Some of the nation's top high school talent was on display in Coral Springs for the Kreul Classic.
The 25th edition of the Kreul Classic certainly did not disappoint. Forty four teams competed over the course of the three day event—drawing scouts, fans, and high-profile collegiate coaches from around America to watch some of Florida’s top high school prospects. I had the opportunity to take in the championship rounds on day three between six of the top teams in the state.
McArthur v. Blanche Ely
Derric Jean (McArthur), 6’2’’ Sr. PG
College: Louisiana Tech
From the outset, McArthur’s game was all about Derric “The Goods” Jean. Before the game, one of McArthur’s coaches was giving Jean the whispering of a lifetime. Because I was sitting right behind the bench, I could tell the gist of the conversation -- “Get your mind right. You’re the best player on the court. Please, please take the confidence that I have in you and use it out there on the court.” This raised my antennas a bit. Normally the star player wouldn’t need this sort of pep talk.
With the pregame display over, I focused on Jean’s intangibles. McArthur got down early and so did Jean. His body language was negative and his confidence seemed to be fading. To add to Jean’s rocky start, his coach yanked him out of the game to unleash on him for all to see. For nearly two minutes it was almost impossible to watch the game as everyone gawked over the coach’s counterproductive, puerile, floor slapping tantrum. Certainly not the boost Jean was looking for.
As Jean settled into the game, he showed some of the talents that his coaches lauded pregame. He is a smooth, athletic driver to the basket, with good size and a strong frame as a 6’2’’ point guard. With his build and athleticism, Jean has the foundation he needs to be a lockdown defender as he enters his collegiate career at Louisiana Tech.
Majestic Tejada (McArthur), 6’1’’ Sr. PG
College: Northern Arizona
Majestic Tejada was lightning in a bottle. No one could stop his first step as he attacked the rim. When McArthur was struggling in the beginning of the game, Tejada almost single handedly kept the team afloat. Tejada’s ability to blow past his defender put pressure on the defense, but he rarely attacked and found others. He seemed to be looking for his own shot and only looked to set up his teammates sparingly. I couldn’t tell if it was Tejada’s mindset to attack because his teammates were nervous or if he was just in throwback Leandro Barbosa mode. While I loved Tejada’s aggressiveness, he didn’t seem to be a pure point guard running the show but rather a combo guard trapped in a point guard’s body.
Then, just like lightning, Tejada was gone. As McArthur made their push in the second half Tejada was nowhere to be found. For reasons unknown to me, Tejada remained on the bench for important stretches of the second half.
Terrell Turner (McArthur), 6’4’’ So. SG
Terrell Turner was the story of McArthur’s second half. Tejada was able to generate offense for segments of the first half and Turner picked up the torch for the entire second half. While Turner lacked some polish, most noticeably his hands and his footwork on the catch, I loved Turner’s mentality. He came out attacking every possession. If there was even a semi-transition opportunity, Turner was sprinting, demanding the ball, and attacking the rim. Turner’s athleticism and ability to finish in traffic was the perfect complement to his incessant drives.
Turner certainly showed the poise and mental toughness of an upper classman. Turner remains undecided on where he will spend his life after high school, but if he maintains his attitude and gains some polish, he will be getting a lot more recruitment calls. Turner is already considered to be a five star prospect for the class of 2017 and the third best player in the state.
LaQuincy Rideau (Blanche Ely), 6’1’’ Sr. PG
LaQuincy Rideau stole the show. Rideau was not only the star of the game; he was one of the entire night’s standouts. Immediately I was struck by Rideau’s basketball IQ and patience. Never phased by pressure, always attacking offensively and defensively, never frenetic, Rideau controlled the game from start to finish. Offensively, Rideau was able to switch up his game-- one possession knifing to the basket, the other hitting a long three, the next adding a tough and-one in transition. I was never blown away by Rideau’s athleticism, but like any great player, Rideau knows his strengths and limitations. He never tried to jump over or outrun anyone; he knew exactly how to maneuver and contort his body to do absolutely whatever he wanted on the court.
Defensively, Rideau was stellar. He was a terror. If you were a guard trying to penetrate, Rideau found a way to get his hand on the ball. If you were a big getting an offensive rebound, again, Rideau found himself with his hands all over the ball. Rideau’s hands, instincts, and anticipation during his on-the-ball defense were next level.
