I eschewed the Baylor-Kansas Big Monday game in favor of watching two Fort Bend (District 23-5A) schools go head to head. While Wheeler Fieldhouse in Sugar Land is no Phog, there were plenty of people amped for the matchup. Wait times to get in went upward of 30 minutes as the administration was woefully ill-prepared to handle the crowd, and attendance ended up being standing room only.
Why the hubbub? Well, it was a battle of the two first-place teams, featuring a trio of guys you may have heard of: Cameron Ridley for Bush (a Texas commit) and twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison for Travis (undeclared but considering Kentucky, Maryland, Texas, Villanova, etc.). Travis opened up a double-digit lead for most of the game, but Bush stormed back in the fourth quarter before narrowly losing 60-55. The Sugar Land Sun has the online recap.
Let's start with who Texas fans are most interested in: Cameron Ridley. First of all, dude is BIG. He's listed at 6'11", 250 lbs, and it wouldn't surprise me if he tipped the scales beyond that. For reference, Tristan Thompson played center for Texas at 6'8", 225 lbs last year. Travis didn't have a single player over 6'7", and the Tugers compensated by double-teaming Ridley prior to post entry and then triple-teaming him when he got the ball. The strategy worked...sort of. Ridley finished with 13 points and 15 boards but shot 3 of 10 from the line.
Besides being really big, here are additional positives about Ridley. First, he has nice hands--the anti-Alexis Wangmene. Even with pesky Bush defenders surrounding him, he managed to snare some pretty difficult entry passes. He has a nice shooting touch, attempting a midrange jumper early that was slightly long. The free throw percentage sucked, but there was little wrong with his release other than insufficient arc--a regular problem for HS bigs. Also, his conditioning was stellar. Ridley played all forty minutes and rarely seemed winded.
The biggest issue I have with Ridley is that he's just too passive (to be fair, that's another regular problem for HS bigs). Despite the blatant size advantage, he ended the first half with no blocks or dunks. During Bush's second-half comeback, Ridley had 3 of each, all of them drawing a raucous reaction from the crowd. He's not a space rebounder and just doesn't have that Paul Millsap-like passion to get every available board. Aside from a couple of hustle boards, most of his rebounds were of the "I'm just taller than you" variety. On D, he's a step slow against terrorizing penetrators like the Harrisons, often rotating his help D split-seconds too late. Then again, given the perimeter-oriented game by Travis, Bush was forced into playing in a quasi-zone with Ridley often migrating outside the paint.
In the offensive post, he's understandably too quick to pull the trigger. In his highlight reels, Ridley demonstrates an understanding of post moves, but when you're surrounded by three opposing jerseys, it's difficult to make any kind of basketball move. He made a couple of nice kickout passes, but also brought the ball down far too often instead of keeping it chest-level or higher.
Part of the problem was that Aaron Durley (committed to Marquette) got no playing time. Durley played on Bush's JV team last season while recovering from an achilles injury. He dressed and warmed-up but never got in the game; my understanding is that he's sat a big chunk of this season as well. I'm not sure if it's due to injury, academics, attitude, or a combination. It's a shame, as a Ridley + Durley (who looks about an inch shorter than Ridley) twin tower combination would give both a lot more breathing room in the paint.
Bush's other problem is it has no shooters. Their second best player is sophomore wing Kelly Oubre, rated 4* by Rivals. At this point in his career, he's what the 'Cosm boys call an afolete--skinny, lanky, and explosive. Like the rest of the Broncos, Oubre shot terribly from long distance but showed nice basket cutting ability. He's a prospect to watch and should take the primary scoring role on Bush's team next year.
Bush's fourth quarter comeback was spurred by junior point guard ShawnDre Jones, who went Stefani-style bananas after doing little in the first 30 minutes. He drove headstrong into the paint and had a nice midrange floater going--very Doron Lamb/AJ Abrams-esque without the required outside shot to compensate. Unfortunately, he's listed at 5'10" but probably measures below that, so his college choices are extremely limited. He's rated a 2* by Rivals.
Let's get it out of the way right now: the Harrison twins are GOOD. Really good. They had a handful of "did you SEE that?!" plays, including Aaron hitting an NBA Range 3 and assertively rejecting a Ridley putback, and Andrew driving past Ridley to score on a nifty reverse scoop kiss off the glass.
