Last week, 16 area teams took to the local campus of Purdue Fort Wayne to take part in the annual team camp.
There are a lot of camps and shootouts in the area in June that are enticing, but on the boys side the PFW Camp always seems to shine. Why? There is a large variety of teams involved so while local teams and coaches get to watch other local teams and coaches, there are plenty of schools from out of the area and out of the state to compete against. If June is about growth, then it is always nice to compete against other schools that you will never have the chance to play during the actual season.
It is also a time for spectators to learn too. New faces in the rotation, new focuses for certain programs, there is so much going on now that wasn’t going on in March.
As I do every summer though, here is the disclaimer: this is June. So while we learn, it doesn’t mean everything. The teams that Bounce was impressed with may not do it in season. The teams that Bounce sees some work needed may be ahead of what they were when I watched them by the time November rolls around. Players could be missing, guys coming off injuries, guys who aren’t in pure basketball form because they compete in other sports, and of course, coaches just trying to get some new faces good runs in to see where they area at. I am here to watch, but yeah you can take some things with a grain of salt; this is June after all not…November or February.
The Generals were one of the few teams to come out pressing at PFW and I really liked that. Sure, it helped to come out with maximum energy with just one game at the event, but Wayne left me feeling like this pace is something they could do all day long. The Generals were clearly looking to make the best of their one and done experience on Friday opposite Crispus Attucks.
Chase Barnes had a really quick and good looking shot. His release was high at the peak of his jump height and he was getting it off with great fluidity. That is the best thing about how Barnes played Friday: simply everything he was doing was fluid. There was no rush or force to his game, even as he applied defensive pressure. Barnes let the game come to him and it was fun to watch. Barnes helped out a lot in a team full of guys where speed and energy is going to be so hard for any opponent to match. That energy is consistent from the court to the bench to their coach. I’d like to see them score more because this is a lineup capable of putting up big numbers, but hey it’s June and they are still making waves. Alongside Barnes in the backcourt, Jevon Lewis was tough but his defense stood out more Friday. He has the desire and ability to start backing down his defender like a big guard and it really changed how the floor was spread.
Trey Dillard was so tough around the rim against Attucks. Even when the other team flat out held him around the waist out of the view of the official, he was able to finish and rebound at a great rate. In a four day stretch with a lot of good posts, Dillard shined. Preston Comer was also a really solid defender in and around the rim. He wasn’t flashy or wow’ing persay, but he did so much right and very well at that. Dillard, Comer and the entire Wayne lineup will jump with anyone inside and it creates second, third or fourth scoring opportunities when needed; Wayne wants the ball and they work hard to get it.
There was something very encouraging in Concordia’s defensive effort, especially on Thursday against TF North. In that game, they were able to switch and move through a heavy screen offense well. Their first five all looked capable of guarding everyone on the floor which is great since the Cadets started with what was essentially a four forward lineup. Length is a big strength with Alan Ter Molen and David Speckhard attacking the glass, allowing Cole Hayworth to work outside more. While it took the lefty a bit to find his shot on Thursday, his confidence in getting looks was huge and when his offense came around in the second game, it spoke loudly. Ter Molen is solid at the rim, made good leading moves to get a clearer shot and his fadeaway at five feet is clean. Between Ter Molen, Speckhard, Richard Peperkorn and both Cole and Grant Hayworth, rebounding with Concordia was tough to do.
Ajani Washington looked smooth, as he has all spring in AAU, but his shot looked more spot on. Avery Cook is another interesting prospect for Concordia; he played with maturity and is as close to a true point guard as Concordia may have in June. He plays poised and almost machine like without being too rigid. Another guard off the bench that impressed was Khalyn Thomas. At one point on Thursday, he blocked a shot with two hands, grabbed his own rebound, split the D, went around his back with the ball at midcourt to avoid a defender and then made a great weaving pass to Cole Hayworth in transition for a layup.
This team, 1 through 8, is solid.
Former Snider player Elijah Brown absolutely adds a lot to this team. He took an early charge on Thursday in North’s first game and his energy and athleticism is on another level. He is all over the floor rebounding and in passing lanes. Brown remains a wild card in his career and with this North Side team; he could add a lot to the Legends system because of the chaos he adds. And his bounce? Well he was the fourth tallest North Side starter on Thursday and he still was the guy taking the opening tip.
