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First Eight Opens Three-Day Stretch in Springfield

July 11, 2010 Columns No Comments

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – A three-day stretch with a lot of basketball in Springfield began with the First Eight on Saturday at the MassMutual Center. The event was held away from the main arena, with a nice setup of four courts right near one another, which made it easy for the college coaches and media to watch any game they needed to during the day. It was a busy day with nearby streets closed off due to a jazz event taking place, and it was not far from the Hall of Fame.

Here is a look at some of the players we saw compete on Saturday.

Khem Birch (Jr. PF, Pierrefonds (Que.) Notre Dame Prep) The long post player has had a busy stretch since about the middle of June, but looked no worse for wear as he was constantly hustling to make plays. He used his length often to block shots and deflect balls and showed flashes of offensive ability that included a long baseline jumper en route to 16 points in a losing effort.

Jaylen Bond (6’6″ Sr. SF, Lafayette Hill (PA) Plymouth Whitemarsh HS) A year ago, he looked like the ultimate tease most of the time – a good body and some athleticism but very little real production. That wasn’t the case here, however, as he looks more athletic, attacked in transition, drove to score, and most of all showed a good motor as he competed the entire time. He looked quick off his feet and got a couple of stickbacks, going for 22 points in one game. High-major minus prospect has committed to Pittsburgh.

Rohan Brown (6’5″ Sr. SF-PF, Manchester (CT) East Catholic HS) He continued to show an improving wing game here, though he was quiet overall in a losing effort. He scored from mid-range off the dribble and from just inside the three-point line, all of which go nicely with his ability to work near the basket.

Galal Cancer (6’2″ Sr. PG, Albany (NY) Christian Brothers Academy) Nice floor leader surely opened some eyes with his play here, as he played well at both ends of the floor. He’s not a jet, but he got to the basket all day by finding gaps and passed on the move very well and scored on some of his drives, using the left (off) hand a couple of times. He also defended well, and while his body isn’t there yet he has good size for his position. Mid-major prospect.

Ousmane Drame (6’8″ Sr. PF, Roxbury (MA) Marianapolis Prep) Lanky lefty continued to show some progress on his post offense against a good team. He went for 11 points in a tough loss, scoring inside and knocking in a three-point shot, though the latter is not his forte, and he also had a decent game on the glass.

Chris Gayot (5’11” Sr. PG, Far Rockaway (NY) Cardozo HS) Though he doesn’t pass the “look” test, he’s not lacking in athleticism or ability to help a team win. He’s effective and can finish when he gets to the basket, scoring in flow but generally not looking for his offense.

Malcolm Gilbert (6’11” Sr. C, New Castle (DE) Academy of the New Church School) While he can be a great defensive presence despite his body still needing to mature, it’s no accident that he doesn’t score much. While he can block shots and rebound, he doesn’t show much of a feel for the game and missed a few point-blank shots here. Until he shows some improvement offensively, a team will basically be playing four-on-five at the offensive end with him on the floor. High-major minus prospect.

Tyler Harris (6’8″ Sr. SF, Dix Hills (NY) Half Hollow Hills West HS) The lanky lefty’s shooting ability wasn’t in question before this day, and he didn’t change that. But he did show a little in-between game, which he’ll need to keep developing as he gets stronger, which is the biggest knock on him now. He has the frame to carry more good weight, so once nature takes its course his body should fill out well. High-major prospect.

Scott King (6’8″ Sr. PF, Derry (NH) Holderness Academy) After a solid showing a day earlier, he picked up right where he left off as he scored 17 points with three three-pointers in his team’s win over the Long Island Lightning. He has a slight frame but a solid game, as he scored often from mid-range both off the catch and the dribble. What he’s shown is that he’s a solidly skilled power forward who can face the basket and shoot, which will get him some good looks at the Division I level.

Jordan Laguerre (6’2″ Sr. SG, Manchester (NH) New Hampton Prep) Although the lefty guard had some good help, he was the prime reason his team pulled off a nice win over the Long Island Lightning on Saturday. He knocked down several three-pointers early on, and that opened up other opportunities for him and a couple of teammates who played well as the recent UMass commit scored 24 points in the win.

Ricardo Ledo (6’6″ Jr. SG-SF, Providence (RI) South Kent School) The talent he has is undeniable, but as much as ever, it was clear here that intangibles are going to make all the difference in whether or not he harnesses that potential. He has to get mentally tougher than he currently is, as his body language was not good when his team was behind and trying to get back in the game. That can overshadow his abilities, which he showed with his great body control and ability to slice through gaps when the jumpers aren’t falling, and he scored 30 points in two games.

Gabas Maldunas (6’8″ Sr. PF, East Falmouth (MA) Holderness Academy) He continued to show what he showed all week, which is that he’s solid and has a good feel for the game even though he won’t stand out and really doesn’t pass the “look” test. While more athletic small forwards can get by him, he defends inside reasonably well and showed good offensive skills like a jump hook and some range on his jumper while being able to finish while fouled.

Devon McMillan (6’1″ Sr. SG, Newburgh (NY) South Kent School) Athletic guard is a little undersized for the off-guard spot but showed a decent scoring touch. He went for double digits in both games, hitting mid-range jumpers off the dribble going to his right a couple of times as his main way of getting on the board.

