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January 21, 2013

Flyin' to the Hoop: Grand finale


FLYIN' TO THE HOOP: Saturday | Friday

With a slew of college coaches on hand for Day 3 of the Flyin' to the Hoop Classic in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio, the action picked up from what was already solid play.

Highlighted by another one-on-one battle between Texas' finest juniors, and the appearance of the talented group of players from Dallas (Tex.) Prime Prep, the finest players from Ohio did a nice job of keeping up in several closely contested games.

The head coaches from Kentucky, Ohio State and Dayton were there, as well as assistants from Illinois, Butler, DePaul, Michigan, Detroit, Wright State, Northern Kentucky, Ohio University, West Virginia and others.

Here are the top performers, and storylines, from Day 3.

Grand Finale

When Emmanuel Mudiay and his Prime Prep team walked into the gym for warmups in the last game on Sunday, the crowd immediately knew that they would be a tough team for one their hometown favorites, Springboro HS, to beat. They were right.

Led by Mudiay's ability to pass and score around the rim, Prime Prep raced out to a double-figure lead, and then nearly tripled that lead in the third quarter in a routine win.

Playing in front of Kentucky coach John Calipari, Mudiay was electrifying with his speed in transition, including one dunk on a defender on a breakaway that prompted the PA announcer to use his signature line, "that's why we call it Flyin' to the Hoop."

As well as Mudiay scored the ball for Prime Prep it was his playmaking that really stood out. The 2014 five-star, ranked No. 3 in the 2014 Rivals150, recorded four assists in a row in the second half, stringing the ball through passing lanes that most prospects his age would never anticipate. Also a defensive presence, Mudiay forced several turnovers, leading to even more fastbreak buckets and assists.

Joining Mudiay as a dominant performer for Prime Prep was four-star TCU signee Karviar Shepherd. A long and athletic center with touch around the rim, Shepherd was able to score at will in the paint early with his jump-hook, and then stepped into the high post and did a nice job as a facilitator against the zone.

Shepherd's length on the defensive end makes him an elite prospect, with his shot-altering abilities making it tough for your regular high school prospect to have any chance at scoring.

While his Springboro team really struggled against the pressure of Prime Prep, 2013 Rivals150 center Maverick Morgan played an excellent all-around game on the interior. The Illinois signee recorded 23 points, including a dominant first half in which he tallied 16, and also had double figure rebounds. Morgan is a skilled 6-foot-10 big man who has improved his coordination, and thus is much more mobile and able to play with physicality than he was in years past.

The senior showed great touch on his mid-range jumper, and was also able to counter the length of the taller Shepherd by going to turn-around jumpers. Part of a highly regarded Illini signing class, Morgan has the look of a Big Ten post prospect, and should be a very nice player in the coming years in Champaign.

Roadrunners

The most competitive game on Sunday belonged to the matchup between Cincinnati (Ohio) Walnut Hills, the No. 1 team in Ohio in Division I, and Roselle (N.J. ) Catholic, a team filled with ranked players and top talent. The second half of the game was back-and-forth, with Walnut Hills eventually pulling out a hard-fought 70-61 win.

Roselle Catholic got standout performances from four-star power forward Tyler Roberson, a Syracuse signee, as well as 2015 four-star wing guard Malachi Richardson.

The 6-foot-9 Roberson has a rare combination of explosiveness and agility, resulting in highlight dunks, blocks and one-handed rebounds in traffic. A skilled four-man who can go inside or outside, Roberson has a nice perimeter game on the offensive end, and is able to attack from the wing off of the dribble.

The future Orange prospect is a decent shooter from mid-range, and most importantly, plays with a high motor on every possession. Roberson finished with a modest all-around stat line with nine points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks, but affected several other plays for Roselle Catholic, keeping his team in the game against a loud and hostile crowd.

Richardson proved to be one of the top prospects in the sophomore class nationally as he effortlessly scored 21 points, including knocking down 4 of 7 3-point shots. A 6-foot-3 guard who can play multiple positions, Richardson has a good burst of speed in his first step, making it easy for him to get by defenders and into the second level of the help defense.

Both a shooter and a scorer, Richardson is efficient in putting the ball in the bucket from anywhere inside of 20 feet. The 2015 four-star can improve as a decision-maker, but is one of the most talented offensive players in the event, and has an excellent feel for how to create plays in the half-court. The New Jersey guard listed Cincinnati, Rutgers, Seton Hall and Indiana among programs that are aggressively pursuing him.

Walnut Hills might not have the most heavily profiled players in the country, but the Cincinnati squad does have very solid senior players in Mid-American Conference signees D.J. Wingfield, who scored 20 points, and Isaiah Johnson, who led the game with 23 points and eight rebounds.

A 6-foot-5 wing with a college-ready body and an all-around skill-set, Wingfield is one of the prospects in Ohio who is seeing his reputation skyrocket this season, although he has signed with Ohio University. Wingfield has the rare ability to make his teammates better as a distributor, has the body to score around the basket and can create mid-range shots around the basket whenever you want.

In playing his final pre-college season with a whole new level of passion, Wingfield has solidified himself not as a MAC player, but a potential star at the mid-major level for the Bobcats.

