NPS Friday: Clarke, Johnson & Newton stand out
NEW HAVEN, CT. – The consistent starting point for every prep season, the National Prep Showcased kicked off on Friday hosting some of the best talent found along the east coast. Plenty of future college stars made for impressive showings including recruits headed to Georgia, Kentucky and Syracuse, along with a few others that remain under the radar.
What an awesome showing it was out of Terrence Clarke. The 6-foot-6 wing looks the part and it seems that he may have even grown another inch since the spring. Making it official by signing for Kentucky last week, Clarke is the next blue-chip prospect set to enroll at UK that will be given the keys to the go-to scoring roll. His shot selection is not always the best but, then again, he is one of the best at making the difficult look easy. He took a step in the right direction on Friday by making nine of his 12 shots from the floor, which added up to 25 points in his team’s win. Self-discipline is a key to unlocking the next level with Clarke but it was definitely a positive evening for the blue blood bound talent.
Tom Crean will see a handful of perimeter contributors leave the program after the season which makes the enrollment of KD Johnson that much more of an importance for the Bulldogs. Johnson is an absolute blur with the basketball as scoring is at the heart of what he does best. In a comparable role, like the one that he found himself in on Friday, Johnson flourishes which is the type of set-up that Crean might allot to the Rivals150 prospect. Finishing with 32 points off of 12-of-16 shooting from the floor, Johnson looks to be playing his best ball yet which should make for an early producer at Georgia next year.
One look at Woody Newton and it is difficult to see him struggle to fit in at Syracuse. Rangy and active, Newton is tailor made for the Orange’s vaunted 2-3 zone. Better yet, Newton is now playing with much more confidence compared to what he showed throughout the summer and is an equal parts offensive weapon, too. He has put ample amount of energy and time into improving his jumper which he showed by knocking down five perimeter attempts. There is a major ceiling with Newton which should be touched some at Syracuse thanks to the fit and progression track that he remains on.
Despite going down in defeat, it was a step in the right direction for Ronnie DeGray. The three-star power forward has reshaped his frame since the summer which he used precisely in guarding further away from the basket all while displaying a more refined half-court skillset. DeGray looks to be one of the better available power forwards found along the east coast thanks to his do-it-all approach that allowed for him to finish with 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Vanderbilt and Washington State are two programs heavy involved, though he is not willing take any visits until the spring.
Not much fanfare was given to last month’s commitment from Darlinstone Dubar. The three-star wing was a lightly recruited one but, by now, Iowa State fans have come to know that those are the ones that find the greatest success wearing the Cyclones jersey. Dubar made a strong argument for inclusion within the next Rivals150 on Friday thanks to the progressions that he has made with his general skillset and the continued value placed on prospects in his mold. A potential 3-and-D wing that can defend and make shots, Dubar is another quality find for the Big 12 bunch. There is no-BS approach that should suit him well once he arrives in Ames and another piece to build with under the tutelage of Steve Prohm.
Known as JuJu, Jaylen Murray had a solid go of it on Friday. A quick guard that is best used scoring the ball, that is exactly what he did in New Haven which helped pave the way for his team’s W. Finishing with 16 points, Murray has gotten more efficient as he didn’t turn it over a single time, was a pest on the defensive end, and threw his nose into a handful of plays on the glass. The right role will be needed for Murray to maximize his abilities in college but schools have already coming calling. No official visits have been taken yet but a group including Iowa, Seton Hall, Texas Tech and UConn have remained in frequent contact with the Rivals150 product.
Showing plenty of toughness and versatility to begin his weekend in Connecticut, Matt Cross looked the part of someone that can and will impact the Miami basketball program immediately next year. While he doesn’t have a defined position on the floor, Cross is the definition of a ballplayer. He is strong, tough, competes with no ego and can fill a variety of roles and on each side of the floor. Whether it is knocking down shots to the perimeter, scoring through contact at the basket or changing shots on the defensive end, Cross should improve the overall product of play at the ACC program next fall.
Senior talent always emerges at the National Prep Showcase and this year, it was David N’Guessan. First getting a glimpse of the hybrid 4-man last May, N’Guessan was just as agile around the basket and on the defensive end, and even more productive as a scorer and rebounder. Displaying a great feel for the game in the frontcourt, N’Guessan absolutely pounds the game which equated to 14 rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end. He tossed in 23 points, all while making nearly two-thirds of his shots attempted. St. Joe’s and slew of mid-majors are involved but after his showing on Friday in front of a slew of coaches, expect for his name to be an often discussed one in the coming weeks.