ZS: Judging by your film Dylan, it's clear you have the potential to be a dual threat guard who plays both sides of the ball. How would you describe your game?
DA: First and foremost I am an attacker. I pride myself on being a guy who can really slash and get to the rim. With my strength and scrappy nature, I am able to finish with either hand inside.
I also pride myself on playing an unselfish style of basketball. Therefore, I am able to read the defensive schemes and hit the open man. By picking up on my teammates' tendencies and understanding their skill-set, I'm able to playmake with the ball. I really like to cater to their strengths when I am controlling the game.
ZS: How did you develop the natural ability to knife into the rim with such ease?
DA: Honestly, I have been playing basketball since I was 11 in the UK. I stuck with it and wound up representing my city (Birgmingham) as one of the area's top-tier guys.
I always looked to penetrate and score on the big guys at the rim, because that's how I grew up playing.
That's a challenge I presented myself with early on. Beating guys off the dribble and using my strength to fend them off on my takes to the rim, there is a certain challenge I embrace in it all.
ZS: Despite growing up in the UK, it seems you have knowledge of the American game and a skill set which aligns with the American style of play? How did this all develop?
DA: Really I think watching old school NBA guys and developing a passion for their style is what molded me as a player.
I watched plenty of film on NBA guys like Steve Nash, who was a supremely gifted passer who really knew how to spark the attack.
I watched guys like Mark Jackson in his Knicks heyday.
Man, he played with such a swagger and a tenacity it was something his teammates just seemed to feed off of. I try to emulate that in how I play the game.
I also watched a lot of Reggie Miller, who was extraordinarily clutch. His killer instinct and mental fortitude under pressure really intrigued me. I remember when he scored eight points in about nine seconds against the John Starks and Patrick Ewing-led Knicks back in 1995.
He was just a special, uber clutch player. All of these guys intrigued me growing up.
Thursday, June 7, 2018
For 6-foot-7 Class of 2019 prospect Diante Smith, versatility is king.
Subscribing to the "Mr. Everything" role has enabled Smith to erupt as one of the country's most prioritized, upper drawer recruits. Developing a tightened handle and improving his shot consistency have been instrumental elements of his ascension.
The Florida native's wide ranging defensive responsibilities and bouncy athleticism align with the style enforced in today's high major game.
TCU, Alabama, Cincinnati, Dayton, Florida, and Auburn are currently putting forth the most consistent effort in Smith's recruitment.
Smith, who will attend the prestigious NBPA Top 100 Camp, is slated to visit the University of Florida on June 11th.
"I see myself doing well at the next level due to my versatility," said Smith, whose knack for attacking and gliding to the rim have been notable.
"This year (at Choctaw HS) my role is to score and control the game."
Smith envisions playing the wing at the next level. One of the finer points of his trade is his ability to block and manipulate shots.
He's got rarified shot-blocking ability for a player of his size. Held to a high standard by his coaches, Smith is expected to defend the rim at the same level that he applies on-ball pressure.
"I think he will find a lot of success on the next level, the kid is a big time playmaker with the ball in his hands and he knows how to play without it," explained 1Family Co-Director Darryl Hardin, who helped cultivate the multi-layered talent of fellow 1Family product Nassir Little (UNC).
"He is a dog on defense and can guard multiple positions."
Playing under Zo Jenkins with 1Family, Smith has assumed the elderstatesman role for a talented but callow, youth-laden team.
"He has been good in all games, he has taken on that leadership role," explained Hardin.
"Leading a group of young guys that look for his guidance. He does it all for us--score, defend, playmake. He's just the complete package."
There appears to be mutual intrigue between Smith and Alabama. The school's proximity to his home and the opportunity to be a key figure in the SEC from the beginning are enticing factors.
Sunday, June 3, 2018
East Carolina earned a big pickup, both figuratively and literally, in Class of 2018 Center Milan Stakic.
A 7-foot-2, 240-pound Center, Stakic has come a long way in a short period of time.
