#OTRHoopsReport: Takeaways from Hoop Hall Classic – January 21, 2016
Springfield, MASS., – The Hoop Hall Classic provides a jam-packed weekend of the nation’s top talent. In an elite setting where the best rise the top, there are some lasting lessons to remember. We took a few days to digest what we saw. Here are the lasting memories of last weekend.
Is Lonzo Ball the Nation’s Top Guard?
I say yes. What Ball does on the court is special. His vision and ability to see plays a step or two before they happen is unique. The style that Chino Hills plays certainly will not translate to the college level. However, what will translate is Ball’s uncanny timing and precision passing. He is not an elite shooter like Malik Monk or other guards in the class, but Ball shoots it well enough to keep defenders honest. Perhaps the most underrated part of Ball’s game is his ability to defend. He is a quick leaper and can be found rejecting shots and snagging rebounds consistently.
Do not Sleep on Markus Howard
The class of 2017 combo guard earned two MVP honors in two games in Springfield. The second game with Findlay Prep he did not miss a shot. He shot a perfect 9/9, which included 6/6 from 3-point range. All of this coming after he finished third on the EYBL circuit in scoring average with 20 points per game. His recent performances and past history all point to him being a solid top 20 prospect nationally. Reportedly coming out of this weekend, Howard could be eyeing a reclassification to 2016.
Simi Shittu Catapults into the ELITE of 2018
Like Howard, Shittu earned two MVP honors last weekend. The 6-foot-8 forward showed an impressive array of athleticism and combined it with polished production. Shittu is moving away from being considered a hybrid forward who is good in transition to being a wing who can defend and rebound in the paint. As it stands now, Shittu is easily one of the best two or three players at his position nationally in his class.
All-Americans Played Like All-Americans
The weekend kick-started with a terrific game between St. Francis (GA) and Lone Peak (UT). Kobi Simmons versus Frank Jackson was billed as the headline and neither disappointed. Although Simmons would foul in the game’s first overtime, he finished with 34 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in his team’s win. While Jackson finished with a weekend high of 49 points for Lone Peak. It was encouraging to see two players with plenty of expectations live up all of it in the match-up. And to top it off, both were named to the McDonald’s All-American team on the next day.
TJ Leaf Shows up BIG
Leaf had been injured in multiple events that we had attended in the past two years. However, he showed us exactly why UCLA is so excited to get him next season. His near triple-double of 30 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists helped propel Foothills Christian to a win over Mustapha Heron’s Sacred Heart team. The fashion in which the 6-10 post did it was notable. He scored multiple buckets with his back to the basket and dropped jumpers in from the perimeter. Yet it was his passing ability and vision out of the post that has us believing that Leaf will be a productive player for years to come.
Mohamed Bamba is a Walking Triple-Double
The 6-11 power forward single-handedly changed the game for Westtown in their match-up versus Potter’s House. His ability to change, alter or block shots on the interior completely affects how a team chooses to run their offense. Yet Bamba is as much of an offensive threat as he is a defensive threat. He showed touch on his jumper and finished well around the basket. Consider him a top 10 prospect nationally in the class of 2017.
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Jonathan Hemingway is a National Evaluator for the OTRHoopsReport. Hemingway serves on the Board of Selectors for the Naismith Trophy. He is also the publisher of CoachHemi.com. He has been involved in the community since 1996 as a coach, camp director and evaluator. You can reach him via email at JonathanHemingway@PeachStateBasketball.com and follow him on twitter @JLHemingwayPSB
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