The first day of the second evaluation period got under way in Indianapolis on Friday evening as Under Armour ran some of its top 17-under teams out on the floor at Best Choice Fieldhouse. There were college coaches traversing all throughout the building in catching a glimpse of their top targets in the and also looking to find some new ones to recruit. No one though, took the stage properly in making a loud, impressive statement than Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER MAKES A STATEMENT
While his box score didn’t show anything near what the Canadian guard brought to the floor on Friday evening, the recent developments out of the 6-foot-5 junior is quite impressive. Alexander-Walker is the perfect example of a kid who is looking to get better by the day, is blessed with loads of raw talent, but has an unbelievable feel and passion for the game.
While his team went down in defeat to KC Run GMC, the Canada Elite star showed off immense versatility as a play maker with the ball in his hands. He routinely threw impressive lead bounce passes with his off-hand following the high screen that had many of the college coaches in attendance shaking their heads. Finishing with 14 points, five rebounds, and four assists in the tough less, Alexander-Walker mentioned that USC head coach Andy Enfield and an assistant, along with Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon was in this past week to see him at his school. Enfield was joined by another threat for his services in Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams on Friday evening, along with Maryland assistant Dustin Clark.
A top-50 prospect in the 2017 class, Alexander-Walker has his stock on the uptick and is one of the better guard prospects in all of America.
LJ FIGUEROA AND JAVONTE SMART GO HEAD-TO-TOE
Leading the UA series in points per game after a prolific 42 points last weekend in New York, LJ Figueroa picked up right where he left off on Friday evening. So smooth and under control with the basketball in his hands, the 6-foot-6 swingman got to the basket and finished on either side of the cup as he also hit the outside jumper and showed off some facilitating abilities within the half-court setting. What impressed us the most was his defensive prowess as he continually deflected passes and stole the ball during his team’s full-court press. Finishing with 26 points, nine rebounds, and three steals in the loss, Figueroa continues to take his game to the next level as he was watched heavily by the likes of South Florida head coach Orlando Antigua and his brother on staff, Maryland, Miami, and Florida State.
While Figueroa was producing on the scoreboard, Javonte Smart, a top-10 guard prospect in the 2018 class, was doing all that he could to get his team back in the game against the Team Breakdown bunch. He settled at times during the middle portions of his game, but Smart still showed off take over abilities when needed.
A giant lead guard with some grit and toughness to him, Smart can do whatever he wants on the hardwood. More shifty than quick, the Louisiana native has recently developed his outside jumper along with his off-hand on drives to the basket. A plethora of Big 12 programs including the likes of Baylor, SMU, Texas A&M, and others were in attendance and they weren’t disappointed. Capable of defending all three spots on the perimeter and play making with the best of them, Smart finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds, six steals, and four assists, further cementing his case as an elite prospect within the rising junior class.
PROGRAMS PURSUIT GERALD LIDDELL
One prospect who has seen his stock immensely improve over the past several months is Gerald Liddell. The 6-foot-7, wiry and long bodied wing, brings a lot to the floor. He doesn’t shoot it all that great from deep as he missed both of his perimeter jumper attempts, but where he is at his best is from the mid-range on in.
Super slippery on the attack to the basket, Liddell can finish with the best of them. Due to his long stride, somewhat tough demeanor at the rack, and aggressive playing mentality, the Texas Hard Work wing gets to the charity stripe in high volumes, just as he did on Friday evening hitting eight of his eleven foul shot attempts. Finishing with 20 points and 16 rebounds, the recruiting side of things is just beginning to heat up.
Twelve separate programs have offered Liddell over the past year and several months and in Indianapolis, Duke dispatched two assistant coaches, while Creighton head coach Greg McDermott, Baylor, Texas A&M, and SMU were each in attendance for him.
When probed on who has done the best work with him to date, Liddell had a surprising answer. “I would have to say Creighton,” the Lone Star State native said. “Coach Lutz has really recruited me hard. They have a great coaching staff and I know Coach McDermott and how he has his son in the NBA.”
While things are far from complete here, look for the Blue Jays to fight it out with some of the upper echelon for one of the best and more productive guys around in the 2018 class.