AREA CODES ELITE 8 RECAP
While most of the State's top AAU programs took the weekend off, there were a few that came out to take part in the Area Codes Elite 8 in the Desert Tournament hosted by Chad Groth. The tournament featured 15U-17U Divisions and even with teams from California, Nevada and New Mexico, two of the three divisions were won by Arizona teams as Jamal Murray Elite (15's) and Powerhouse UAA Elite (17's) both took home the 1st Place plaques.
In the 15U Division, Jamal Murray Elite took home the chip, led by some of the better freshman in the state. Their 6-foot-6 2021 forward Grady Lewis (Sunnyslope) was solid around the basket on both ends. He was impressive on the offensive glass with multiple tip-back buckets in the championship game. He was the most effective force inside in the age division. As a prospect, he has some upside. He plays long inside and does a good job of keeping the ball high. He has good lateral movement and has a great understanding of help defense and where he is supposed to be sliding into on the rotations.
5-foot-11 2021 guard Wyatt Bell plays very hard and is engaged the entire time he is on the floor. He has some deceptive quickness and boogie in his game and a good motor. He is also a good athlete and likes to defend on the perimeter. While he has no problem penetrating, he needs to do a better job of hiding the ball when getting in the lane. While he gets there with ease, he leaves the ball exposed too much when he gets there and bails defenders out allows them to get a hand on it to disrupt easy scoring opportunities. Nevertheless, I came away impressed.
5-foot-10 2021 point guard Jason Kimbrough (Mountain Pointe) was one of the intriguing players I saw over the weekend. I can't express how big of a fan and how excited I am to watch this kid grow on the Arizona hoop scene, while playing in a Duane Eason system that showcases guards like him. He is lightning quick and plays like a true PG. His head stays up and on a swivel. His handle is legit. He plays extremely hard and is as active as you will see on the hardwood. Defensively he is not afraid to get into you and had multiple steals by sneaking behind guys and unexpectedly ripping them and pushing the ball up the floor the other way. My type of point guard.
Powerhouse 16U Johnson's 6-foot-8 2020 Wing Osasere Ighodaro (Desert Vista) continues to impress me a little more every time I watch him. I am not sure if there is a kid in the state that has more upside than him. When I saw him at DV during the high school season, he was almost invisible on the court. Fast forward to this past weekend and he is often the best looking prospect on the floor. He is just so long and decently athletic. He can guard 4 positions on the floor and runs the floor like a gazelle. The most drastic change in his game from 6 months ago is his confidence and toughness. He just looks so much more fluid on the court and is starting to play with a real purpose. He is still growing, literally and figuratively. Word is, his growth plates are still wide open and his game on the court is heading into the North direction as well.
That same PHH team has another good looking 2020 guy in 6-foot-5 wing T.J Green (Carl Hayden). A great athlete with a high motor and a solid overall game. One of them guys that can just do a little bit of everything. Needs some work on his outside shot and some tightening on his handle, but is consistent and solid nonetheless. Defensively and in the open court is where he flourishes. Has a great first step when penetrating off the perimeter.
Team Artis Elite's 6-foot-5 2019 guard Kingdom Artis is legit. While it is hard to catch up to him at times because he does not play on a team with many other prospects, it is fun to watch him go when I do get to see him. He is a certified bucket-getter when he gets going and can get hot in a hurry. Takes plays off defensively at times, but when he is engaged he can make some things happen on that end as well.
Powerhouse Contreras was armed with a heck of a backcourt this past weekend with 6-foot-1 2019 guard Josh Ursery (Liberty) and 5-foot-11 2019 point guard Khalid Price. I have to admit, I wasn't completely sold on Price's game during his high school season at Mountain Pointe. I questioned if he just looked good in organized chaos or if he was a real player. My questions seem about as dumb as trying to screw in a nail right about now. Price not only continued to show me that he has some game, but that he can play with another volume scorer in the backcourt and look every bit like a point guard that knows how to feed a hot hand.
