Below are a few observations from player we witnessed during the weekend tournament. Omission
from this list should not be seen as an indication of a lack of talent or value.
Brian Butch, junior, 7'0, Fox Valley - He more of a finesse post player with a mid-range shot,
and averaged in the upper twenties in scoring for the tournament (until he ran into 6'6 Drew
Conner). Had a couple 30+ games, against some strong competition. Yet the talent level overall
at the true center positions might not have been the strongest this year. You immediately
notice Butch's ability to run the floor, and his agility as opposed to many 7'0 centers in
his age group. Nice shot, and a nice game facing the basket. Put him on a team with a Shaq-sized
center and the kid might be able to pull off power forward, but his position looks to be center.
And he's good at it. Only had a few questions about his endurance when Sunday rolled around.
Josh McRoberts, freshman, 6'7, Spiece Hoosier Hoops - He's a lefty, but is equally as good
with his right hand, especially on the dribble. Did a nifty pseudo-palm spin move with his
right hand that most people can't do with their good hand. He has a little bit of a power
game in the post, with strong moves, can bang a bit, and has good balance. Might have
resembled a better Matt Kiefer at his age, but doesn't possess the outside shot that Kiefer
has developed. He's only got three more year though! Iowa and Purdue have both offered him a
spot within the past two weeks. Something created a buzz around this kid and Iowa and Purdue
came calling. He will have many more schools on him in the near future, as he is being talked
up as maybe the best potential post player in the state, better than Luke Zeller (who is no
slouch himself). He makes smart decisions with the ball and doesn't try to do too much. I
got the impression he is capable of doing much more, but doesn't call for the ball much.
He cruises within the flow of the game right now. Very skilled. What makes me think he will
be very good is that he currently doesn't do the things post players do that just drive you
nuts, like slapping at the ball or leaving their feet on defense.
Monty St. Clair, junior, 6'8, Cincy AAU Red - I was pleasantly surprised with his talent.
St. Clair was the leading scorer for his team as they were bounced in the final four by
eventual champion Ft. Sooy (IL). He hit for 18 points, all 2-pointers, in the 66-50 loss.
He's also got a mix of games. I wouldn't necessarily call him a banger, but he can. He's
strong and can move his defender when posting up. But he also has enough athleticism to spin
off the bang and finger roll a shot in on you. His strength is his mid-range game. Accurate
shooter with nice form. I didn't see him hit a perimeter shot, and can't remember him even
attempting one. He hustles, and could be found on the floor after loose balls. Against some
talented post players on Ft. Sooy (Brian Randle for one), he had little trouble. Randle
only had 12 in the game against St. Clair, but Ft. Sooy led by ten at the half and ended
up winning by 16. A nice candidate for the remaining scholarship. Not really a center
candidate in college, but he's that 6'8 power forward / rebounder and hustler anyone can
Brian Randle, junior, 6'8, Ft. Sooy - Great player with forward written all over him.
Excellent game facing the basket, can sky over post player for rebounds and tip-ins. He can
score, but seemed to struggle a little this weekend. He just didn't seem to have it all
together. Showed nice range out past the perimeter, and a nice soft jumper. Also had a
tendency to pull the trigger too quickly when a shot fake would have done him more good.
Shaun Livingston, sophomore, 6'6, Ft. Sooy - Think of Tayshaun Prince with a skill for
passing and you have Livingston. Same body, but doesn't look to score as much as Prince.
Talks a little trash with a smile on his face, but can back it up. Thrives on being
challenged, something he did in the finals against Andrew Lavender, a 5-foot-nothing
(actually probably 5'6) point guard who is a big-time threat. The difference between
Livingston and Lavender, besides the 11 inch height difference, is Livingston is sort of
a jokester, while Lavender is all business. Dangerous size combination with point guard
talent. he creates very harsh matchup problems. Big, quick, long, lean, passer, slasher
and shooter. I'm not one to rank players, but this kid has to rank among the best
handful of players I've seen so far in his class.
Andrew Lavender, junior, 5'6, All Ohio Red - When you hear people say a point guard has to
be 6'0 to play in the Big Ten, this kid is the exception. He will go to a high major
program (I'm hearing Oklahoma) and cause people fits. As I said, he is all business, in
control of his team and his actions on the floor. Few are quicker off the dribble, and will
be hard to pressure on defense.
Adam Liddell, junior, 6'7, No Excuses - You see the stats and think he must not have had
significant minutes. More accurately, he's just not much of a scorer for No Excuses.
Actually I can describe 80% of No Excuses' offense. Give the ball for Todd Abernathy and
let him create. Liddell's offense wasn't much to speak about. However, he provided a
considerable amount of post defense, playing low post to Justin Cage's power forward/high
post game. He blocked what would have been the game-tying shot on Friday night, and had
a late block on Saturday. No block stats were kept, but I'd guess he averaged four to
five per game. Potential, potential, potential. Athletic, with very long arms, and a
developing perimeter shot.
Ronnie Norman, junior, 7'1, Illinois Downstate Warriors - Getting some attention from Purdue,
Indiana, and a host of other midwest programs. Norman is a project. Might help rebounding,
but not much offense there. Graduation from Morton Memorial earns graduates a scholarship
to any in-state university. So Norman might make an interesting walk-on candidate since a
scholarship does not need to be tied up with a player who might take a while to develop a
big conference game. You fall back on the thought that 7'0 can't be taught, and he does have
the tools to develop. But I'm not sure if he has enough knowledge of the game, and what his
abilities can help him do within that game.
