Posted On: 04/20/18 12:30 PM
Last weekend, the Grand Rapids Storm hosted what may be the biggest and best tournament in the Mitten! The Classic featured over 100 programs, many of which had multiple teams across the event’s five age groups. Needless to say, the event drew loads of talent and players that project to every level. Below is a list of point/combo guards who stood out for everything from their playmaking to finishing!
Mark “Rocket” Watts – 6’1 – 2019 – The Family 17u (MI)
Watts entered this tournament with a national top 50 ranking and 20+ D1 offers, so his reputation preceded him! Nonetheless, one still must back up rankings on the court, a challenge which Watts faced quite well. He laces up for The Family, a team on which every other player holds multiple D1 offers, yet he still manages to lead and stand out! In the one high school game and few travel games I’ve seen him play, his strength I’ve observed is his ability to score in the midrange, the paint, and at the rim. Watts has the handle and speed to beat defenders off the dribble, but then he has options. I’m convinced the midrange jumper/floater is his strength, and it can be nearly impossible to stop if one is trying to counter his downhill drive. He also does very well taking the ball all the way to the rim and has all the tools in his belt to finish against contests. In the end, his mastery of the ball and scoring ability combine to make him the high-major talent he is.
Andre Gordon – 6’1 – 2019 – C2K Elite 17u (OH)
Gordon is an athletic guard who can go off quickly for points! However, he often chooses to pass and, in doing so, demonstrates great court vision and IQ. I only saw one full game of his, but, in it, he established himself early as a shooter, hitting some threes/long twos. He would then showcase his playmaking ability by distributing the ball to scorers throughout the game. Some plays of his that stand out include a sequence where he connected on two threes within the span of a minute. Later, in an early second-half possession, he showed his great athleticism by elevating for an alley-oop off a backdoor cut! He continued to put this trait to use by grabbing defensive rebounds, out of which he could immediately bring the ball up the court.
Josh Palo – 6’1 – 2019 – Lansing Prospectors (MI)
This weekend was the first time I saw Palo, but I now know it won’t be the last. In a tight game against M2K Elite, he went off for 26 points to keep his team competitive until the end! His scoring came from every level, including some deep threes and a nice pop off the dribble in the midrange. One thing that specifically stands out to me, too, is his ability to play through contact, either off the handle or at the rim. On multiple possessions, he was able to draw a foul or finish on the attack. He also responded to bumps and pressure defense with a solid handle, moves, and protection and control of the ball. The ball in hand, Palo proved able to create and drive to the rim as well as find his teammates. Finally, an intangible characteristic of his I noticed was his level head in the face of a lot of talk and contact directed his way. He maintained his composure and got buckets while doing so!
Tariq Shepherd – 5’10 – 2019 – The Family 17u (MI)
In both high school and travel seasons, Shepherd must share the spotlight and his position. In high school, he ran with future Michigan Wolverine and pure scorer David DeJulius, while on The Family he shares his position with Watts and Drew Lowder. However, in both settings, he has gotten opportunities to show his strengths, and what he offers should not be ignored. First of all, Shepherd has moves off the dribble and, more importantly, knows when and how to use them. Anecdotal evidence can be found in both high school and AAU. In both, I’ve watched him lose defenders with a move or combo out of the dribble and convert the opportunity into points. Overall, care of the ball and an IQ for decision-making do the talking for him.