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June 28, 2012
Many draft observers are just getting familiar with the players their favorite teams have drafted, but Rivals.com national basketball analyst Eric Bossi has been following these players since high school or earlier. Here's a look at where the lottery picks ranked and Bossi's impressions of them as high schoolers.
1. Anthony Davis, Kentucky (New Orleans), final Rivals ranking No. 2 (2011): Davis was a late bloomer, so the first time I saw him was in May 2010 during Nike's Elite Youth Basketball League. However, I didn't write about him until seeing him in June of 2010 at the NBPA Top 100 camp. It was easy to conclude that he was an elite prospect. I wrote at that time, "he reminds you a lot of John Henson. A skinny big man who can run the floor, he rebounds at a high level, blocks a ton of shots and scores around the rim. While not quite as quick as Henson, he is a much better shooter and can face-up and make plays as a shooter or a passer. His lack of strength is the only thing that could keep him from making a huge impact for a year or so."
2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky (Charlotte), final Rivals ranking No. 3 (2011): I first saw Gilchrist as a skinny, 6-foot-3 wing playing in the Charlie Weber Hoopfest outside of Washington, D.C., in August 2006, between his seventh- and eighth-grade years. His motor was evident then and again when I truly evaluated him for the first time as a freshman playing with Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick in Houston in December 2007. Truthfully, he was a total no-brainer and bona fide stud early on. I wrote, "this young guy screams potential big-timer. Long, athletic, runs and has a nice feel for the game. His shot looks like it is going to be OK from the outside, he can rebound, plays pretty good defense for somebody so young and looks like he's got plenty of room to grow. His productivity comes in spurts right now but he'll be putting up consistent numbers by this time next year.
3. Bradley Beal, Florida (Washington), final Rivals ranking No. 4 (2011): I first saw Beal as a skinny freshman at Chaminade High (St. Louis, the same school that produced Golden State PF David Lee) and then again in the spring of his freshman year. However, I didn't first write about him until June 2008, when he took part in the Nike Hoop Jamboree (now Elite 100) in his hometown. Beal was only about 6-foot-1 or 6-foot-2 at the time and skinny, but showed signs of being a high level scorer and was easy to peg as a high major prospect. At the time, I wrote, "Beal is a skinny (154-pound) slashing off guard who quietly put together an outstanding camp. A good ball-handler who uses a hesitation move to get by defenders going right or left, he finishes with floaters and soft kisses off the glass. The form on his shot looks to be pretty good, and it's a safe bet that he develops a more than respectable jumper with range as he grows into his body.
4. Dion Waiters, Syracuse (Cleveland), final Rivals ranking No. 29 (2010): Waiters is a guy that I've always been a bit hot and cold on. I could always see his ability to score the ball, but often wondered about what position he really plays and how he would be as a teammate. The first time I saw him was at the 2007 Nike Hoop Jamboree in St. Louis between his freshman and sophomore years of high school. Despite some reservations, I wrote: "liked his ability to hit jumpers from all over the floor, zest for contact on drives and commitment to playing defense. His frame is a little soft and there's always the question of whether he'll bulk up or drop the remaining baby fat and develop into a lean mean wing scoring machine? For now, it's hard to consider him anything other than the potential high major prospect that he is."
5. Thomas Robinson, Kansas (Sacramento), final Rivals ranking No. 31 (2009): Robinson is another late-bloomer who didn't burst onto the scene until the summer before his senior year. I was unable to see him until July of 2008 at the Main Event in Las Vegas, but I remember falling in love with his motor, athleticism and high-level rebounding. I wrote then, "the 6-9 F is a very springy athlete with huge hands that he uses to secure rebounds at or above rim level. He's quick, has excellent feet and loves to victimize defenders with towering "and one" jams. Capable of running the floor with the best of them, he can also shoot with range to 12 feet and has a nice looking jump hook." It was at that point that elite programs really took notice of him and the attention certainly proved to be warranted.
6. Damian Lillard, Weber State (Portland), not rated (2008): Sometimes you just have to laugh at badly missing out on an evaluation. Of course, the fact that Lillard ended up at Weber State means lots of people missed out on him. However, I did see Lillard play in April 2007 (his junior year) with the Oakland Rebels in Las Vegas. I remember myself and longtime scouting friend Rob Harrington of Prepstars really thinking we'd found a sleeper, for upper level mid-majors. I wrote, "underrated guy who is maybe on the small side, but he can play. Shoots jumpers with range and confidence, attacks via the bounce and is an athletic open court finisher. Needs strength but has good quickness and doesn't back down from anybody."
