KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- This past weekend, my travels took me to the KnoxVegasHeat event. A regionally oriented travel team event, the KVH offered a glimpse into a variety of players in different classes at different levels.
I only saw the players one time at this event, and there’s an element of danger in making snap judgments based on a single performance. But in the spring it’s all about the volume of guys you see so you can double back in the summer and test those theories.
Here are the top 10 prospects from the KVH who made favorable and, in many cases, first impressions.
1. Hunter Ware (Kennesaw, Ga./North Cobb Christian), PG, 2014
Ware’s brother started for a few seasons at Georgia. To me, Hunter looks like the ideal candidate to captain a mid-level program. His body isn’t there yet so the bigger schools will lay off him, but the intangibles and drive are present. Guys like Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum failed the physical look test and you see how that turned out. If Ware goes mid-major (which is his correct level), I’ll bet he finds his way to multiple NCAA tournament berths.
2. Alex Owens (Orlando/Oak Ridge), PF, 2014
Heading into the summer, a personal area of emphasis for me is motor. Owens passed that test with room to spare. This kid gobbles up rebounds in the same manner he’ll gather scholarship offers if he keeps honing his craft. The fact that he’s 6-foot-7 makes me like him even more.
3. Dan Manzi (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Bay Christian), C, 2014
At this time of year, being 6-9 and more than 230 pounds is an automatic asterisk next to your name. Manzi is more than that. After a guy in the lobby told me to make sure I saw him, I did just that. Manzi has a great frame, and there’s a hint of Denzel Bowles (a former Texas A&M signee who transferred to James Madison) in his game.
4. Michael Stafford (Louisville, Ky./Trinity), PG, 2015
Talk about making a good first impression! After one glance, Stafford’s aptitude for his position and ability to direct traffic was a good look. And this is a kid who played JV last year. Here’s my challenge for him: Go out and do it again.
5. Kobi Jordan-Simmons (Alpharetta, Ga./St. Francis), SG, 2016
There are plenty of players who are aggressive, but not all of them truly understand what it means to attack a matchup. Former Drake coach Mark Phelps lectured the Carolina Challenge camp a few weeks ago and reinforced to me the notion of attacking your man. Simmons, despite being a freshman, put it to his guy and created stress for defenders.
6. Dennis Smith (Fayetteville, N.C./Trinity), PG, 2016
If you made a list (and I did) of the best point guards in the freshman class and he’s not on it, toss your list. Smith throws accurate lobs and fires on-target 3-pointers. There’s a lot to like in this youngster.
7. Avery Patterson (Alpharetta, Ga./Wheeler), PG, 2014
This is one tough hombre. The redheaded lead guard is the son of a former Georgia Tech women’s player and plays the game like a powerful running back looking to hit the hole. Patterson is a solid mid-level point man.
8. Kendrick Thompson (Cleveland, Tenn./Cleveland), PG, 2014
There was a lot to like about this young man. He has a legitimate jump shot and should be a Division I player. Everyone has their ideal level, and even if his is on the lower end of Division I, there’s a path for him to become a scholarship player. He traveled down said path last weekend.
9. Kareem Brewton (Shiloh, Ga./Shiloh), SG, 2015
Granted, I watched his team ring up a 30-spot on an unsuspecting bunch, but you can’t fake being an intelligent prospect. Brewton had an easy, confident way about him. He paid attention on defense and his expression never changed. There’s homework to be done here, but the first chapter was a good read.
10. Kylia Sykes (Greensboro, N.C./Page), SF, 2016
Before this month began, I wrote down the word “motor” and hung it on a piece of paper in my office. I made a pact with myself to reward the guys who play with purpose and intensity. Last weekend’s biggest motor guy was Sykes. He’s a freshman who doesn’t yet have a true position but he finds ways to influence the win column for his team. Most freshmen aren’t yet jaded, and here’s hoping Sykes understands that toughness and bringing energy are innate talents.