Nelson puts on show in grassroots debut
It is very rare in this day in age that a player suits up for his first grassroots basketball game as an unsigned senior.
Conner Nelson, a 6-6 180-pound wing from Del Norte who plays on the Gamepoint 17u Elite team, did exactly that on Sunday at the inaugural San Diego Spring Showcase, organized by Gamepoint Basketball director Charlie Mercado.
And boy, did Nelson make a debut.
Pegged early in the fall as a bona fide sleeper for the Nighthawks, Nelson- who has grown four inches over the past two years- had the full repertoire on display in two games against Earl Watson Elite's 17u Silver and Black teams. The long, athletic wing type hit 6-9 from three in two games and proved to be a formidable defender both on the ball and off the ball, as he had several weak-side blocks of the highlight variety. He had his athleticism on display when he drove baseline off the right side for an emphatic two-hand jam, and then showed flashes of high IQ when he made several assists when help-side defenders cut off his driving lanes.
Nelson will have to get stronger in the weight room, improve his ball handling, mid-range game and his decision making - and might have to do it at the prep school or junior college level- but with his impressive physical tools and upside, he is the rare Division 1 sleeper to emerge after his high school career is complete.
Norris on high-major track
A prospect who already well on his way to a Division 1 career who also showed flashes of high level ability was Mater Dei Catholic F Miles Norris, who was running with his Earl Watson Elite 16u Under Armour Association squad.
Norris, a 6-9, 200-pound hybrid forward, has been working on a move to the perimeter as a wing, and showed some of the improvement he has made with his slashing ability off the wing, as well as his shooting off the catch. While still a work in-progress, the advancement he has made in those areas since since his freshman campaign has been marked.
He has soft hands and touch on the low-block, but his lack of strength sometimes is apparent when fighting for position for boards and finishing through contact, but expect it to get better as he begins to now had strength to his frame.
Norris has a very unique combination of size, length, athleticism and inside-outside skill that will only get better over the final two years of his high school career. He is clearly an elite prospect who will be recruited at the highest level of college basketball.
Hilstock, Cook put on show in showdown
In one of the more anticipated matchups of the showcase, Earl Watson Elite's Top 15u group prevailed over Gamepoint's 15u Elite team in an overtime thriller.
But it was two San Diego guards whose careers will be closely tracked and interlinked that put on a show within the show.
6-2 Graham Cook (EWE/ La Costa Canyon) and 6-2 Jordan Hilstock (Gamepoint/ Vista) play in the same league in high school, and both were all league players as freshmen (Hilstock first team, Cook second team). The similarities end there, as both players showed contrasting, yet equally effective, approaches to the game.
Cook is a smooth operator with the ball, who makes fluid yet assertive drives to the hoop, and can knock down mid-range shots with a nice step-back move. He has impressive length an a frame that suggests he will continue to grow. He has grown over the course of a year as a passer to complement his shooting and scoring prowess.
Hilstock has a physically impressive frame (broad shoulders, muscle definition) and has uncanny passing vision in transition. His jumpshot has a defined hitch, but he showed the ability to knock down shots from the perimeter in his impressive performance. But he makes his money on the defensive end, where he is an elite on-ball defender who swallows opposing ball handlers whole with his lateral quickness, quick hands and defensive tenacity.
The verdict in this game is that both Cook and Hilstock have promising futures that should see both recruited at, the very least, the mid-major level. But if both continue to grow, all bets are off as to how high a level they can play.
Jacob Tryon, 6-11 200 PF/C, Gamepoint 17u Elite- Long, wiry big can play inside and out, impressive rim protector and athlete. Recorded six blocks in game vs EWE 17u Black and altered several others.
Jorge Ramirez, 5-11 165 PG, San Diego Cougars Seniors- Young senior (turns 18 in October) showed he could run a team with a more expanded role than in high school, knockdown shooter off the dribble and catch.
Jake Gilliam, 6-10 235 C, Gamepoint 17u Elite- Space-eating big showed improved play in the post and worked hard on the boards and on defense. Plays hard every minute on the floor. Low D1 potential.
Nate Matthews, 6-2 180 G, Gamepoint 17u Elite- Improving lead guard still needs to clean up his handle and game management, but has made big strides at the point position, makes plays in the clutch and is a lockdown defender to boot. Low D1 prospect.
DJ Wilson, 5-10 150 PG, Gamepoint 17u Select- Very athletic lead guard, known as a very good game manager and passer, showed his ability to score it from the mid range and off the drive against EWE 17u Black. Division 2s should recruit.
Christian Moore, 6-2 170 G, Gamepoint 17u Select- Seldom used Cathedral Catholic guard had a breakout performance on Sunday. Very good shooter and terrific athlete gets after it on the defensive end. As his handle improves, he has a chance to be a breakout player in SD next year. Division 2 prospect.
2018-2019 D1/D2 prospects
Taurus Samuels, 6-0 160 PG, Gamepoint 17u Elite- Played too fast in his first game at the 17u level, but once he got acclimated to the physicality really shined in Game two, knocking down shots from all three levels and making the right play with the pass.
Warren Washington, 6-10 195 PF, Gamepoint 17u Elite- Much like Samuels, had to adjust to the physical rigors of playing up. But still scored off of drives, finished in transition, and proved to be a versatile defender.
Jalen Flanagan, 6-3 180 G, Gamepoint 17u Elite- A recurring theme, Flanagan improved as the day went on as he became more accustomed to the 17u level competition. Athletic defender, can score off the drive and is solid in transition.
Robert Young, 6-1 170 G, Gamepoint 16u Elite- Lefty has the prototypical frame and athleticism to be a lockdown defender at the guard position. Impressed with his penetration ability and improved perimeter shooting.
Knox Winkler, 6-3 180 SG, Coastal Elite 16u- Once he found the range, Winkler was deadly off the catch and used his strength to drive to the basket and score through contact. Very impressive second half in the win versus EWE 16u Black.
Rayquan Everett, 6-4 180 W, San Diego Cougars 16u- Blessed with prototypical frame, the wing showed flashes of his ability to score it off the dribble and off the catch. Must improve assertiveness and decision making.
Christian Rose, 6-6 170 WF, Gamepoint 15u Elite- Willowy lefty has the markings of an elite wing defender. Needs to improve finishing through contact, decisiveness off the dribble and in triple threat. D1 prospect.
Ryan Langborg, 6-3 170 SG, Gamepoint 16u Elite- Deadly shooter continues to get better off the dribble. Very similar game profile to Bryce Alford at UCLA. High level prospect.
Cade Twyman, 6-4 170 F, Coastal Elite 15u- Long, willowy wing forward can score off the dribble and can shoot off the catch. Very good rebounder and defender. Prospect to watch.
Matt Bender, 6-7 200 PF, Earl Watson Elite 15u - Much improved four man knocked down several high degree-of-difficulty shots from the mid range and showed an improved post acumen. Potential D1 prospect.
Jayson Taylor, 6-7 190 PF/C, Gamepoint 15u Elite- Seldom-used reserve at LJCD is improving at a rapid rate. Solid rim protector and improved rebounder, showing flashes of skill on the block and from mid-range. One to watch for sure.
Max Guinn, 6-5 180 W, Gamepoint 15u Elite- Very good in catch and shoot guy and improving straight line driver. Battled inside against bigger players in the post.