With guards Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet both sidelined due to injury, No. 20 Wichita State arrived at the Advocare Invitational shorthanded. But even with that being the case the highly successful Shockers represented quite the opportunity for USC, and Thursday afternoon the Trojans took advantage.
Despite turning the ball over 23 times Andy Enfield’s team found a way to win, hanging on to beat the Shockers by the final score of 72-69. Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright, a tough matchup for most teams as a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who can score from the perimeter, shot 5-for-9 from three and scored a team-high (and career-high) 22 points.
The tandem of he and junior Nikola Jovanovic, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds, outplayed the Wichita State front court on a day in which the Shockers needed greater contributions from those players. Add in 15 points and four assists from Jordan McLaughlin, ten points off the bench from Katin Reinhardt and a 12-for-23 afternoon from three, and the Trojans were able to do enough to make up for their high turnover count and Wichita State’s 24 points off of turnovers.
Given the absence of VanVleet and Shamet there’s no reason to panic regarding Wichita State. Ron Baker, who was exhausted by the end of the game due to the heavy load he was asked to shoulder, scored a game-high 25 points and the play of freshman Markis McDuffie was a positive to build on.
McDuffie, who entered Thursday’s game without a made field goal in his first two appearances as a Shocker, shot 5-for-9 from the field and contributed 14 points and three rebounds off the bench. With their current perimeter rotation being what it is McDuffie will have opportunities to contribute, and the Shockers will need him to take advantage as they await the returns of VanVleet and Shamet (and the addition of Conner Frankamp).
Doing so will not only help Wichita State in the short term but in the long-term as well, thus giving Gregg Marshall another option to call upon on his bench.
Thursday’s outcome, even with the desire to see more from Anton Grady (eight points, seven rebounds), says more about USC at this point in time than Wichita State. Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm were about amassing the talent needed to compete in the Pac-12 while also gaining valuable (and at times painful) experience. In year three the Trojans hope to take a step forward within the conference, and wins like this one provide evidence of the program’s growth.
Summer highlights of USC commits Benne Boatwright and Chimezie Metu (VIDEO)
As he goes through the process of rebuilding the USC basketball program, second-year head coach Andy Enfield has enjoyed some success on the recruiting trail. This year’s crop of freshmen includes four-star guards Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart, with the four newcomers in a position to earn immediate playing time.
The Trojans are also off to a solid start in the Class of 2015, with forwards Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu having verbally committed to the Pac-12 program. They have different games, with Boatwright possessing a versatile offensive skill set that includes range well out beyond the three-point line and Metu being a powerful finisher around the basket.
Courtside Films put together a mixtape of Boatwright and Metu’s highlights from this summer, and it’s safe to assume that USC fans are anxiously awaiting their arrival on campus next summer.
While the 2013-14 season was a tough one for USC head coach Andy Enfield in the wins and losses department, he and his assistants did enjoy some success on the recruiting trail. And that has carried over into the Class of 2015, with the Trojans holding a verbal commitment from power forward Chimezie Metu.
On Thursday the USC coaching staff landed its second commitment in the class, as 6-foot-9 forward Bennie Boatwright verbally committed to attend the Pac-12 school according to Evan Daniels of Scout.com. Going into his senior year at Village Christian School in Los Angeles, Boatwright played well this spring/summer for the Gamepoint and Dream Vision grassroots programs.
Boatwright is considered to be one of the top perimeter shooters in his class, especially when it comes to forwards who are capable of stepping out beyond the three-point line. His ability to score on the perimeter is something that will help USC moving forward, as the Trojans finished last season ranked tenth in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage and dead last in three-point percentage.
Those numbers are expected to improve some this year, with Jordan McLaughlin leading a solid group of freshmen on the perimeter and Katin Reinhardt eligible after sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules. Boatwright is in the “high flyer” mold of forwards who helped Enfield lead FGCU to the Sweet 16 in 2013, but his offensive skill set will help the head coach as he looks to put together a group at USC that’s as potent offensively as those Eagles were.
LAS VEGAS — One of the better matchups on Saturday was the adidas Super 64 quarterfinal between Dream Vision and the Atlanta Celtics, with both teams possessing a high number of Division I prospects. Chase Jeter was the headliner for Dream Vision but he struggled mightily against Abdul Hakim Ado, who is considered to be one of the best defensive big men in the Class of 2016. Ado finished the game with seven points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots, and he altered numerous attempts around the basket as well in a performance that backs up the praise of his defensive prowess.