Ursery is a bucket in its truest form. I have yet to see a defender in my time watching him that can stop him from doing what he wants on the court. While his understanding of a complex offense could come into question, his ability to create his own shot and finish at all 3 levels can not. The fact that he's never met a dude at the rim that he didn't want to dunk on is what makes his drive to play the game a little special. Defensively, he has all the tools to be a lockdown defender and when enticed, he is. However, he needs to fill up the gas tank on defense more often and get into people's jersey a little better.
That team also has two shooters out on the perimeter that get about as hot from the outside as a Phoenix sidewalk in July. It's a duo of 2019 guards, 6-foot-4 Zach Hobbs (Mesa) and 6-foot-3 Jackson Lee (Seton Catholic). I watched them two single handedly fuel a 20-point lead over a team that was superior in athleticism to them simply because they couldn't close out on these two shooters on time. Watching them shoot the ball is like watching a white version of the splash brothers at times. Two types of strokes that even have referees stopping to look at me and shaking their heads.
Team M'Phasis' 6-foot-7 2019 forward John Price is about as tough as they come. He doesn't give up an inch. He plays much bigger than 6'7" and finishes well around the rim. A great rebounder and loves body contact. He is a bruiser and the type of guy you love on your team but hate to play against. Very selfless and hustles his tail off. He will make a solid D2/D3 program really happy one day.
Powerhouse 17U UAA team was stacked in this field of play, led by 6-foot-7 2019 forward Andre Harris this past weekend. Harris has been a catalyst for them all spring, along with nationally ranked recruit, Majok Deng, who sat out this past weekend for SAT testing and to spend Mother's Day with his mom after the tragic death of his big brother recently.
Harris was phenomenal once again and flat out dominated. The more I watched him, the more I thought I was watching Kevin Love in his Minnesota Timberwolf days. He cashed in from all 3 levels and was a match-up nightmare for the entire playing field. If a big man steps out on him, he takes it off the dribble or drags him out to the 3-point line and takes the defenders eye balls with him. If they switch and put a smaller defender on him, he punishes him inside with his great footwork and physicality. At his size, his ability to miss a shot and get up fast enough to get the tip in over defenders inside is impressive. It's like watching a Dodge Ram weave thru a sea of Honda's and Nissan's with the muscle exhaust roaring. I enjoy watching him play a little more every time. Though he gets a little extra contact that may not be called due to his width and physical play, I would like to see him bark a little less and just worry about sharpening his teeth for the bite.
6-foot-5 2019 wing Otis Frazier III (Buckeye) is starting to look like the "O3" he was during the high school season again. Going on spurts of scoring and making plays on defense to get his team into the open court. He is so long and athletic on the perimeter and causes some discomfort for opposing guards trying to advance the ball up the court or get entry passes into the lane. Out in transition is where he flourishes. Every time he gets in the open court there is a candidacy being ran for the next poster victim. The lefty also has a sweet stroke from the outside that adds to his offensive arsenal.
6-foot-4 2019 guard Isaiah Marin is starting to show me a little more every time I see him play. He is so long at that point guard position. Offensively he can either get low and penetrate on defenders while keeping his head up for cutters, or he can stay long and see above the defense. Defensively, his length is a serious issue for opposing ball handlers. He gets his team into the open court with some rhythm and has the ability to score or distribute. Some national scouts absolutely love his game as well, so I know I am not being Arizona-bias. He is a jump-shot away from reaching the highest level of his game. His first step on penetration is nothing to play with.
The team added two guys that really helped this team in 6-foot-6 2019 forward Zach Lyons (Mountain View), who is just coming back from a bad knee injury but looks like he is coming back into form. The other being silky smooth 6-foot-2 2019 guard Josh Baker who is starting to remind me a little bit of his big brother, former Pepperdine guard Jordan Baker. That spin move he has off penetration to split defenders was Jordan's signature move at his age. I would like to see him hide the ball a little better from smaller guards who try to get up in him, but his handle is solid and he strokes it from the outside with the best of them. Also has great vision coming in off penetration to find cutters and sucking in defenders to open up teammates in the paint. Great showing for both and a great fit for that team.