Over the next three years, Norcom High School in Portsmouth, Virginia will be known as the home of super sophomore Vernon Macklin. But the 6-foot-9, 200 pound ultra-athletic prospect isn’t the only promising youngster playing for the school. He is joined by 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Ben Finney. Together, the two form a talented duo in the state of Virginia. RivalsHoops had a chance to catch both youngsters in action last week.
Nearly everything about Macklin shouts Kevin Garnett. Macklin is 6-foot-9. He plays all over the floor. He can score inside, or pull up for a mid range jumper. The class of 2006 star for Norcom rebounds with a vengeance. He even wears number 21 like the superstar for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Macklin shot 9 of 15 from the field, finishing with 20 points and 15 rebounds in the consolation championship game of the Reebok Peach State Classic last week in Atlanta. The long bodied sophomore has great athleticism under the basket and manages to put in reverse lay-ups after spinning in from the blocks. Macklin uses the glass very well as a jump shooter and skies for rebounds.
“I just try to rebound everything I see,” Macklin says. “That is my strength and that is what my team needs from me.”
Finney, on the other hand, isn’t afraid to pull up from NBA range on his three point shot. And he says he doesn’t even think about how deep he is on the perimeter. “If I feel like I have the shot, I just take it,” Finney says.
Norcom head coach Horace Lambert says he doesn’t mind if the sophomore pulls up from far away. “I’m confident in his shot,” Lambert said. “He’s going to hit a majority of them.”
Lambert said he has watched the duo grow in their game since their first year in the Norcom program.
“I see an improvement everyday. They are young and they play young at times and do some of the things that you expect young players to do but I see a gradual increase of intelligence in their games.”
The coach makes no secrets that Macklin and Finney are the key to Norcom’s success. “Vernon’s inside presence opens it a lot for Ben when I use him as a two guard. We are still basically developing (him and Vernon) right now. The supporting cast is still coming along,” Lambert said.
Only a sophomore, Macklin has already shown flashes of brilliance on the AAU circuit, most notably at the 2003 Tournament of Champions in North Carolina. He, along with Finney, helped the 15-U Boo Williams team claim their age group’s title. Lambert said his improvement, as well as body, as grown since then. Now they are working on more improvement in the post.
“Vernon brings a lot of strengths to the team. He’s becoming that dominate inside player we want to play. I want to develop his 15 footer and a little jump hook, just some things to make the game come easier to him.
“He works extremely hard for everything he gets obviously because of the publicity he gets and because people just want to stop Vernon. So we are working on things that will make it easier for him and for him to get his teammates involved,” Lambert said.
The coach said he sees Finney as a point guard at the college level but for now, Lambert is comfortable running Finney as a shooting guard.
As far as school interest goes, Macklin said he has heard from the likes of Virginia Tech, Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona and a host of others. But the sophomore isn’t in any rush to play favorites and understandably so.
“I haven’t narrowed it down yet, I’m totally open. There are a lot of them (to choose from),” Macklin said.
He and Finney took an unofficial visit to Virginia Tech two weeks ago. For Finney, the trip to Blacksburg was his first trip to a college campus outside of basketball.
Finney said he likes UNC and University of Florida but hasn’t had any correspondence with the two basketball powerhouses just yet. He has heard from the likes of Western Carolina, Old Dominion and Central Florida so far. Expect that list to grow after this season and the summer circuit with the Boo Williams traveling team.
Stay tuned to RivalsHoops as we chart this duos progress at Norcom and the AAU circuit.