Back in the mid-2000s, the NCAA opened up April tournaments for college coaches to scout and it was a good thing for everybody involved. Then, without any real explanation, the NCAA shut down those same tournaments for their coaches to watch.
Now in 2012, coaches again can be out at spring tournaments over the last two weekends of April and the result is a cross country buffet of hoops for scouts, coaches and players. This weekend, Rivals.com is in Las Vegas for the Adidas V.I.P. Exclusive run and the Pangos Spring Spectacular. Next week, we will drop in on the Nike EYBL in Hampton, Va.
Here are some of the story lines we’ll be watching in Vegas:
1. Has Poole refined his game?
The class of 2013 is a little thin on point guards. However, the point guards who stand at the top are oozing with athleticism. Perhaps no lead guard has more than Solomon Poole of the Atlanta Celtics. The 6-footer from Florida is a strong, bouncy and quick floor general whose athleticism has put him in the upper echelon of point guards. In Las Vegas, we’ll be looking to see if Poole’s skills have come to match his beastly athleticism in the last year. Playing with the Atlanta Celtics, there’s no question that he can get to the rim. And, nobody in his class is much better at creating havoc at the rim.
Now, the question is whether or not the rest of Poole’s game has come to match his athletic gifts. In the past, defenders have played off him, so the test will be whether he has improved his ability to make defenders pay for backing off and daring him to shoot or make plays for others. If he’s stepped up that part of his game, Poole will retain his spot among the nation’s elite.
2. Is Isaiah Hicks for real
Last summer at the Nike Elite 100, North Carolina power forward Isaiah Hicks burst onto the scene. Then, the 6-foot-8 four man got caught up in a transfer situation that forced him to sit out much of his junior season. Committed to North Carolina, the super athletic Hicks destroyed those in his way and rose into the national top 10 in the class of 2013. Playing with Garner Roads in Vegas, all eyes will be on Hicks to see if his skills have improved as much as we think they have over the course of the last year.
3. Can Vonleh make a run at the top spot in 2014?
Ask pretty much anybody and they’ll tell you that the top spot in the class of 2014 belongs to Andrew Wiggins. While Wiggins is in Minneapolis competing in the EYBL, five-star combo forward Noah Vonleh will be in Las Vegas with the Mass Rivals. Last summer, the 6-foot-7 forward burst on the scene with his rebounding, shooting and overall feel for the game. Then, he backed up what he could do playing against a rigorous prep school schedule with New Hampton (N.H.) Prep. No longer a secret, coaches will be watching closely to see how Vonleh responds as the focus of each team he plays against defensive attention. We know that he’s a long-limbed rebounder who makes things happen at the bucket, but how has the rest of his game come along? Perhaps the bigger question, though: Is Vonleh still the guy who can put some heat on Wiggins?
4. Urban DFW prospects on the rise
During fall scrimmages and workouts, 6-foot-9 Karviar Shephered looked as if he was taking his game to the next level. However, the junior was forced to sit out the high school season after transferring to Arlington (Texas) Grace Prep. So, Vegas will give the skilled big man his first real chance to show the nation what he’s been up to the last six months and we are curious to see if he’s still improving at the same rate he was at the end of the summer and during the fall. Running for Urban DFW, Shepherd will be joined by one of the more intriguing guards in 2013. With his physical gifts and size at nearly 6-foot-4, Kendal Harris is on the verge of a breakout spring and Las Vegas could serve as his launching board into the national limelight.
5. What’s the story with the Hamilton Brothers?
One of the more compelling story lines to watch in Las Vegas is that of five-star 2013 shooting guard Isaac Hamilton and his rapidly improving 2014 four-star brother Daniel Hamilton. Both are skilled wings in town showing what they can do, but they will be doing so with different teams. While the 6-foot-5 Isaac will run with Dream Vision in the V.I.P., Daniel will run with Belmont Shore in the Pangos event. Who is the better player, are they equals, can they live up to the considerable hype coming out about them from the West Coast? We’ll know by the end of the weekend.