Flash’s event puts talent on display

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By Joe Henricksen

Flash’s Spring Hoops Review featured a bevy of individual talent on display, which included several of the top players in the Class of 2009 and went as far down as getting an early look at some of the better 8th graders in the state that traveled to the campus of Illinois Wesleyan on Sunday.

The event is organized and runs on time, which is not always the case in so many of the different exposure camps and events. Kudos to Bill “Flash” Flanagan. As is the case with any offseason event, though, it’s hit and miss as far as what you see from individual players. The play can — and was — ragged. And then there are those individuals that simply didn’t come to play with the right frame of mind. Nonetheless, here is a look at a little of what the Hoops Report saw on this day.

Simms-Edwards continues to impress

Every time I watch Washington’s Dyricus Simms-Edwards I come away more and more impressed. While the 6-1 point guard wasn’t eye-popping with his play, he just gets better and better as he becomes more comfortable with the ball in his hands on a regular basis. Remember, this was really the first year in which he has played that he has been thrust into the role of a playmaking guard. He is still developing a feel for the point guard position and has to cut down on turnovers, but he sees the floor well, gets to the basket, finishes with his strong upper body and continues to knock down shots from the perimeter. He’s a little stiff in the hips and his lateral quickness almost looks awkward at times, but this is nitpicking. It will be interesting to see his progression this offseason playing for the Illinois Wolves and under Washington coach Kevin Brown, one of the best in the business.

Leaving wanting more

Another day leaving a gym where you just wanted to see more from Sterling’s Joseph Bertrand. I have seen Bertrand at his best, which can be tantalizing. But in what was basically a scrimmage/practice for the Illinois Wolves teams on Sunday, the versatile guard again went with the flow. He remains an enigma and is embarking on a very important summer in terms of development and consistency. He is never going to be a big-time scorer. He doesn’t have the mindset or the perimeter shot to be that type of threat. But he can still be more assertive, more active and utilize his strengths, which is his length, athleticism and vision. Considering the talent level he has, there are still too many times he’s a non-factor on the floor. He’s at the age and point in his career where the light has to come on all the time — or at least most of the time.

Most impressive performer

There were several players who probably could have made a claim as the top performer, but it was hard to ignore Danville’s Mikel Brigham. The 6-5 out-of-this-world athlete was the eye-opening performer. Oh, he’s raw and without a position. But he’s so long, runs the floor as well as anyone, dunks everything in transition and is an absolute monster on the boards. I loved the way he played at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament in December and again showcased his pure athleticism on Sunday. He lacks any perimeter skills aside from an occasional 12-foot face-up jumper. But his biggest hoops obstacle may be that he’s a much better college football prospect.

Other odds and ends….

Freshman phenom Donivine Stewart of Limestone remains one of the top five prospects in the Class of 2011 and features a unique, uncanny style to his game, which I have talked about in great length in past blogs. But the questions about his size, quickness and athleticism (or lack of) are legitimate. You have to wonder how his individual game and talents will translate to the highest level of college basketball. Simply put, he’s a completely different type of player that needs to be closely evaluated to get a read as to his impact at the next level….Peoria Christian’s Billy Molinari was very solid on the day. He’s going to be a hot commodity on the small school (Division III, NAIA) recruiting trail and, with a splash this summer, just may find himself being a Patriot League-type player before it’s all said and done…. There wasn’t a player who played harder than Conrad Krutwig of Jacobs. The 6-6 four-man ran the floor, finished and defended. He’s limited athletically, but he continues to improve his face-up game…. Champaign Centennial’s James Kinney is a talented point guard, but he still puts the ball on the floor too much and tries to do too much at times…. He’s young and doesn’t really have a clue yet how to play, but Peoria Woodruff’s Andrew Jordan has the physical make-up and the proverbial high-ceiling you look for in a college prospect. He’s a long way from being anywhere close to a finished product, but the 6-5 freshman wing showed flashes on Sunday…. First look at Metamora big man Zeke Schneider. The 6-8 junior is skilled but looks as if he’s hardly been coached. His thin, weak lower body really hurts him when he’s anywhere inside or near the lane. He’s a no-brainer Division I recruit due to his size and skill level, with the mid-major level a possibility with significant strides in the next several months…. While not as skilled as Schneider, big 6-8 Nick Washburn of Mahomet-Seymour is one to watch. He has a ways to go, but what a body.

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