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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.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.