The 2nd Annual Best of the Best Showcase Recap by Rivals

Article by Russ Wood:

The second annual Best of the Best Showcase hosted by E1T1 Elite brought together many of the top players in Florida at the Lake Brantley Field House in Altamonte Springs on Sept. 20 and 21. Rivals.com was on hand to provide coverage; here are some notes from the event:

Jean Michele-Tine definitely left his mark on the event. The 6-foot-7 forward is athletic and showed a desire to attack the basket whether from above the arc or off a pass to him in the paint. Tine has good hands, has improved his handle and showed nice form on his midrange shot. Defensively he’s a good on-ball defender but wasn’t as active on the glass as we’ve seen in the past. We see Tine becoming an impact player for Orlando Christian Prep as his skills continue to develop and he expands his game.

Havana Florida guard Amaru Bryant was possibly the most active player on the day. The East Gadsden junior rebounded, blocked shots, attacked the basket, stole the ball from his man all while playing under control. At 6-foot-2, 150 pounds, he just needs to add weight to see his recruitment really take off. FAMU and Creighton have shown interest, while Georgia regularly sends Bryant mail.

Very few South Florida prospects made the trip to Central Florida for the showcase, but one who did got the most out of his trip. Chaminade Prep junior Leandro Allende is a fundamentally sound small forward with soft touch on his jumper. At 6-foot-6 he has good size and better than average speed and athleticism. He has a good handle, including against pressure defense. He showed good court vision while throwing crisp passes. Allende, a willing on-ball defender, listed Jacksonville University, FGCU, Nebraska, William & Mary, Rider, North Florida and Princeton as showing interest.

Jacksonville Bolles went 26-1 last season, and one of the reasons was Austin Williams. The 6-foot-8 junior power forward runs well and uses good footwork on defense to keep his man in front of him. Williams appears to have added some strength since our last viewing during the travel season. He has a very good motor and showed off his mid-range jumper from the elbow. Elon, Air Force, Princeton, George Washington and William & Mary have been to Bolles recently to see Williams.

One Bay Area participant who made his mark during the showcase was Pro Wells, a 2016 WG at St. Petersburg. Wells has very good athleticism and explosion. Listed at 6-foot-4 but due to his length he plays bigger. Right now Wells is best in transition but otherwise limited offensively. The lefty showed good mechanics on his jump shot but his release is slow and we only saw him make one during games. An improved jumper and work on his handle, particularly his right hand; are areas in need of improvement.

Import impresses

The Best of the Best marked the stateside debut for Alberto Moreno of Liberty Christian Prep, a 6-foot-4 junior point guard from Spain. Moreno is an intriguing college prospect right now. He has good size for the PG position, solid handle and high basketball IQ. He’s willing to take the shot when his team needs a bucket, and has a really good feel for the game. In a nut shell–he’s skilled with a very good floor game. Defensively he’s a ball hawk and a very good on-ball defender. He’s a solid addition to an LCP team that is rebuilding under new head coach Tony Atkins.

Sarasota Christian junior combo guard Blake Morrow has added some muscle to his frame which is helping him finish through contact and protect the ball against pressure. Always a confident shooter, his jumper wasn’t falling in his first game, but he was very active at both ends of the floor. Later in the day Morrow hit shots from distance and knocked down midrange shots off the bounce.

Morrow can score the basketball, last December he surpassed 1,000 points for his career at Sarasota Christian.

Prior to the event, Spruce Creek small forward Niko Green told us he was going to put on a show, and he delivered. Green has a great motor; he gives you everything he’s got and then some. The junior made midrange shots, but was most effective around the basket where he is quick off his feet showed great explosion on a crowd pleasing dunk off a drop step. At times it’s hard to believe he’s 6-foot-5 as Green is long and makes an impact when he’s on the floor. As he improves his ball handling and gains more consistency in his jump shot Green will be tough to defend. Recently Bethune-Cookman University, North Florida and Arkansas State have come in for school visits with Green.