7. Harrison Barnes, North Carolina (Golden State), final Rivals ranking No. 2 (2010): It was blind luck that allowed me to catch a young -- and then 6-foot-4 or so -- Barnes playing in a 15-and-under game for the All-Iowa Attack in April 2007. It was at the Real Deal on the Hill tournament in Fayetteville, Ark. A game had run late, causing me to miss out on a planned lunch with some friends, and as I was walking by, I saw this young, lean wing with twisted braids drain some good looking mid-range jumpers. I stuck around and watched and realized that I was watching a potential big-timer. It was his performance at the 2008 Real Deal that launched Barnes onto the national stage, but this is what I wrote in 2007. "Barnes is an athletic wing who handles the ball very well, gets on the glass, defends all around the perimeter and has a pure jumper to 17 feet. He started on varsity as a freshman and he looks like a guy that is going to be a legit high major prospect."
8. Terrence Ross, Washington (Toronto), final Rivals ranking, No. 48 (2010): Of the guys who went on draft night, Ross is among those I had the fewest chances to scout. I lived in the Pacific Northwest for a while so have always kept tabs on the area and was able to catch him on TV as a high school sophomore at Portland (Ore.) Jefferson. I didn't write an evaluation at the time but I loved his length, athleticism and the fact that he had 3-point range and a 6-foot-6 frame. However, I also thought that he was a bit on the soft side and needed to really improve his ball-handling skills.
9. Andre Drummond, Connecticut (Detroit), finals Rivals ranking, No. 2 (2012 before moving to Class of 2011 after rankings done): Drummond was initially expected to do a post-graduate year and be a member of the class of 2012, where he ranked second nationally behind Shabazz Muhammad, before moving to his natural class of 2011. When I first saw him at the National Prep Showcase in November 2009, the questions were how bad he wanted it and how much he would develop offensively (sound familiar?), but it was tough to ignore his size, athleticism and raw talent. The crazy thing was that unlike his current reputation, Drummond played tough and with a real edge. I wrote: "A big kid with great shoulders, long arms and huge hands; he can also run and has excellent athleticism. Unlike some other young big guys who are passive, he's aggressive and plays with an edge to him. Super rebounder on both ends, blocks and alters shots as a straight up defender."
10. Austin Rivers, Duke (New Orleans), final Rivals ranking No. 1 (2011): When I walked over to watch Rivers during April of his freshman year at the Boo Williams Invitational, he'd already been touted. The son of Doc Rivers, everybody knew who he was and there were high expectations. Expectations that he easily met and many current staples of his game were strengths four years ago. "Executes in pick-and-roll situations like a college guard, makes quick decisions whether to attack, pull up or back it out and is a tough player during crunch time. Understandably needs to develop more strength and a little more burst, but he does look like he should be a pretty good athlete."
11. Meyers Leonard, Illinois (Portland), final Rivals ranking, No. 31 (2010): It was at the 2008 Nike Hoop Jamboree in St. Louis that Leonard exploded onto the national scene. I loved him then and still think that he has significant upside because of his length, size and athleticism. I wrote: "A skinny 195-pounder who boasts good leaping ability and agility, he's a skilled low-post scorer who can spin to either shoulder and finishes with an assortment of clever up-and-unders, pump-fakes and jump hooks with either hand. He runs the floor well, and plays a bit more aggressively than you might expect him to given his slight build and baby face. Unless he had the greatest three or four days of his basketball life, he's legit."
12. Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut, (Houston), final Rivals ranking No. 76 (2010): Lamb is another one of those late bloomers who lots of people -- myself included -- didn't value enough coming out of high school. I focused too much on his lack of bulk and just OK ball-handling and not enough on his overall skill as a scorer and upside as he matured. My first experience with him came in May 2009 at Nike's Memorial Day Classic in Suwanee, Ga. I wrote: "A good ball-handler, Lamb did a little bit of everything as he knocked down deep jumpers, attacked the lane and shared the ball in a solid all-around outing. He needs more strength, but could be a sleeper prospect who deserves some ACC and SEC looks."
13. Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (Phoenix), final Rivals ranking, No. 32 (2010): The first viewing of Marshall actually came right before his freshman year of high school started at the Charlie Weber Hoopfest in August 2006. He didn't yet have the size he does now, but the skill and feel for the game were definitely there. I wrote: "Despite his young age, he sports a very developed feel for the game. Handles well, gets into the lane, scores with floaters and pullups and finds his teammates with the accuracy of a polished vet. Not a bad defender either and has to be one of the top guards his age nationally."
14. John Henson, North Carolina (Milwaukee), final Rivals ranking No. 5 (2009): Looking back at Henson, at least his initial evaluation, I wouldn't blame anybody for wondering if I really was watching Henson. He was a stringbean big man playing for the Texas D-1 Ambassadors in May 2007 at the Jayhawk Invitational in Lawrence, Kan. At the time, it was a pretty good debate about whether he or current Baylor Bear Cory Jefferson would be a better prospect. Henson later separated himself as a skinny shot-blocker, but he looked like he might be a skill guy early in his career. I wrote, "physically immature, he's got a nice skill level and soft hands. He'll make baseline jumpers to 17 feet, score with either hand near the hoop and he runs pretty well. However, a frame that can't be carrying more than 185 pounds allows him to get knocked all over the place inside."
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