NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – With the U-17 age group at the Peach Jam not kicking off until Thursday, Wednesday was a day for underclassmen and younger prospects to shine.
The evening was highlighted by a big-time battle of class of 2015 post players, Diamond Stone and Elijah Thomas. Stone came in with more hype, but Thomas got the better of him on an individual level – and Team Texas Elite came out with the win.
Thomas admitted Stone had outplayed him in previous battles, but he felt he won this round. He consistently got good position on the low block, and the ambidextrous post player was able to finish against Stone. Moreover, he forced Stone into a tough game at the other end.
“We're playing team ball, but I have to get going,” said Stone, a 6-foot-8 prospect from Dominican (Wisc.). “I'm playing pretty good. I'm going hard. But I have to start scoring, start rebounding, start passing.”
Stone, who ranks among the top players in his class, is hearing from Wisconsin, North Carolina, Georgetown, UCLA, Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan and DePaul.
“And my trainer has talked to Kentucky,” he said.
On the other side, Thomas – a 6-foot-8 Rowlett (Tex.) product – has slimmed down considerably in the last year and now could stake his claim as one of the best big men in the class of 2015.
He is hearing from Kansas, Arkansas, Duke, Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Illinois, Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, Marquette, UCLA, Nebraska and Colorado.
Malik Newman, 2015, Jackson Tigers: Perhaps the best player of the day, Newman is a big-time scoring guard in his class. He's about 6-foot-6, and can get his shot off whenever he wants. He can finish at the rim, handle the ball effectively and knock down outside shots. Newman hunts his shot a bit much, but he's tough to stop.
Chris McCullough, 2014, Team Scan 16s: When McCullough is focused and playing around the rim, there aren't too many better in his class. On Wednesday, he was running the floor and driving aggressively to the rim; as a result, he was dominating the game. If he plays to his potential, McCullough's ceiling is extremely high.
Marcus Stroman, 2014, Southern Stampede 16s: South Carolina got a good one in Stroman, a fast 6-foot-2 point guard from Keenan (S.C.). He pushes the ball very well in transition, and is a pest defensively. He jumps the passing lanes and pressures opponents. He also hit some jump shots and penetrated well.
Jakeenan Gant, 2014, Southern Stampede 16s: The second half of Southern Stampede's game against Each One Teach One turned into a dunk contest, and Gant is a main reason for the highlight-reel finishes. He is extremely athletic and runs the floor very well. He can finish above the rim, but can also hit face-up jumpers from the perimeter.
Josh Jackson, 2016, The Family 16s: Jackson is going to be an absolute stud in his class. While he didn't play that much against Team Texas Elite, Jackson's length and offensively ability were immediately noticeable. He's 6-foot-6 and uses his wingspan to make plays at both ends. Jackson can run the break and is very smooth.
Notes and Notables: There weren't too many head coaches out and about, but we did see Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, Bo Ryan, Jamie Dixon, Mark Fox, Anthony Grant, Larry Brown, Brian Gregory and a few others . . . Wednesday was our first time seeing Thon Maker, who some say is the best player in 2016. He's nearing seven feet tall already, and has enormous potential . . . Among the number of Team Texas Elite players who were impressive, big guards Austin Grandstaff and Matthew McQuaid stood out . . . Ahmed Hill came into the Peach Jam 16s division with some buzz, and backed it up with a solid offensive display . . . Southern Stampede has plenty of athletes, but Elijah Staley still stood out with his nonstop motor . . . Team Scan 16s has a solid backcourt in Conrad Chambers and Shavar Newkirk . . . Cheick Diallo showed good length and movement.