Tuesday, May 13, 2014

National Select, No More MSE No Problem - In the Championship Again!

When it comes to choosing your basketball development program, it is ok to be selfish. Having a specific agenda and evaluating all your options to determine what fits best for what you want to do and the goals you have set is paramount to the long-term success of players.  National Select this past weekend embarked on such a journey – a selfish journey to test themselves and an agenda to defeat whoever stepped on the court to compete with them.  The catch for National Select? They were going to accomplish this task by playing up two age groups as a team of 2019 players (13U) versus class of 2017 members (15U) in the Fayetteville, NC Big Shots Tournament

The weekend started off with an impressive blowout victory over Dillon Intimidators 67-33; a well-balanced National Select squad had 4 players in double figure lead by Tyrese Jenkins, Va. (13pts 4 rebounds), Brian “BJ” Mack, NC (12pts 9 rebounds), J.C Tharrington, NC (12pts 2 3-pointers), and Cameron Byers, MD (10pts 7 rebounds). All members of the team got on the board in this contest with key contributions from Kyree Banks, DC (7pts 4-assist) and Bobby Carson, MD (6pts 5 rebounds).  In the second game of the day – a well-seasoned and well coached Flight 22 squad jumped out to an early 7-1 lead; and extended the lead to 27-14 going into the break.  In the second half; National Select switched to a man-to-man full court defense to increase the tempo as they fought their way back into the game, using a 10-0 run late in the half to cut the lead to 5 at 34-39.  National Select locked down Flight 22 the rest of the way with turnovers and solid free-throw shooting to claim the win 45-41.  Garrett Kirkland, MD who operated at the lead guard position all weekend showed an amazing arsenal of offensive moves and a solid three ball throughout the weekend; played most of the game maintaining the pace and ensuring that ball got to the right place on the court.  J.C Tharrington hit 4 3-pointers with some very big deep bombs late in the game to help National Select gain control; Brian “BJ” Mack again “laid the wood” pumping in a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds – and 2021, yes 2021 combo guard Zion Harmon scored 12-points and dished out 6-assist in the tough hard fought semi-final match-up.  The win placed the team into the championship game against a very tough WCBA team. Jaylen Wiggins high level of  play and skill set was noted by the Big Shots scouts, along with  Garrett Kirkland , Brian “BJ” Mack, J.C Tharrington, and Cameron Byers.  Impressive” stated Coach Francis “may be an understatement, to have multiple players noted to be tops in an age group two years their senior; is a testament to their skill sets, handwork, and dedication – we could have gone down here and run over the competition like we have done in other cities; but this group of players wanted to be tested and going up one level wasn’t good enough”

In the championship WCBA, whose players dunked throughout warm-ups used a Detroit Bad Boys type of defense against their younger counterparts to ensure their victory.  Fans watching the game that’d fallen in love with the younger bunch during their time in North Carolina – shook their hands and patted them on the back after they claimed the silver chip.  Francis ended the event saying “if there is such a thing as winning in a loss, this was it – physically they were simply much bigger and much stronger; but to come this far playing up two years represents and validates these players being tops in the country; and a program that isn’t doing it just for trophies, rather for development and challenges.” He further went on to say “we have never played in an event without making it to the championship game and this wasn’t going to be the first time! 2nd place in a 15u division is like winning for a 13u group with a 6th and 5th grader on the team!”

There were many realizations from the weekend:

1.      Garrett Kirkland (MD) is ready for the big-time – Kirkland has been in the lab remaking his game and this is the first time we have seen him on the circuit in some time; but boy ol’ boy was it worth the wait.  The handle is professionally refined with the playground flair removed; the consummate PG ball-handling package – no wasted movement. Kirkland created separation and space with a very solid step back move that he used to bury jumpers, re-set and attack the basket, and sometimes to simply create some nice passing lanes.  Formerly a high level scoring two Kirkland now has the complete tool chest to operate at the lead guard position – this includes the mentality which he exhibited by pushing and slowing the pace; attacking and spacing the court when needed with a long ball that he wasn’t afraid to shoot and was effective out to 24’.  Never a one dimensional prospect; Garrett’s on the ball defense was stellar, the lateral quickness and strength is there and is going to make him a tough cover on both ends; just what you want an effective 94’ feet player.  He does it all, he communicates, runs the team, he scores, he defends, and he isn’t finished by a long shot in what he is building himself to be.  A national best kept secret no more; Kirkland’s name is back on the map.

2.      J.C Tharrington (NC) is a natural combo guard and scorer – one the things that must always be differentiated is scorer vs a shooter.  A scorer has a specific set of tools and personality and this is what Tharrington represents.  Let’s start with the obvious, he is a killer 3-point shooter showing proficiency from all area’s behind the strip.  Typically there are areas/scoring zones that are marketable better for specific player – not in this case the range can be considered in the gym and anywhere beyond the stripe.  Now for the news flash; this kid is dangerous off the dribble and knows the game (IQ) well enough to use all the area’s on the court.  The pull-up and mid-range game is impressive as his work is consistent off the dribble and off the catch, the handle is more than adequate to spell the one and he remains in attack mode no matter where you put him.  We like his ability and desire to finish in the paint and if you foul him you might as well concede the two points. His motor also allows him to excel on the defensive end and he works equally as well in all sets – traps, on ball, off ball; he is always around the ball and can make things happen.  A multi-category contributor and again much much more than just a shooter; Tharrington will be appearing as a nationally ranked player by the end of the summer – very impressive player from top to bottom.