The lane-clogging Stakic, who overcame early spurts of softness in his career, has committed to East Carolina.
Having played just 15 games of American prep basketball, Stakic brings a small sample size of potential with his deft touch and monstrous, soft hands.
If pushed in a controlled environment, it's hard to argue Stakic has a convincing chance.
The Believe Prep (TN) product arrived in the country from Bosnia in September of 2016.
Extremely raw at first, Stakic transitioned from a European four-man with a feathery 15-18 footer to a wide ranging scoring threat.
He has the physical attributes required to backbone a defense as an intimidating and physical space eater.
When initially acclimatizing to a souped up offensive attack at The Conrad School (FL), Stakic struggled with the pace of the game and coordination.
He worked away at his body, trimming down from a whopping 282 pounds to 238 that winter.
Partly at his coaches' urging and partly at his desire to play Division-I basketball, Stakic worked at incorporating an offensive game.
After a 15-point performance in Conrad's six-point loss to ISA-Naples, Stakic's increased offensive tool-set materialized.
He posterized a seemingly helpless defender with an extravagant two-handed dunk during the first half, instantly jolting life into a partisan prep crowd in Orlando.
Stakic put his incrementally improved post game to use in that one, utilizing his size and exploiting interior mismatches.
He drilled a 3-pointer and buried a deep jumper during a pivotal second half stretch.
This coming out party caliber performance ultimately instilled a confidence and an in-game moxie in Stakic moving forward.
From that point on, Stakic's demeanor changed. He went from a shaky work in progress to a high-upside prospect in under two years.
Oklahoma State, Marshall, and several others began to take notice.
ECU was the first program to put eyes on Stakic, who finished his career under newly minted Wichita State assistant Tyson Waterman at Believe (TN).
The aforementioned thunderous dunk and performance against ISA-Naples were integral elements in shaping Stakic's confidence and mindset.
In high school basketball, guards and ultra-skilled, versatile forwards tend to be the deadlier scorers.
Towering 7-footers notably develop late and encounter difficulty scoring between a defender and the basket. Stakic outlived growing pains in his path to becoming a dependable scorer who can defend the rim at the other end.
Stakic arrived in a hyper-competitive environment, playing in the reputable and traditionally tough SIAA (FL) conference.
He received a crash course on the niceties of the American game, quickly thrown into meaningful minutes.
After a daunting transition phase, Stakic became a tireless worker.
Major tweaks to Stakic's body, a less hesitant approach (which led to quality production with his soft touch), and the development of a face-up game propelled his rapid evolution.
Saturday, June 2, 2018
A vertically explosive 7-foot-1 five-man, Ari Boya has reclassified into the Class of 2018.
A significant recruiting coup for Bradley, the Cameroon native brings length, baseline to baseline mobility, and the potential to pan out as a menacing shot blocker.
Boya, who graduated from Scotland Campus Sports (Pa.) this spring, averaged 14 points, 11 boards, and 6.3 blocks during the 21-2 Scotland's rapid ascent of the prep national mountaintops. The program was ranked as high as No.1 nationally.
Boya blocked nine shots against IMG Academy's post grad national team, sealing off the driving lanes en route to an 82-70 upset at the Prep National Showcase in New Haven, Conn.
"Ari was definitely a defensive stopper for us. With his length and great timing he protected the goal for us many of times," explained Scotland Campus head coach Chris Chaney, who has helped nurture 18 NBA players while winning more games than any current prep coach.
"He was more confident on scoring the ball and facing up and shooting. I think he definitely got the preparation necessary to prepare for Bradley."
Boya's two seasons of high school and prep basketball are a microcosm of his quick growth. He began his career at The Conrad School in Orlando, Fla.
During his first ever game, against Elijah Weaver (USC) and an SIAA state champion Oldsmar Christian team, Boya scored just two points and pulled down seven boards in under 20 minutes of action.
This type of meager production wouldn't last.
