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Midwest Showdown Shootout: Bossi's Takeaways

Jericole Hellems
Jericole Hellems

WEBSTER GROVES, Mo. – The Midwest Showdown Shootout at Webster Groves (Mo.) High featured some of the top talent in St. Louis and the region as well as a battle of St. Louis heavyweights Chaminade and Vashon on Saturday. National basketball analyst Eric Bossi was on hand and offers some takeaways from the event.

HELLUMS SHOWS NEW ELEMENT WHILE LEADING CHAMINADE OVER VASHON

It wasn’t always pretty, but North Carolina State-bound four-star forward Jericole Hellems found a way to get the job done in leading St Louis (Mo.) Chaminade to a gritty 77-74 win over St. Louis (Mo.) Vashon.

For those who aren’t familiar with St. Louis hoops, this game was a heavyweight battle and one that was highly anticipated. Private vs. public school, big class vs. small class and two of the most consistent talent-producing programs in the city. It was chippy from start to finish, and it was physical. That’s what impressed me about Hellems, even though he struggled to finish around the rim he never lost his way or floated to the perimeter. As the game wore on, he became steadily more effective, scoring 18 of his game high 24 in the second half.

Hellems is a classic tweener whose toughness has been questioned in the past. I would be hard-pressed to do that based on Saturday’s game. Toughness isn’t simply about flexing on people and being physical, there’s a mental side to it as well, and I think Hellems deserves credit for showing the mental and physical side of things in a heated environment with a lot on the line.

KANSAS STATE-BOUND WILLIAMS IS A POTENTIAL ALL-BIG 12 DEFENDER

During the summer, I was intrigued by the athleticism and toughness of three-star point guard Shaun Williams. But, playing in the same backcourt as five-star point guard Darius Garland on Bradley Beal Elite, it was hard to gauge just how good Williams was.

Seeing Williams in a featured role for Florissant (Mo.) Hazelwood Central allowed for a better evaluation of the Kansas State-bound guard and he left a very favorable impression.

Physical and athletic at 6-foot-2, Williams can really get to the rim and is an entertaining, in your face player. What really stood out to me, though, was his ability on the defensive end. He moves his feet, plays physically without getting into foul trouble and brings a lot of energy on that end. Basically he looked to me like a kid who has the potential to be an All-Big 12 defender on the perimeter somewhere down the line.

RAEKWON DRAKE IS UNDER-RECRUITED IN 2018

A 6-foot-4 senior wing at Chicago (Ill.) Orr, three-star Raekwon Drake is pound-for-pound one of the toughest kids that I have seen this winter.

Drake is a monster athlete, has strength and he’s super quick and wants to take the action to his opponent. His 27 points in a win over Florissant (Mo.) Hazelwood Central came mostly at the rim and off the drive while he also led his team verbally and through his actions. He reminds me a lot of current Creighton star Khyri Thomas when he was in high school.

I was surprised to learn that his only offer is from Cleveland State, while Murray State and Nebraska have shown interest. Assuming there are no issues to prevent schools from recruiting him, I wonder why the in-state programs like Northern Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, Bradley, Illinois State and even DePaul aren’t involved? Regardless, as the winter goes on I think the interest part of Drake’s recruitment is going to take care of itself and he’s a guy that should see increased attention in the coming months.

CHRIS PAYTON IS A NICE EARLY SCORE FOR ILLINOIS STATE

Speaking of Illinois State, kudos to them for landing an early commitment from three-star 2019 combo forward Chris Payton.

A 6-foot-6 junior at Bloomington (Ill.) High, Payton looks like he’ll be a very valuable contributor in the Missouri Valley. He’s athletic, he’s tough and he’s got a well-balanced game around the rim and a nice motor.

Each time something good happened while he was on the floor, Payton seemed to be involved in one way or another. As he adds a consistent mid-range jump shot to his game, he’s got a chance to be a high-level player for the Redbirds.

VALUE OF COURTNEY RAMEY SHOWS IN HIS ABSENCE

Sometimes, it takes not seeing a player to truly appreciate his value. Let me explain.

Top 40 point guard Courtney Ramey -- who was committed to Louisville before Rick Pitino got fired -- of Webster Groves (Mo.) High is currently recovering from a broken wrist. His team that also features four-star power forward Carte'Are Gordon won the Missouri state title in a cake walk last year. On Saturday, playing without Ramey against a solid Fern Creek (Kent.) High squad, they were run out of their own gym and struggled mightily to score.

Fresh off of an official visit to Oklahoma State with visits planned for UCLA, Villanova and Texas while he’s also considering Missouri, Ohio State and others it’s more clear to me than ever what he’ll bring to the table in college.

I don’t expect Ramey to be a huge scorer at the point, but I do expect he’ll be a leader, a standout defender and a guy who values moving the ball and getting teammates involved. Those were all the things his high school team was missing on Saturday and it was pretty obvious that him being sidelined was the issue.