Justin Cage, junior, 6'5, No Excuses - He a workman on the boards and can get up above a lot
of his competition for them. Played a power forward or high post game for No Excuses and
is successful because he plays bigger than he really is, similar to a few other post players
from Pike High in Indianapolis that we've seen play like Rodney and Parnell Smith. Yet can
he play small forward in college? Well, he runs the floor, can handle the ball with speed, and
can create his own offense. Not real sure of his perimeter game, but has the mechanics with
a smooth mid-range shot, and obviously has the strength to launch it from distance. Defensively
was good either in a zone or man at containing his man. His aggressive and active style of
play will land him a good offer, maybe at a power position.
Todd Abernathy, junior, 6'1, No Excuses - Executed the game plan very well, and looks for the
ball a majority of the time in clutch situations. He called his own number and went
aggressively to the basket on many occasions. He uses his body really well, twisting to get
the shots off around much taller post players. The thing is the kid can finish consistently,
with a keen nose for the basket. Purdue fans who enjoyed the game of Carson Cunningham around
the basket would love watching this kid. Not as much "circus" as Carson but has the same
ability to get the shot off. He's very composed. Abernathy's game was collapsing the defense
into the paint, and causing defensive breakdowns by easily stepping around his own defender.
A clutch penetrator.
James Hardy, sophomore, 6'6, Maximum Sports - One of two big-time scorers in the Indiana
sophomore class, Hardy is a high Division I caliber prospect. Handles the ball with a flair
with an inside-outside type of game. Superb athlete and open court player who excels in a
running offense. Can score from anywhere on the floor. Reminds some of Purdue's Kenny Lowe,
yet taller. Gets a lot of elevation on his jumper. He is the "man" on Maximum Sports, and
plays the role well. Slight tendencies to do too much sometimes, and allowed opponents to
mentally bother him on two occasions, taking him out of his game. He's maybe a year away from
having the offensive game to silence any mental battles opponents try to play with him.
Consistency, and knowing when to step out of the role of being the main offensive threat are the
two areas in need of minor tweaking.
Kyle Thoms, sophomore, 6'2, Maximum Sports - Rule number one. Do not leave this kid open on
the perimeter! Drained 10 three-pointers in a Friday night game against a team that could
get lost on defense. Runs the floor and plays screens well to get open and makes you pay as long
as he has a chance to set up. Offense is ahead of his defense right now, but is a shooter to
put on a watch list.
Marcus Johnson, eighth grader, 6'6, Maximum Sports - Surprised many with a huge game for his
team in the absence of their No. 1 threat, James Hardy. Programs should make an early impression
with this one, because he could become very, very good. Shows great hands and gathers quite
a few steals. Defensively looks ahead of the game by anticipating passes by understanding
Nick Brooks, junior, 6'5, Bloomington Red - Looks like an all-purpose type player. Has a
combination of shooting and slashing from the small forward position. Grabs a few rebounds
and scores quite a few points. Good at getting himself open to receive the ball, and is a
handful for a pursuing defender.
Naquon Jackson, junior, 6'6, SYF Players - Next great athlete out of the Region. Has some
serious legs and jumping ability, with open court speed. Opened the tournament with an
early 30-point performance. SYF may not be as individually talented as years past when Shane
Powers and Brett Buscher were with the club, but Jackson stood out to many as being a premier
player among the group. Deserves a look this summer, and I'd expect his list of suitors to
grow as the team gets more exposure.
Parnell Smith, junior, 6'6, Spiece Central - I've watched Parnell for a few years now, and
the most recent version has him noticeably slimmer, looking the role of small forward more
than he has in the past. His game is moving out from the post, and over the course of the
weekend, 15-percent of his made shots came from the perimeter. Still has the power and strength
to post up and fight anyone for rebounds, but looks to be completing that move to small forward
that should begin to remove the undersized power player label.
Matt Webster, junior, 6'8, Billy Shepard Sports - Had to say something about this player due to
his effort on the court. Strap some knee pads on this throwback player before he hurts himself.
Played hard ever time we looked at him, and had the floor burns to prove it. Held more than
just his own in a matchup with 6'10 Stefan Zimmerman, outscoring and outrebounding the Utah
bound big man. Decent athlete who can finish.
Drew Conner, junior, 6'6, Spiece Central - You look at Drew Conner and see a 6'6 player busting
his butt with his back to the basket against players with 6-inches on him. Yet he is very
successful at doing what he does. Had back-to-back 7'0 defensive assignments on Sunday, first
with Brian Butch and then with Ohio's version of Big Country, 7'1 Josh Higgins. Defensively
held Butch far off his 30 point games and got him into early foul trouble by taking the ball
straight to him. It's had to recall a more successful, yet undersized post player against such
overwhelmingly huge opponents. Along with Matt Webster, Drew Conner gets the Brian Cardinal
floor burn award for the weekend.
OldGoldFreePress.com is organized & maintained by a group of college sports reporters with the help of Purdue sports fans everywhere. OldGoldFreePress.com is an independent and unofficial Purdue (+ Big Ten Conference/NCAA) sports news site that is not affiliated with Purdue University, the Big Ten Conference, the NCAA and/or any university athletic program.