More notes

Although Day 1 was billed as a showcase for juniors, seniors and post grad players, two sophomores stood out against their older peers.

Darius Banks, a class of 2017 prospect fromSt. Petersburg, is coming off of a back injury (stress fracture) and is slowly playing his way back into shape. He looked very good in the early afternoon game, but by his third game of the day it appeared fatigued set in and his elevation was almost all gone. Banks handles the ball well and tends to make good decisions when on the move. He can shoot it with range and defensively he had his moments, particularly early in the day. Due to his injury and the inactivity during his recovery, Banks has some work to do to get back into basketball playing shape.

If it wasn’t clear before, the weekend left no doubt that David Nickelberry is skilled and savvy beyond his years. He can score at all three levels, is a good passer, is able to defend multiple positions and regardless of the game situation he doesn’t get rattled. High Major schools will be impressed with the left hander’s size and skill set. As the 6-foot-7 sophomore continues to grow (he projects to be 6-foot-9) and adds strength he’ll become an even better rebounder. Nickelberry claims offers from MemphisMiami and George Mason; plus interest from UCF and USF.

The biggest stock booster of the day was 2017 Sarasota Christian shooting guard Brion Whitley. The sophomore made shots all day from all over the court. He plays with good energy and is a good on ball defender who comes up with several deflections each game, usually resulting in a turnover. At 6-foot-4 Whitley is a good rebounder for his position and is a better than average athlete with a high ceiling but make no mistake he is a high major prospect now. Florida was recently at his school and watched him workout.

On Sunday the freshmen and sophomores took over Lake Brantley Field House for Day 2 of the Best of the Best Showcase and KJ Fitzgerald showed why he’s the best Florida point guard in the 2017 class.

Fitzgerald keeps the ball on a string; he has the ball handling skills to run a team, whether it be in the fast break, half court or against full-court pressure. The sophomore can get by most defenders into the lane to score, dish off or get to the line. He does need to develop a more consistent jumper to keep defenders honest. Defensively his quickness helps, but added strength will make him a more effective defender.

It is always refreshing when you see a young big man who knows who he is, and that’s what we see with Corbin Merritt. The 6-foot-9 center recently transferred to Windermere Prep from The First Academy. Thanks to his long arms the sophomore is a good rim protector and rebounder on defense. Offensively he already has a nice assortment of post moves that help him score. Merritt has good hands and runs the floor well; he uses good footwork to get where he needs to be both offensively and defensively. Merritt will be a nice compliment to David Ndiaye (Illinois State commit) for Windermere Prep.

Nick Honor is a strong point guard who can go both ways including under pressure. The freshman’s end to end speed is great, and though just 5-foot-9 he sees the floor well and makes the right pass to the open man at the right time. Honor has range beyond the arc but will need to develop consistency with that shot. Defensively, he has the quickness and strength to keep opposing point guards in front of him.

This was our second viewing of Michael Akuchie, a 6-foot-6 forward out of St. Thomas Aquinas, having seen him at Big Shots Tampa. He’s a smooth SF that doesn’t force things preferring to let the game come to him. He can shoot the long ball and put it on the floor to create his own shot or to score at the basket with either hand. He’s a capable passer and good on-ball defender. Akuchie has good size, adding some explosion and strength will help him defend one of the most difficult positions on the court.

Solomon Uyaelunmo is an intriguing prospect at 6-foot-8. The freshman runs the floor well and catches everything thrown his way. He can score in the post or hit the contested 17-footer. If he has the ball above the arc he looks to attack the basket. Solomon will challenge shots and showed a willingness to mix it up inside around the basket. During one game, Uyaelunmo showed that he’s capable of grabbing a rebound and leading his team on the break. He has all the signs of being an impact player.

Michael Devoe is a promising freshman at Oak Ridge. The 6-foot-2 freshman has a sweet looking jump shot with range beyond the three-point line and decent athleticism. His ball handling is good enough for him to be a complementary ball handler against pressure. For a freshman, Devoe shows a good deal of poise. Devoe may have a special future ahead.