The Showdown Saturday Recap: Horace Spencer’s big summer continues

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PHILADELPHIA — Horace Spencer’s game lacks a lot at this point in his development, but one thing the 6-foot-8 power forward, ranked No. 73 in the Class of 2015 by Rivals, has in abundance is energy.

In short: there may not be a front court prospect in the class that plays harder each and every time he steps on the court than Spencer does.

A Philly native that spent this past season playing for Findlay Prep out in Las Vegas, Spencer is cut from the same cloth as a guy like Ben Wallace. His broad shoulders and quick leaping ability help him make up for the fact that he is a bit undersized, and he takes pride in his ability to rebound the ball on both ends of the floor and protect the rim defensively.

On Saturday, at Elevate Hoops’ tournament in Philly called The Showdown, Spencer put on a show. Playing on a team that only had six players and didn’t have much in the way of Division I talent, he lit up the Showtime Ballers — who count Dwayne Bacon, Corey Sanders, Jeantal Cylla and Jean Marc Koumadje as members — to the tune of 28 points, controlling the paint on both ends of the floor. While the majority of those buckets came off of effort plays — offensive rebounds, cuts to the rim, picking up loose balls, beating defenders down the floor in transition — he also knocked down three jumpers in the 17-19 foot range and had a handful of nice moves on the block, some he finished and some he didn’t.

In other words, the guy known as a player that brings athleticism and effort to the table showed off a little of skill, proof he is continuing to develop as a player. “Improving my offensive game, like my jump shot and my ballhandling,” Spencer said when asked about what he’s been working on.

MOREAll our content from the 2014 July Live Recruiting Period

That performance came on the heels of a good showing at the NBPA Top 100 camp and an excellent three days at Reebok’s Breakout Classic, which has made Spencer one of the hotter prospects in the class.

Spencer listed offers from Seton Hall, West Virginia, USC, Cincinnati, La Salle, Georgia, Maryland and Oregon State at the beginning of the week, but has reportedly received offers from South Florida and Oklahoma State since then. Expect to see that list grow as well, as Spencer’s best performances of the summer came with faces like Leonard Hamilton and John Thompson III, as well as a large number of high major assistants, in the crowd.

Skal Labissiere finally looks dominant: Skal Labissiere is a top 15 recruit in the Class of 2015, but the slender, 6-foot-11 center missed this high school season with a stress fracture in his back. On Saturday, Skal finally looked like an elite-level big man with a dominating first half performance against the Richmond Squires. He had a huge dunk in traffic, knocked down a couple of jumpers, made quick moves in the post and made a handful of nice passes, include a touch-pass from the high-post for a layup.

Here’s the issue: the Squires didn’t have a single front court player over 6-foot-7. Labissiere’s potential is through the roof. He’s got a massive wingspan and huge hands, he’s got ball skills that many bigs at this level don’t and he’s got a go-to move on the block — a righty jump-hook — that is really effective. I’d feel more confident in his future if he dominated a similar caliber of competition as well.

It’s time to get a look at Grant Riller: The most eye-opening performance on Saturday came from a kid that’s a bit of an afterthought on his own AAU team, the Q6 all-stars. Coaches were lined up to see Kerry Blackshear and Matt Milon, but what they got was Riller showing out during the second half of an upset win over Sports U. In a five minute stretch during the second half, Riller scored on two tough drives through a set defense, split the defenders on a high-ball screen before setting up a teammate for an open three, drilled a deep three from the top of the key and threw down the dunk of the day on hyper-athletic, 6-foot-8 Chris Silva.

Should I mention that Riller is listed at 6-foot-3, a height that apparently takes his (large) half-fro into consideration?

Riller, who calls himself a combo-guard, plays his high school ball at Ocoee HS in Orlando. The only offers that he listed were from Abilene Christian and Kennesaw State, but he said that Virginia Tech, Mercer, Florida-Gulf Coast, College of Charleston, North Florida and FIU have been checking up on him.

Reports: Duke’s Frank Jackson to declare for draft

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Frank Jackson will declare for the draft but will not be signing with an agent, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Previous reports had indicated that Jackson “planned” to return to school, and that still may end up proving true. But the combination of Trevon Duval potentially enrolling at Duke combined with the fact that there is zero downside to going through the draft process, it makes sense for Jackson to declare.

Jackson averaged 10.9 points and shot 39.5 percent from three. He’s projected as a mid-first round pick in 2018 by Draft Express, but at 6-foot-3, he’s too small to play the two in the NBA and has yet to prove he can be a point guard.

Jackson is the fourth Duke player to declare, following Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III and Luke Kennard. All three signed with an agent. Grayson Allen and Marques Bolden are both returning to school.

VIDEO: Top 2018 recruits Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford go head-to-head at adidas

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This weekend is the first live evaluation period of the spring recruiting calendar as college coaches from all over the country are scouting (and babysitting) the top recruits in the Class of 2018 and 2019.

Friday night the adidas Gauntlet in Dallas opened with a marquee matchup of two star players as five-star forward Zion Williamson and five-star guard Romeo Langford went head-to-head in what should be one of the best games of the spring.

Most scouting services have Williamson and Langford as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in the Class of 2018 as the duo didn’t disappoint in front of the huge crowd in Fort Worth.

Williamson helped his team to a win with 26 points and seven rebounds while Langford had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists. You’ll be hearing plenty about both of these guys over the next few months as both are still wide open in the recruting process.

(H/t: Ball is Life)

Report: Coppin State hires Juan Dixon as new head coach

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Coppin State has hired former Maryland star guard Juan Dixon to be its next head coach, according to a report from Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.

The 38-year-old Dixon is best known for leading Maryland to the 2002 national championship as he was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four that year. Now Dixon will have a chance to lead a Division I program for the first time.

Dixon spent seven years in the NBA and also played professionally in Europe before joining the Maryland coaching staff in 2013 as a special assistant to head coach Mark Turgeon. Not retained by Maryland after the 2015-16 season, Dixon took the head coaching job for the women’s team at the University of the District of Columbia last season as the Division II program finished only  3-25.

Coppin State finished last season with an 8-24 record after losing its first 12 games of the season. While Dixon will generate some positive local buzz given his background, he’s going to have an uphill battle trying to rebuild that program.

Nebraska scores important Class of 2017 commitment from four-star guard Thomas Allen

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Nebraska landed an important commitment from the Class of 2017 on Friday as four-star guard Thomas Allen is heading to Lincoln next season.

The 6-foot-1 guard is considered the No. 99 overall prospect by Rivals in the national Class of 2017 rankings as Allen was previously committed to N.C. State before head coach Mark Gottfried was fired.

A scorer with a good amount of skill, Allen has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact at Nebraska as he can play a bit on or off the ball. Allen should help offset the loss of senior Tai Webster in the Husker backcourt.

Allen joins wing Nana Akenten in Nebraska’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

North Carolina lands four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks

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North Carolina pulled in a late Class of 2017 commitment to begin the weekend as the Tar Heels secured a pledge from four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Brooks was previously committed to Mississippi State, but he was granted his release this spring to explore other opportunities.

The Tar Heels pounced as they’re getting a low-post threat who could develop into a potential double-double threat. A solid rebounder who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, Brooks has a chance to earn some immediate rotation minutes with seniors like Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks exhausting their eligibility.

Brooks is regarded as the No. 120 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, as he is a four-star prospect. The native of Auburn, Alabama joins a North Carolina recruiting class that includes point guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek and big men Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.