What we learned on the live weekend
Last weekend was the one spring weekend that college coaches had to evaluate prospects with their grassroots teams. After getting two spring weekends for evaluations in past years, the calendar fell in a way that only allowed for one this year so things should be back to usual next year. However, this year's single weekend created a frenzied situation where college coaches had to pick wisely where to be and who to watch. At Rivals.com, we get to be out every weekend but it's still worth looking back at what Nationall Basketball Analyst Eric Bossi learned at stops in Kansas City and Dallas over the weekend. Especially about players like Dennis Smith Jr.
Smith looks like the real deal
After a few days of sitting back and digesting what we saw over the weekend and going back over notes, one thing remains constant. 2016 point guard Dennis Smith Jr. won the weekend. Already a five-star prospect in the sophomore class, Smith is simply ranked too low at No. 16 nationally and if what we saw over the weekend continues he will push for the national top five when 2016 gets an update.
What we like most about Smith is the way that he constantly puts pressure on the defense. He isn't just probing for for openings, he is trying to go for the kill on each and every possession. His first step is electric, he has strength to finish at the rim, he finds teammates and he is a dangerous scorer and on top of all of that he has pretty good size at around 6-foot-2.
Seventh Woods is currently ranked as the top point guard in the 2016 class and much of that has to do with the tools he has and where he could be in a few more years. Right now, though, Smith probably needs to be considered the better player.
In Dallas at the Adidas Gauntlet, Smith averaged 19.6 points, 7.4 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 3.6 steals per game while shooting over 50% from the field and leading his Team Loaded NC squad to a 5-0 record.
On the rise
It was just one weekend and we'll continue to evaluate players throughout the spring, but here's a look at some players who did a good job of elevating their stock over the weekend.
The city of Las Vegas already has a pair of five-star big men in the class of 2015 in Stephen Zimmerman and Chase Jeter. Wing Ray Smith is looking like he could be the third Vegas prospect in the junior class to push for five-star status. A 6-foot-7 wing who already ranks No. with all kinds of length and athleticism, Smith is learning how to use his athleticism to add to his game rather than relying on it. He is a dangerous offensive rebounder, is improving his ball handling and looks to be a kid on the verge of making a huge leap with his game.
Maybe on the rise isn't the best way of putting the stock of 2016's No. 21 player Joshua Langford. After all, Langford has been bugged by injuries for a while now and his lofty ranking was more a function of promise and production he showed early in his high school career. Now, Langford can finally play at that level again and it is more of a case of him proving that his ranking is legitimate and not based on previous reputation. Love the balance in is game, the way he can attack from the wing and that he is a solid player. He will need to become more of a threat as a jump shooter, but Langford's all-around play in Dallas was impressive.
There are bigger guards and there are guards with more athleticism than Jimmy Whitt, but very few in the class of 2015 have nearly as developed or advanced and off the dribble scoring and mid range game as Whitt. The 6-foot-2 product of Columbia (Mo.) Hickman outplayed his No. 74 ranking at the Jayhawk Invitational while leading KC Run GMC to a title. Whitt still has to get stronger and can be a little more consistently aggressive but his skill level and feel are top notch.
Finally, given that he is already No. 11 in the class of 2015, there isn't too much further up for Jaylen Brown to go. But, the 6-foot-7 wing from Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler showed with his Game Elite team that he needs to be inside the national top 10 and that he could push for the national top five. He had some issues with turnovers during the Sunday game we watched but his overall work throughout the weekend was incredible. Game Elite was 5-0 while he averaged 22.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and shot 57.8% from the field overall and a scorching 58.3% from three (7-12) over the course of the weekend.
We also saw some sleepers throughout the weekend that we really didn't get a chance to write about. So, it's time to show them some love.
At the top of the list is 6-foot-2 -- perhaps 6-foot-2 -- combo guard Wendell Mitchell who played with the Houston Defenders. The product of Rockdale (Texas) High is a high energy and dangerous scorer. He can set up his shot very well via the dribble and is an explosive offensive player. His points seem to come in waves and while he isn't a textbook jump shooter, he is a confident one and gets tremendous lift on his shot. Pretty much an unknown coming into the Jayhawk Invitational, Mitchell deserves another long look. He is a master of making tough shots -- at least he was over the weekend -- and if he proves he can keep doing that then there is no reason to think he couldn't end up on high major radars.
It's our opinion that Jalon Miller is still being a bit overlooked by schools and other evaluators. Currently ranked No. 120 in the class of 2015, he is pretty appropriately ranked but doesn't seem to have the buzz that a player of his status should. Miller's bread and butter is operating out of the high post where he can make jumpers, attack off the dribble and be a bit of a headache as a combo forward type. He averaged 15 points and 8.6 rebounds per contest over his five games at the Adidas Gauntlet and has solidified himself as a high major prospect.
K.J. Walton is another ranked player who is probably in the right area at No. 107 in the class of 2015. But, the product of Brownsburg (Ind.) High is probably deserving of at least a little bump. He is a physical, attacking scorer who specializes in getting to the rim and drawing fouls. He has some good offers from places like Illinois State, Xavier and Minnesota but he's the type of tough off the dribble scorer who is deserving of more high major offers.
Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.
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