The USA U17 trials have brought high level play and competition ramped up last night here at the USA Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. The final evening of play before the last cuts are made brought out some of the best in everyone and it made it clear to those around as to who belonged and who might need another year of seasoning. While there is still one more session of play this morning before the group of 17 is diminished to 12, we take a quick look at the lasting crop with how each has done and why they are needed.
JORDAN BROWN, PF, PLAY HARD PLAY SMART, 2018: A throwback type of big man with a Tim Duncan-ish tone to his game, Brown hasn’t been the most productive this week but he had a great showing in the scrimmage session on Monday evening. He had a fine spurt that included two quality finishes and a lob pass out on the break. He protects the basket, rebounds his area, and can score from 15-feet and in through unconventional manners.
REASON FOR MAKING CUT? Brown can be leaned upon for his play off the bench as he rebounds the ball at a solid rate and has good feet and length in causing issues out atop of a full or three-quarter length court that the coaching staff may implement.
TROY BROWN, SG, LAS VEGAS PROSPECTS, 2017: One of the best surprises of the week, Brown has been tremendous in every facet. While his jumper remains a bit streaky due to its rainmaker trajectory, the Vegas native has converted on a few spot-up jumpers, gotten involved for the loose ball chance, defended practically the 1-4, and has playmaked off the bounce.
REASON FOR MAKING CUT? Built perfectly for international play, Brown may be used at every spot on the floor outside of the center spot. He plays with a purpose, can wear various hats for his squad, and has a chip to his playing style.
WENDELL CARTER, C, TEAM CP3, 2017: the best of the best in the 2017 class, Carter hasn’t looked anything out of the norm as he has rebounded the ball at a high rate, owned the paint and on either end, and knocked down the elbow jumper with his feet set. The body is already in tow and so is his consistent numbers on the final stat sheet.
REASON FOR MAKING CUT? Really, there is no reason to ask. While Carter doesn’t fit the mold of the new school big man, he has improved athletically and laterally and can have an offense be run through him in the half-court. He is as polished that you’re going to find at this level of play at the 5.
DAEJON DAVIS, G, SEATTLE ROTARY, 2017: While Davis hasn’t played as much as he might have liked on the ball, the west coast recruit as bought into being a utility type in the backcourt. He seems to get his hands on a ton of loose balls and deflections, can facilitate in the half-court setting, yet also score it from all three levels.
REASON FOR MAKING CUT? A no-ego approach, Davis buys into whatever role is set out for him. He can shoot it, convert at the basket, and defend either guard spot. A nice spark off the bench if he makes it to this afternoon’s session.
NOJEL EASTERN, G, MEANSTREETS, 2017: Back and fully healthy from a serious lower leg injury last year, Eastern was tremendous in the nightcap on Monday. While he is more of a jumbo guard best placed on the ball, the Illinois native is an elite level passer and someone with ambidextrous abilities near the basket. He plays with a chip and a presence and has been one of the more vocal guys here all week long.
REASON FOR MAKING CUT? Eastern can be leaned upon for his play making skills when placed around shooters of the ball along with his defensive versatility that, when he has the want to, can sit down and defend all three perimeter positions.
MARKUS HOWARD, G, LAS VEGAS PROSPECTS, 2016: The only soon-to-be freshman in college, the future Marquette guard hasn’t shot the rock the way that he would have liked but has still be superb at defending the basketball. He has an edge to him and isn’t afraid of contact on the floor. Expect for his game to hit the next level at any second whenever that next shot of his goes in.
REASON FOR MAKING CUT? Howard is one of the best microwave scorers that we have seen over the past few years and now with the focus to guard the basketball, the future Big East star has the makings of a nice two-way producer and someone that brings some experience and maturity to the hardwood.
JAREN JACKSON, PF, SPIECE INDY HEAT, 2017: Jackson has become enamored with the perimeter shot but has done great work via the pick and pop jumper. He is nearly automatic with his feet set and can throw in several outside jumpers in any given session. The Spiece product can also guard his basket as he sports a 7-foot-4 wingspan and has good mobility throughout.
REASON FOR MAKING CUT? Filling a Channing Frye type of role for his squad, you can never have enough shot makers and while Jackson is more of an outside-in 4-man, he can be leaned upon strongly with the amount of solid drivers of the ball currently on the roster.
IMMANUEL QUICKLEY, PG, BALTIMORE ELITE, 2018: The major breakout performer thus far here in Colorado, word got back to his native state as Maryland offered the elite guard last night. Quickley has shades of John Wall to him and while he can sometimes leave his feet too often on the pass attempt and his shot remains a bit streaky, out of pick and roll situations, there is no one better. Pace…check. Feel…check. Elite play making skills…check.
REASON FOR MAKING CUT? Place shooters around the basketball or solid finishers near the basket, Quickley is going to make life pretty damn easy. He navigates the ball screen with the best of them and can be leaned upon through his passing skills and competitive abilities in the backcourt.
