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Houston Defenders Win AAU Super Showcase: Impressions of Terp Targets

Aaron-harrison_150_12_6_jpg_mediumThere were Maryland targets seemingly everywhere for the final two rounds of the AAU Super Showcase. The talent-laden, Maryland prospect-heavy Houston Defenders ended up as the champions of the event, toppling DC-based Team Takeover in the semi-finals 60-51 before taking down BABC in the title game 55-45. Aaron Harrison led the way for Defenders, dropping 17 in the final game over highly-lauded Nerlens Noel and Maryland target Jake Layman.

Luckily, ESPN aired all three of the final games for the Super Showcase, which featured an insane eight players with Maryland ties. It's a great and rare opportunity for lowly peons with day jobs - like me! - to see a bunch of Maryland targets in action. It's not as good as getting out on the trail and following them around, but it's the next best thing. So, without further ado, let's get to the player impressions.

Andrew Harrison, 6-5, PG, Houston Defenders, 2013: Andrew tends to be higher in the rankings than his twin brother Aaron, and you see why when you watch him play. What he can do at the point is really kind of mesmerizing. He's very confident in a good way - he knows what he's going to do at all times, and that he can do it. His floor vision and passing ability are uncanny, as is his sense for where his teammates are. He's not Pistol Pete in terms of how flashy his passes are, but the ball gets to where it needs to be almost every time, and he seemingly always finds an open man. As far as distributors go, he has to be among the best in the country regardless of class. Heck, that's a pro-ready skill.

What's more, his handle is great. He absolutely schooled Nerlens Noel with a crossover in the second game and rarely loses control of the ball. In terms of scoring, he's rather passive, but he's a great penetrator and tends not to try to force things.

Aaron Harrison, 6-5, SG, Houston Defenders, 2013: Aaron is very good as well, though his game isn't quite as unique as his brother's. Essentially, Aaron is a volume scorer - he can score any way he wants, and he does it a lot. He has a strong jumper and incredible body control at the rim, and what's more is that he's a microwave scorer - he gets hot fast. If he was playing next to anyone other than Andrew, he'd be the star attraction. As it is, Andrew's unique game sort of overshadows Aaron. Aaron does what many others do, as well as anyone else does; Aaron does something very few do, and better than everyone else. The only negative I really see, and this applies to both of them, is that they need to tone the confidence down just a tad; it can come off as arrogance or entitledness at times, and it's off-putting. Like when Andrew picked up a tech complaining about a non-call after he made a questionable decision. Not enough to make me not want them, of course, but full disclosure.

Shaquille Cleare, 6-9, C, Houston Defenders, 2012: If you've never seen Cleare before, he's massive. Just huge. A legit 6-9 and bulky, he's the definition of a space-eater. I had some doubts about how he would fare against long and tall Nerlens Noel, supposedly the best shotblocker in the country, but he arguably outplayed Noel, dropping a double-double while keeping Noel relatively quiet. He understands spacing well and can be a terror on the glass. His offensive game is interesting; he didn't show off too many post moves, instead clear(e)ing out space for others to work and cleaning up misses with a soft touch around the rim. Throw in a jumper good to 16 feet, and you have an intriguing offensive game. He also threw down a massive dunk on Noel in what was the game-changing moment of the final in retrospect; he may be 280, but he got that poundage to soar over Noel. Video will be posted when it's available.

Defensively, he's again a space-eater type; he alters shots more than he blocks them, forcing smaller players out of the lane or bodying up bigger guys. In a way, he'd be a better complement to Mitch McGary than I had previously assumed. Offense runs through McGary much more than it does for Cleare, and having both on the floor at the same time would be almost impossible to defend. Of course that's still a ways off, but it's a reassuring thought.

Jake Layman, 6-8, SF, BABC, 2012: Layman is a sixth man for the Boston team, and clearly isn't a very important cog for the team offensively. One of his problems offensively is that, despite clearly understanding spacing and where he's supposed to be on the floor, he doesn't show very much determination to get where he's going. He drifts a lot, and sometimes doesn't even get his hands up to present a target for a passer, so he does get ignored a bit. But when he gets the ball, he has a very smooth game; he can handle well, get by shorter defenders, and has a really nice mid-range jumper. When you see those little flashes of aggressiveness, you understand what is tempting coaches so much and wish he'd be more aggressive with his takes. His long-range shot doesn't appear to be as good as advertised, unfortunately: he missed three open looks from deep, as he did the last time I saw him.

Defense is really where Layman's bread is buttered right now. He's just so long and athletic, he can really cause havoc on the defensive end of the court if he's put in the right place. He's just perfect what BABC does with their 1-3-1, putting him at the top and letting him ballhawk passing lanes and pressure shorter players. His instincts need a little work, but he has great potential defensively as a Singler-killer, or play the point in a press. His defense is his money-maker now, and I think it will continue to be it in the future.

Derrick Griffin, 6-7, PF, Houston Defenders, 2013: Simply absurd athlete. Just unbelievable. I have no idea if Maryland has any interest in the 2013 power forward, but I would hope they do. He's a run-and-jump PF, sure, but he's the ideal run-and-jump PF. To start with, his athleticism is off the charts. He's a bit undersized at 6-6, but he's strong and a legitimate human pogo stick. He skies for rebounds and throws down Wilcox-quality dunks. He's smart, too; in transition, twice he decided to go for an easy layup over a smaller defender, picking up the foul in the process, rather than go for a big dunk that would've left him liable to pick up a charge. In terms of skill, he doesn't look very developed, but he's one of the best athletes in the country without a doubt.

Christian Sanders, 6-2, SG, Houston Defenders, 2012: I'll preface this by saying that Mark Turgeon and his assistants have seen Sanders more than I have, so I'll trust their judgment. But I've now seen three of Sanders games in full, and I can't particularly say I'm impressed. He was pretty-much nonexistent today. His spacing was good and he didn't force shots, but the shots he did take were all short. Perhaps he's just getting worn down by the summer grind. Frankly, I would've preferred to see him be a little more aggressive from outside against a Takeover zone that stymied Houston at times. Again, Turgeon knows better than me, but I still personally prefer Isaiah Zierden, whose game isn't as well-rounded but would better fill the sharp-shooter role.

Jerami Grant, 6-8, SF, Team Takeover, 2012: I have no idea if his six schools are truly final or if Maryland can re-involve themselves, but I was very impressed by him today. His physical talent was always undeniable, but there were always questions about his aggressiveness. He seems to have put that mostly behind him; he got the line 8 or 10 times in the first half alone, and dominated the game for stretches at a time. He's athletic, long, and can handle. He unleashed two wicked back-to-back tomahawks in the third quarter, both of which were jaw-dropping. He did disappear in the fourth quarter, but he played every minute for Takeover; give him some rest, and I think he plays a bigger role down the stretch. I'd be happy if Maryland found a way to get back in with him.

BeeJay Anya, 6-8, C, Team Takeover, 2013: Anya drew a tough matchup with Shaquille Cleare, basically an older version of himself, and wasn't a big fixture in Takeover's game. In fact, he rarely had his name called. He did, however, drop a might pretty interior pass to Jerami Grant. His physical tools are as stunning as they've ever been, and one average game against one of the best big men in the 2012 class isn't changing anyone's opinion on him.

Your thoughts on the games?