With Jeter struggling others needed to step up, and Bennie Boatwright and Arizona commit Justin Simon did just that to lead Dream Vision to the 66-63 victory. Boatwright had it rolling offensively, as he scored 27 points with a considerable amount of his damage being done from the perimeter. And as the points increased so did his confidence, with Boatwright even looking to mix it up with some touches in the post. If he can play with the offensive aggression he displayed Saturday on a consistent basis, look out.
As for Simon much has been made about what position he’s best suited for, with some wondering if he’s a good enough setup guy to serve primarily as a point guard. But if his showing in Las Vegas is any indication of what he’ll be able to give Arizona in 2015, it’s best to give him the label of “playmaker” instead of trying to fit him into a strict role. Simon made plays off the dribble, attacking the defense to either put himself in position to score or set up his teammates. And it was his lob to Jeter with 20 seconds remaining that gave Dream Vision a 64-63 lead that it would not relinquish. While there’s still room for Simon to improve as a distributor, there’s plenty to like about his game as he enters his senior year of high school.
For the Celtics, 2016 guard Kobi Simmons scored 18 points but he had to work awfully hard in order to do so as he made just six of his 24 attempts from the field. This is the area where Simmons will need to work hard to improve upon. He can put points on the board, but that can’t come at the expense of making sure his teammates are taken care of as well. Braxton Blackwell played just as much of a role in initiating the offense for the Celtics, dishing out five assists in a “point forward” role to go along with 13 points.
Junior college showcase attracts solid number of quality prospects: JucoRecruiting.com once again held a showcase event in Las Vegas, with more than 100 players looking to land an opportunity to play at a four-year school on display. And while former DePaul forward Dejuan Marrero was one of the players involved he wasn’t the player both Herb Sendek (Arizona State) and Pat Chambers (Penn State) showed up to see. That distinction goes to South Plains JC guard Andre Spight, who continues to work towards being a factor as a point guard. Last season Spight, who began his career at UTEP, spent a considerable amount of time playing off the basketball. That will change this coming season, and Spight’s goal is to be a point guard for a four-year program when the time comes to make a decision.
According to Spight, who will visit Arizona State on September 5 per Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports, he’d like to make his decision during the early signing period. Another guard to consider from the event was Desmond Medder, who will play at New Mexico JC after averaging 20 points and just over six rebounds per game at Scottsdale (Arizona) CC last season. Per Medder he’s yet to receive any calls from Division I programs, but if he can continue to score as he did last year that should change.
Hot week in Vegas leads to added recruiting interest for Justin Foreman: One of the best offensive performances of the week was put together by NY Rens guard Justin Foreman, who on Wednesday night dropped 48 points in a thrilling 96-94 win over the Ohio Basketball Club. Foreman was unconscious that night, hitting 14 of his 16 shots from the field (15-for-17 FT) and making all five of his three point attempts. Foreman continued on that scoring streak throughout the weekend, and Foreman’s hope is that his recent run of play results in increased recruiting interest.
Currently the majority of his offers come from MAAC programs including Iona, Canisius, Niagara and Saint Peter’s, and he has also heard from Hofstra, St. Francis-Brooklyn, LIU Brooklyn, Rhode Island and Kent State. Foreman also stated that next month he’ll be taking unofficial visits to “Fairfield, Canisius, Marist and Sacred Heart.”
Curtis Jones will move to the point this high school season: While the 7-footer receives much of the attention nationally, the fact of the matter is that Team Loaded has a number of quality prospects with 2016 guard Curtis Jones being one. Jones played well in Las Vegas, providing his team with the perimeter scoring needed to balance what they get inside from Maker. What’s interesting about Jones’ game is that he’ll be making a position switch of sorts, as he expects to play the point for his high school team. “A lot of ball-handing, watching film of other point guards and trying to improve my decision-making so I can get my teammates involved,” Jones told NBCSports.com when asked how he’s preparing for the change in roles.
According to Jones he holds offers from Cincinnati, Virginia, Virginia Tech, NC State, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Maryland, and VCU. And among the schools who have recently been in contact, Jones mentioned Louisville, Indiana, Ohio State, Missouri, Xavier and Texas. Those programs will be watching intently to see how Jones’ transition to the point guard spot goes, and with his ability to break down defenses off the dribble he’s a tough matchup for many teams.
LAS VEGAS — Over the last year or so guard Jaylen Brown has gone from merely being a talented member of the 2015 class to becoming one of its best players. With a maturity that’s rarely seen in most teenagers, Brown has managed to balance his high-level athleticism with a good understanding of the game and what his team needs him to do at any point in time. Brown’s full skill set was on display Saturday, as he was able to not only get the basket at will but also knock down perimeter shots when open. And according to Brown, there are a number of things he’s working to improve upon this summer.
