Posted: Saturday July 16, 2005 5:59PM; Updated: Tuesday July 19, 2005 8:57AM
My summertime top 10
I have now attended four events featuring the top high school players in America -- one conducted in June by USA Basketball, and one for each of the big three sneaker companies during the July evaluation period. Thus, I have seen just about every top schoolboy there is to see. Allowing that a few games are not nearly enough to give a complete evaluation, I have put together a list of my 10 favorite players. These are not necessarily the best 10 guys in America. They're just the players who made the biggest impressions on me this summer. For the time being, I'm going to leave off the obvious choices of Oden and O.J. Mayo. Herewith (in alphabetical order):
Nick Calathes, 6-5 point guard, Lake Howell, Fla. He's not exactly ranked in everybody's top five, but Calathes, who has committed to Florida, is extremely quick with the ball and should really excel in BillyDonovan's up-tempo system. He is also very crafty and seems to get to the rim at will.
Michael Conley, 6-1 point guard, Indianapolis. He's more than just Oden's high school teammate. Conley possesses terrific poise and court sense, and he can knock down the long jumper to boot. Mike Davis will have some 'splaining to do as to why he told Conley he wasn't going to recruit him, enabling Ohio State coach Thad Matta to nab him and Oden.
Wayne Ellington, 6-4 guard, Metro Station, Pa. Like I said before, he reminds me a lot of McCants, but he is much more efficient, and his rainbow jumper suggests an artistic ability to score. Hoop Scoop went so far as to rank Ellington as the best player in the Class of 2006, ahead of Oden. I wouldn't go quite that far, but it's not a ludicrous suggestion.
Paul Harris, 6-4 forward, Niagara Falls, N.Y. Harris did a better job defending Mayo than anyone I've yet seen when the two were matched up at the Reebok ABCD camp last week. He grew up in a tough neighborhood and has had some scrapes with the law, but if Harris can keep on the straight and narrow, he'll be a huge asset to whichever school (probably Syracuse or Pitt) he chooses.
Kevin Love, 6-8 center, Lake Oswego, Ore. As I metioned last week, Love is as good a big-man prospect I've seen when it comes to displaying perimeter skills without sacrificing his dominance inside. He's a rising junior, so we'll have to wait a while to see where he ends up in college. But you can be sure he won't be attending Oregon.
Vernon Macklin, 6-9 forward, Portsmouth, Va. They call him "Big Ticket," probably because he's the type of big man people will pay to see. Macklin hits the boards like Amare Stoudamire, but he shows enough ball skills to make you think he could someday evolve into a true inside-outside tour de force. He's got most of the East Coast after him and has yet to begin narrowing his choices.
Scottie Reynolds, 6-0 point guard, Herndon, Va. Many of the ranking services I've seen have this Oklahoma-bound point guard well outside the top 50. Don't believe it. Reynolds can score as well as run a team, and he loves to defend.
Nolan Smith, 6-2 guard, Landover, Md. Smith's dad, Derek, played for Louisville, and from what I hear Nolan, who is a rising junior, could very well do the same. He has poster-quality athleticism along with an exquisite shooting touch that includes a quality mid-range game that most players don't bother to develop.
Devon Seaford, 6-0 point guard, Charlotte, N.C. He isn't on anyone's ranking list, but Seaford demonstrated great tenacity and smarts while leading the Charlotte Royals to the finals of the Adidas tournament last week. He'll probably end up at a mid-major and make all the big-time coaches who passed him over look bad.
Brandan Wright, 6-9 forward, Brentwood, Tenn. He has gotten a lot of hype, and from what I could see at the Peach Jam he deserves every bit of it. Likes to cherry pick a little too much in search of breakaway dunks, but he also demonstrated a nice passing instinct. He also has yet to grow into his body, which means as good as he is now, he has a lot of room to get better.