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May 7, 2013

Run-N-Slam: What we learned

MORE: Spiece Sunday | Spiece Saturday | Spiece Friday

FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Over the years, the Bill Hensley Memorial Run-N-Slam has become a must stop on the scouting circuit. Featuring primarily teams from the Midwest, the Run-N-Slam always boasts the top talent from the region. With eight courts inside the Spiece Fieldhouse and several more nearby, it is an easy place to see lots of talent. Here's a look at some of what we learned over the weekend.

Injury hasn't held Lyles back

The good thing about the knee injury suffered by five-star Trey Lyles in February was that it didn't require surgery. Still, you never know what to expect from a player when he returns from a long layoff. It would have been understandable if Lyles was a little rusty or out of shape when he hit the floor at Spiece.

Other than the bulky knee brace he was wearing, the No. 4 player in the class of 2014 showed no rust. He certainly didn't look to be out of shape while playing at a higher level than anybody could have expected. In fact, Lyles looked so good that he may have set the bar a little higher in terms of what people will expect from him from here on out.

That's what comes with the territory of being an elite prospect, and there is no doubt that Lyles is an elite prospect. He is big, he's strong, and he's very versatile. He's also a bit more athletic than he gets credit for. What sets him apart, though, is his complete offensive game. He can score with either hand and over either shoulder with his back to the basket. Lyles can face and shoot, and he can work via the dribble. With his ability to track down loose rebounds on both ends of the floor, he's close to being the ideal power forward prospect.

While there has been plenty of speculation that the product of Indianapolis (Ind.) Arsenal Tech is leaning toward Kentucky, he has done nothing to tip his hand or add credence to the rumor mill. Like UK, Butler, Louisville, UCLA, Duke and Florida have met with him. He doesn't seem to be in any hurry to make a decision or lock in official visit dates.

Team Thad duo will rise

At least when it comes to rankings, the key player for Memphis, Tenn.-based Team Thad is combo forward Leron Black. Ranked No. 16 in the class of 2014, the Memphis (Tenn.) White Station product was also making a return from injury. While Black showed plenty of flashes and did several nice things -- in particular wearing out eight- to 12-foot jumpers -- it was evident that he wasn't 100 percent. Still, thanks in large part to the inspired play of teammates Chris Chiozza and Riley Norris, Team Thad made a run all the way to the finals.

Let's start with Chiozza. A 5-foot-10 point guard and teammate of Black's at Memphis (Tenn.) White Station, he has been creating a buzz all spring. After watching him in Fort Wayne, it's easy to see why he has become one of the most sought-after floor generals in his class. No, he's not the biggest guy around. But he plays with sizeable heart, plenty of skill and a natural feel for leading his teammates and making good decisions.

He is a capable shooter from deep with a tremendous first step, and what is maybe most surprising about Chiozza is how physically he plays. Although he can't weigh much more than 150 pounds, he is constantly seeking out contact and finishing plays that somebody his size shouldn't. Chiozza ranks No. 90 in the class of 2014, and that's too low. Speaking conservatively, look for him to push for at least the national top 50 when rankings are next updated.

Moving on, we turn toward Norris. A 6-foot-6, maybe even 6-foot-7, shooter with deep range, he is an unranked three-star prospect. Not only can Norris shoot with great range and accuracy, he does other things well. He's lean, but he has toughness and he is a pretty good rebounder and a fabulous passer out of the high post, which allows him to play some as a stretch four if a team wants to go small. The unranked part of his status will be changing soon enough. When the 2014 Rivals150 is updated, Norris is a lock to enter the rankings and probably deserves serious consideration for four-star status.

Jackson another to watch in 2016

It is important to stress that it is early, but the class of 2016 has looked impressive. Far from an unknown despite the fact that he just finished his freshman year at Detroit (Mich.) Consortium, 6-foot-6 wing Josh Jackson showed again that he has the tools to be among the top players in his class.

Known for his athleticism, Jackson is a top-flight leaper who has well-above-average agility, speed and strength for a player who has three years of high school left. But it seems that people have overlooked his skill because of that advanced athleticism.

At the Run-N-Slam, Jackson showed that he can shoot from deep and he showed that he is comfortable handling the ball and getting others involved. No, he's not going to be a point guard. But he should develop into a wing with no issues creating for himself or others off of the dribble. Looking down the road, Jackson's physical tools and feel for the game should allow him to develop into a dominant defensive player on the wing.

Not surprisingly, college programs are taking plenty of notice. Christian Dawkins, who runs the Dorian's Pride summer program that Jackson plays for, said Kansas, Oregon, Florida State, Memphis, Ohio State and Texas A&M have offered, while Michigan and Michigan State are showing lots of early interest.



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