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February 18, 2013
Due to travel schedule, our final day at the IMG Academy Beach Blast Showcase was a short one. But in our three days in Bradenton, Fla., Rivals.com still learned plenty about some of the nation's top post-grad teams. In addition to our coverage, IMG hosted more than 30 Division I college programs on the weekend, with the majority of them stopping in on Sunday. Among the top schools in attendance were Boston College, Cincinnati, Clemson, Miami, Ole Miss, Rutgers and USF.
Playing at the pristine new facility at IMG Academy, 38 of the top high school and post-grad teams took the court, with several prospects sticking out as players who can be impactful over the next few seasons at the college level. Here's a look at who can be listed among the best of the best after three days at the Beach Blast.
From One to the Other
One of the better big-man prospects at the Beach Blast who didn't get much coverage early from us was post-grad center Jamaree Strickland, a Cincinnati signee. A wide-bodied 6-foot-10 center originally from Oakland, Calif., Strickland proved over his three games that he was one of the more polished low-post scorers at the event.
After missing most of the last two seasons with an ACL injury, Strickland is starting to get back to his old form at Charlotte (N.C.) Queen City Prep. Coaches from QCP hope that Strickland can continue to improve on his explosion, and get into optimum shape, in his remaining time at the school before moving on to the other Queen City, where he'll suit up for Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin. Cronin was in attendance for Strickland's game on Saturday.
The 6-foot-10 bruiser is naturally strong and should get even stronger with more time in the weight room, according to QCP coaches, but he has really nice touch around the rim. Strickland posts up with authority, has strong hands to catch and chin the ball and is skilled enough to turn either way and shoot a soft hook shot over his defender. The addition of Strickland could give the Bearcats exactly what they've been looking for in a center who can score, taking some of the pressure off of the guards. The California native is still a work in progress, but as his knee continues to regain strength, making it easier for Strickland to condition, he shows a lot of potential.
Keeping the Faith
As a team, the Bradenton (Fla.) Faith Baptist Christian squad struggled over the three-day weekend, but you would have to be crazy to doubt the team's depth of talent, which was quite possibly best among Beach Blast attendees.
The leader for FBC would be 2013 Rivals150 combo guard Deshaun Morman, another Cincinnati signee. Morman isn't the most skilled offensive player for a guard, but he shows big-time desire and competitiveness, traits envied by all coaches at the Division I level. The 6-foot-3 guard is a good athlete who wills his way to the rim, scoring a lot in the mid- and close-range areas with floating layups and high-arcing baby jumpers. The strength of Morman's game, however, would be his defensive abilities, because the senior guard does an excellent job of moving his feet and playing with energy to disrupt his opponent's top perimeter player.
Outside of Morman and 2013 wing Niem Stevenson, whom we profiled heavily on Friday, two other players that stood out over the three days of action for FBC were 2014 wing Oscar Cabrera and 2013 guard Brandon Channer. Let's start with the older of the two, the committed Channer.
A Rider signee from the early signing period, the 6-foot-4 combo guard might be one of the strongest pound-for-pound players Rivals has seen this year. That strength, combined with toughness and athleticism, makes Channer a great pickup for Rider as a guard who can step in and handle the ball while defending any of three perimeter positions. Channer isn't a great offensive player, but he's a solid decision maker. He can score in the lane due to his physique, and he showed the ability to be a playmaker in transition settings.
Cabrera can fall under the radar at FBC due because the team's seniors such as Morman, Stevenson, Channer and Rivals150 member Demetrius Henry tend to take center stage. Rest assured, the 2014 wing has big-time ability. Cabrera is a 6-foot-4 shooting guard or small forward with serious athleticism. Although it's unfair to put much stock into layup lines, Cabrera showed big-time bounce in warmups, punishing the rim with windmill dunks. Also a very good spot-up shooter, he is attracting interest at the mid-major level. Should the FBC guard continue to improve his in-between game, specifically his ball-handling abilities, he could become a breakout player on the travel circuit and especially during his senior season in Bradenton.
Even More From IMG
On Friday and Saturday, we covered the top players from IMG Academy extensively -- especially high-major prospects in 2014 forward Boubacar Moungoro, '13 center [/db]Thomas Hamilton[/db] and '13 power forward Darius Lewis -- but the prep school, which has eight teams, seemed to have new players creep up out of nowhere each day to impress us.
Among those players were 6-foot-1 combo guard Ivan Kalinin and 6-foot-8 forward Daniel Robinson.
Kalinin might have been the most consistent player among the IMG prospects over the weekend, tallying point totals in the high teens in all three games, while filling the stat sheet with assists and 3-pointers. The 2013 guard, a native of Russia, is a creative guard who can finish inside against taller players and has a smooth stroke when playing off the ball as a spot-up shooter. Kalinin will have to get stronger during his remaining time at IMG, but he has the look of a Division I guard who can supply instant offense.
Robinson is a skilled forward whom the IMG staff had a lot of praise for. The 6-foot-8 post-grad prospect didn't play what would be considered his best basketball on Sunday, and he still attracted the interest of just about every college in the gym, earning an offer from Kent State. With his skill set to play in the low, mid or high post, Robinson has the potential to be a dangerous offensive player at the next level. He will have to continue to improve on his athleticism.