Monday, September 14, 2015

It All Comes Down to This: Zion Harmon VS Ryan Conway Who Is #1?

Let the debate begin the nation has been provided a body of work that has spanned several weeks and multiple head-to-head match-up; the number one player discussion is unequivocally between these two players as they have separated themselves in the last month from a very talent group of players nationally.  A few things are simple and must be stated up front with respect to this analysis.

1.      Fear is a factor – players have ducked events to avoid competing against these two
2.      You can’t run you can’t hide
3.      If you didn’t attend ANY of the events you cannot be considered (all top candidates were invited to all events)
4.      Whatever the result/opinion rendered both players are special and deserving
5.      This will be one of the top match-ups and arguments for the next 24-months at least
6.       Both players have earned this opportunity through hard work in the gym
7.       A premium will be placed on size moving forward and in the future
8.      Current impact as well as future potential and upside must be considered
9.      Both players have played in the biggest events, against the best competition, on the biggest stages – can’t be a top national candidate by not leaving your neighborhood
10.  Their teams have all won on the highest national level proving there is impactful  translation when these players are on the court

It's a debate quietly going on in the youth basketball circles, in many gyms, scouting meetings, AAU circles and even college recruiters.  Whereas the easy and popular option is to go with Zion Harmon as #1 in the country at we like to challenge this theory as we have done on the past in other classes – this time enter Ryan Conway, the best contender for the spot that we have seen in the 3 years since Harmon has been named #1 by our professionals.  Those who simply follow the crowd and do not analyze will tell you Harmon in a heartbeat; those who have seen both and evaluated their skill sets may not answer as quickly or as expected.  Harmon who choose not to compete in the Middle School All-American Game in front of national camera’s that will be rebroadcast this week here on relishished and opportunity to define his position to the nation. Their match-up in the Basketball Spotlight Future Phenom Camp had a clear winner as did the NYBL All-Star Game.  Yet, one of the most contriversal and most watch match-ups occurred in Ohio this past weekend at the Buckeye Prep Showcase.

Let's delve deeper into this, Zion “The Lion” Harmon (5’6’’) or Ryan “ Cruise Control” Conway (6’0”); a question that will shape the national  Top 100 – is there actually an obvious long-term answer as to who is the nation’s better prospect; we will attempt to determine. 

To date, each has had spectacular videos released from workouts, to in camps performances, or in game heroics.  Yet, even with their upsides being often presented to the general public as so often as with any 7th graders they have weaknesses that will need to be improved upon and with insane work ethics each will surely do whatever it takes to remain the best that each can be as individual players.

Tale of the Tape 

(5’6) Harmon is the smaller of the two yet has the stronger core strength having engaged in a workout regimen that would put many college and professional athletes to shame.  You peel back Harmon’s skin and you wouldn’t be surprised if you found wires instead of the veins.  He is a well-conditioned athlete in every sense of the word.  Harmon is able use his base and core strength to shoot with great range, reach his attack point on open court penetration, and is crafty enough to work well within the midrange using crafty finishes to be effective in the paint.
(6’0) Conway is the naturally bigger player and his sheer genetic size alone makes him a tough cover when going to downhill – his upper body strength is apparent in his finishing ability as he is able to absorb contact in the open court and is tremendously effective in the paint where he is one of the top finishers regardless of position.  Conway can stop and pop, spin move into a solid midrange jumper as he is able to shoot over most guards in the class.  His range and release also extends into NBA range.
Conclusion:  At the end of the day no one can out run father time and genetics can’t be beat with vitamins, minerals, or work ethic; consideration must also be taken into account of maximization considering the work Harmon as dedicated to date and work Conway has to do advantage - Conway

Creating Own Offense

Harmon has faced double and triple teams for several years and is the best one-on-one player in the country.  There may be no one better at creating a shot for themselves; Harmons ability to create space, make reads of the jab and catch is uncanny.  He only needs a split second or a brief window to attack and get to where he wants not where the defense dictates – the only defense for Harmon in a one-on-one situation is size and length that can recover from the space that he creates and/or is able to give initial space where recovery is still available.
Conway who started as more of a catch and shoot player; has honed his skill from hours in the gym and competing against the best competition on the country at the 2020 level where the game is faster and the players are bigger.  Moving to the class of 2021 Conway has gained the experience of knowing how to use the angles and his body to find scoring opportunities.  So what we have seen in recent months is even more impressive that Conway too has begun to space defenders, put and keep them on his hip, and operate with counters-to-counters and stop anywhere on the floor to release a shot that is a pure as the day is long.  What Conway lacks is experience and he too must learn to attack against length and size as well. 

