I made the journey up to Lansing to take in the Mr. Basketball Classic at Lansing Eastern High School. It was a great event and there was plenty of talent on the floor. The games I caught included Grand Ledge vs. Lansing Eastern, Saginaw vs. Kalamazoo Central, and Detroit Country Day vs. Pershing.
Scouting information on Jon Horford, Ray McCallum, Keith Appling, and others after the jump.
The draw for this Wolverine blogger was obviously to check out Jon Horford. The Grand Ledge senior has quickly risen up Michigan’s recruiting board with the injury of Ben Cronin and need for big men on the future roster.
Horford has been the man for Grand Ledge this season, averaging 24 points per game and routinely putting up double digit rebounding totals. Sadly, Horford and his surrounding cast were no match for LaDontae Henton’s Lansing Eastern squad.
Eastern cruised to a 89-67 victory over Horford’s Grand Ledge team that was outmatched in terms of size and athleticism at just about every position besides the 5.
Jon Horford got a decent number of touches but as really the only option for Grand Ledge he was typically swarmed by multiple defenders. He finished the game with 19 points and was pretty clearly outplayed by Eastern’s LaDontae Henton.
There is plenty to like about Horford’s game. He moves well for a big man and looks very comfortable in the post. Despite being double teamed he had a couple nice spin moves when he got the ball cleanly on the box. He also showed very nice touch finishing around the hoop. He also did a very good job passing out of double teams and finding open shooters (even if they weren’t making shots). Judging by his track record and comments, it’s clear that Beilein is fond of players that can pass the ball at every position on the court.
But at the end of the day he just doesn’t “wow” you like you would expect a high-major big man to. He got ripped of several rebounds and doesn’t appear to be a tremendous shot blocker, despite being the tallest player on the court. He is very slender from the mid-section down and had to pull up his shorts after about every play. Horford’s shooting form is also screwy and will certainly get some attention once he is playing for a division 1 coach.
At the end of the day, Horford is an intriguing prospect with all of these tools that he is just waiting to put together. If it all clicks, he has the potential to be a very good player. At this point, he seems like a good fit for Michigan on a roster that has so few big men. There isn’t much left in the class of 2010 and in Michigan’s situation it just seems to make sense.
Next up was Saginaw versus Kalamazoo Central (without Devin Oliver, foot injury). Saginaw won the helter skelter uptempo game that looked more like football at times.
The opening games were fun but the finale was worth the price of admission by itself. The Detroit Country Day and Pershing game matched up two of the best guards in the state, Keith Appling (MSU commit) and Ray McCallum (final four of Detroit, Arizona, Florida, and UCLA), and they certainly brought their A-games. (DCD ’11 big man Amir Williams was on crutches, recovering from a knee injury)
The stats point to a draw with McCallum scoring 24 points to Appling’s 22 but I have to give the victory to Ray McCallum, the senior point guard simply put on a show in the third quarter.
Appling started out slowly, allowing Country Day to build up a 20 point lead. But then he started heating up, hitting three pointers and scoring in transition to ignite a Pershing run. The Doughboys managed to cut the DCD lead to three with two minutes to play in the third quarter. Then came the Ray McCallum show. McCallum went straight at Appling and scored 10 straight points, bringing the crowd to their feet with every bucket.
McCallum did it all, he busted out an array of crossovers, finishes, and spin moves that left everyone oohing and aahing. Then to close out the half he crossed-up Appling and hit a step back three pointer. DCD never looked back.
Give credit to both kids though, they put on a hell of a show and are clearly two of the best players in the state. So often these type of match-ups are more about hype than substance. Today, both kids had their moments even if McCallum got the last laugh.
Keith Appling (2010, SG/PG, Pershing, MSU Commit)
Appling is a hell of a player. I would call him a combo guard because even though he has a scorer’s mentality, he needs the ball in his hands. He hit a couple three pointers but he can really do his damage driving the lane. His best move of the night was an inside-out dribble in transition that led to a smooth layup. Appling certainly doesn’t look big but he’s strong going to the hole and can finish with contact. To Appling’s credit, Country Day was in a zone for much of the game which I assume was to attempt to minimize the damage that Appling could create. Appling was matched up with McCallum for most of the game and looks to be a terrific defender, something that will fit in perfectly in East Lansing. He ripped McCallum twice in the fourth quarter, including on a fast break.
LaDontae Henton (2011, SF/PF, Lansing Eastern). “Buckets” is a great high school player. He’s big and strong and knows how to score the ball. He shouldered the load for Lansing Eastern, scoring around 27 points but the problem is where does he project at the next level. Not fast enough to play the wing and not big enough to play down low.
Charles Tucker (2013, PG, Lansing Eastern). The freshman point guard is already garnering buzz as one of the top freshman in the state and he certainly has the handle to back it up. He had some great drives and dishes and controlled the game for Eastern but his jump shot needs work.
Tommy McCune (2011, SF, Saginaw High). McCune is an intriguing player. He has a great combination of size (looked all of his listed 6’7 at least) and skill. McCune was forced to play in the post quite a bit but he doesn’t really have much back to the basket game. His length and athleticism got him to a number of putbacks and easy buckets down the stretch that allowed Saginaw to pull away. He also isn’t quite comfortable enough with his handle to put the ball on the floor (although the game was a mess in terms of style of play, turnovers, and just plain sloppiness). Despite searching for his role, McCune’s combination of size, skill, and shooting ability certainly makes him one to watch.