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July 28, 2013
Johnson plays headliner in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS -- As the 2013 summer circuit nears a final day on Sunday, Rivals.com covered as much ground as possible on Saturday, starting at the Adidas Super 64 before moving on to the Fab 48 and finishing at the Las Vegas Classic. Stanley Johnson continued his dominant July run, while Rawle Alkins continued to emerge from the class of 2016 and T.J. Maston saved the day for Team Texas.
Johnson is a top five player in 2014
On Saturday, the priority was to find some under-the-radar prospects. Unfortunately, a few off-the-beaten-path trips to find players didn't work out as well as expected. Once back on the path traveled by most, though, a reliable figure came through in a big way. That's right, five-star wing Johnson was at it again.
Johnson has always been a stud, but the leaps he's taken with his game over the last month are noticeable. Playing with the Oakland Rebels, he has been going at breakneck pace and he's not let up on anybody. Johnson keeps coming at opponents with his game based on skill, physicality and outworking the other guy, and there's not anything that can be done to stop him.
We have written this week that Johnson is making a case for the national top five, and at this point he is a lock to make it when rankings are adjusted at the end of the summer.
Decision looms for Aytes
There aren't many players left on the board in the class of 2013. However, Jamal Aytes, a three-star combo forward from California, is still there, and he continued a productive summer run with Dream Vision on Saturday.
Checking in at around 6-foot-5 or even 6-foot-6, Aytes isn't the tallest front-line guy, but he compensates with strength, long arms and a motor that never stops. He pounds the glass, runs the floor and powers through contact around the rim to finish.
"I'm probably going to visit Gonzaga and West Virginia next week," Aytes told Rivals.com. "I'm fully eligible and stuff, and I can just play and have fun. A decision could happen quick."
Lightly recruited during his high school career, Aytes has seen things take off. He feels it is because of the work he's put in and the parts of his game that translate to the next level.
"I've just been working hard and trying my best to have fun," Aytes said. "I'm being recruited as a three-four combo. I rebound and play defense, and that always translates."
Final Saturday notes
He doesn't always put up huge scoring numbers, but the nation's top player, Jahlil Okafor, is always solid around the rim and he's always a beast on the glass. Making his last run with the Mac Irvin Fire, the 6-foot-11 center from Chicago (Ill.) Whitney Young took over for stretches on Saturday afternoon. Despite being double- and triple-teamed and clubbed without getting any calls, he kept plugging away and converting at the rim and out to about 10 feet. For such a big and strong kid, he's nimble and he has learned to use spins and changes of direction along the baseline. Add how comfortable he is finishing with either hand and he almost always finds a way to convert.
Max Heidegger doesn't look dangerous. He looks like he's 12 years old. But the 5-foot-9 point guard for BTI Select is actually quite dangerous and he's one of the best shooters from deep we've seen in Vegas. The Encino (Calif.) Crespi scorer keeps coming at opponents and is always ready to let it fly from deep. It will be interesting to see how the rising sophomore's body and game mature over his next three years of high school.
For most of the last month or so, Colorado-bound point guard Dominique Collier has been struggling with one injury or another. On Saturday, the KC Run GMC guard looked as healthy as he's been in a while and was showing a bit of what he can do. Collier is shooting the ball better from deep, but his true bread and butter is a quick first step and an ability to be slippery and shifty off the dribble while getting into the lane. He needs to add strength, but the four-star should end up a valuable contributor in Boulder.
Team Texas Elite took a big lead and then let Cal Supreme come all the way back to go in front in the waning moments of the game. With 1.1 seconds to go, power forward T.J. Maston gathered in an inbounds pass and calmly dropped in a bucket from six feet to secure a one-point win at the buzzer. For Maston, July has been a huge month. Upper-end mid-majors are doing their best to keep him, while high majors make a decision on whether to go on him.
Also big on the interior for Team Texas was class of 2015 five-star Elijah Thomas. The big man from Dallas (Texas) Prime Prep looked gassed at times, but if his team got him the ball on the block he was scoring or going to the free throw line. What is remarkable about Thomas is how good he is with his off (left) hand in the lane. He's so comfortable grabbing rebounds, whipping passes and scoring with his left that he almost seems like a natural lefty or a truly ambidextrous post player.
We touched on him the other day, but class of 2016 wing Rawle Alkins is going to get a hard look when we drop our initial rankings from that class. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard is a punishing wing who gets to the rim, knocks down open shots and seems very comfortable playing against older competition.
Cal Supreme was down to just five players for a large part of the second half, but four-star juniors-to-be Bennie Boatwright and Aaron Holiday did everything they could to keep the team in the game. A high-end shooter with great size at nearly 6-foot-8, Boatwright has some Klay Thompson to his game. He was mixing in more drives than he has in the past to go with his deep bombs. With his NBA All-Star brother, Jrue, looking on, the 6-foot Holiday was relentless on both ends. He is as physical off the dribble as any player in the country, and there is a lot of explosion in his legs. He can be streaky with the jumper, but Holiday keeps showing the potential to be a big-time guard.
Even since early June, Arizona State-bound big man Connor Macdougall looks to have added strength. The 6-foot-9 power forward is just that, a power forward. It's hard not to like how rugged the four-star plays around the rim, and he's going to see another bump in the 2014 rankings when they are adjusted.
At the mid to upper mid-major level, Compton Magic shooting guard Deontae North from Corona (Calif.) Centennial is a terrific option. The 6-foot-4 wing plays with endless energy, he is a terrific defender, and he does all of the little things. He's been one of our favorite players to watch in Vegas, and college coaches have caught on. North mentioned offers from UC-Irvine, Cal State Fullerton, Pepperdine, Northern Colorado and Portland State. UC Riverside, Pacific, Denver and more have been looking, and he's getting feelers from the Pac-12.