The first open period of the summer - that is, the time when college coaches can watch (and be seen at) AAU games - finished up yesterday with the conclusion of Peach Jam. (Don't worry, it'll open back up again on June 22.) It's a perfect time to sit back, catch our breath, and contemplate prospects - like, say, Jake Layman, who was in that Peach Jam final, playing for champions BABC.
I caught most of the game, which was aired on ESPN, and unfortunately it wasn't Layman's best. He's the 6th man for BABC; he didn't start the game, but found 15-20 minutes or so. He's definitely long - a legit 6-8, and lanky, with long arms - and is athletic enough to get up for dunks, though at 6-8 that isn't saying too much. His defensive instincts were quite good and that's the initial benefit I saw from his game - with BABC he plays at the top of a 1-2-2 zone, where his length wreaks havoc. He got into passing lanes, doubled down at the right times, challenged shots, and essentially did everything you'd want someone to do in that situation. He can be a force defensively in the right situation.
He wasn't quite as impressive when he found himself in man-to-man. He's not particularly quick, and he got beaten once or twice off the dribble. Other times, his length and positioning bailed him out and let him stay in front of smaller guard types. Offensively, he liked to hang out around the three-point line despite his length; he's definitely a perimeter-player offensively. He obviously knew where he was supposed to be and stayed relatively active, but he drifted more than he cut. He didn't seem to make himself a very big target for the offense and it looked like he was the last target on BABC - which, of course, isn't a big surprise given that they have tons of talent and he just joined up with them recently.
He did find open shots, though, mostly on catch-and-shoot opportunities on the wing. His stroke looked fine, but he missed both of his open looks. Honestly, he probably should've hit both especially given how much pub his shot gets, but I'm not too worried about it. It's not like two misses undid the good performances that had others praising his outside game. He ended up with four points in the game: two off a dunk in transition, and two free throws he hit after he was fouled on a drive (his only of the game that I remember).
Ultimately, it wasn't a great game by Layman, but everyone has average games. I'm not worried about it in the least - it's one game, and that can't be stressed enough - but he had a chance to win me over, and it didn't happen on this occasion. In fact, I felt like I was watching Hawk Palsson play in high school - you could see these flashes, but he was uninvolved offensively and I didn't see exactly what I had hoped to.
Speaking of Layman: in ESPN's final wrap, they had an interesting note about that stellar defense:
Tyus Jones and Kyle Anderson are more traditional ballhawks, but the top steal percentage of the 28 EYBL teams belonged to BABC forward Jake Layman. He's the kind of guy whose defensive style can easily slip through the cracks because it's untraditional -- nobody gives a ton of credit to the forward picking a kid's pocket because they don't expect him to be able to do it consistently. Layman does and he has a legitimate offensive package. The sample size for his steals isn't quite large enough to confidently declare him a dangerous defender, but his offensive tools are strong enough that an eye should be kept firmly on his progress.
ESPN also mentioned Isaiah Zierden - he shot 40% from deep and led the EYBL in 3s while shooting 93% from the stripe - and I think he has me on his bandwagon, at the same level of Christian Sanders. He doesn't look like his game is quite as well-rounded as Sanders', but frankly I don't really care, because I'm not convinced either of them will become starters here, at least not quickly. If Turgeon wants a sharpshooter, I say go get the best pure shooter in the country, and right now that looks like Zierden. I'm not complaining with either, so long as that's the role they're expected to fill.
Of course, not everyone was at Peach Jam. Mitch McGary wasn't, for instance: he instead was at the Under Armour(!)-sponsored NY2LA Summer Jam in Milwaukee, which has to be the Midwestern Baltimore by now with the in-roads UA has made there. Anyway, it's no surprise that McGary dominated. But it wasn't against scrub teams: he blew through Texas PRO (featuring Danuel House, Chicken Knowles, and five-star center Isaiah Austin) and Dream Vision (featuring five-star SF Shabazz Muhammad and Robert Upshaw). Rivals:
What a total animal this guy played like on Friday. First, the five-star big man broke Texas PRO in the first half with his ill tempered length of the court drives and rebounding and he was able to rest himself for the championship after racking up 14 points and 16 boards. Then, looking as fresh as he would if he was playing his first game of the summer, he went out and dominated the paint in SYF's win over Dream Vision in the championship game. Bottom line, McGary is a competitor with a non-stop motor, great hands, great skill and even greater will.
Man, that sounds pretty good, huh? One of the best things about McGary - aside from, y'know, the whole being good at basketball thing - is the willpower. Even if he doesn't turn out in college or the pros, it definitely won't be for lack of effort. It's just so rare to see a top-five player who has arguably one truly elite attribute, and for that attribute to be his motor. He might not end up at Maryland, but God do I want him to.
Amile Jefferson wasn't in North Augusta, either, instead playing with his Team Philly in the Hoop Group Jam Fest in Morgantown, WV. Two news outlets got a talk with him; neither revealed too much, but both are noteworthy. First up is MetroNews (?), which has a video (non-embeddable, sadly) of a Jefferson interview. He talks a lot about recruiting, and Maryland in particular. Sadly, he didn't visit Maryland when he was supposed to in late June, but he still wants to visit College Park. It sounds like Nova and N.C. State are still the big competition (he wants to visit State, too), and Ohio State is making a push; they've offered him and he wants to visit Columbus. Worth a watch.
Next up is a piece from the Dominion Post (by way of the Charleston Daily Mail). It's not nearly as interesting, but he does say he wants to play small forward. That means he definitely needs to improve his jumper; it's probably going to be easier to get than to an acceptable level than his strength, so it makes sense enough. His ability to drive and finish plays is impressive, but if teams play far enough off him - and they will - he needs to be able to hit the occasional jumper to keep them honest.
And with that, the first ten-day evaluation period is done. Looking back on it, Layman is almost certainly the largest story of the open period; he got his Maryland offer, likes them, and has played well enough to consider him a legitimate target at SF. Amile Jefferson also played really well and probably raised his stock, and it sounds like Maryland's a legit player for him. Arnaud Moto didn't get the boost in profile I would've hoped he could garner, partially due to his injury, but we did find out that he's garnered a Maryland offer, giving the Terps three legit options on the wing, not even including guys like Elijah Macon and Jerami Grant.
And it looks like Turgeon has a few options for the undersized 2-guard sharpshooter role he seems to love, with both Christian Sanders and Isaiah Zierden impressing in separate tourneys. Looking ahead to 2013, remember that the Harrisons got the better of Nate Britt; that performance, for which Turgeon was front and center, may be a deciding factor in which of those two tops the wish list.
After that, this open period was short on revelations. Mitch McGary drew plaudits, but he always does. Most of the other Maryland targets did just about what was expected. Don't worry; we only have to wait until the 22nd to do it all over again.