On March 4-6 at the Avondale Sports Complex, Ron Coleman hosted his annual Southwest Showcase Main Event, which is one of the best kick-start events for the upcoming spring and summer AAU season. It is also kicks off the NCAA evaluation periods for both Arizona boys and girls club teams. After Coleman’s event, a majority of these teams will travel all around the country during the months of April, May, and July - fighting their way through pool play, in order to get to the top bracket and win a championship, as well as the bragging rights of who will represent the state of Arizona.
Of the boy players that I personally observed this weekend, here are my five top performers throughout the weekend (regardless of class/age division) . . .
2017 5’9 PG Markus Howard: (Arizona Power U17 Black): Perry (Chandler) High
Howard is the next in line of the great point guards from the state of Arizona who have come before him, like Ryan Walcott, Mike Bibby, Jerryd Bayless, Jahii Carson and Casey Benson. Already arguably the best player in the event and one of the top 2017 point guards on the West Coast, Howard is truly a special talent when it comes to scoring the basketball. He can blow by defenders with an advanced handle and keep them on his hip, where he can then finish at the basket. He is able to go through, around, or over defenders, due to his solid frame, deceptive shifts, and solid floater in the lane. Howard also possesses a smooth jumper, which truly extends out to 25 feet, in which he knocks down at a high rate, and with a hand in his face or not. He is also a very capable passer in transition, as he will find open cutters or players flashing to the basket when they are open. His defensive abilities are also above his age level, as he moves his feet quickly and uses his frame again to keep players from going where they want on the court. Howard is truly a special talent and I am excited to see how his game develops as he gets older. He holds offers from Arizona State University and Northern Arizona, and is receiving interest from Oregon State, Oregon, University of Texas, University of Southern California and UCLA.
2015 6’3 CG Sammy Barnes-Thompkins: (Arizona Magic Elite U17): Sunnyslope (Phoenix) High
Barnes-Thompkins seems to increase his level of play every time I watch him. One of the top scorers of the basketball in the state, Sammy displayed a much-improved and confident shooting stroke, which extends out well pass the three-point line, if his defenders play off of him. His large chest and wide shoulders also make it hard to stop him when he gets a full head of steam in the lane. Sammy also excels in transition, where he can be a triple-threat, in regards to his high rate pull-up jumper. He is able to pass off to an open teammate, or elevate up for a strong finish at the rim or a dunk. He also has solid hands and good defensive reads in the passing lanes, which lead to even more points for him and his teammates. Highly regarded as one of the top 3 players in Arizona’s 2015 class, Barnes- Thompkins should see his recruiting stock rise in the up and coming spring and summer evaluation periods. He currently has an offer from San Jose State and has interest from San Diego State, Tulsa and many other major Division-I programs.
2015 6’6 SF Nate Renfro (Arizona Power U17 Black): Sahuaro (Tucson) High
One of the better forwards and players in Arizona’s 2015 class, Renfro really gets a large majority of his points around the basket due to how versatile he is. He also possesses a solid motor. Renfro can run the floor well for someone his size and is always in the right place at the right time to get points around the basket off of a put-back, or from his point guard finding him in transition. When Renfro has the ball in a half-court set, he scores by using his long strides to initially beat his defender and finish well over, or around them once he is in the paint. His jumper is solid and can extend out to just beyond the 3-point line, where he can hit at a good rate, if he is left open. He is also a capable rebounder and shot blocker, altering many shots that come his way due to his length on the defensive end. Renfro is a solid prospect and looks to have his best basketball in front of him. Renfro currently holds offers from Cal Poly, Northern Colorado, Northern Arizona University and Grand Canyon University. He is also receiving interest from Harvard due to his high academic abilities.
2016 6’4 SF Carlos Johnson (Team Bibby U16): Shadow (Phoenix) Mountain
Johnson is by far the best and most explosive athlete in Arizona’s 2016 class. Johnson is an active defender, getting his hand on many passes that come his way, which will then turn into monster dunks in transition, which is impressive for someone of his stature. His fullback like build also makes it hard to stop him once he enters the lane and gets to the basket, as he can out jump and power almost all defenders - getting second and third chance points. Johnson rebounded the ball well all weekend and displayed a nice, soft shooting touch from the 3-point line and in - making it even that much harder to guard him, proving that he can step out and hit the jumper. Johnson is a very special talent for his size and will cause defensive nightmares for his opponents the next two seasons he plays at Shadow Mountain.
2018 6’9 PF Marvin Bagley III (Arizona Power U16 Black): Corona (Tempe) Del Sol
Bagley, simply put, is one of the most advanced 8th grade basketball players that you will ever see. Already standing at 6’9, Bagley moves very well up and down the floor and already plays with a knack for the game well above his age. He has a very quick twitch around the basket, which he uses to get up quickly for a finesse finish on either side of the basket, or just rises right up and powers a dunk down, usually over defenders. He also possesses solid footwork down low, as he feels where his defenders are on him, and will make a successful move around them - often with a double-team coming to him. Bagley also has a very nice shooting touch which can extend out to 23 feet roughly, if left open in a half-court set. He also can rebound the ball at a good rate over older defenders and can lead a fast-break going the other way, if need be. Bagley is currently ranked as the Number #1 8th grader in the country by numerous scouting services, and rightfully so. Bagley looks to be a very special type of player in the future, and will be the new face of Corona Del Sol, as well as Arizona High School Basketball in a short time. Bagley currently holds offers from Creighton University, Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, University of San Francisco and North Carolina A & T (where his father played his college basketball).