Brauntae Johnson scored the first eight points of North Side’s first game and assisted on the next basket. He was calm and cool and so much better than the last time he was in a Legends jersey. He hit his third three pointer of the game seven minutes in and had scored or assisted on 13 of North Side’s first 15 points. Johnson’s consistent shot was and could be really critical for North Side. Eugene Young, a transfer from Pike, got some of his first action in a North Side uniform. He does a bit of everything and gives different looks compared to all of the other guys on the roster while also adding another quality rebounder.
Of all of the teams I saw this week at PFW, North Side probably would get an incomplete. Their first game Thursday was a nice win but they were fresh and it was that other team’s third game of the day. The next game out, the Legends still looked solid but played without Johnson and Bravon Bassett, who took off for football workouts. So who is North Side? At their peak they look good, but there wasn’t a great true look at them yet.
Austin Cripe was Austin Cripe. I made the Twitter comment over the weekend that I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone play with such cool at such a high level as Cripe did Saturday. He chewed his gum, didn’t look to break much of a sweat and was arguably the best walking bucket at PFW all week. Cripe scored wherever he wanted whenever he wanted. What else is there to say? Derek Slone is a key lead guard and a really strong floor general. That is a great asset to have no matter what the rest of the lineup looks like. When you have a star like Cripe but he doesn’t have to be that lead guy, it helps even more that he can work off ball. Slone is more than credible leading the way, creating for himself and others. David Slone was another good, tough piece for the Chargers at West Noble. He moves all over the place and puts his body on the line well.
Bradyn Barth was a standout in West Noble’s 3-0 day on Saturday at PFW. He moved around the post arguably as good as any forward I saw at PFW. West Noble runs a nice four out set that makes him move and work and he really knows how to excel in it. His screen and roll and screen and slips were nice and the fact hat he hits reverse layups like its his job showed how well he can avoid contact at the rim. Defensively, he was a rim protector that alter essentially everything he could near the rim.
The Panthers will remain guard heavy but it was certainly strange to see so few familiar faces. That said, they went 3-0 on Saturday at PFW and they did it because they come at your quick on both ends of the floor. No surprise if you know their lineup, it started with Ke’ron Billingsley who is just a big ball of energy. He was just fantastic on ball with his defense, getting two five counts early in the Panthers’ first game that just altered the tide for the rest of the way. Having perimeter oriented guys like Billingsley will help Snider continue to attack the rim. Makhi Davis got downhill really well on Saturday and Qualyn Clopton moved well without the ball that got him some opportunities all around the court. The same could be said for Clopton on defense; he just reads the floor well enough to know where to be and when to be there. Continually impressed by the advancements of Boston Conley as a spot up shooter, he has a really nice stroke.
What can the Panthers do inside? We will give them an incomplete there because I feel like once Lincoln Firks returns to the lineup, that will change a lot of things. What we did see Friday without Firks on the floor were a couple of peeks at the potential of Jack Langas, who lives around the rim and works well along the bassline as he exists in that space. Langas’ consistency with his aggression needs an uptick, but the flashes he showed were solid. Get him angry down low and he gives Snider another weapon in a SAC with quality bigs.
When you talk about kids who shined with higher expectations, count in Kyron Kaopuiki because he looked like he was ready to take over at times and shoulder the load for a reloading Spartan team that rarely has to reload. Will Jamison was another important guard for Homestead and he worked hard on the baseline and created space all around him. Most impressively about Jamison was how he could create space behind him so he could draw contact and still get good looks. Jamison off a curl taking a shot in the midrange is a shot that looks like it can be both effective and efficient for the Spartans. Jamison was hands down the best player on the court when Homestead played Ferndale on Thursday.
John Parent could be an interesting part of this lineup. He played a stabilizing role and while he didn’t do anything that was mind blowing, he didn’t do things wrong. He played competently and helped slow things down for Homestead. Slowing things down will help the posts get settled and Homestead will need their posts to stay strong. Grant Leeper needed to slow things down more because when he did he was certainly a force. He and Tucker Day are going to draw a lot of first contact fouls down low like they did at PFW so they will have the chance to do damage at the rim and on the free throw line.
Darrion Brooks looked outstanding on Wednesday, really taking on the leadership role that has to fall into his hands at this point. He took control and showed how well he can score at all three levels. More importantly, as teams collapsed on him, Brooks showed an uptick in IQ and court vision that helped him get teammates involved and forced teams to consider different ways to approach guarding him. You never know how a kid is going to perform when attention shifts more his way and Brooks showed poise in handling the pressure.