DaShawn Murphy (6’2″ Sr. SG, Hamden (CT) Choate Rosemary Hall) In his team’s comeback win to end the day, he got hot from deep in the second half after doing little in the first half, scoring almost all of his 13 points in the latter frame. He shot off the catch a few times and off the dribble as well.

John Papale (6’3″ So. SG, Wallingford (CT) Choate Rosemary Hall) Although he didn’t stand out as the youngest player on his team, his shooting range certainly grabbed the attention of onlookers. He made a couple of shots from several feet behind the three-point line with his good stroke.

Ryan Romich (6’5″ Sr. SG-SF, Groton (MA) Vermont Academy) What continues to emerge is that he has really found himself as a player. Specifically, he plays very well within the team concept and does a lot of little things, like get stickbacks and loose balls, sometimes running the floor for it. Mid-major prospect.

Daouda Samouro (6’9″ Sr. PF, Centereach (NY) Our Savior New American School) Lanky post player is quite raw but appears to be a little more prospect than project. He knocked down a three-point shot, but that’s far from his forte as he generally worked inside. There, he finished while getting fouled one time, but far more often he got the ball punched out due to a lack of strength and ball toughness.

Jermaine Sanders (6’4″ Sr. SG-SF, New York (NY) Rice HS) Well-built wing has been coming on of late and continued it here, starting off with a big 33-point outing. But more important than that number is that he was the big reason his team rallied from being down 14 at halftime to win, as he turned it up in the second half and especially with his shooting. Of late, he has shot the ball very well, and if he keeps that up it may overshadow the fact that he’s just a plus athlete and isn’t going to get another physical boost as he has a mature body. High-major minus/high-major prospect.

Jerel Scott (6’5″ Sr. SF, Albany (NY) Bishop Maginn HS) We love the way he simply competes on the floor, as his game has some junkyard dog in it. While he is athletic, it’s not the most salient feature of his game, as he rebounds very well for the small forward spot, can hit shots out to three-point range and showed he can score in transition as well, going for 22 points in one game. High-major minus prospect.

Chris Sherwood (6’3″ Sr. SF, Sharon (MA) Brimmer & May School) Very athletic wing is already known for his ability to slash, but here he knocked down a couple of shots from long range en route to 12 points in a win for his team. If he can continue that improvement, his recruitment will go up since that is the missing link to his game.

Imoh Silas (6’8″ Sr. PF, Plymouth (NH) Holderness Academy) His play here was a continuation of what he showed all week. He continued to make plays at the defensive end, as he went after the ball and got blocks, deflections and rebounds, and while he didn’t do much on offense here there was one nice play where he found a cutter for a layup. High-major-minus prospect.

Tylon Smith, Jr. (6’2″ Sr. SG, Manchester (CT) Kingswood Oxford HS) Already known for his ability to score, mainly using his strength, he showed he’s hardly a one-dimensional offensive player. He led the fast break a few times, but more importantly knocked down some shots from long range, which was previously an unknown quantity as he almost always looks to drive. He also come up with some clutch field goals and rebounds late in a 21-point effort that his team won.

Jules Tavares (6’2″ Jr. SG, Wareham (MA) Wilbraham & Monson) He had to play the point often for his team here, and while he’s generally an unselfish player when off the ball that didn’t quite seem to translate to being on the ball here. He too often settled for jumpers instead of attacking, in which he likely would have found teammates later as he often has before. His jumpers went down a little more later on in the day, and he was fine defensively as he’s become one of the better defenders in the region in recent months.

Naadir Tharpe (6’0″ Sr. PG, Worcester (MA) Brewster Academy) His body is developing and he was solid in transition here, finishing in traffic when he wasn’t leading the break. He also used ball fakes well and continued to show an improved ability to score in addition to setting up teammates. High-major prospect.

Josh Turner (6’5″ Sr. SG, Waterbury (CT) South Carolina Prep) He seems to have settled into the idea that he’s not a point guard, which for a time some thought he could be and he seemed to think so as well. With that, he’s now showing that he can really score, and he reinforced that here as he hit several three-point shots, some mid-range jumpers off the dribble and let his shooting open up chances to drive for layups. He’s not the most athletic, but he’s not lacking there, either, and he’s got the tools to be a nice mid-major prospect.

Freddie Wilson (6’2″ Sr. SG, New Haven (CT) Hillhouse HS) He was the hero of the last game of the day, knocking in three free throws with no time left to give his team a great comeback win. But that salvaged the day more than anything else, as too often he tried to do too much. He’s athletic and very capable, one time turning a steal into a layup, but didn’t give his best showing here.

Other players who caught our attention:

Kareem Canty (6’0″ Sr. PG, Brooklyn (NY) Bishop Loughlin HS)

Kris Dunn (6’3″ Jr. PG-SG, Oakdale (CT) New London HS)

Sheldon Hagigal (6’2″ Sr. SG, Westbury (NY) High)

Jimmy Hall (6’8″ Jr. PF, Brooklyn (NY) St. Anthony’s)

Chris Hooper (6’5″ Sr. SF, Bronx (NY) Satellite Academy)

Max Hooper (6’6″ Sr. SG, Wolfeboro (NH) Brewster Academy)

Jamal James (6’8″ Sr. PF, Queens (NY) Brooklyn College Academy)

Derek Millinghaus (5’10” Sr. PG, Schenectady (NY) High)

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