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Under Armour Invitational – Friday recap

Under Armour Invitational – Friday recap

UnderArmourAssociationWhile adidas and Nike held tournaments with their sponsored grassroots basketball teams during the live viewing weekends in April, Under Armour decided to host a tournament for the balance of their squads this weekend, in the Dallas suburb of Arlington, Texas.

The action kicked off on Friday night at three sites, though Hoopniks.com focused on the action at the tournament headquarters of Bowie High School. Given a large amount of media and scouts in attendance, it appears as if the Under Armour Invitational has the attention of the grassroots basketball community this weekend.

Balanced Las Vegas Prospects overcome yeoman effort

Chris Chiozza (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

Chris Chiozza (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

The best game of the opening slate featured more than a half-dozen D-1 prospects (no pun intended), in a showdown between highly-regarded Team Thad of the Memphis area against the consistently strong Las Vegas Prospects.

The first half saw almost unreal play from recent Florida Gators commit Chris Chiozza, a fiery point guard that has increased his confidence and expanded his offensive game as well as overall skill level. Although the Prospects threw a variety of defenders at Chiozza, that could not stop his drives to the bucket (no one stayed in front of him), and Chiozza also stepped back and nailed several 3-point shots.

Chiozza’s court vision was impressive, as he set up teammates for easy baskets. Fellow top 100 prospect Leron Black was the recipient of numerous passes from Chiozza, either in the high or low post, and showcased his bevy of athletic finishes. With Chiozza, Black and occasional 3-point bombs from Riley Norris and interior finishes from Marcanvis Hymon, Team Thad has enough firepower to take out most opponents.

In this game, though, the contest was tied with 1:30 left, and Chiozza fouled out. From there, the Las Vegas Prospects took the edge and retained it for the remainder of the contest, as they attacked and converted free throws to win going away.

It truly was a group effort for the Prospects, which added a top 100 player of their own for the weekend, as BYU pledge TJ Haws of Lone Peak (UT) is on the squad for the event. Haws is a loose offensive player that can shake defenders like few others, drain long distance shots, and find the open man. Though not quite to the extent that Chiozza was feeling it, Haws is nearly unguardable at the high school level.

In addition to Haws, combo guard Daryl Gaynor of Palo Verde (NV) and wing Diontae Jones of Clark (NV) also played well. Gaynor hit some triples and got to the rim quite a bit, while Jones finished in the paint at key moments. The Las Vegas Prospects also have a future D-1 player of their own at lead guard, Shaquille Carr.

Names to know:

  • Isaiah Whitehead, 6′-5″, SG, 2014, Lincoln (NY)/Juice – When prospects blow up early on during their high school tenure, they can be forgotten later on, or diminished due to their game being overexposed. That may have happened to Whitehead, who was a top 10 prospect nationally as a high school freshman, and has declined in most player rankings since then. Still, Whitehead is a terrific shooting guard prospect that has steady gotten better, though that improvement may not have actually netted him as much recognition as he’s arguably due. He’s a better all-around guard than he’s ever been, with a more consistent shot, better heads up play and all-around skills. Whitehead is a legitimate top 25 player nationally, and probably should be getting more acclaim than he is for his play as of late (he also impressed when we saw him at the Dallas EYBL).
  • Mark Vital, 6′-5″, SF, 2016, Washington-Marion (LA)/Southern Elite – It’s always fun to see what looks to be a future star for the first time, and that may very well be what Vital is. He looked like a physical and athletic top notch 2015 prospect as we watched his team score an important victory over the Young Legends. His overall performance became even more impressive as Vital is actually a 2016 prospect, and his class was misprinted in the roster book. Vital has a great wing body and is confident in his ability to take defenders off the dribble and finished at or above the rim. He uses his muscular frame to grab caroms, and also hit some shots at distance. Vital has the makings of an easy top 50 player nationally in his class.
  • Keita Bates-Diop, 6′-7″, SF, 2014, University (IL)/Illinois Wolves – The Ohio State Buckeyes commit has a smooth game, but he’s smart and relentless in his own way. The Illinois Wolves are one of the better organized grassroots teams nationally, and Bates-Diop stands out in their system. In the first half, he was deferential in dropping dimes to teammates but also disrupting passing lanes on the defensive end. His shot started falling in the second half, and he continued to show his soft touch in nail shots at the elbow. He is also a better than advertised rebounder, and uses his frame effectively. He looks like a great fit for the Buckeyes, and a guy that can be a standout at the college level with continued improvement.
  • Diamond Stone (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    Diamond Stone (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    Diamond Stone, 6′-10″, C, 2015, Dominican (WI)/Young Legends – A top 5 prospect in his class nationally, Stone eschewed more high profile grassroots teams for a family affair with the Young Legends. As a result, he doesn’t have many peers on the interior on his squad, and is often subject to at least two defenders attempting to thwart his efforts on the interior. Stone quietly rolled to a double-double, though his team lost, and showed all the signs of being an elite prospect in his class nationally. Stone probably doesn’t get as many touches as he should from his 3-point bombing teammates, but he converts at an acceptable percentage and is a clear building block down low when he plays to his stengths. There’s no reason that Stone can’t be a centerpiece recruit for a national-level program in his recruiting cycle, though that is two years away.

  • Glynn Watson, 5′-11″, PG, 2015, St. Joseph’s (IL)/Illinois Wolves – More known for his exploits at the 16U level, Watson impressed playing up an age group. He didn’t necessarily fill out the stat line, like many of the prospects we write about do, but he showed himself to be a true point guard that was capable of shredding defenders in penetrated in the paint. His handle and passing were solid, and he impressed with his ball knowledge and feel for passing lanes and open teammates. Watson is very worthy of a track as a high-major lead guard prospect in his class nationally.

Others that caught our eye:

  • Kahron Ross, 5′-11″, PG, 2014, Jonesboro (AR)/Arkansas Hawks
  • Julian Green, 6′-3″, SG, 2014, DeSoto (TX)/Dallas Showtyme Elite
  • Joe Burton, 6′-6″, SF, 2014, Atascocita (TX)/Houston Defenders
  • Malek Harris, 6′-7″, SF, 2014, Sandburg (IL)/Illinois Wolves
  • Wade Baldwin, 6′-4″, SG, 2014, St. Joseph’s (NJ)/Sports U Team Izod
  • Riley Norris, 6′-7″, SF, 2014, Albertville (AL)/Team Thad
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For those fans that wish college basketball was a year-round sport, the College Basketball Newcomers Guide paperback and Kindle book previews the incoming recruits for every team nationally. There’s no need to wait until Fall to learn about the new names in college basketball that will be starring on the hardwood.

Check out the 2014 College Basketball Newcomers Guide

About Kellon Hassenstab

Kellon Hassenstab is the publisher of the College Basketball Newcomers Guide book and Hoopniks.com. He founded Hoopniks.com in 2009, and has contributed to SlamOnline, Dime Magazine's HighSchoolHoop.com, and NBCSports.com, along with other publications in the past. Hassenstab has covered grassroots, high school and basketball recruiting for over a decade. Follow on Twitter, @Hoopniks.

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