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June 10, 2013

2013 Elite 100 features some standouts


ST. LOUIS -- Each year, the Nike Elite 100 gives us a glimpse at many of the nation's top rising sophomores and juniors.

While the 2013 edition was perhaps lacking a little bit of the star power of years past, there was still plenty of terrific young talent on the floor.

The camp certainly ended on a high note with Zack Norvell ramming home a left-handed jam in transition over a defender in the final five seconds of overtime to secure a two-point win and a championship for his camp team.

In our first recap of camp, we take a look at some of the top performers.

Labissiere is tops

Ranked No. 6 overall in the class of 2015, Skal Labissiere entered camp as the highest-ranked player at the Elite 100.

For the most part, the 6-foot-10 center from Cordova (Tenn.) Evangelical Christian played up to that lofty ranking and he backed up the considerable hype he has generated over the past year.

Still less than 200 pounds, Labissiere is obviously quite skinny. The lack of bulk sometimes allows other to push the native of Haiti around in the post. In particular, 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6 guys with strength and the ability to get under his hips in the post cause him problems. However, what is remarkable about Labissiere is how quickly he addresses things on the floor. Also, he has something most young post players lack -- counter moves.

Labissiere can spin either direction, has soft hands, runs the floor and can face the hoop and make short jumpers. He easily adapts his game to different playing styles and while he has some touch, he avoids the temptation to float away from the rim and try to prove that he's a perimeter player.

He is very good on the glass and he also showed at the Elite 100 that he's figuring out how to be a bigger deterrent to shots in the lane on the defensive side of the ball.

Memphis, Kentucky, Kansas, Tennessee, Georgetown and many others have been getting familiar with him for very good reason.

Bragging rights

Not too far behind Labissiere in terms of helping himself at the Elite 100 was the nation's No. 27 player in the class of 2015, Carlton Bragg.

Measured in his bare feet at 6-foot-7 in St. Louis, the young four man from Cleveland (Ohio) Villa Angela-St. Joseph continued what has been an outstanding grassroots run. More than anything, in a setting where too many kids needed a kick in the tail from coaches, Bragg was flying all over the place and playing with good energy. A good shooter from the mid-range, Bragg has the mechanics and tools to extend his range -- he does make some 3s, but his shot doesn't look near as comfortable at that range -- to the college 3-point line and become a pick-and-pop threat.

Bottom line, Bragg has really been asserting himself in every setting and it would be a surprise if more schools don't add their names to a list that includes Ohio State, Illinois, Indiana and West Virginia.

Diagne makes his move

During the high school season, Moustapha Diagne built up a strong reputation on the East Coast. The Sparta (N.J.) Pope John XXIII big man backed up at the Elite 100.

Although he isn't quite the 6-foot-9 he's been listed at (he measured 6-foot-7 in his socks), Diagne has a seven-foot wingspan and high shoulders that allow him to play bigger than his size. What Diagne also does is compete with purpose, play with physicality and never give up on plays.

A rugged 230-pounder, Diagne punishes opponents in the post with his body and is a strong rebounder and intimidating figure in the post. He will turn to both shoulders and hit jump hooks with both his right and left hand. Actually, for a while it was tough to tell that he is actually right-handed because he was so dedicated to working for that left-handed jump hook.

On a few occasions, Diagne poorly chose to launch up deep jumpers, but for the most part he played in the lane where he looks most comfortable. He can run the floor well enough and appears to be a good low-post defender. Mark him down as a no-brainer, high-major and four-star who will make a splash when 2015 rankings get updated.

Tops of the rest

Arguably the best two wing players in camp were on the same team. 2015 wings Jaylen Brown and Luke Kennard rank Nos. 17 and 32, respectively, in the class of 2015 and they each played to their ranking while showing entirely different games.

The higher-ranked and bigger of the two, Brown is physical and athletic and sometimes plays with a nasty disposition. When we say nasty we mean physical, in your face and attacking in transition. The 6-foot-6 product of Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler is a big finisher in transition, gets to the rim along the baseline and has a jumper that has to be respected.

Like Brown, Kennard is a strong kid and the product of Franklin (Ohio) High plays more of a skill game. Make no mistake about it, the southpaw is plenty athletic and he's not afraid to attack the rim. However, the strength in Kennard's game is in his deft shooting touch from deep, precision passing and ability to consistently generate separation with just one or two dribbles. The kid is efficient and because of that he limits mistakes.

Overall, the point guard play at the Elite 100 was perhaps the weak spot. However, Jalen Brunson was very good. A top-50 player in the class of 2015, Brunson is a heady competitor who is a very dangerous playmaker because of his ability to change speeds, understanding how to use his body and awareness of spacing. While not a true speed merchant, Brunson is deceptively quick and his above-average jump shooting forces defenders to crowd him which puts them at his mercy off the dribble.

Long term, Eric Davis will probably need to add more point guard skill to his game. But, the No. 25 player in the class of 2015 is doing just fine now as a high-scoring combo guard. Few guards in camp could match his feel for creating offense via the dribble and he was cutting down on some mistakes he's made in the past due to over dribbling.

At the end of the day, the object of the game is putting the ball in the bucket and there simply weren't many better bucket-getters in camp.

Finally, exactly what position he'll play long term is still to be determined, but Edward Morrow put forth one big effort after another for his team as it won the camp championship. Right now, the rising junior at Chicago (Ill.) Simeon is more of a slightly undersized four man but his production wasn't undersized. He was all over the glass, ran the floor, scored on the interior and chased everything down above the rim. Morrow is a very good athlete and his motor is going to earn him a lot of long looks.



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