JC Cottrell moved really well off ball and rebounded the ball well for a team who will need some post adjustments in the season to come. Cottrell has long been one to watch, since he was in elementary school, and now that his expectations are rising he has shown some flashes that he is ready for that burden too. Jojo Robertson had a lot of speed on both ends of the court and also hinted that a true point guard role will be something he can consistently handle. As long as Robertson knows when to slow things down and when to speed him up, he could be critical asset to keeping New Haven viable in the NE8.
Bennett Weitzel created a lot of space down low with his wide base. He did a great job of staying poised as defenses collapse on him. That eight foot and in mark shows a lot of promise, or did at PFW, with a variety of jump hooks, post hooks and floaters. Blake Bogenschutz was a bit of a surprise with his agility and his ability to get the ball and go. He got down the court well and he screened and moved to find a lot of offensive success.
Dusty Pearson and Wesley Bihn are both super long and that doesn’t take an expert to see. But at PFW, they did a great job of using that length and that isn’t always a gimme. They got their hands on everything, especially in the rebounding game. Even if they were not pulling in the rebounds, they did a great job of getting a piece of the ball to alter its trajectory and give a teammate a shot at it. Combined with Weitzel, these two provided some problems for anyone else whether the opposing team had length to try and match or not.
Rebounding could be an added strength for Jackson McGee as he was fighting for everything on Saturday. With the trees in the post gone and Leo retooling the inside, McGee showed a willingness to battle down low for rebounds. He put his body in there to fight for them and even if he was not pulling one down, his physicality altered opposing bodies. McGee also had some big knockdown three pointers and we know he can and will do that, but its always fun to see continue. Alongside Trey Hiteshew and Solomon Richard, Leo had a decent first guard wave at PFW. Hiteshew wasn’t always himself on the day, but we know that will course correct so no worries there; when Hiteshew did find his flow, he was able to body his way around. Richards ran the point well and was a steady hand as a distributor.
Leo is still figuring things out inside, as previously discussed, but they have a few options. Who will blossom, we don’t know but Luke Shappell showed the most in that area for a true post on Saturday. While he’s not a post, don’t be surprised if Nolan Hiteshew can contribute there too. The freshman to be was a nice bright spot for Leo at PFW, working around the floor and really incorporating himself well into the flow of the game. People say that Nolan could be the best of the Hiteshew brothers and time will tell on that, but he made a good impression at PFW by finding flow and hitting his shots in it.
The Saints lead with some pieces that we already know they are going to have although the expectations of course rise. Sam Campbell is going to have to be the horse that drives a lot of this thing and his quick first step demonstrated on Wednesday was impressive. Campbell took control of things and showed valuable leadership. Ethan Roy‘s shot can be lethal when consistent. You can tell he plays with a high IQ and also a quicker pace to try and get things done.
Caleb Lehrman was an important and critical possession changer inside. He moves well with and without the ball, but his aggression was what stood out. Lehrman put in top notch effort rebounding and getting after the ball. He isn’t just a big man though, showing himself as a threat from the corner in. On one key possession Wednesday, he took the ball with a hard baseline drive from the left side and finished with his left hand at the rim. In situations like that, Lehrman was just too big and strong to stop with a full head of steam.
What we know about the Panthers rang true on Saturday at PFW: they play gritty and that wasn’t a bad thing, even if the final score wasn’t in their favor in a game. Their game against Jay County was one of my favorite games of the week because you had two teams that were just going to be scrappy and get after it every inch of the court. Part of that is Chase Bachelor just scoring at will; he knows he’s got a solid base and he knows how to use his body across the court, especially in the post even though he is a true guard. That allowed him to get mismatches down low on Saturday and he did a really good job at taking advantage of those mismatches.
Isaiah Malone‘s length made his takes from 10 feet in basically unguardable. He can keep the ball away from his body yet still well protected. It makes his drives to the rim really unique and teams had problems at points stopping him from the dribble drive because he rarely took the ball to the basket the same way twice. Kamden Leedy is a steady hand for a possible lead guard; he didn’t do anything big like Bachelor or Malone offensively but he is steady and it helps set the whole team up. Defensively, Prairie Heights was great on defense at collapsing when they needed to, especially against that big Jay County team, but always recovered very well too.
