LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Since its birth as the Real Deal on the Hill, what is now the Real Deal in the Rock has turned into one of the spring's premier travel team events. Friday night, the 2011 edition kicked off in gyms all over the city of Little Rock. The class of 2012's first- and third-ranked players - Andre Drummond and Shabazz Muhammad - were the featured attractions, but improving big man Robert Upshaw made the most of a big stage.
Friday night Real Deal standouts
Shabazz Muhammad, SF, Dream Vision- It would be tough for anybody to not know what they are going to get out of the 6-foot-5 southpaw from Las Vegas. He's going to dunk the ball in transition, score some buckets on the block, hit a few pull-up jumpers and rebounds. All he does is produce and that's what he did in a 20 (plus) performance.
Robert Upshaw, C, Dream Vision- Most courtside observers would have predicted that the nation's top player in the class of 2012 Andre Drummond would have had his way with Upshaw. For two plays early, Drummond did. After that Upshaw settled in and got the better of Drummond for much of the night.
He's a strong, back to the basket five-man with terrific hands and a feel for low post play. Finishes with soft touch and will be moving into at least four-star status in the next rankings.
Shaqquan Aaron, SF, Dream Vision- Nearing the end of his freshman year, Aaron has to be approaching at least 6-foot-6. One of the nation's top perimeter snipers - regardless of class - Aaron is a lethal shooter from deep.
His left elbow tends to fly out a bit on his shot, but he does get it off in a hurry. He also shows signs of being a pretty mid-range scorer.
J.P. Tokoto, SF, Playground Warriors- It didn't take long for the North Carolina verbal to establish that he was far and away the best athlete in the gym. He caught on the right elbow, dribbled twice left and destroyed a defender with a vicious dunk. A few minutes later, he took off on one foot on the break and threw down another dunk while getting fouled.
It was a DeMar Derozan'esque style of night in terms of how he hunted transition and off the dribble dunks from the wing. Also deserves credit for passing it well.
Kris Dunn, SG, CBC- This 6-foot-3 junior is definitely worth another look. An off the bounce scorer with quickness, wiggle and some shooting ability, he catches and looks to attack.
While he gets a little loose at times, he can handle the ball pretty well and looks to have good instincts as a passer.
Devonta Pollard, SF/PF, Southern Phenoms- While he didn't dominate quite like he did in Indianapolis a few weeks ago, the 6-foot-7 was facing a game opponent in five-star Perry Ellis. There were some mistakes off the dribble, but he also had plays like a coast to coast drive through traffic for a jam that maybe 10 other players in the country could make.
Not a true three just yet, but he's getting there.
Perry Ellis, PF, Kansas Players- While the 6-foot-8 four man caused Pollard some problems, the Mississippi native caused the five-star some troubles of his own.
Early on, Ellis was bothered by Pollard's length, so he turned to more of a power game. As swift a big man as there is from end to end, he can grab a rebound and attack on the break thanks to a finely tuned left-handed speed dribble.
More Friday night notables
Andre Drummond is one of the most interesting, if not downright confounding, guys anybody will ever scout. The 6-foot-10 junior is playing on a field reserved solely for him in terms of natural gifts and physical ability. For flashes, he uses his tools to their full potential and simply dominates on both ends. A freaky talent, who knows what will happen if and when he releases his inner beast. … Timahj Parker-Rivera earned himself some admirers on Friday night. A lean, but strong, 6-foot-7 power forward, he always seems to be around the rim. He rebounds, runs the floor and does a lot of dirty work for CBC. …
Buddy Hield doesn't exactly shoot a textbook jumper. But, you don't want to leave the 6-foot-3 shooting guard for the Kansas Players open for a look from deep because he will make it. A deceptive athlete with some strength, he dribbles well enough to create space for shots. He's a guy that mid to high majors will evaluate closely this summer. … For the Southern Phenoms, Gavin Ware does a solid job of patrolling the paint. He's not the tallest center, but he's got a body that screems SEC and good skill out to 12 feet from the rim. Rebounds, scores facing the rim and has good hands. … Finally, DeAndre Harper of Vanguard Elite was a nice Friday night find. A good looking 6-foot-6 athlete from Douglasville (Ga.) Alexander, Harper had at least six chase-from-behind blocks in transition. A springy athlete who hunts transition dunks, he also looks like he has pretty deep shooting range. All of the parts of his game look like they could use some fine-tuning, but there's a lot of them to work with and he looks to have some high major potential. …