Rivals.com analyst Eric Bossi shares what he learned from spending last weekend in Fort Wayne, Ind., at the Spiece Run-N-Slam.
Spiece Run-N-Slam: What We Learned
1. Denzel Valentine is going to be a hotly debated prospect
Each year there are a few guys that cause a lot of discussion among those that evaluate players. This year, Denzel Valentine is looking as if he's going to be one of those guys.
A 6-foot-5 wing who has committed to play at Michigan State, the product of Lansing (Mich.) Sexton is one of the most unique players in the class of 2012. Playing with the Michigan Mustangs in Ft. Wayne, he did a little bit of everything. When his team needed him to handle the ball, he did so. When it needed him to make some shots, he did that, too. Valentine is also a good passer and has a well developed post-up game.
On the other hand, he's not the most athletic guy in the world and the - for lack of a better description - "old man" game he plays doesn't appeal to everyone. What should appeal to everybody more, though, is that Valentine seems to win a lot more than lose, and he's a leader on the floor.
2. No shortage of passion for basketball in Indiana
One thing becomes abundantly clear every time one covers an event in the state of Indiana: The locals are crazy about high school basketball. They are even crazier about the kids who have committed to or are being recruited by the in-state programs.
For example, Indiana Elite put three future Indiana Hoosiers - Kevin Ferrell, Hanner Perea and Ron Patterson - on the floor over the course of the weekend. Thus, their games turned into a sort of farm club game for Hoosiers fans who lined the courts, hooted, hollered, yelled at officials and sought autographs and photos after games.
It wasn't just Hoosier fans that were out watching their future recruits. During the weekend, I ran across fans from several other local programs including Butler, Evansville, Purdue, Notre Dame and Indiana State. Each time, I was impressed by how much they knew about the kids and their dedication to the programs they support.
3. TP Elite is fun to watch
We've now had the opportunity to watch Brian Johnigan's Terry Porter Elite squad at a pair of events this spring. Just a few weeks ago we watched as it won the Spring Showcase in Merrilville, Ind. Over the weekend, it advanced all the way to the finals of Spiece before losing in double overtime to the All-Iowa Attack.
The "star" of the team would probably be four-star wing Deonte Burton from the class of 2013. He teams with 2011 forward Jameel McKay - who is signed with Indian Hills Junior College - to lead what is basically a 16-and-under team that keeps finding ways to win games against primarily older squads.
There's no special set being run, no overflow of talent or anything like that. But, there is an overflow of effort and tough kids who really seem to enjoy playing together. TP Elite is a group of guys that is all about winning, taking pride in its performance and banding together to play as a team. Burton and McKay are the rocks, but Anthony Collins, Jarvis Garrett, Tyler Miller, Austin Malone-Mitchell and others made key contributions over the weekend.
4. Big spring for All-Iowa Attack
Less than two months ago, Hank Huddleson and his All-Iowa Attack group weren't quite sure what the future held. The group was without any shoe company backing and unsure of exactly which events it would be hitting.
In late March, the group played its way into Nike's EYBL by advancing to the finals of the EYBL qualifier, along with MoKan Elite, in Indianapolis. At 7-3, Iowa is playing very well through two sessions of EYBL play. Now, the group can add 17U champions of the Spiece Run-N-Slam to the list of pre-summer accomplishments.
It's a group of guys that has, for the most part, played together for a while and isn't lacking in talent. Point guard Marcus Paige is headed to North Carolina and is among the top players nationally at his position. But, he's not the only high-level prospect as 7-footer Adam Woodbury, wing Kale Abrahamson and combo guard Mike Gesell are all being tracked and offered by high-major programs.
Throw in solid role players Mading Thok, Daniel Jansen and Jerel Moore, and you've got a team that is built to have success on the grassroots circuit.