Conclusion: Harmon has operated for years in situations where entire teams and game plans have been geared to stop him.  He has and remains able to create his own shot; experience trumps a developing skill set advantage - Harmon

Perimeter Scoring 

Harmon has the most range in middle school not just the class of 2021; his range is what we call in the gym and he is able to manipulate between two distinctly different strokes – one is more of a set shot type catch and shoot and one is more a power shot off the bounce and has gradually turned into a very solid jump shot and pull-up game.  At Harmons size the ability to space the floor for himself and teammates is essential and he is one of the best at doing it.  When you can place him next to another ball-handler who can set him up you can really see what a weapon he is. 
Understanding that there is no such thing as a four point shot, Conway’s value as a shooter is equal to Harmons – understanding the value and development of additional range as Conway is transitioned to the PG which Harmon as operated in for several years will teach him the aspect that Harmon knows.  Conway is the best catch and shoot player in the class and is quickly bringing his off the dribble game to match.  The release is quick and he exhibits great body control in the middle game where is size allows him to operate there more exclusively and effectively.  Conway with a set-up man can put up video game numbers – once the on the bounce game matches that he will simply have to learn to operate with all eye on him.
Conclusion:  With many components to be considered in the specific area entitled perimeter scoring; range is of great value but presumably so the effectiveness in the middle game where size is a factor advantage – Push/Tie

Attacking off the Bounce 

Harmon is the smoother/craftier perimeter player of the two, Conway is flat out unstoppable when it comes to attacking the basket. This is where Conway can dominate and exhibits enormous upside and separation.  He is a improving athlete who is naturally strong but isn’t a bully ball player – his explosiveness improves each time we see him and he is very close to finishing at the rim.   
With Harmon being so prolific shooting the ball, he will sometimes settle for the perimeter shot instead of pressuring the defense and challenging them in the paint as we acknowledged earlier he is one of the best at creating the shot he wants.  We understand the value as there will not be lay-ups available at the High School/College levels for many players especially lead guards – so Harmon’s approach makes long-term basketball sense. We have noted that Harmon sometimes will pass up a drive to the basket for a perimeter shot which is a naturally lower percentage deal.  Another interesting determination made between the two is Harmon’s more perimeter orientated game while we see Conway doing some solid work off the block putting in work in the post against small guards.
The key to this is foul shot creation – Conway who is a 85/90% shooter from the stripe collects more two shot opportunities whereas Harmon who scares the dickens out of most defenders is fouled more out front when attacking.  A small caveat but these two players are so close that the smallest details must be considered.  The advanced mental aspect of Harmon allows him to use this now to his advantage but once the experience, IQ, and coaching catch up that advantage my be unavailable advantage - Conway


Experience allows Harmon to play great situational basketball, he can be on the court at anytime and be a factor – but he is a one to two position players at the 7th grade level and potentially a one position against the most elite.  Conway is a natural two; who must further develop especially in big situations at the one against the best at that position.  Defensively you are who you can guard and Conway is a more complete option in that aspect. 
Advantage - Conway

On the Block

For Harmon you can’t mention his name without talking about his immense set of skills, his killer instinct, and his winning pedigree.  Yet the block is one of the spots that very seldom occupies – Conway with his size or power and can create separation to shoot over either shoulder. Recently we have seen a very nice fade-away and turnaround come into the picture.  Again, LONG TERM players like Conway who can force a doubles and can handle and pass do magical things for offenses and court spacing and teammates.  When Conway’s shot isn’t falling what a great secondary option this becomes in the scope of his game.  Harmon doesn’t have this level of versatility; using his natural scoring gifts instead to hurt you everywhere else – this difference will impact the carry over to the high school level and impact our evaluation on this specific aspect.
Advantage - Conway

On the Boards

Conway is currently the better rebounder and will likely maintain this advantage throughout – as he plays a more physical game and impacts the game on both glasses with put backs on offense as well as grabbing and pushing on the defensive glass.  Conway has consistently shown great rebounding prowess even at the 2020 level which will translate a level down for sure.  Harmon on the other hand is more of what we call an out-of-position rebounder; he often comes in from the outside and grabs boards in traffic, but isn’t the same in a natural half court situation.
Advantage - Conway

Defensive Ability

Regardless of what anyone says, Harmon’s experience on defense must be respected  He has played against the very best at multiple levels and is so smart and wise beyond his years when he is focused and engaged on this end of the court he can be a disruptive force on the perimeter. 
Canway has the athletic ability to guard all perimeter positions and in some cases can use his strength and quickness to play a smaller 4.  Foot speed, motor, and quickness coupled with a strength he is a factor for most he goes against and a flat out stopper for others. 
Harmon who is an offensive weapon like no other, and is more brains than brawn on the defensive end the reality is that, defense may never be his calling card.  Much of defensie in positional and Harmon has proven that he can make a bigtime stop or steal while playing the passing lane or making a read on a big that drops or brings the ball low.
Conway is no liability, but speaking about what is today vs what could potentially Conway long-term we give respect to “The Lion” for his body of work advantage – Harmon


Harmon may be the winning player in the country if stats were kept on this.  He has played with and against the very best at every level.  He has won on every level, he has been in every situation good, bad, or indifferent – he has no equal in the when it comes to poise of the mental aspects of the game.  He is humble and coachable, respect the coach and the game and is a excellent teammate.  He is a student and a teacher and may be one of the smartest payers we have ever seen.  Harmon gives poise a whole new meaning – no one compares the country to this aspect of Harmons game and may be the secret ingredient as to what make his so special; his intangibles.  Something that can’t be coached, something that you can’t train – no one is more competitive or has a bigger heart than this player it no disrespect to anyone when you talk intangibles and say advantage - Harmon. 


There is really no “wrong” answer here and both are great players with future high major potential.  But, only one of these two can be named #1 player in the country in the class of 2021.

Zion Harmon  Versus  Ryan Conway 

Creating Offense 

Perimeter Scoring  TIE 
Attacking of Bounce


On the Block

On the Boards

Defense Ability 


Total 3

Between October 1, 2015 and October 15, 2015 will release the final 2015/16 National Player Rankings check back to see who will hold the title moving forward.

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