PITTSBURGH, PA - Day 2 of the Pittsburgh Hoop Group Jam Fest was highlighted by a number of talented players in the U16 age group. Heading into Championship Sunday, here's a recap of the players who made their case for why college coaches should offer them scholarships after Saturday.
Nickens Refines Game
Last year at this time, Jared Nickens was in the class of 2013 and was the pure shooter for Sports U. A year later, he has reclassified to 2014, transferred to Westtown (PA), and has refined his game in a variety of ways. He's still with Sports U, and he can still shoot, but now Nickens is far and beyond capable of what he was able to do before.
Now able to take players off the dribble to use his pull up jumper, or slash to the basket, Nickens is much more athletic. His handle has improved dramatically. He is much more versatile. Nickens has made a major transition in his game to the surprise of many.
He lists offers from Oregon State, Temple, Providence, St. Joseph's and Seton Hall, with interest from Oklahoma, Dayton, Miami, Georgetown and St. John's. Oregon State is recruiting him the hardest and is doing a strategical job of seeing him this spring. Between last weeks in-home visit with Craig Robinson, watching him during the live period the next two weeks, and his official visit the first weekend of May, it will be tough to beat the Beavers for the 2014 wing prospect.
Illinois Celtics Impress
They weren't the Illinois Wolves, nor were they Mac Irvin Fire or the DRose All-Stars. Of all the AAU teams in Pittsburgh, there were few with as much hype as the Celtics.
This came for a good reason as their roster is loaded with elite talent in the class of 2015. Myles Carter, Joseph Toye, Kristian Santos and Aaron Jordan all proved how good they were on the court on Saturday, despite the fact that few to little offers have come their way.
Carter, a power forward from St. Rita (IL), is physical and athletic, as well as one of the better rebounders in his class. As the other parts of his game continue to improve, he plays with a lot of intensity on the defensive end and takes pride in that. His first offer came last week from Providence, but surprisingly the Friars are his lone scholarship. Arizona, Indiana, Indiana State, Illinois, Virginia Tech, DePaul and Michigan State are also tracking the sophomore. Carter believes the Blue Demons are recruiting him the hardest out of the gate.
Toye, a wing from Whitney Young (IL), gets to the basket with authority, shoots the ball fairly well and has the ideal body of a college shooting guard. There is no question in one's mind that he will wind up playing at a BCS-level school, despite only holding an offer from Illinois-Chicago, thus far. He also has a high IQ when attacking the rim, as he sizes up his defender when slashing to the rim. Providence, Virginia Tech, Northwestern, DePaul, Illinois and Purdue are looking at him, and in the mix. He plans to visit Purdue in the near future.
Santos, a wing from Genevea (IL), has a little Nik Stauskas in him. Although his shot was a bit off on Saturday, he has a reputation in the midwest for being able to knock down threes. A long, versatile wing who is working on becoming a complete player, he can shoot the mid-range jumper or go from the outside. Still, Santos must continue to improve on his speed, handle and getting involved more on the glass. His lack of athleticism makes him a very unique player; almost a twist between Stauskas and Kyle Anderson. The rising junior is definitely one of the more promising, yet unnatural, talents in the class of 2015.
Jordan, a guard from Plainfield East (IL), is establishing himself to colleges already. With high-majors and mid-majors around the midwest and east targeting him, Jordan's ability to shoot the ball confidently has been a huge asset to his game. Along with that, his on-ball and help side defense is solid, which makes mid-majors very curious to see which level he may end up at. Still, Jordan needs to make going to the basket a priority going forward. Hampton is his only offer, but Northwestern, Fairfield, Cal Poly, DePaul, Illinois-Chicago, Purdue, Duke, Illinois State, Creighton, Wisconsin, Northern Iowa and LSU have all shown various forms of interest in him.
Dorian's Pride's Dynamic Duo
The duo of AJ Turner and Josh Jackson isn't your typical once, but on the AAU scene having a top-tier freshman and a soon-to-be stud junior playing together is nothing new. This move has brought out dozens of high-major schools, including Michigan, Ohio State, Syracuse, Georgetown, Florida, Iowa State and others to their games.
Turner, a 2014 guard from De La Salle (MI), continues to improve his game. With a majority of mid-major offers, his goal is to get to the next level and play at the highest level. As local powerhouses Michigan and Michigan State have hosted him on campus for visits, neither has presented a scholarship his way. If he elevates his game this spring and summer, the high-major offers are bound to be extended.
For Jackson, the talented 2016 small forward from Detroit Consortium (MI) is being carted by Georgetown, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State early on. A true playmaker, Jackson does a great job of making impressive moves to score and help others score from the perimeter and in the post. After catching everyone's eye at Team USA's U16 trials in the fall, the sky is the limit for this young talent.
Bradley Bound to Breakout
Cluttered in with most U16 teams were a rare 2016 player or two. With many impressive rising sophomores in Pittsburgh, the upside of 2016 Bartow (FL) power forward Tony Bradley was on hand Saturday. A versatile power forward from Bartow (FL), Bradley finished around the rim, and competed hard on both ends. Long and still growing into his body, he runs the floor well and makes an impact on the court.
Potentially, Bradley looks like a high-major prospect for the Q6 All-Stars. UMass, UCF and South Florida all feel similar to this, as the trio of schools have offered early, according to his coach, Reggie Tucker. Cincinnati, Tennessee and Clemson have expressed interest, as well.
It is still early, however, and Bradley must use his body more in the post, improve his jumper and continue to grow into his long, lanky body. Bradley's upside is fantastic, nevertheless.
Mitchell, Williams Putting on for their City
The backcourt duo of Mike Williams and Donovan Mitchell for The City was unknown heading into the year. Springtime is here, and both are coming off of major high school basketball seasons.
Williams, a 2014 combo guard from Bishop Loughlin (NY), is beginning to master his shot. He uses his quickness to his advantage and his defensive prowess helps his team greatly. With the goal of becoming a true point guard who can score, his handle will have to improve to make that happen. With George Washington, Manhattan, Fordham, Creighton, Drexel and Dayton standing out to him among the schools who have offered, he is gaining some interest from Wake Forest, UCLA, Providence, St. John's, Michigan, Northwestern and Villanova. His size and handle could hold him back, but Williams will be a really interesting prospect to see on the AAU trail.
Mitchell, a 2015 combo guard from Canterbury School (CT), was once a well-known eighth grader who most hadn't heard about until the beginning of this year when he began to excel on the high school level. As he continues to grow and work on his game, Mitchell is a wanted man. "I never thought it would be like this," he told Rivals.com. UConn, Providence, Iona, Boston College and Maryland have offered, while Iowa and Northwestern are showing interest. The Hawkeyes are making it a point to recruit him the hardest. The rising junior is doing a good job of getting to the basket, passing and using his athleticism to his advantage. The question most coaches have is what position will he be. If he can find a distinct way of answering these coaches through his performance on the court, his stock may continue to elevate.
On Sunday, it will be interesting to see how Isaiah Whitehead rises to the occasion. As he is having one of the best tournaments in his AAU career, the 2014 guard from Juice All-Stars is showing coaches and scouts that he has great court vision, can fill up the state sheet and score at will. As he enters the Elite Eight, can he manage to beat out teams with two or three star players?
For the latest in college basketball recruiting, head to TheRecruitScoop.com for the latest details and notes on offers, visits, commitments and more. To contact Alex Kline, you can reach him by email at MaryKlineClassic@gmail.com or on Twitter at TheRecruitScoop.