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January 23, 2013

What we learned: Flyin' to the Hoop

MORE FLYIN': Monday | Sunday | Saturday | Friday

The 11th annual Flyin' to the Hoop Classic in Kettering, Ohio, just outside of Dayton, was another success, as the event continues to evolve into one of the top showcases. Some familiar faces turned in star-studded performances, while some young players proved that their time is coming.

After four days of action, here's a look at what Rivals.com learned.

Bigger in Texas

In every national event he plays in, 2014 four-star small forward Justin Jackson continues to get better. Flyin' to the Hoop is a particularly emotional event for Jackson, as he is from the northern suburbs of Cincinnati, less than 20 miles away. A year after increasing his national reputation with three great performances, Jackson took his game to an even higher level in two games over the weekend.

First, the 6-foot-8 wing forward tallied 32 points by showing off a variety of post scores, turnaround jumpers, running floaters and even some physical dunks, although his Houston (Tex.) HCYA team lost in a blowout. The next day, Jackson came out determined to not let his team take another loss, as he scored 41 points (good for third all-time in the event) in an overtime win over future 2016 star V.J. King and Akron (Oh.) St. Vincent-St. Mary's.

Jackson's scoring ability has reached a level of true dominance, as the junior knows how to use his size and length to get space, and has the touch and shooting skills to knock down any look.

Down to just six schools, Ohio State head coach Thad Matta was among those in the gym watching Jackson.

Primetime Players

One of the top storylines this winter has been the play of Dallas' (Tex.) newest academy, Prime Prep, run by former NFL star Deion Sanders. Two reasons that Prime Prep has drawn so much attention is the play of 2014 five-star point guard Emmanuel Mudiay and four-star LSU signee Jordan Mickey, a 6-foot-8 athletic power forward.

The duo continued its reign with two great outings in Dayton, culminating with Mickey's 29-point performance on Monday night. Mickey has everything a coach wants in a power forward; he's athletic, plays with a high motor and is one of the tougher players on the circuit. Add that he can shoot the mid-range shot, is good in the transition game and might eventually be versatile enough to play some wing and you're looking at an elite prospect nationally that should help the Tigers in year one.

Mudiay is one of the elite prospects in the 2014 class, evidenced by his No. 3 ranking in the Rivals150. Like fellow Texan Andrew Harrison, Mudiay is a bigger point guard who is a pass-first player with very good athleticism. While only scoring nine points in Prime Prep's win on Monday night, Mudiay still dominated the game using his length, handle and vision to accumulate steals, assists and dunks.

Big Apple ballers

With two teams from the New York City area in attendance, the atmosphere always gets a boost as NYC teams are generally considered to be among the country's most talented. While their teams didn't fare well against the competition, two four-star 2015 prospects proved to Rivals that they belong among the class' elite players in Cheick Diallo and Malachi Richardson.

Diallo is going to be one of the top shot-blockers in the class, mainly because the 6-foot-10 Mali native has excellent length, mobility, bounce and can run the floor better than just about any other post. Offensively the sophomore is still raw, but Diallo showed good aggressiveness in trying to score around the basket, and posted up with physicality.

Richardson is a smooth wing guard with a complete skill package as a shooter, scorer and distributor. The 6-foot-4 sophomore can take defenders off the dribble, has range out past the 3-point line and has that confident swagger that coaches love to see in scorers.

In another group of New York City players full of talent, Diallo and Richardson clearly belong in the conversation as two of the best.

Youth is served

Defending their home turf, Ohio's underclass prospects all had good showings. A few names that really stood out were 2015 four-star wing Luke Kennard, 2015 point guard AJ Harris and 2014 post David Bell.

These three prospects dominated for their teams on the big stage, headlined by Kennard's 32 points. Kennard is being recruited by Ohio State, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Kentucky and several more. All but the Wildcats having extended offers. A 6-foot-5 skilled wing and pure shooter, Kennard is one of the more crafty and versatile big guards in his class.

Harris is a smaller point guard but has great quickness, confidence in his game and a nice skill-package of shooting, passing and ball-handling. The Dayton Dunbar sophomore has an offer from Dayton, but is also being recruited by Michigan, Ohio State, Cincinnati and Xavier, among others.

Finally, Bell was Ohio's breakout prospect of the event. A year removed from a major injury, the 6-foot-10 center showed off athleticism, shot-blocking ability and signs of a low-post offensive game in his matchup against Dunbar. Right now, Bell has an offer from St. Joseph's, and also claims several MAC offers, but his high school coach said that high majors are starting to get interested, led by West Virginia.

Battle tested

2014 wing Sam Logwood might not always standout on a stat sheet, or in a highlight tape, but rest assured that he was the primary reason why his La Lumiere (Ind.) Academy team was able to finish the long weekend 2-0. First, in a game against Huntington (W.Va.) Prep, Logwood was excellent defensively as he locked up the nation's top amateur prospect, Andrew Wiggins. Following that, Logwood took more of an offensive approach as he athletically slashed through the lane to torch Dayton (Oh.) Trotwood Madison.

The 6-foot-5 shooting guard, who can also play small forward, is a three-star prospect who should continue to generate more and more interest at the mid- and high-major level. Dayton, Xavier, Saint Bonaventure and several other schools all were in the gym this weekend to track his progress.

Big Ten ready

Having to face the pressure, depth and talent of a team like Prime Prep is always a challenge. Fortunately for his Springboro (Oh.) team, 2013 Rivals150 center Maverick Morgan was up for the challenge. The 6-foot-11 Illinois commit was dominant in the game, scoring 27 points down low, to keep Springboro relevant in the game through about three quarters.

One of the things scouts love about Morgan is his improvement from year to year. Morgan showed just that on Sunday, showcasing an array of hook shots, turn-around jumpers and even mid-range shots as he put on a skills clinic in Dayton. A solid athlete, with wide shoulders that should allow him to put on even more muscle, Morgan is that hard to find pure center that can fit right in at the Big Ten level, a league known for turning Midwestern bruisers into successful post players.



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