This team is theirs. Both brothers played the entire game, save for the last minute when Aaron fouled out. The Tiger offensive philosophy is pretty much: let the Harrisons make plays. Travis primarily runs the dribble-drive motion offense made famous by Kentucky's John Calipari, and they also run some high screens with a perimeter shooter. With no post presence, the Tiger offense is predicated on dribble penetration and hitting open shots.
Andrew Harrison is by far the better of the two ball-handlers. He can go right or left and can cross or stop on a dime. He's not a natural shooter like his brother Aaron. The mechanics are off and the ball doesn't look genuinely pretty coming off his hands. However, he can still play off the ball since he's so good at cutting and slashing. He's a tall point guard, particularly in high school, and is a plus rebounder and defender. If all breaks right, he could be the next John Wall.
His brother, Aaron Harrison, is the silky scorer. As a ball-handler, Aaron can't go left, though it didn't stop him from trying. However, Aaron has a picture-perfect jumper and the aforementioned NBA range from long distance. He went on a hot streak in the 3rd quarter and took a heat check from what appeared to be 25 feet. Off the ball, he's equally deadly as a slasher and also loves getting out in transition, finishing two or three plays with thunderous slams. He also showed the "want to" to win. At the end of the game, he demanded the ball and knocked down both of his free throws (prior to fouling out).
The knock on the Harrison brothers has been immaturity, wearing their emotions on their sleeve. It's clearly evident in person. When either player didn't get a foul call, they bird-dogged the ensuing defensive possession, leaving their teammates exposed. On one non-call, Aaron did a single axel jump with a "WTF" fistpump. Dead ball body language wasn't much better, and they were also curiously the only two starters not to warm up at halftime with their teammates. It's worth noting that both Harrisons clearly have "win at all costs" mentality. As for whether those attitude concerns will be an issue in college, it remains to be seen, but I doubt the perception goes away in high school.
Aaron finished with 23 points and 6 rebounds, while Andrew had 13 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and three assists. The assist total would have been higher if some of his potential dimes had fallen. When the Harrisons play together in college, I expect their box scores will look rather similar with Aaron the scorer, and Andrew the distributor.
Bush and Travis were tied all the way up to 18 points in the second quarter, and both Harrisons struggled early before settling down and dominating Bush's backcourt. Keeping Travis afloat in the beginning were two senior starters, Christian Crockett and Kyle Coulter.
Coulter hit two big 3's early in the game and was also tasked with the primary responsibility of guarding Ridley. He's listed at 6'6", but picked up the challenge as best he could. Clearly winded after the first quarter, he was an offensive non-factor past that but did his best to keep up with a guy that was practically a head taller and a tire wider. Coulter is also Travis' starting quarterback and was named First Team All-District.
Crockett, a wing, is committed to Mount St. Mary's, and he chipped in with a few buckets of his own. With the Harrisons dominating the on-ball action, it was hard to gauge how talented Crockett is. He had a nice stroke on his jumper and should at the very least become a glue guy contributor on a mid-major team that needs talent infusion.
Hookem's Gerry Hamilton has continually maintained that there's no new news regarding Ridley's recruitment. In my opinion, he's a must get prospect. While he's still raw, there's no question he'd start at center from Day 1 and give Texas some much needed size. Fingers crossed, Barkers.
Honestly, the Harrisons look like perfect fits for Kentucky. They run the same offense, and Calipari is a players-friendly coach that also knows how to coax out optimal talent while massaging egos (see: DeMarcus Cousins). I know they have Maryland connections (they're originally from Maryland and their grandfather still lives there), but playing in Mark Turgeon's plodding system would be a gross misuse of resources. They appear to have little interest in playing for Texas, so there's that. The Harrisons have continually expressed Kentucky as their favorite school, and I don't expect that co change.
Durley is big and that counts for something in all levels of hoops. He's a nice project for Marquette, and perfectly illustrates why I'm happy Buzz Williams and his deep-rooted Texas connections wasn't hired by Texas A&M. I wouldn't be surprised if Durley makes an impact for the Golden Eagles.
Oubre is a guy to watch out for. Depending on how much he grows and develops his outside shot, he could possibly peak somewhere between Danuel House and Sheldon McCllelan. Being in the same 2014 class as Texans Emmanuel Mudiay, Justin Jackson, and Justise Winslow, he's bound to get overlooked by recruitniks. This summer, Oubre should move up to U-17 on his AAU team, Houston Hoops (currently led by Rasheed Sulaimon, LJ Rose and J'Mychal Reese), and if he makes noise on the summer circuit, expect him to start appearing on some Top 100 lists.