CARTERSVILLE, GA — The Under Armour Association Finals were the main attraction during the second week of July as the shoe league’s top teams were joined by some good independent teams for a big-time event outside of Atlanta. The UAA Finals had plenty of star power across multiple classes and also made for some interesting storylines entering the final week of the July live evaluation period.
1. Trevon Duval is exceptionally gifted, but can he tone down the wild streaks?
On the first night of the July live evaluation period, I stopped by the Under Armour All-American Camp in Charlotte so I could get a glimpse at a couple players I wanted to see more of during my stop in Atlanta. While talking to five-star point guard Trevon Duval in Charlotte he told me his personal goal was to limit himself to two turnovers per game during July.
While Duval’s We-R1 team captured the UAA Finals 17U title, and Duval looked dominant at times during the event, his wild streaks are a bit concerning with regards to his basketball future. Duval averaged 5.8 turnovers per game at the UAA Finals and continued to make risky passes and dribble moves through traffic that cost his team possessions in tight games. One play in particular, in a triple-OT thriller in the first round against the Indy Hoosier, Duval attempted a street-ball style carry over a defender that was coming to trap him and was called for a travel. Duval also wasn’t finishing at the rim nearly as well as he’s accustomed to and only shot 35 percent from the field for the event.
But you also have to credit Duval with being as competitive as any guard in the class and part of the reason he had a high turnover count and low field-goal percentage is because he relentlessly attacks opposing defenses — even if he has multiple defenders on him. It’ll be interesting to see if Duval figures out how to slow down the turnovers at the next level when he has more talented teammates that make things easier on him.
Learning how to change speeds can be a tough thing when your elite speed has given you so many easy buckets at the high school level, but it is necessary to do so as the competition gets better at the next level.
2. Malik Williams is the most fascinating Class of 2017 prospect
The UAA Finals was a great chance to get multiple viewings of Class of 2017 big man Malik Williams. The native of Indiana is currently hovering in the four-star range in the 30s of most national rankings, but part of the reason he’s there is because he’s the only top-40 national prospect who didn’t participate in a shoe-company league this spring and summer.
The 6-foot-10 Williams is very talented but it’s tough to gauge how talented he is when he plays for a team called Legit Basketball that doesn’t play a lot of other talented high-major prospects. Williams played better competition in the UAA Finals open division and is talent level is noticeable. Williams runs the floor well, can defend the rim a bit and has great touch on his jumper out beyond the three-point line. Not many 6’10” dudes can face up and do the things that Williams can do.
But question marks loom about his toughness. There are times Williams shies away from contact or facing a physical play, and this is coming against guys who aren’t exactly high-level players. After watching big men go to war for most of Peach Jam with big physical and verbal confrontations, it makes me wonder how Williams would have handled those same games in the same settings?
That’s what makes Williams such a fascinating prospect. He looks like a potential McDonald’s All-American based on ability, but he hasn’t been mentally pushed like a lot of these other elite prospects. It’ll be fascinating to see how Williams develops over the next few months and I would love to see him play in some of the big spring all-star games to see how he stacked up with the promising group of big men ahead of him.
3. Jalek Felton is (another) polarizing prospect
Much like Michael Porter Jr. at Peach Jam, some people had high praise for North Carolina commit and Class of 2017 point guard Jalek Felton, but it usually was followed by some kind of criticism of his game or mentality.
The nephew of former North Carolina point guard Ray Felton, Jalek has been committed to the Tar Heels for well over a year and that means sometimes you don’t always get maximum effort from him in certain grassroots games. Being committed for so long, and playing in games that don’t exactly mean much during some weekends, you can hardly blame Felton for losing focus at times during grassroots season.
At the the UAA Finals, Felton gave some outstanding efforts, including the best individual game I saw all week in which he went for 31 points on an array of high-level moves. But Felton is also so flashy that it costs him some possessions as he tries some ridiculous passes and shots that he has no business attempting in a competitive basketball game.
There is no doubting that Felton is an elite talent when he’s engaged, but the on-off switch has been an issue with him for over a year and sometimes it’s tough to project if Felton will be an engaged player through the course of an entire season.
If North Carolina is able to get the best out of Felton at the next level, then watch out. At 6-foot-3 with great ball skills and a developing pull-up jumper, Felton is great in transition and would fit North Carolina’s style very well. But we’ll have to see if Felton can play with a high motor over a long period of time before we really know his full potential.