Three weeks later against Agape Christian (FL), Boya went off for 25 points and tore down 17 boards.
This past season against ISA at home, Boya scored 26 points on a mixed bag of dunks, point blank finishes, free throws, and a feathery mini-hook.
When he first got into the country from Cameroon, he needed to develop a better grasp of the game.
He pored over highlight clips of Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaq on Youtube before touching foot on U.S. soil. Still, despite his clear physical and athleticism advantages, Boya was raw in many categories.
He worked tirelessly on his handle and adjusted to a speedy offensive pace.
Boya also developed a rapport with then-teammate Luguentz Dort (Arizona State), emerging as a key recipient of the bullish 6-foot-4 guard's high lob passes.
Chaney has helped churn out talented bigs such as Hassan Whiteside (Marshall/Miami Heat) and Jordan Hill (Arizona/L.A. Lakers), whom he coached at North Carolina prep powers.
How does the veteran coach rank Boya up there with those household name bigs?
"He could be right up there with them," Chaney opined.
"The great thing about Ari is not only is he talented and long, but he has that special work ethic and desire to be good. He does pick up on things quickly."
Boya's play last summer garnered calls from Baylor, UConn, UCF and several other high major programs.
Citing his relationship with assistant coach Drew Adams and head coach
Brian Wardle, Boya committed to Bradley as a sophomore.
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
With the recent firing of Albany State head coach Michael Moore, high-scoring ASA Miami sophomore Anthony Gomes is back on the market.
The Osceola County product averaged 19 points and 4.2 assists, seizing the leadership reins after coming off the bench as a freshman.
Gomes averaged a team-best 24 points in conference play.
Seizing a tremendous green light, Gomes was the ball-dominant scoring presence on which ASA leaned heavily in 2017-18.
He overcame hot and cold stretches in conference play, quickly surfacing as the program's all-time leading scorer following a 29-point performance against Indian River.
He manufactured points thoroughly, averaging 7 free throw attempts per game.
Gomes toted the hot hand during the final two permances of his JUCO career, with a 39-point performance against Palm Beach State and a 31-point game against Indian River.
He shot a combined 25-for-45 in those games, including 16-for-27 from beyond the arc.
"Last year he came off the bench for me and averaged 10.5 points and this year he was an absolute stud," ASA Miami coach Jean Dubuisson said of Gomes.
"Anthony is an alpha dog which I love. He hates to lose. He's a gym rat. He's always trying to get better. Always has questions on how to get better. His best asset as a player is his pure ability to score the ball and get others involved."
One prospect with the potential and well rounded tool-set to be a late signee is Class of 2018 prospect D.J. McQuarter.
Out of Believe Prep Academy (TN), McQuarter displayed length and a wide ranging offensive game during the Battlegrounds tournament in Memphis.
The 6-foot-7 wing fills all categories as a scoring presence, with a burgeoning back to the bucket game and a smooth stroke which he's now extending beyond the arc.
The New Orleans product has an explosive aerial game. He went rim to rim multiple times during the aforementioned Battlegrounds tournament, putting the ball on the deck with ease.
While his physicality could use a few tweaks in preparing for the demanding rigors of the next level, McQuarter's sound all around game should have appeal to mid major suitors.
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
After a monstrous senior season in which his play propelled Inlet Grove back into the realm of South Florida relevance, Dante Moses will continue his career at nearby Palm Beach State.
Moses averaged 19 points, nine boards, and four steals in catapulting Inlet Grove to a regional playoff berth for the first time in nearly 10 years.
Knifing to the rim and scoring in traffic are the finer points of Moses' trade. During critical sequences, Moses commandeered the offense with tactical and timely surges to the rim.
Possessing the type of dazzling athleticism that made for wild open court finishes and allowed him to levitate above rim protectors, Moses has some burst to him.
He culminated his senior campaign by taking home PBCHoops MVP honors.
Turning a once cringeworthy jumper into a fluid weapon was instrumental in his growth.
