PITTSBURGH — Perhaps the most promising recruit at the Pitt Hoop Group Jam Fest this weekend was Philly native Derrick Jones.
At 6-foot-6, Jones is a supremely athletic left-handed forward with an impressive wingspan, the kind of physical tools that will make any college coach drool. He’s ranked 37th in the country according to Rivals, but ESPN has him rated as the 13th best prospect in his age group. Making him all the more intriguing is that he’s young for his age, having just turned 16.
Colleges have taken notice. Jones said that St. Joseph’s, Kansas State, Rutgers, Xavier, Temple and Villanova have all been coming after him, but Jones appears to have a favorite right now.
“I really want to go to Syracuse,” he said on Sunday. That length and athleticism would make the Archbishop John Carroll (PA) a perfect fit in Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone.
Jones, who plays his AAU ball for We R 1, is far from a finished product, however. He needs to add some size to his frame, as he’s thin enough that a strong gust of wind could end up knocking him over. His skill level isn’t quite up to par either, as he gets by on his natural athleticism at this point in his development.
“I want to get better on my ball-handling and shooting ability,” Jones said.
The good news is that Jones plays hard — he’s really aggressive, and effective, attacking the offensive glass — and wants to get better. You can teach a player to handle the ball and you can develop a kid’s ability to shoot from the perimeter. But you can’t teach athleticism and you can’t make a kid care.
Jones’ isn’t the only We R 1 player getting high-major looks: Traci Carter recently transferred out of Roman Catholic and into Life Center Academy, but that hasn’t stopped college from pursuing the 6-foot-1 point guard. Carter lists Penn State, Xavier, La Salle and St. Joseph’s as schools that he currently holds offers from, but he said that Syracuse and Villanova, among others, have started showing more interest.
Unlike Jones, Carter doesn’t have a favorite right now.
“I don’t have a specific school that I want to go to,” he said, “I just tell myself that my goal is that I want every school in America to want me to go there.”
And how can he make that happen?
“Get my stamina up and shoot the ball better.”
Trayvon Reed looks to change the scouting report on him: Trayvon Reed turned a lot of heads with his performance at the Pitt Hoop Group Jam Fest in 2012, and rightfully so. Standing 7-foot-1, Reed has the kind of athleticism and length that will put him on the radar of every high-major coach in the country. That’s why his offer list is so long. Georgia Tech, Auburn, Maryland, Florida State, Miami, Florida, Wake Forest and Georgia are the schools he listed when asked who has offered, but he also added, with a chuckle, that it’s basically “every school in the south.”
The key for Reed, who is ranked 59th in the Class of 2014 by Rivals, is to change the perception of him. Right now, the scouting report on the Shiloh (GA) prospect is that he’s talented, but that his motor isn’t always running and he doesn’t play with consistent effort. With some big name recruiters coming to see him play, Reed knows that now is the time.
“They should know how hard you have to go if you want to go to another level,” Reed said. “Because there’s some good college coaches here.”
His effort level isn’t the only part of his game that he’ll be working on during the spring and the summer.
“[I want to] work on my offensive set, getting better at just being a presence on offense,” said Reed, who is currently known as more of a defensive presence.
Jared Nickens’ recruitment is picking up: Jared Nickens made the decision recently to reclassify into the Class of 2014, and it may have been the best thing for his development as a player. Now as Westtown (PA), the 6-foot-6 wing is starting to show recruiters that he’s more than just a jump-shooter.
“I needed to mature mentally and physically to just work on my game,” Nickens said of the decision to reclassify.
Nickens played very well on Saturday at the Pitt Hoop Group Jam Fest, showing an improved ability to use the dribble to create while also using his length to cause problems defensively. That shooting stroke is still there as well, as Nickens hit a three with two seconds left as Sports U, his AAU team, knocked off Team Loaded.
Nickens currently lists offers from Oregon State, Providence, Temple, Penn State, St. Joseph’s and Seton Hall, but he’s started hearing from Oklahoma, Georgetown, Miami and Dayton, among others. His first official visit is scheduled with Oregon State for the first weekend in May, and Craig Robinson recently had an in-home visit with the New Jersey native.
When asked what he’s looking for in a college program, Nickens said, “The players, my teammates, my coaches, I want it to feel like it’s a family. Good environment, Good academics. Good fan base.”
(Image credit: Kelly Kline/Under Armour)
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.