Getting downhill has continued to be a focus and a high point for the Knights. If Cadell Wallace can get it and go and push it ahead to recent Toledo football commit Nick Thompson, the Knights are going to have good scoring chances on a pretty guard heavy team. Wallace’s court vision has improved and he will need to continue to find consistency on his quick trigger shot. Who scores for Luers? DeMarcus Barr found great looks as a spot up shooter, mostly from the corner. With no real size, the majority of Luers’ shots seemed to come from the outside without someone to consistently hit when I watched them. Wallace, Thompson and Barr all have to hit more often if the three ball is to be part f their offense. That said, they are all capable penetrators if they add more focus to that.
Luers struggled to rebound at points, especially earlier in the games at PFW and it comes with a lack of interior size. That said, Damiun Jackson does a lot good. He is a physical body but also still has a bit of a calm nature to him that allows him to sneak into some down screening well for the Luers offense. I also like Jackson’s low post defense; scoring on him right at the rim was not easy. He proved that with a big swat in the first half of Luers’ third game on Friday. Max Robinson in the pick and slip is something that I liked and would like to see more of. Those kind of moments are what could get Luers better looks at the rim. Cameron Mitchell had good hands Friday, he’s going to be able to continue to help defensively and rebounding because of his length.
The Bruins were pretty short handed on Saturday, including starting their first game with just five players (shortly extended to six). This is a big rebuild for them losing one of the area’s best players so Saturday was a nice quick look into how they can do that; we already knew depth could be tough for them. It starts with Dalman Alexander and that was clear at PFW. The fact that we got to see him block a transition three pointer shows just how terrifying he can be and really was as a defender. Alexander is so long and reads shooters well, blocking so many shots in the Bruins’ first game on Saturday. But the block of a deep jumper shows that he is going to be a mismatch in switch situations; there is no easy way to put the ball in the basket against him.
Jayden Schmenk showed confidence and leadership, something I think we knew he would but it is always good to see. Along with Alexander, he is going to have to take major ownership and he did that at PFW. Omarion Ennols was hyper quick and that will benefit him in the SAC that will be about quick guards. He got to the rim well and he continued to find ways to get around the opposition.
Gavin Krull had a really solid looking shot and he moved well without the ball on Thursday, helping himself by creating space without that ball so he’s getting space to get off his shot. His two late three pointers right before halftime against Hicksville were clutch, including a buzzer beater. Andrew James talked well as a floor general. Jack Schuemann, to no surprise, made the best plays offensively without the ball and his movement opened things up for everyone. Trent Geimer played the best defense for Bellmont in a lot of stretches on the day and gets into passing lanes very well to create for the Braves. All three of those guys (James, Schuemann and Geimer) though helped the perimeter defense lead to transition buckets for Bellmont.
Job Hoffman will have to be the inside guy for Bellmont and he used his body efficiently in flashes, moving around opposing players at the rim. Hoffman gets good rebounding position even though he has underrated hops to go get the rebound even if the positioning isn’t there. Kord Fuelling can help in the paint even though he seems to fancy himself as more of a perimeter guy. His release is solid out there, but he can also battle at the rim too, giving Bellmont a unique mismatch issue when he is on.
In what will possibly be a wide open NECC this season, Angola’s time at PFW showed that they could be one of those teams that plays spoiler often, especially considering that they played without a couple of key pieces at this team camp. There needs to be some more consistency in their offense, but you have to assume that will come being as it is just June and Brandon Appleton is their coach.
While still looking a bit raw, the signs that Angola will be improved are there. Andre Tagliaferri made hard cuts and moved solidly without the ball, helping the offense flow. Landon Herbert looks really intelligent out there, had a good deal of aggression behind him on both sides of the floor as he keeps building his experience and maturity. Dane Lantz was a calming force for the group at times on Wednesday, handled the ball well and had a solid shot that he could catch and shoot while moving.
DeKalb is another team that is growing and will do so with a mix of what we know and some guys we are learning. Obviously, Caden Pettis can just take things over at will. He was smooth with his jumper and excelled in the midrange on Wednesday, amidst some Baron growing pains overall. He is still young in this lineup, but his ability to take over shined through. He scored at all three levels well. Pairing him with Alex Leslie helps DeKalb defensively. Even though there were times Leslie looked a step or two slower than normal on Wednesday, he was still making plays by getting a hand or even a finger tip on the ball and reading passing lanes well. Leslie still played his disruptor role well on the defensive end.
One to continue to keep an eye on is sophomore-to-be big man Caiden Hinkle. He moved well in the post and he sealed well at the rim when looking for post touches. He showed some success in the pick and roll and pick and slip games giving the Baron guards a physical presence to play off of.
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