Yesterday, the National High School Invitational Tournament at Georgetown Prep in Washington, D.C., featured three Maryland Terrapins targets in action. That would be Richard Lee of Blanche Ely, D’Angelo Russell of Monteverde, and Therence Mayimba of Montrose Christan School. Unfortunately from the action I saw, only one of these players truly impressed on the hardwood. Mind you, however, that this review of a single game performance is not an indictment on the players themselves, merely observations about how things went on that specific day.
1.) Best Performer: D’Angelo Russell, Monteverde
Of the three prospects, Russell was the only player that A.) was on a winning team and B.) thoroughly impressed on the basketball court. Russell’s team downed Virginia powerhouse Oak Hill in an incredibly close 77-71 OT victory. While Russell was definitely overshadowed by highly-touted recruit Dakari Johnson (17 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks) and Australian newcomer Ben Simmons, he was still good enough to the point where a lot of people started gushing about his play.
For starters, Russell is an incredibly good shooter from most places on the court. He scored eight of his team’s first ten points, with two coming from long range. Russell has great form on his shot, and his long arms give him a pretty decent release point. His feet also tend to be in the right place whenever he is shooting as well, and that’s key because he is definitively a set-shooter. Even on the misses that he had, none of the shots were errant, and a lot of them just rimmed out. In the future, Russell has the potential to be a very good sharpshooter from the wings if he is paired with a good point guard who can get him the ball.
Another thing you have to like about Russell is his ability to move without the ball. Russell is a shooter, and shooters have a tendency to hang out on the perimeter and wait for someone to find them wide open on a kickout. Not Russell, however. He’s actually very good at moving to open space on the floor, using big man Johnson to get into position to accept a pass, rather than just waiting for someone to do the work for him. He moves a lot on the offensive end, and that is certainly something you want in a player.
But if there is one thing that may actually stand out among everything else, it’s his passing ability. Entry passes to his big men, touch passing around the perimeter, finding men in transition with creativity, you name it. For a shooting guard, Russell has court vision akin to a point guard, and he actually took the ball up the court a number of times to initiate the offense as evidence. Even though he didn’t take a ton of shots, he moved the ball throughout the offense incredibly well and generated points via lots of secondary assists. Russell has a good handle and dribbles pretty low, and I didn’t see him turn the ball over once despite heavy pressure from the very talented Troy Williams.
Defensively he fought for rebounds pretty effectively and didn’t seem remotely absent-minded on the court; rather, he did a good job of recognizing when he had to slide in and help in the paint. Russell actually did a pretty decent job guarding his incredibly athletic counterpart, Williams (one of the top 50 players in the country.) Still, he wasn’t completely able to stay in front of him the whole time, and was fortunate to have Dakari Johnson roaming in the paint to alter some of Williams’ many drive attempts.
His game is not without flaws, however. Russell is, as I said before, a set shooter, meaning he doesn’t do a fantastic job creating his own shot. The one time I did see it, the end result was a miss. He has enough speed and handle to create space for himself, but I’m not sure he’s entirely confident in his ability yet. Because he can’t create his own shot, there will be stretches of the game where Russell falls back into a facilitator role rather than being a crucial scorer in the offense. That’s not to say he isn’t capable of it, but he certainly has his cold spells.
All in all, as a spot up shooter, he might be one of the best in the country. Couple that with his passing, and there’s a good chance he can play significant minutes at the next level regardless of if he figures out how to create his own shot. The Terrapins should press hard for a player like this to come in and drain shots for them.
2.) Richard Lee – Blanche Ely
Lee faced off against Prime Prep in his first and only game, and while there were occasional glimpses of talent, he struggled for the majority of the game. Prime Prep’s length and athleticism clearly bothered Lee, as he was incapable of generating much of any offense on his own. Lee was guarded face-up and tight every time he stepped onto the court (by design), and really failed to make a concerted effort to get a good look on his shot. His movement without the ball left a whole lot to be desired this go ’round, and as such he scored two points in the second half.
Lee was also playing more of a small forward role, even though his team ran with a four-guard set. He was guarding and being guarded by guys who were considerably bigger than him. One of his three point attempts from the wing got tipped on the way up, and his size at the next level may become more of an issue as he isn’t that long and isn’t that tall.
Defensively, he was quick enough to stay in front of his man, and actually came up with a couple of steals, but it was not “All-World” elite. He has the quickness to compete with other guards on the court, and despite his size disadvantage no one was shooting over him consistently. His rebounding, because of his size and length, leaves a bit to be desired.
It was just one outing, but Prime Prep clearly frustrated Lee and you do have to wonder about his effort level. His form looked decent, and he was good enough at dribbling that you can get the idea how he could create his own shots, but it was a tough game for Lee.
3.) Therence Mayimba, Montrose Christian School
Mayimba I only got to see a very brief glimpse of (on television), unfortunately, because he went down with cramps early in the game. Judging from past performances, however, it would likely be much of the same. A prideful defender who is capable of scoring in bunches, as evidenced by his 18 point outing against Oak Hill earlier this year.
Mayimba is still very much a player to watch, although I will have to wait more to see him play in a more extended role.