Throughout the game Rideau looked like a crafty old veteran teaching young players lessons. From his ability to control the pace of the game, to his hands defensively, to his already solid build, Rideau was in a different league. Rideau dominated to the tune of 29 points, nine rebounds, five steals, and four assists. Surprisingly, not many schools are as high on Rideau as this one game would have me believe. He is still exploring his options and possibly waiting for the right school to come to their senses.
Therrell Gosier (Blanche Ely), 6’6’’ Sr. C
College: Miami (Football Wide Receiver)
Therrell Gosier is a Jay Bilas guy. By that I don’t mean he is an urban philosopher like Young Jeezy, I mean he has a hard edge and can be characterized by these words: “long”, “athletic”, “upside”. Gosier is a springy rim runner with plenty of bounce. His agility and feet are something uncommon for the center position, even if Gosier isn’t true center size. When I mentioned his agility to another spectator, they quickly informed me that he was going to the U. When I asked what position he was going to play at the University of Miami (because I assumed he most certainly couldn’t play center collegiately), he quickly responded “Wide Receiver”. Makes perfect sense.
Diandre Wilson (Blanche Ely), 6’2’’ Sr. SG
Diandre Wilson was not showcased in the Blanche Ely offense but when he was he demonstrated some nice skills. Wilson has a pure stroke from the field and the free throw line. When McArthur defenders closed out too hard, Wilson was able to get into the land and show a knack for getting his shot off amongst much bigger defenders. Like Rideau, Wilson’s recruitment is still wide open.
It seems a little strange that Ely’s three standout players on this night have not inked a single Letter of Intent to a basketball program.
Zion v. Dillard
Keith Stone (Zion), 6’7’’ Sr. SF
Keith Stone enters every game as the big fish. That’s not just because he is a big man at a relatively small school (height and population wise), but because he is the big recruit (11th in the state) going to the big school, not to mention he has already starred in his own beer commercials. As an unabashed Florida Gator fan, I was ecstatic to watch the Gator blue chipper.
Keith Stone showed flashes of his potential, but he was not as smooth as advertised. The versatility was apparent and the skills undeniable. Stone stroked it from outside and off the dribble. Stone also finished inside a couple times while swatting away a pair of attempts on the other end, but Stone never seemed to put it all together. The entire game I was just waiting for the takeover. Whether that was going to be a shooting barrage or a high post clinic, I felt Stone had his choice and the ability but he never fully asserted himself. Worst of all, Stone struggled down the stretch, missing multiple free throws and committing costly errors. When the game finished my thirst hadn’t been quenched, I still wanted more from Keith Stone.
Michael Green (Dillard), 5’11’’ Sr. PG
College: Northern Arizona
Senior point guard, Michael Green, ran the show for Dillard. His fingerprints were all over this game, both good and bad. From the onset, Green asserted himself and made no mistaking as to who this game belonged. Green’s blazing speed and quickness allowed him to be a one man press break and fast break. He could run circles around defenders before getting in the lane to create shots for himself and others. The quick lefty torched defenders and also showed his marksmanship from outside. As the game wore on, however, Green got himself into some trouble. Instead of making a pass to break pressure, Green sometimes over dribbled and turned the ball over, victim to his own quickness. A couple times Green rushed into an off balance three when he had enough time to shoot on balance with his great lefty stroke. In totality, Green’s performance was a little uneven but the game was still his from start to finish.
Green will be pairing his dizzying quickness with the lightning quickness of the aforementioned Majestic Tejada (McArthur) at Northern Arizona next season.
Cedric Wright (Dillard), 6’6’’ Sr. SF
College: San Francisco
Cedric Wright had a solid performance for Dillard against Zion, but I wasn’t blown away by anything that he showed. Wright has good size at this level and was able to rebound well against an undersized Zion team but I thought he could have done more if he was featured. Whenever I look at bigs, I am always looking at hands and feet. Do they have strong hands to catch passes and rebounds in traffic? Do they know how to use footwork to create catch opportunities and attack defenders? For whatever reason, maybe the style of the game, I was unable to get answers to those questions about Wright.
Charles “Tre” Maloney III (Dillard), 6’6’’ Sr. SF/PF
“And now starting at power forward, number 32, ‘The Mailman’, Charles Malone-y.” This is not how Maloney was introduced but when you share the same position, number, and nearly the same name as an NBA icon, you might as well milk it. Maloney came out of the gates with great energy (he must have envisioned the Mailman introduction). Energetic and vocal on both ends, I really loved Maloney’s intangibles. When you pair that with Maloney’s left handedness and solid shooting stroke, you have a really nice combination. Unfortunately, Maloney’s energy tapered off a bit in the second half and Zion was able to neutralize some of Tre’s left hand dominate ways. Still, Maloney is an intriguing prospect and could be a great project for the right college coaching staff.
