PHILADELPHIA — I spent the weekend up at Philadelphia University for The Showdown, a tournament hosted by Elevate Hoops that featured some of the best young talent in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. The event featured some of the best players in the Class of 2017 and 2018.
Here are five takeaways from the event:
Zach Kent is going to continue to draw high-major attention: Kent, a member of the Class of 2017, did not enter the weekend with much hype, considering he plays in a program — Delaware’s We-R1 — where he may not even be a top five front court player. But the 6-foot-10 Kent was terrific all weekend, stepping out on the perimeter to hit jumpers and taking apart defenses with his ability to pass the ball out of the high post. He’s slender and he needs to be stronger and more physical in the paint, but he’s got a frame that he can add strength to and a bit of a mean streak in his game.
Kent listed offers from La Salle, St. Joseph’s and Dayton but added that he had been getting some interest from Purdue, Notre Dame and Maryland. Given his desire to “play like Frank Kaminsky” — he’s done his homework, saying he liked the rip-throughs and jab-series the reigning National Player of the Year used — it’s not hard to see him collecting offers from top 25 programs by the time his high school career is done.
Andre Rafus is expanding his game: I’ll be honest — the first couple of times that I saw Rafus play, I wasn’t enamored with his game. A 6-foot-7 lefty, he seemed far to eager to stand on the perimeter and fire up contested threes, and while the three-point shot is still a major part of his game, Rafus showed off an expanded arsenal in Philly this weekend. He hit a couple of mid-range pull-ups, he got to the rim and finished over longer defenders with a soft touch and he threw down a couple of thunderous dunks, including one over a defender in transition. He still relies heavily on his left hand, but it’s clear that, when he wants to be, Rafus is more than just a spot-up shooter.
Rafus, who is ranked 59th by Rivals, has been piling up offers from high major programs, whipping out his cell phone and pulling up a list of 17 schools that have offered him, including the likes of UCLA, UConn, Georgetown and UNLV.
Quade Green’s ankle is still bothering him: Green is one of the best point guards in the Class of 2017, but he’s sat out for much of the summer circuit. He didn’t play at NBPA Top 100 camp, his missed a couple of days at Steph Curry’s camp and while he played at Under Armor’s All-America camp in Charlotte, he sat out the tournament this weekend. Back in May, Green suffered a high-ankle sprain, and while it feels good enough to play in stretches, he wanted to make sure he was back to 100 percent for the finals of the Under Armor Association in Atlanta this weekend.
Green was terrific in Charlotte, however, good enough that his No. 46 rankings is expected to move higher. He listed Michigan State, Arizona, Arizona State, Missouri, Maryland, South Carolina, Syracuse, Temple and Villanova as his offers.
There are a lot of kids to be excited about in the Class of 2018: There was quite a bit of talent on display from the crop of rising sophomores that were in Philly this weekend. The biggest name was Nazreon Reid, a 6-foot-10 power forward from New Jersey who is considered to be a top five player in the class. But he wasn’t even the most impressive player in the Class of 2018 on his Sports U team. That title belonged to Jahvon Quinerly, a smooth, 6-foot point guard that plays for Hudson Catholic. He’s got three-point range, ball-on-a-string handle and the ability to break defenses down off the dribble and in ball-screen actions.
Montez Mathis, a 6-foot-4 wing from Baltimore, was also terrific all weekend long playing up an age group. He’s a powerful penetrator with the ability to finish above the rim, and while he knocked down some perimeter jumpers, it’s clear his shooting stroke needs some work; his shot looks like a knuckle-ball that R.A. Dickey would be jealous of. And Antwan Butler of We-R1 actually played in both the U16 and U15 tournaments, proving to be a commanding point guard despite the wear and tear that much basketball put on his legs.
Get in on Jahlil Jenkins before it’s too late: There may not have been a more surprising star this week than Jenkins, a Class of 2017 point guard from West Virginia that, right now, is probably 5-foot-8 and 110 pounds soaking wet. He was also the toughest kid in Philly this weekend, the kind of competitor that any coach would want leading their team. He’s nightmarishly quick with a terrific handle, making him a terror in the open floor, but he also understands how to run off of ball-screens and control a team in the halfcourt. Jenkins dominated games against U16 competition, but in a game that his team played against older competition, he struggled a bit with the size and athleticism of the older players. Jenkins listed offers from Navy, St. Peter’s and George Mason, but if he manages to grow another inch or two and add some strength to his frame — one coach that saw him in January said he’s already put on 10-15 pounds since the high school season — there’s a chance he ends up being a high-major player.