"Dante is a versatile player capable of playing and defending multiple positions," Palm Beach State head coach Martin McCann said.
"Dante is a wonderful kid and epitomizes the quality of student-athlete we desire in our program."
Eastern Wyoming will utilize a perimeter oriented four in 7-foot-1 David Appelgren of NTSI Orlando.
A native of Sweden, Appelgren averaged 14 points and 7.5 boards in his first-ever experience in the United States.
A unique challenge for Appelgren will be transforming from a European guard skill set to an interior presence. While he oozes of potential as a multi-layered big, he must get tougher in the trenches.
Saturday, May 12, 2018
About eight months ago, DME Academy's Madiaw Niang was playing pickup basketball alongside Boca Raton High star Cade Long at Florida Atlantic's gym.
One season, a first team all state nod and several double double performances later, the evolving 6-foot-9 forward pledged to make FAU his hardwood home for four years.
Following a pedestrian junior season at The Conrad Academy in Orlando, the multi-positional Class of 2018 prospect erupted as a two-way presence at DME Academy in Daytona Beach.
"He stepped up to the challenge of being our No.1 option offensively," said DME head coach Dan Mondragon of Niang, who played in Africa and Spain before coming to the U.S. in November of 2016.
"He was able to put some confidence behind the skill-set he already had. He became not only our go-to guy but our best rebounder...A guy who could give you 14 and 10 nightly.
Niang scored 35 points and tore down 14 boards during a win against Downey Christian.
He put up 33 points against now-defunct Arlington Country Day of Jacksonville. Niang made headlines back on Feb. 2, when he had 23 rebounds in a game. During a recent performance on the Adidas Gauntlet, Niang turned in an efficient account of himself with 16 points (on 7-of-9 FG) and 11 boards--in 23 minutes.
He transformed from being a fourth option at Conrad, where he struggled to find consistency, to one of the state's quickest rising prospects.
Niang ultimately chose the Owls over Coastal Carolina. In one year he drew offers from Oregon State, Long Beach State, UTEP, Florida International, IPFW, Buffalo, and countless others.
The true draw of Niang's game is his inside-outside presence. A lengthy wing-forward with a guard's tool-set, Niang's 3-point shot really opens up an offense. He's increased his scoring on the drive and incorporated a supply of stealthy up and under moves. Niang averaged 15.2 points and 10.7 boards in conference play, shooting the rock at a 52 percent clip.
As Conrad buckled and crumbled under a financial firestorm, Niang transferred to Calusa Prep his junior year.
The plot quickly changed when he found his way to DME Academy. With more time devoted to his shot and added emphasis on his defensive reliability, Niang discovered his niche as a leader.
Newly minted FAU head coach Dusty May, an assistant to Mike White during his stay at Florida, has said since the beginning he will tap into the local market.
The Owls have earned recent commitments from Palm Beach County native Michael Forrest and former West Oaks star Richardson Maitre.
Miami Christian guard Neftali Alvarez authored one of the most memorable senior seasons the city has witnessed since Steve Blake was playing for Frank Martin at Miami Senior High.
The well-built Alvarez averaged 27 points and a city-best 11 assists. The Puerto Rico native had 14 double doubles and went for 40+ on three different occasions.
Alvarez turned in a quadruple double during a win against NW Christian and put together a 32-point performance during the Montverde Invitational.
Florida International and FGCU have both been in heavy pursuit of Alvarez, who expressed a desire to stay close to home. He holds offers from Wichita State, Dayton, Akron, Arkansas State, and several others.
Just recently, Alvarez narrowed it down to Fairfield, Florida Gulf Coast University, and Florida International.
New head coach Michael Fly and FGCU may have stumbled on a diamond in the rough caliber recruit in New Orleans native Latrell Jones.
The 6-foot-4 Jones is an extra terrestrial athlete with maniacal finishing ability. After going largely unnoticed most of his post grad season at Believe Prep Academy (TN), Jones has picked up offers from FGCU and Southern (La.).