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Posted On: 07/3/18 2:30 PM
Over the course of April and May, I made my way to a number of grassroots tournaments across the Midwest to get a look at some of the top talent Iowa has to offer. While my “real job” has made it difficult to post evaluations in a timely manner after tournaments, it’s time to sit down and put together evaluations on a number of players I saw over the past few months. Over the course of the next few weeks, those evaluations will be posted here, at Prep Hoops Iowa. We kick off with a look at some of the Class of 2020 guards that caught my eye.
Masen Miller (Iowa City Regina/Iowa Barnstormers)
There are few better players in the state shooting the ball off the catch than Miller, who is seemingly automatic coming off a screen and getting up a shot with a quick, fluid release. The 5-11 floor general is at his best when he’s setting up his teammates, breaking down the defense and getting open looks for others, but his shot is pretty, and he can really put up points in a hurry when he gets hot. He’s a smart player on both ends of the floor, an excellent ball handler who rarely turns it over. He’s not an overwhelming athlete, but he makes up for that by understanding angles and making the right play. He has the looks of a quality Division II point guard, in my opinion, although his size may scare some away.
Bowen Born (Norwalk/Iowa Barnstormers)
The 5-11 guard may have had the best spring of any 2020 in the state, picking up an offer from Northern Iowa in the process. He’s a scoring machine with unlimited range with a picturesque release. However, where he has really excels, and where he has really made a ton of progress, is in his ability to get to the paint and finish. He’s still small and not overly strong, but he’s gotten stronger, and does a great job absorbing contact and finishing through it. He’s lightning quick with the ball in his hands, shifty and creative in his finishing. He doesn’t back down from anyone, isn’t scared to take (and make) big shots, and with a dad who played college ball at Iowa State (and now scouts for the NBA), he has an intense understanding of the game. Despite his smallish stature, he’ll play big-time college basketball in a few years and be a major impact player.
Jaxon Heth (Cedar Falls/Iowa Mavericks Cleveland)
A 5-10 guard, Heth has a similar build to Charles City guard Jackson Molstead. And while he’s not quite the offensive talent that Molstead is (at least at this point in time), Heth is a quality player in his own right, an impact player on both ends of the floor. He’s a vocal defender who does a great job coaching his teammates through screens, and he plays the passing lanes at a high level. He’ll occasionally pick ball handlers up full court, making them turn and have to work to bring the ball up. Offensively, he’s a solid ball handler with good court vision, and he knocks down open looks from the arc. He’s able to get to the rim in the halfcourt and finish. With the Tigers needing to find some production in the backcourt following AJ Green’s graduation, look for Heth to make an impact on both ends of the floor.
John Steffen (Linn-Mar/Iowa Mavericks Cleveland)
Steffen is as steady as they come as a lead guard, at various times throughout our viewings of the Mavericks serving as a one-man press break. He’s never rattled with the ball in his hands, and he makes the right decision with the ball about 98% of the time. He’s a good scorer with the ability to get to the rim in transition or break his defender down and get to the bucket, and he can also get hot from the arc and knock down 3s. He’s a talented point guard who is equally capable facilitating or scoring.
Cam Soenksen (Camanche/Iowa Mavericks Cleveland)
There are few better athletes in the 2020 class than Soenksen, regardless of position. At 6-2, he finishes above the rim as well as anyone in the class, with springs in his legs. He’s improving his shot selection and ball handling abilities, which will be crucial for a Camanche team that loses a fantastic point guard in Dev Patel. Soenksen has limitless range on his jumper, with a smooth release and good rotation on his shot. As he continues to refine his skill set, he can use that range to his advantage, and look to attack the bucket more in the halfcourt. Defensively, he has a tendency to take some risks, overplaying for steals, but he has the athleticism and quickness to recover, most of the time. He’s an intriguing prospect with athletic ability you don’t see in many guards, especially in small school Iowa. As he continues to grow, gain strength, and develop his basketball IQ, he could become a major issue for teams.
Jamal Litt (Davenport North/Iowa Mavericks Schlabaugh)
In our viewing of Litt, the 5-11 guard made his biggest impact on the defensive end. He’s a pesky on-ball defender who loves to pick up ball handlers full court and put pressure on them. He moves his feet extremely well and really makes the opposition work hard and make them uncomfortable. He’s small, but his quickness and lateral movements allow him to defend either guard spot at this level, and his willingness to play tough, physical defense is something that lots of ball handlers don’t want to deal with. On the offensive end, he’s limited with his range, but he has a quick first step and is able to get into the paint and finish fairly effectively. He’s an impact defender and any production you get out of him on the offensive end is just going to be an added bonus.