SARASOTA, Fla. – The Nike Team Florida Fall Workout, more commonly known as “The Workout,” turned into a coronation event for one of the nation’s fastest-rising big men, Joel Embiid. In addition to the senior center’s breakout effort, a host of young underclassmen, including some quality bigs, displayed the skills to be mid- to high-level scholarship candidates.
Nearly 30 Division I players attended the two-day event with the juniors and seniors taking center stage on Saturday. It was there that Embiid made his mark, adding his name to a list of standouts from this event’s history that includes Will Yeguette, Kenny Kadji and Rakeem Buckles.
The camp afforded players from four classes the opportunity to measure themselves up against local competition that they’re in direct competition for scholarships with. For kids such as junior point guard Nick Brizendine (Oviedo, Fla./Hagerty) and senior shooting guard Thierry Fredrik (Ocala, Fla./Vanguard), this was their chance to move their recruitments from D-II to D-I.
The youngsters rolled into town on Sunday and a handful of frontcourt players put themselves on the map. As is the case with any exposure camp for kids in the first half of their high school careers, many walked away having planted a seed for future success. They’re on the radar, now it’s up to them to continue moving up the food chain.
Joel Embiid (Cameroon/The Rock), C, 2013
This is the fastest rising big man in the senior class and arguably the most improved interior player since the end of the high school season. Embiid has all the physical attributes – length, size, and athleticism – to go with an aggressive streak. He doesn’t have a year of organized basketball under his belt but he's got the look of an elite big man prospect and he could be six months away from cementing himself as one of the premier centers in the country. Embiid is raw but it’s from lack of experience not ability or desire. He could conceivably be a contributor at the highest level as a rebounder, scorer and shot blocker. Embiid is far from perfect, but he’s laced with natural ability and hasn’t been spoiled by the process. He clearly wants to get better and Florida, Kansas and Virginia are expected to be solid contenders to receive official visits.
D.J. Bowles (Oldsmar, Fla./Oldsmar), PG, 2013
People who place a premium on point guards who see the floor and play at different speeds will love Bowles. The former Central Florida commit is a lock mid-major player with Wichita State and Murray State expected to be on his official visit list.
Eye on underclassmen
Juwan Durham (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Prep), PF, 2016
Durham is a very good-looking long-term prospect with a Kentan Facey-esque frame. He showed his high-major talent level in spurts and the guy can really run. We’re talking about a kid born in 1997 who hasn’t played a minute of high school ball yet. Durham is a prospect that needs to be on the high-major radar screen.
Austin Harrell (Gainesville, Fla./The Rock), SG, 2014
He’s added some point guard abilities to his game, which is predicated on scoring punch and solid athleticism. Harrell is a solid mid-major combo guard.
Haanif Cheatham (Pembroke Pines, Fla./Pines Charter), SG, 2015
The left-handed shooting guard is a balanced player with a diverse skill set. Though he’s not a strong 3-point shooter at this stage, Cheatham sees the floor, is unselfish and passes well. He has the potential to be a high-level player.
Kevarrius Hayes (Live Oak, Fla./Suwanee), PF, 2015
He had the best motor of any player at the event. Not only does the motor run hot, but this big man supposedly is quite the athlete on the track and has legit speed at 6-feet-7 and 190 pounds. Hayes outhustled his peers and was relentless. He’s an opportunistic offensive player who likes to run into people.
Cedric Wright (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Dillard), PF, 2015
If you’re only 6-6 at the power forward spot, you might as well be a tough guy and Wright’s all about that. Powerful, rugged and a good athlete, Wright is going to run down rebounds and pick the shortest path to the rim.
John Mooney (Altamonte Springs, Fla./Lake Brantley), PF, 2016
For a guy who’s yet to play a high school game, Mooney has an advanced game as a stretch 4-man.
LeAndre Thomas (St. Petersburg, Fla./St. Petersburg), C, 2016
Keep an eye out for this kid who really improved throughout the day. He’s not sure of himself (which is to be expected for young guys) but he has the tools.
Prince Ali (Pembroke Pines, Fla./Pines Charter), SF, 2015
Ali is the consummate energy guy whose gift is that he’s always on the move making plays. He will begin the year on the mid-to-high fence, but if he shows himself to be a perimeter shooter, his stock will rise.
A number of potential Division I frontcourt players caught our attention including: 2014 PF Dan Manzi (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Christian), 2013 PF Adonis Rwabigwi (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Prep) and 2014 C Dauda Ndiaye (Tampa, Fla./First Academy). Expect to see teams from the OVC to the Sun Belt post up on these guys.