By Shawn Siegel
July 20th, 2006
The Playaz Ball wrapped up in New York City this past
Saturday. Due to some technical issues, this article was supposed to
go on-line Monday morning, but has been pushed back until this afternoon.
After sitting in some unnecessary traffic on the way to
Basketball City, I barely caught the last 20 seconds of the morning
semifinals. Juice All-Stars barely hung on to a close win over
GC Ballers, as Malcolm Grant (6-1, 2007, Villanova) made a
block at the buzzer. The GC Ballers supposedly had been up by as many
as 24 points due to the great play of Johnny Flynn (5-11, 2007, #29
Rivals.com, Syracuse), but let their lead slip away, and Flynn couldn't
convert in the closing possessions.
The other semifinal between Team Odom and
Playaz Gold (the host team) was equally as close. I walked in with
Team Odom up a point with about a minute to go. Odom PG Malik Boothe
(5-9, 2007) seemed to clearly walk despite a no-call (brining out some anger
in the crowd), and was then picked by Playaz point man Anthony Nelson
(6-1, 2007). Nelson fed the ball to Corey Raji (6-6,
2007, #133 Rivals.com) for an uncontested lay up, which was followed by a
short baseline jumper from John Banes (6-6, 2006) that gave Odom back
the lead with just 7 seconds to go. On in the inbounds from
half-court, a complete defensive breakdown from Team Odom led to another
open lay up from Raji, who cut down the middle of the lane without
opposition after a pass from Nelson.
Playaz Red walked away with the win in the 16U
championship over the Junior Celtics. Playaz was clearly the
more talented team, though a series of poor turnovers and missed layups kept
the game closer than it should have been. For Playaz, St Anthony's
point guard Travon Woodall (6-1, 2008) was impressive. Woodall
is a quick player that is skilled on both offense and defense. He
showed off a nice pull-up jumper and quick hands guarding the opposition.
Woodall was the lone junior that would go on to get some decent playing time
in the 17U finals as well.
Jamal Wilson (6-5, 2008), a wing player out of
Philadelphia, flashed some high-major potential, but he still lacks polish
and probably should be more effective than he currently is. Perhaps it
was a lack of focus, but Wilson was struggling to finish inside shots that
he should have. Regardless, Wilson has a solid body and is skilled
enough to develop into a serious player.
Finally of note was guard Mike Rosario (6-1,
2008), who is a teammate of Woodall's at St Anthony's in New Jersey.
Rosario shoots the ball in the awkward style of Shawn Marion, but still
manages to put the ball in the hoop, hitting a few threes and another jumper
or two. Rosario isn't quite the prospect of Woodall, but he's also a
name to look out for.
For the losing Celtics, a few players showed some D1
talent. Center Andrew McCarthy (6-7, 2008) showed some serious
potential. McCarthy is a long and lanky lefty, who runs the floor well
for a big man, has a decent post game, and a better-looking jump shot.
McCarthy's biggest weakness is lack of muscle and strength, as he was
occasionally outmuscled for rebounds and position in the paint. On
offense, despite the lack of muscle, McCarthy used good footwork and savvy
to get to the foul-line often.
The Celtic's other big man, Jake O'Brien (6-8,
2008) is less polished and less skilled than McCarthy, but played better and
better as the game went on. At first, he looked simply
unskilled and out of place, but then he started hitting shots from the
baseline and turn around jumpers, pulled in some rebounds, and proved that
he belonged. O'Brien still has a lot of work to do, particularly
getting quicker and doing a better job of contesting shots on defense, but
the most important thing for his development might simply be adding
Finally, wing-man Jamal Turner (6-3, 2008) stands
out with good athleticism and a variety of skills. Turner runs the
wing well, can handle, has a decent looking shot, and is active on defense.
Despite all this, Turner just wasn't really being productive, and it was the
play of the big men and the point guard that kept the Boston-based team in
the game. On offense, Turner often seemed to dribble around a bit to
much and needs to do a better job of just passing it around if he's not
planning on being assertive and going to the hoop. He needs to develop
a killer-instinct on offense and the ability to beat people one on one.
The final game was somewhat of a downer as Playaz Gold
was simply too talented for Juice All-Stars. For losing Juice,
who is filled with D1 prospects, no one played exceptionally well.
Nick Leon (5-11, 2006), who will attend prep
school next year, was decent but not great considering his added age.
Leon's a point guard in high school, but in this game, he seemed to be a
better scorer than a leader with the ball. He's got a nice-looking shot and
can hit threes, though he seemed to tire after the game's first 10 minutes.
Some of his decisions were lacking as well.
Malcolm Grant, who came up big in their semifinals win,
had a few moments but was unspectacular on the whole. His stroke from
downtown looks sweet, and he had a nice three and the foul later in the
game. Still, Grant is more of a complimentary player, and not the type
pf player who can take over a game.
Melquan Bolding (6-4, 2008) was one of the only
juniors to play in the game and deserves credit for holding his own.
Apparently Bolding showed up late to the games this morning and spent the
beginning of the game on the bench. Bolding is a wing-player that does
a good job running the floor and finishing, though he did blow one wide open
lay up. It was simply that type of afternoon for Juice. Bolding
has interest from a host of Big East schools, though he's still more of a
potential guy than a finished product.
Big man Brandon Walters (6-8, 2007) started the
game well, but tailed off like most of his Juice teammates. Walters
has a good solid body, and looks athletic, but he still is never as
productive as he should be. One problem is that his footwork in the
paint is a bit awkward, and on rebounds, he doesn't seem to jump very high
and smaller players can fight with him for boards. Walter has got some
high-major interest, but he seems likely to end up at a mid-major school
when all is said and done.
For the winning team, Chris Smith (6-5, 2007) has
proven to me in recent weeks that he's the man. Smith has the
foot-speed to blow by players on offense, particularly when going baseline,
but also has a good enough jumper that teams have to respect his shot.
Because of his good shot, opponents have to respect his good shot fakes,
which he uses to blow by defenders. Smith is nowhere to be seen in the
national rankings, but after watching him here and at the Reebok Classic
East, this is a Top 100 player with serious upside.
Jordan Costner (6-6, 2007), who was forced to play
more of an inside role when I saw him last, was playing on the wings instead
today. Costner fell in love with his three-point shot today, and
though he did hit one or two, he has no business spending so much time on
the perimeter. Right now Costner is stuck in tweener land, as he can
do some damage on the wing and some on the inside, but doesn't really have a
Perhaps the player with the most potential on Playaz is
Rashad Bishop (6-5, 2007). Bishop is the type of player that
will either turn into a complete stud in college or will be a complete bust,
as he has such great tools, but hasn't put it all together. About a
handful of times a game, Bishop shows off a huge throw-down dunk, or a great
drive to the basket, a good blocked-shot, or some other highlight play.
Other times, it seems like he's not trying. I can't tell if he is one
of those kids that just does everything with such east that it looks
effortlessly, or he really doesn't try hard. I expect Bishop (who will
play with Smith at St Benedict's next year) to continue to improve into a
star during the coming year.
Center Ryan Bacon (6-8, 2007), who often gets
overlooked on this stacked roster, had a solid day on the defensive end.
Bacon is probably right between being a mid-major and high-major prospect at
this point. He had at least three blocks during the game, and did a
good job grabbing a few rebounds, but he was mostly invisible on offense.