Pembroke Pines Charter v. Sagemont
Haanif Cheatham (Pines), 6’5’’ Sr. SG
Haanif Cheatham put on the performance of the night. You could already tell before the game started that Cheatham was ready and eager to take on the game. Not knowing much about Cheatham entering the game, I was immediately struck by his athleticism and explosiveness. Cheatham isn’t a power jumper in the mold of Darryl Dawkins, but more of a silky glider like Clyde Drexler. Time and time again Cheatham glided through, around, and over the Sagemont defense, attacking the rim relentlessly for 30 points. On every single catch Cheatham was looking to attack, no matter where he caught it or who was guarding him. Cheatham could not be stopped. AJ Jurko (who I will detail later) did the best job of temporarily slowing Cheatham, but Cheatham was still his own one man wrecking crew.
Almost equally as impressive as Cheatham’s relentless attacking was his attitude. Not for one second did Cheatham shy away from the matchup with Florida’s fourth ranked played, Prince Ali. In fact, Cheatham (and Ali) embraced the matchup. The two were constantly in each other’s face at both ends, going at it physically and verbally both on and off the ball.
If there is anything that you could possibly hold against Cheatham, it was the lack of versatility of his offensive game. Nearly all of Cheatham’s drives started with a left-handed drive and some type of finish that allowed Cheatham to again use his left hand. Again, it is hard to hold this against him because he was able to get wherever he wanted on the court whenever he wanted. Because of the ease with which Cheatham got to the rim, we also did not get to see his shooting stroke from the outside. If it is anything like his free throw stroke, however, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. I do have reservations, though. I suspect the outside shooting is probably the weakest part of Cheatham’s offensive game, because even the players who can get to the rim at will still like to fire it up from deep when they think they have the stroke.
Matthew Johnson (Pines), 6’0’’ Jr. PG
Young Kenny Stills! He’s got the hair and he’s got some game too. Johnson was the floor general. While Cheatham was gliding and attacking, Johnson was the steadying force on the offense, always under control and directing traffic. I will be interested to see how Johnson’s role grows next year in Cheatham’s absence and how his recruitment will change as a result.
Prince Ali (Sagemont) 23 UCLA, 6’4’’ Sr. SG
If Haanif Cheatham stole top billing, Prince Ali was who he stole it from. As the fourth ranked player in the state (with easily the best name), a lot was expected from Ali. Although Cheatham may have outshined Ali, the Prince certainly showed how he earned his ranking. As I mentioned before, the best thing about watching this game was watching the one-on-one battle between Ali and Cheatham. Both players stood toe to toe flapping their gums and getting buckets. Ali repeatedly attacked with two large sweeping steps to the basket. It’s almost like the game slowed down for Ali while he was in the midst of these two extraordinarily long steps-- he switched angles, contorted his body, finished, and even kicked to shooters. When Ali wasn’t on his way to the rim, he was not shy about letting it go from deep either. Ali’s stroke from behind the arc was effortless and he even nailed a few from way deep.
At times, Ali looked like a man amongst boys (with the exception of Cheatham). But then Ali seemed to tire-- not rotating defensively, missing free throws, and even getting caught sleeping as an on-the-ball defender. Ali waning down the stretch is really what separated him from Cheatham (in a negative way). Still, Ali was the second best player of the entire evening; unfortunately the best player was starring on the opposing team.
AJ Jurko (Sagemont), 6’2’’ Sr. SG
AJ Jurko was not the best player on the court but he very well could have been the best player to watch. Jurko routinely made jaw dropping passes that created easy shots for his teammates. His consistent effort at both ends fueled his other teammates. Then, when the chips were down, Jurko took on the assignment of guarding Haanif Cheatham. Cheatham had already spent a large portion of the game going at Ali, but Jurko took over the assignment in the second half and was the only player that could get Cheatham off of his favored left hand.
Jurko’s recruitment remains open with Columbia leading the way. Based on what I saw, Jurko is clearly a smart player with great vision and grit, but what I didn’t see on display was his shooting ability. The few times that I did see Jurko shoot from the outside (including warm-ups), there was a slight hitch at the top of his release. Maybe this doesn’t affect him and he still shoots a high percentage, but it certainly was not a textbook release and could be a hindrance as he steps up in competition. Despite what could potentially be a shooting deficiency, his passing ability still makes him an effective offensive player in high school and could help him steal the Red Rifle nickname (watch your back, Dalton).