USAB Mini-camp: Eric Bossi's Friday takeaways
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Opening night of USA Basketball's annual October mini-camp was an eye-opener. Especially when it comes to 2022 prospect Emoni Bates and many other freshmen.
I spent the majority of my night watching the class of 2021 and 2022 participants at the mini-camp and here are my takeaways from the evening.
1. EMONI BATES IS A POTENTIALLY SPECIAL PROSPECT
I've been scouting high school prospects for nearly 20 years and my first impression of 2022 small forward Emoni Bates is that he may be the best prospect I've ever seen at that age from the state of Michigan. Frankly, my first look at him left as big an impression on me as any player I have seen in a while.
At least 6-foot-7, maybe 6-foot-8, Bates is a big wing who has long arms and big time athleticism. He doesn't just jump high, he's quick and takes bumps and has incredible hand eye coordination for such a young player. Forget all of that though, because he has major game on top of his physical gifts.
Bates shoots deep jumpers -- off the catch or the dribble -- with ease, he loses defenders with deft ball handling and he can rebound. As much as a 14 year old kid who has never even played a high school game can do it all, Bates can do it all.
Obviously it's still way early and I don't want to go overboard, but Bates is a potentially special prospect.
2. THE 2022 GROUP IS ATHLETICALLY GIFTED
When the list of 2022 participants for the mini-camp was released, I heard a lot of grousing that USA Basketball hadn't done the greatest job in picking participants. I don't know a lot about that class yet, but I beg to differ about the quality of freshman here in Colorado Springs. If this group is really missing some studs, then 2022 could be a big time class. Well, that's if they bring their skill level up to where they are athletically. It's as impressive, physically, a group of freshman as I can ever remember seeing at USA Basketball and I wanted to make a few rapid fire mentions of others besides Bates who caught my eye.
A product of the Kansas City area, 6-foot-7 wing Mark Mitchell is a big time athlete with a lot of tools at his disposal. Fast, tough and has a nose for the ball and making plays.
One of the more intriguing point guard prospects I saw was Minnesota's Trejaun Holloman. Holloman has good size, a nice looking basketball body and what looks like a tremendous feel for the game.
I actually saw 6-foot-5 jumping jack Dariq Whitehead playing for Montverde (Fla.) Academy last winter as an 8th grader. He was impressive then and he was impressive on Friday night. A true high flyer who can attack the rim.
Whatever they are feeding Jarace Walker, it's working. The 6-foot-4 wing is a beastly 225-pounder who moves with shocking speed and explosiveness for a kid who has the kind of build he has. At some point, the coaches at IMG may have to fight off the football staff because I can't imagine he wouldn't be a big time football prospect if he wanted to.
One of the best all around games from a freshman guard I saw on Friday night was that of Dillon Hunter. Good size, smooth athlete who can shoot with some range and looks capable of playing the point or shooting guard position.
Out of New Jersey, 6-foot-3 shooting guard Zion Cruz looks like a nice prospect. Confident, gets to the rim and looked comfortable shooting the ball.
There's no beating around the bush, 14 year old Jalen Duren is a low post monster. Already pushing 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, Duren plays like a much older player around the rim and has loads of toughness.
Maybe the most impressive, physically, 2022 player I saw was 6-foot-5 200 pounder M.J. Rice. he is powerful, bouncy, explosive and most of all mean. The guy really gets after it and he hit a few jumpers when he wasn't beasting guys at the rim.
3. MICHAEL FOSTER BACKED UP HIS LOFTY RANKING
This weekend USA Basketball has the 2021 and 2022 prospects and 2019 and 2020 prospects playing in separate gyms. A few 2021 kids are playing with the older players because they will turn 16 before Jan. 1, 2019 making them a little too old to try out for the 16U team next spring. So, Michael Foster was the highest ranking 2021 prospect in the "young" gym. He looked the part.
Foster hit three pointers. He cleaned up the glass and he scored at and around the rim. When he played hard, there wasn't much that anybody could do with him. The former Arizona State commitment has offers from Texas A&M, Houston, UCLA, Marquette, LSU and Minnesota among others.
4. NATHAN BITTLE IS A PROMISING PROSPECT
Another highly ranked sophomore in the 2021/2022 gym on Friday night was Oregon's Nathan Bittle. He's one of the better young prospects from the state that I have had the opportunity to scout at the same age.
I'm glad that we have him as a five-star prospect early because he has a lot to like about his game. Bittle is highly skilled and is already a Channing Frye like threat out to the three point line. He runs the floor well, is alert and just seems to have a good feel for the game on the offensive end.
He's definitely on the skinny side, but again we are talking about a 15 year old so he'll surely add weight. USC, Oregon, Cal, Arizona, UCLA and others have already offered him a scholarship for good reason.
5. SOME QUICK OBSERVATIONS FROM THE 2019/2020 GYM
I was able to spend a bit of time in the 2019/2020 gym watching the scrimmage portion of their practice and had a few thoughts.
... James Wiseman continues to add strength and explosion. He's on a nice steady path where he looks a little bit improved each time that I see him. He wasn't forcing things but made plenty of impact.
... The offensive side of the floor comes scary easy to Jalen Green. The battle for No. 1 is fierce in 2020 but I keep leaning towards him because of how dangerous of a scorer he is and how much talent he has left to tap into.
... I will tell you this, Isaiah Stewart isn't going to run from a fight. He wants all the smoke from anybody wanting to test him in the paint. He plays big boy basketball at all times and is always productive.
... There aren't many shooters in 2019 like Matthew Hurt. Factor in his size, overall basketball IQ and that he's pretty good athlete and he continues to validate his status as a top 10 prospect in the senior class.
... Class of 2020 five-star Scottie Barnes looks like he has gotten a lot stronger. Being able to take some bumps has really added to his slashing, all around game. It's been a long time since I first scouted Andre Iguodala back in the spring of 2001, but Barnes always reminds me of him at the same stage.
... The best player I saw in the older player's gym on Friday night was Villanova-bound shooting guard Bryan Antoine. Honestly speaking, I didn't think he played to his talent level during the summer and he looked like he had things in cruise control from April through July. He was competing on Friday night, though, and scoring like a machine.
... The evolution of 2020 big man Evan Mobley continues. The No. 2 ranked player in the class, his size, length and scary smooth looking jump shot help him to overcome his lack of strength at this stage.