3.      Kyree Banks (MD) will hurt you in space - this nationally known spark plug is dangerous in the open court and in one on one set’s; there wasn’t anyone all weekend that he couldn’t beat off the dribble.  When he turns the corner he exhibited phenomenal vision leading National Select in assist for the event, right now a pass first prototypical lead guard his catch and shoot is an effective floor spacer and passing lane creator.  He will put paint pressure on the defense one way or the other with the pass or penetration.  Defensively a true pest; in your face, chest to chest 94-foot problem maker.  Understands how to use his size to his advantage and how to use switches, tips, and backslaps to his team’s advantage.  A gigantic heart he plays bigger than what he is; look for Banks to make big things happen as he moves to the class of 2020 for years to come.

4.      Brian “BJ” Mack (NC) must be considered as one of the best bigs in 2019 – Truth be told no one at the 2017 level could handle the size, strength, and length of Mack this weekend. Very unselfish players – not a black hole in the post, is a perimeters players dream come true.  Very nice touch as a shooter and a solid shooting stoke, Mack has the ability to put the ball on the floor and even has a little wiggle in his game.  The way this big moves for his size and the effort he puts forth on the floor make him a devastating combination of size, speed, and skill.  He rebounds and fights every possession craving out space for rebounds or post feeds. His game is effective throughout contest as he in exceptional shape to boot.  The power game and array of moves are fluid and quick – of course there can be refinement as with all players; but it is plain and simple and clear that he has won the genic lottery and is will dominate most if not all 2019 put in front of him.  Old fashion classic post who has pride in his game; they don’t make them like Mack much anymore.

5.      Cameron Byers (MD) has the tools to dominate games – from time to time players come along who have the tools to dominate; Byers is one of those players – when giving maximum effort Byers is a high end offensive rebounder and can control the defensive side as well.  Very effective around the basket and is very good in the open court and transition; this is a fast rising big who can operate from the wing – a big that can operate on isolation and from the 4-spot.  An underrated shot blocker; a few small refinements can take this player to an elite status.  Scores without needing the ball, when he does have it he shoots a solid percentage with it.  Doesn’t have a huge array of post moves meaning his accomplishments are even more impressive; with one or two go to moves we may be looking at a 16 to 20 ppg scorer he is that effective in other areas.  When he is locked in can guard perimeter players (3’s and some 2’s) and is too big and strong for most – a 4 position defender this kids has the tools to be a star; he will be watched very closely the remainder of the summer; huge upside.

6.      Tyrese Jenkins (VA) scores at a high clip from the wing position – Who would have thought it; Jenkins who previously played a National Select session at the 4 this time moved into a starting role as a wing forward and low and behold led the team and was second in the tournament division in scoring.  At this position he showed extended range on the jumper and a very quick release. He played within himself and was able to shoot over top of smaller players – yes smaller, remember we are talking a 6’4 wing who sized up well vs 2017’s.  The one advantage Tyrese quickly figured out and dominated was defending his position and rebounding his position – a shot blocker and changer at the 3 and great help side defense was also on display during the event; with some extended range on the jumper and work off the dribble we may have discovered a class secrete; Jenkins is a very effective player and versatile player as a three; proving that a combo stretch forward role is the minimum for him - his ceiling is a high one and he too will be appearing on national boards by the end of the summer as he is proving his value in some way on every possession.      

7.      Bobby Carson (MD) has all the tools to get the job done – This kid has the goods, he has the length and build that you would design for a wing player – he has the athleticism to be a factor in transition and is your ideal wing defender.  Carson rebounds at a high rate from the perimeter and can guard and play multiple positions.  Every coach wants this kind of player on their team.  How good can Carson be? As good as he wants; this package isn’t one that many possess from a national perspective – the length to finish at the basket and contest there too is very impressive he does things accidently that many can’t do on their best day.  A top talent that only has to understand as we do that he has it – when he does you will remember his name. 

        Zion Harmon (DC) his game continues to translate at yet another level – eventually Harmon has to be stopped; right?  As a 5th grader playing against 9th graders this was supposed to be the weekend, but again we were wrong. Harmon simply adjusts and remains an effective game changer.  The handle, ball control, and court awareness allow him to play with anyone – he never allows himself to be trapped he constantly attacks the defenders weak foot and flat out cannot be stopped in one on one situations.  The jumper effectiveness doesn’t change only the arsenal used to create the necessary space.  So what is the deference – as there has to be one right?  Well, yes there is – he isn’t the same finisher but what he changes to is a more effective facilitator; racking up assist after breaking down opponents.  Harmon can play effectively on the varsity level right now; and would start many places throughout the country.  As he grows he will continue to become more devastating – scary good and pound for pound one of the best in the nation.

9.      Jaylen Wiggins (MD) wants to be the best he can be BAD – this kids loves the game and has the raw tools and ability to operate at the combo position; very solid on the catch and shoot and dribble penetration quickness is above average.  Hasn’t been on the circuit extensively and simply needs to play consistently vs top competition, the iron sharpens iron theory is in effect here.  He is so good that he doesn’t know how to use all his tools effectively yet – like a wild horse.  So many don’t have the tools, Wiggins problem is the best one to have.  Right now a one speed attacker – who will hurt you on a straight line and an excellent passer with great anticipation and instincts his future is either a scoring one or a combo as he can certainly catch and shoot; the mid-range is progressing but this is a player that wants it and in the end we feel will get it.


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