We are heading down the stretch of the first-ever Summit Summer League, which continued to be innovative this week with some additional concepts and events.
That may have even meant that someone you may know (wink, wink) was part of the judging panel for the dunk contest. I mean, who else would know about who has good hops? More on that later in this column though.
Of course, three more games also meant more time for players to showcase some strengths.
Here are some key player takeaways from Week 3 of the four-week Summit Summer League.
ISSAC SMITH, BLACKHAWK CHRISTIAN
For those unfamiliar with Smith, let me start by saying he has always been a knockdown shooter back to his home school days. On Wednesday, his movement without the ball looked really nice. Early in his first game, he had a great back-cut flash along the baseline to get a pass and basket at the rim. Importantly, he finished that with his off hand even after the defense caught up with him a bit. Those kinds of moves showed the diverse side of Smith, who remained an active shooter and I don’t want to undermine how important that is for those who have never seen him shoot before.
HUNTER KLINE, EAST NOBLE
In the first game, I watched Kline make a nice curl to the elbow and bury a confident jumper over the outstretched hand of Dalman Alexander in a game that Alexander had started to dominate athletically. It was an impressive moment that drew an intriguing look even from his East Noble coach Brandon Durnell. Intrigue turned to impressed pretty quickly when he showed how confident he was with that shot a trip later in that same game from nearly the same spot, that time off one leg. So how much of a big weapon can this traditional post be just outside of the lane? Kline was solid in Week 1 of the league and it was nice to see him not miss a beat after missing last week’s games.
COLIN BURDA, HOMESTEAD
I had seen him start to stick out at times in the first two weeks of this league. Yet Burda’s willingness to get to the rim against contact was for sure on an uptick this week. Burda has played a lot of roles over these three weeks and he’s been good at it for sure, but this seemed like a new role for much of this week and it really spoke to his diversity as a player. Burda has a lot of potential and seems to be the best example in a league that many have described as “the basketball gets better every week.” Burda has seen the skill he is showing age better each time out.
NOLAN CUMBERLAND, TIPPECANOE VALLEY
We circle back to Cumberland, who was also mentioned in Week 1. But this was by far the best that Cumberland played even though he has been solid and consistent each game out. Cumberland was on a complete other level in his second game on August 24 and he simply couldn’t miss. At the rim, in the midrange and from deep, Cumberland was unconscious and it didn’t matter who was guarding him or how well they guarded him. He almost single handedly willed his team back from a 20-point deficit to nearly win the the last game of the night. He has been impressive at school and in AAU, but in my limited experience with this player outside of the OTH coverage area, Wednesday was about as crisp as I’ve seen him.
DALMAN ALEXANDER, NORTHROP
I have really just been waiting for Alexander to go from one of the most dominant players in this league to the next level athletically. He did that on Wednesday by being willing to play above the rim more than he has. He dunks (its nice), but he was really active slamming the ball in all sorts of situations. Sure, we get some good dunks in this league on the break, but when Alexander threw in a nasty dunk against Hunter Kline’s really good defense, I thought the roof may come off The Summit. It was an impactful moment for Alexander in a league in which the entire point is to make others take notice. Alexander wasn’t just a dunking machine, he was hitting shots with range and being a true post with his back to the basket.
PRESTON MCCANN, MISSISSINEWA
McCann came out Wednesday with a solid effort showing a lot of hustle, especially down the stretch of a game that really could have gone either way. His defensive intensity was on point throughout the closing minutes of his first game. But his second game is where he really shined. McCann’s midrange pull up was crisp, but he really was able to hit from anywhere, knocking down big three-pointers to help his team grow a huge lead. Something that really stood out was his composure; McCann would hit a couple of big shots in a row, then come down with a shot that would be a game breaker if he hit it, but miss; this happened a couple of times. McCann never hung his head, just got back on D and the next opportunity he had to shoot, he let it fly and usually connected. Composure is huge and McCann’s on Wednesday led him on a big scoring night.
THE BONUS MENTIONS
The added bonus attraction this week was a dunk contest. Four contestants took the court with Northrop’s Dalman Alexander and Summit Summer League favorite Monte Smith of Wayne advancing out of the first round past Blackhawk Christian’s Issac Smith and East Noble’s Hunter Kline. Smith moved on with a nice mini windmill that drew the highest overall score of the entire contest.
In the end, Smith’s dunk over a member of the crowd pushed him by Alexander. It wasn’t a huge dunk contest, but the addition of it with the other events the Summit Summer League has had make it worth noting. It is a fun addition to play up and Smith, who continues to be off the charts athletically, winning it should come as little surprise.
Another honorable mention comes in the form of Leo sophomore Brayden Ealing. A change to this week’s games – again something I like – was the use of the “Elam Ending.” After regulation time had ended, a target score was set; in this case, the leading team’s current score plus 7 points. The first team to hit that target score won the game.
The first game was competitive, but ended on the free throw line. The second game wasn’t super exciting down the stretch. The third game, well it went to Elam Ending time with a 20-point ball game and looked like it would be a flop of a conclusion. Then, Nolan Cumberland helped will his team back into it with some of the stuff mentioned above. It really became a game that could have gone as the gap got to as few as three points. Eventually though, the game went the way of the team who was up 20 heading into the target score portion.
That winning basket came on a three-pointer from Ealing, who confidently knocked it down and had no problem taking the shot. Ealing has had his struggles in the first two weeks of the Summit Summer League by being one of the smaller and younger players. But he played really well through both games this week and that game winner was huge for him. It was also great because Elam Ending games are always so much more fun with high drama.
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