Johnson, who stands 6-foot-9 and has a wide body at well over 280 pounds, is part of a very strong 2013 Akron signing class, where he will be expected to anchor the middle for the Zips for the next four years. Despite his massive size, Johnson has some of the softest hands and touch of any big man in the Midwest. The back-to-the-basket center catches and finishes everything in his area, has the beginnings of some post moves and has improved the level of physicality that he plays at.

With the MAC being a league not necessarily known for producing throwback centers, there is no reason to think that a well-conditioned Johnson can't make a huge impact in the league towards the beginning of his career.

One for the books

A day after a historic battle with Luke Kennard, 2014 four-star small forward Justin Jackson took his game to an even higher level on Sunday. Matched up against one of the nation's most elite 2016 guards in Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary's freshman V.J. King, Jackson made the top scorers list in the Flyin' to the Hoop record book look outdated, as he overtook former Kentucky star Brandon Knight for third all-time with a whopping 41 points in an overtime win.

Jackson had it going in every possible way as a scorer, especially with his smooth jump-shot, including a deep one from 25 feet with just four seconds in regulation to send the game to overtime. For the second day in a row, the 6-foot-7 forward was aggressive attacking the rim and is showing improvement at using his length to shoot floaters over defenders from inside the lane to avoid charges. Also an efficient scorer in the post area, Jackson uses his length in this area, shooing turn-around jumpers over either shoulder. Jackson's 41 points came on 13 of 26 shooting, including 13 of 15 from the foul line, and he also recorded 11 rebounds and six assists.

King was no slouch for Akron SVSM, scoring 22 points with seven rebounds and three assists in the overtime loss. The freshman has grown to a legitimate 6-foot-6 since the start of the school year and is one of the most versatile prospects in his class. He has the ability to play the point guard, shooting guard or small forward spot. An athletic scoring wing who has great vision as a passer, King can make plays all over the court on the offensive end, and excels at creating space off of the dribble.

The freshman has also improved his shooting stroke, which with his size and length is very tough to defend. Coaches from West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio State were in the gym to watch King, who already claims offers from Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio State and several others.

Also for Akron SVSM, 2014 wing Jalen Hudson was extremely impressive, scoring 19 points. Hudson is one of the Buckeye State's top athletes, and threw down a couple of high-rising dunks to prove it. But he also showed range, knocking down 3 of 4 3-pointers and was able to handle the ball in pressure to get to the rim. The transfer from the Richmond, Va., area lists offers from Akron and Kent State as well as interest from VCU, Richmond and Virginia.

Checklist

Evan Bailey: Not many outside of Massillon (Ohio) Jackson know about the 6-foot-6 junior scoring wing, but Rivals did have the foresight to put Bailey in the Rivals150, where he checks in at No. 146 in the 2014 class. Bailey has great size for a guard who can play any of the three perimeter positions, and really excels at shooting the basketball from deep. Already with offers from Akron, Kent State, Ohio University and Miami (Ohio), plus others, Bailey is starting to receive strong interest from Dayton, West Virginia and Boston College as well. While he didn't have his best scoring game, with 12 points in a win, Bailey showed a really high offensive IQ in setting up teammates for assists and taking advantage of mismatches when he scored off of finesse drives.

Cheick Diallo: On Saturday, we covered the defensive prowess that the 6-foot-9 sophomore center, a four-star prospect from Our Savior New American out of New York City, has. In OSNA's second game, Diallo looked much more comfortable on the offensive end, showing better touch when finishing and a more physical style of posting up. Diallo was able to knock down a couple of mid-range jumpers, with his opponents playing well off him from 15 feet, and even was able to get a spinning right-handed hook-shot to fall in traffic. With the advances in his offensive game, it is only matter of time until Diallo becomes a dominant prospect; with only consistent offensive performances and added strength standing in his way.

A.J. Harris: Standing just 5-foot-9, the 2015 Dayton (Ohio) Dunbar point man isn't the most physically imposing guard on the circuit, but he has a big game. Harris is a devastating penetrator off the dribble, can floor defenders with crossovers and has improved his once good but now very good jump-shot from deep. A lightning quick guard as fast in transition as any guard in his class, Harris already has an offer from Dayton as well as interest from Ohio State, Cincinnati and Xavier.

Willie Jackson: The class of 2016 small forward has a man's body as just a freshman. Jackson is a super athletic wing who is still developing his skill-set but plays with such a high motor that he is effective on both ends of the court. The Cleveland native gets most of his points in transition or on put-backs, but is also a capable ballhandler from end to end. Jackson has yet to attract any offers, but has the interest of West Virginia, Ohio State, Dayton and several mid-major programs.

David Bell: The 6-foot-10 center from the class of 2014, a Garfield Heights (Ohio) prospect, was the breakout performer on Day 3 in Kettering. After missing an entire high school and AAU season last year with a foot injury, Bell has emerged with a passion in the Cleveland area this season. In his return to the court this season, Bell has become an excellent shot-blocker, aided by added agility, leaping ability and strength that he added during his time off. The junior isn't a great offensive player, but finishes strong with dunks around the rim. According to his high school coach, Sonny Johnson, Bell has offers from several MAC schools and St. Joe's, but is gaining interest from several Big Ten schools through his play this season.



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