The Illinois Wolves 16U squad took home the title of the inaugural St. Louis Summer Classic behind a strong team effort. Illini commitment Jalen James saw some action, and Illini target Nate Taphorn showed up big in a quarterfinal matchup with the Illinois Warriors. Here's a look at some of the standouts in St. Louis.
Semaj Christon - He's committed to Xavier now, but the 6'4 athletic freak was the most talked about player at the event. It's very difficult to keep him out of the lane and he can finish at the rim. His jumper is not good, and when teams played off of him it gave him trouble. Comparisons were made to Rajon Rondo, which is very high praise. He has a chance to be an impact player for the Musketeers.
Jalen James - The plan was for James to play 3 stints of 4 minutes each. During the first 4 minutes, he looked like a high major point guard with his vision and passing ability, got to the basket and hit a jumper. As his calf muscle got stiff, it was torn about 5 weeks ago, he struggled upon re-entry. You have to love that he and his family drove 400 miles to give it a go, however, and his first 4 minutes were very, very good. Strength is still an issue, and he needs to extend his range from 17 feet out to 20 feet. The talent is definitely there, however.
Nate Taphorn - He's known as a shooter, but he did more than that in a key win over the Illinois Warriors. The slender built 6'7 wing forward hit a 3, finished an nice assist and hit a pair of free throws down the stretch to give the Wolves the 3 point win. He is sometimes streaky when he gets tired, but as he gains strength he could be a kid that really emerges as a high major player. Right now, he needs strength, but I like his tenacity and skill set.
Jared Brownridge - Throughout the summer this has been the best player for the Wolves team. He makes shots at an alarming rate, finishes inside, and he guards. He's a 6'0 shooting guard, but at the end of the day teams are judged by how many points they put up, and he puts up points. He just gets things done on the court despite lacking great explosion or ideal size.
AJ Riley - He dished out 11 assists in one game and continues to develop as a point guard. He is strong and tough, and although he isn't a great shooter right now, he is able to score by getting to the rim and shoots well enough to keep the defense honest.
Kieta Bates-Diop - Kieta was a bit more passive in St. Louis, not as assertive as he was in Milwaukee and Elmhurst when we watched. He possesses length and athleticism, and is more advanced than players like Evan Turner were at the same stage. Will he progress like that? He needs to continue to develop his ball handling skills and his offensive package, but he can shoot it when he gets set. Numerous high majors are now tracking him hard because of his upside.
Peyton Allen - We finally saw the Peyton Allen from the spring. You know, the kid that made shots and scored in bunches. He scored 20 and hit 4 triples in a Sunday night win, leading his team to the final 4 before they fell. The problem was that he seemed to finally be back, and then he got hurt again and missed the semifinal game. It didn't look serious, however he needs to keep it rolling. His foot speed is a question mark at 6'4, however he looks like he could get up to 6'7, which would make him an extremely coveted prospect due to his advanced skill set. Teams need shooters and scorers, and that's something he can do well.
Kendall Stephens - I have been waiting to see the Purdue commitment bust out with me in attendance, and he finally did it this weekend. He knocked down shots on Monday, and he even he showed a more complete game than just being a spot up shooter and even got a little dirty in the paint with his rebounding. He has a great basketball body and can really shoot it, now he just needs strength and a bit better motor to get to that next level. Purdue fans should be happy, as he is a good one.
Jordan Ash - This was the best I have seen Ash, playing more under control and running the team more for the Wolves. He's definitely wired to score right now, and that's alright because he can, but he'll transition to more of a true point guard down the road. What is impressive is that he can knock down shots both off the catch and off the dribble, and he shows off some major explosiveness at times as well. In a game on Sunday, he blocked two shots that had college coaches buzzing.
-Jordan Ash will attend and Ohio State football game this fall. Mike Mullins thinks that he could be the most talented player in their program, and this is the youngest guy they have ever had recruited like this.
-The Meanstreets 15U squad features 2014 prospect Drake Harris, a talented 6'4 wing from Michigan, and 2014 Tyler Wideman, a 6'5 post player from Indiana. Wideman visited this summer and has a chance if he grows into Center size. Harris is a very good wing guard slasher that has high majors on him already. Another player for Meanstreets is 2014 guard Tyler Ulis. Although tiny, he really knows how to play and runs his team well.
-The Wolves 15U and 16U teams will be off for a couple of days and then get back at it in Fort Wayne, IN. The Wolves 17U squad will be in Phoenix and then head to Fort Wayne after that.
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