“There’s a long list of things I have to improve upon,” Brown said. “Making sure my jump shot is consistent, and I have to improve on by ball-handling. Defensively I have to be more active, [and I have to] get myself to a high level of conditioning so I can play at a high level for a long time.”
Another important factor for Brown has been the hard work he’s put in to transform his body, which is obviously the case when considering his stated goal to become an even better-conditioned athlete. And that effort has resulted in Brown becoming a dominant perimeter presence.
“Definitely the weight room and conditioning,” Brown said when asked where he’s made the greatest strides over the last year. “The weight room really helped.” According to Brown he weighed 200 pounds last summer, and now he’s up to around 220. The added weight (good weight, mind you) has helped him become a more explosive threat on the wing, and once in the lane Brown has no problem finishing above the rim with authority.
As for his recruitment, Brown stated that he’ll take an unofficial visit to UCLA after participating in adidas Nations next weekend in Long Beach, California. Among the reasons for his considering UCLA was the presence of Georgia natives on the roster, with Tony Parker entering his junior year and Jordan Adams putting together two highly successful seasons before being picked in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft (Memphis Grizzlies).
Other schools that have been most active in his recruitment according to Brown are Kentucky, Ohio State, Kansas, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida and Texas A&M.
Kobi Simmons continues to improve: The Celtics don’t lack for talent, and one of the standouts in Las Vegas has been 2016 point guard Kobi Simmons. Simmons has run the show for the Celtics, and his importance was on full display in their win over Team Rose during Friday’s afternoon session. When Simmons was the one initiating the offense the Celtics ran like a well-oiled machine, but they struggled when he wasn’t the one being asked to make a play. Simmons displayed the ability to finish at the rim with either hand, and for the most part he remained under control in running the show.
Simmons described himself as a “scoring guard” following the game, but he also has the ability to set up his teammates for quality looks. Among the schools Simmons mentioned when asked who all is recruiting him are “Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, Ohio State [offered about two weeks ago], Missouri, Memphis and Texas.”
Vanderbilt goes four deep for local prospect Braxton Blackwell: Playing alongside Simmons was 6-foot-8 forward Braxton Blackwell, who like Simmons is a member of the Class of 2016. And based upon who all attended from the Vanderbilt coaching staff it’s clear that the Nashville native is of high priority. Head coach Kevin Stallings was there with all three assistants (one left during the second half to get to another game), and the reasons why they hold Blackwell in such high regard were easy to see. Blackwell rarely gets rushed on the offensive end of the floor, and defensively he had no issue with doing the little things a team needs in order to be successful.
“Just being versatile,” Simmons said when asked what he believes his strengths to be. “I can get a rebound and go, [and play] kind of a point forward position right now.”
When asked what areas he’s looking to improve upon this summer, Blackwell mentioned perimeter shooting and being a more aggressive player on the offensive end. Vanderbilt wasn’t the only school mentioned by Blackwell when asked about his recruitment, either. “Providence, Florida, Indiana, Tennessee, Memphis, Vanderbilt and a lot of other schools,” Blackwell noted. Blackwell also stated that last year he took unofficial visits to Indiana, Memphis, Vanderbilt and Auburn, and he’ll look to take more unofficial trips in August.
A possible fourth visit for Bennie Boatwright: The 6-foot-9 forward is more of a perimeter threat, an attribute that meshes well with Dream Vision teammate Chase Jeter, who has emerged as one of the best big men in the Class of 2015. Boatwright has a good perimeter stroke, and with his tendency to be out on the wing the areas Boatwright mentioned when asked what areas of his game he’s working to improve upon (being more efficient and strengthening his ball-handling), fit in well with what he’ll need to do in order to be successful.
As for his recruitment, it’s been known for quite some time that three schools that will definitely host Boatwright on official visits are Arizona State, Gonzaga and Washington. Head coaches Herb Sendek (Arizona State) and Mark Few (Gonzaga) were among the coaches in attendance, with Washington having an assistant keeping tabs on their target. And in speaking with Boatwright following the game, there’s also a possible candidate for one of his other two available official visits.
“I might go to UConn’s ‘Midnight Madness,'” Boatwright told NBCSports.com. Obviously the key word there is “might,” and Boatwright also noted that he was unsure as to whether or not he’ll use all five official visits.