CAMERON REDDISH, SF, TEAM FINAL, 2018: It wasn’t his best inaugural season at Westtown this past winter but it seems to all be behind him now. Reddish has been the most active that I have seen him in sometime and bringing elite size to the small forward spot standing over 6-foot-7, the Team Final star can make jumpers from off the catch, has a killer mid-range pull-up shot, and when he wants to, defends either wing spot or the 4.
REASON FOR MAKING CUT? Give the kid some more experience and he produces more and more. Reddish is a high intangible kid with vast upside where he can make shots from all three levels of the floor and should be leaned upon for just that, to go along with his versatility on the defensive end.
D’SHAWN SCHWARTZ, SF, KC RUN GMC, 2017: The hometown boy here in Colorado Springs, Schwartz has had his good moments as he can act as a point-forward at times but also nail the mid-range pull-up. His body has toned since the beginning of the spring and he seems much more athletic and mobile whenever the game speeds up.
REASON FOR MAKING CUT? The 2017 3-man is a versatile defender that has some toughness in containing and slowing down guys on one end, while he can score it from the 15-18 feet marking on the other side of the court. He might not be as talented as some of those here but his glue qualities definitely are a match for this crop of elite recruits.
COLLIN SEXTON, G, SOUTHERN STAMPEDE, 2017: Quite possibly the most competitive guy here and in all of America, Sexton entered the trials as a new name and a guy that earned his invite via his scoring prowess. While he has still scored it here, it has been the Peach State native’s willingness to make the proper pass below the arc and continued toughness and converting skills from 20-feet and in that make him a valuable add and need for this group.
REASON FOR MAKING CUT? There aren’t a lot of guys here that can get their own shot when needed; Sexton falls into the minority as he can be leaned upon for just that. Throw in how competitive he is, his love to get after his opposing peers, and willingness to now defend and make the proper pass as it seems that there is a desire for a guy like Sexton in international play.
JAVONTE SMART, PG, BEAST MODE, 2018: Bringing ideal size to the lead guard spot, Smart is very strong with the basketball, though he tends to throw errant passes near the basket. Still, what has stood out most about the Louisiana native is his ability to guard the basketball. He seems to be the best on-ball, perimeter defender here.
REASON FOR MAKING CUT? Outside of his competitive grit and talent base, it has been Smart’s defensive abilities that have shined the brightest. He guards either spot in the backcourt and does it in an elite level fashion. A defensive stopper for his bunch could be the Beast Mode star’s calling card on the international platform.
JALEN SMITH, PF, TEAM TAKEOVER, 2018: While the Baltimore native isn’t quite ready for the physicality here with the likes of Carter and Wiley, Smith still brings some value to the floor. He is great out atop of the full court press, has excellent feet around the basket and in defending various spots, and can rebound his area on the glass.
REASON FOR MAKING CUT? While he hasn’t been super productive, Smith does have fine upside to him and can do various things for his bunch. Sticks isn’t the most polished of guys just yet but it is his defensive abilities and improving ball skills that bring intrigue.
GARY TRENT, SG, HOWARD PULLEY, 2017: A giant scorer of the basketball, it hasn’t been the Minnesota native’s best this weekend but it is his leadership that has stood out. He remains vocal in various drills and in a blink of an eye, can throw up a 30-spot on the scoreboard. Trent was leaned upon last year for his scoring abilities and he will see a similar role this summer.
REASON FOR MAKING CUT? Just as was stated earlier, Trent can score that basketball. A premier three-level scorer of the ball, confidence is always in tow with the son of a former NBA star, a shooting guard that gets it done regardless of who is guarding him.
AUSTIN WILEY, C, TEAM THAD, 2017: Headed to Auburn in a year, the near 7-footer has been hobbled some with knee pains and injuries but had his best on tap on Monday evening. He was deceptively springy around the basket on the two-handed dunk, stepped out and hit a smooth 18-foooter, and on the glass, is elite due to his vice-grip like hands and super long arms.
REASON FOR MAKING CUT? Need size and Wiley has it. However, the Alabama native is someone that can score it over either shoulder and would allow for his coaching staff to put Wendell Carter at the 4 and go big in the frontcourt.
KEVIN KNOX, F, E1T1, 2017: Not sure if you can make a better player for international play? While the Florida native has transitioned into the small forward spot, he will primarily be used at the 4 overseas, which is a nonissue. He thrives as an athletic leaper at the basket, can step out and use the mismatch appropriately in hitting the outside jumper, yet has the elite first step down pat on the hard righty drive followed by the and-1 conversion.
REASON FOR MAKING CUT? He is talented, skilled, athletic, and versatile. No one is needed more for this group than Kevin Knox. The Tampa native is a star in the making and sure to be a catalyst for his team’s gold-medal run in the coming weeks.