and had a chance to see guys like Derrick Rose, Cole Aldrich and Herb Pope. The class of 2007 prospects didn't disappoint. Neither did guys like Michael Harthun, from the Class of 2008.
Rose waiting to blossom after opening game
Finding Derrick Rose isn't an easy task these days, especially since the name of his team has changed to Mean Streets Express. College coaches will find the No. 2 ranked player in the class of 2007 though. Last week at the Real Deal on the Hill, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo watched him play. Illinois lead man Bruce Weber found him, too.
At the Kingwood, college coaches weren't allowed to be in the gym on Friday nights but that didn't stop Rose from showing flashes of why so many high major schools are looking at him early on.
Playing against an under matched team on opening night, Rose showed off his unselfishness by feeding the hot hand for a number of assists. He's a guy that can do a lot more on the offensive end but for the No. 2 ranked player in the country, Rose is just as good at running the show efficiently all the while scoring at will and making those around him better. His rock the baby reverse dunk on a fast break was the highlight of a rather quiet night on the 16 and under scene.
Offensively, Rose was open on several occasions for scores but he never had a chance to get the touches he earned. Nevertheless, he found ways to get points on the board with his explosiveness and ability to blow by defenders and catapult himself to the rim. There aren't a lot of guys that can match his combination of quickness and strength.
Rose said he's hearing from a number of schools including North Carolina, Illinois, Oklahoma State, Marquette, Kansas, DePaul, Louisville, Michigan State, Kentucky, Connecticut and Wake Forest.
Both Kevin Love and Kyle Singler, the No. 3 and No. 4 ranked players in the class of 2007, respectively, were sitting in the stands to see Rose after watching their 16 and under brethren from the Portland Legends squad play. It's always a good night to have three of the nation's top five players in the class of 2007 in one gym at the same time.
Love is one of the best players in the 17 and under pool but he's always ready to take in a good game. The 6-foot-9 forward from Lake Oswego (Ore.) High School took a look at the guy rated right above him and raved about Rose's game, even on a slow night for the Chicago point guard.
Love isn't too shabby himself. That's why North Carolina and Arizona are recruiting him the hardest, he says. Duke, Oregon and UCLA are also in the running for the best passing big man in the class of 2007.
Singler said he's going to try his hand at quarterback next year as a junior. Think there are many 6-foot-7 signal callers in Southern Oregon? Probably not so much. Singler said he is passionate about football and basketball. While he's no Greg Paulus, Singler said he's entertaining the thought of playing both sports. Both Oregon and Oregon State have shown interest for football, he said.
That's my guy
Love and Singler were watching Michael Harthun in action for the Portland Legends 16 and under team. Even though the boys from the Pacific Northwest lost to Mean Streets out of Chicago, Harthun, a 6-foot-1 point guard from South Medford (Ore.) High School put on a show.
A teammate with Singler in high school, Harthun showed that he's also a guy worthy of some star power. Quick with the ball, the class of 2008 prospect plays like a guy that's seen it all. Not bad for a kid from a small town that's a day trip away from a major city.
Harthun proved why he's already hearing from the likes of UCLA, Arizona, Oregon and Oregon State. He's a true point that has the ball on a string but also knows how to kiss it off the glass with runners, play sound defense and puts some zip on his passes.
Solid start for Aldrich
Cole Aldrich and his Minnesota Magic team has already started their time in Houston strong. They've toured NASA. They've encountered some Houston traffic. And after beating Team Breakdown 62-35 in the opening game of the 16 and under field, the crew was headed out to get some of Houston's finest Tex-Mex grub at a local favorite.
Aldrich can also go home happy with his workmanlike 11 points and 13 points he put in during the somewhat slow and methodical victory. Aldrich, a 6-foot-10, 230-pound center from Bloomington, Minn., is a huge guy inside.
Guys in the class of 2007 are hard to find. He's got a torso that resembles a bank safe and shoulders that could serve as a foundation for a small building. He knows how to get into position for boards and works hard to solidify himself for position on both blocks. Patient on offense, Aldrich, the No. 6 ranked player in the class of 2007 by Rivals.com, will find the right time to dunk it on you or just lay it softly off the glass.
Aldrich told Rivals.com that Kansas head coach Bill Self and Minnesota's Dan Monson both stopped by his school last week. He also added that he'd like to hear more from Kentucky. Offers have been extended by the Jayhawks and Gophers as well as Wisconsin and Arizona, he says. Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo will be in next week to see the young man.
Baptism by fire
Pittsburgh bound prospect Herb Pope wasted little time showing why Jamie Dixon and his staff were happy to accept an early pledge from the class of 2007. The 6-foot-8 forward scored 17 points in a blowout win but he didn't score all of his points inside and he certainly proved he's not a center.
Appearing much slimmer than his 233-pound listed weight, Pope is more athletic this year than last and he's even showing that he has some small forward skills by running the floor well, shooting the ball and putting the rock on the floor.
Go on without me
Keaton Nankivil will not be in town for the Kingwood due to an injured foot but that didn't stop the rest of the Fox Valley Skills team from doing some damage. Without Nankivil, the No. 11 ranked player in the class of 2007 by Rivals.com, Fox Valley looked for options other than the 6-foot-9 big man inside.
They were able to get production in the backcourt from guys like Charlie Chapman, a 5-foot-11 point guard, and Scott Christopherson, a 6-foot-1 shooter who is already committed to Marquette.
Chapman doesn't put any fear into opponents by face value alone but he's quick, heady and knows how to make plays. The Hartland, Wis., native already has offers from Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Wisconsin-Green Bay but he could be one of the top point guards in his class coming out of the Midwest.
Christopherson isn't going to win any sprints but he can certainly put the ball through the cylinder. Fresh off a verbal commitment to Marquette, Christopherson looked comfortable behind the arc and launched up a nice looking stroke. Not overly quick and not a guy that's going to create for himself too often, he'll be a good spot up shooter and a guy to run off of screens to get scores in the Big East.
Rivals.com has him rated as a five-star player at the present time, however, his lack of athleticism and ability to create for himself may push other guys ahead of him down the road.
Coaches are in town and ready to hit the gyms
Friday night is the quiet period for college coaches and they have the alarm clocks set for early Saturday morning to get out and see their respective recruits. Rivals.com will be right there with them to bring you full coverage from the nation's largest AAU event of the year. Stay logged on for the most comprehensive coverage around.