Note: Last summer we gave a starting five for top performers of each tournament, but this year we have decided to mix things up again and just go with the guys who really stood out. The Jayhawk Invitational saw three players really stand out from the rest.
Muhammad might just end up the #1 player in the class of 2012. He has something that few other players have, a killer mentality. When Muhammad smells blood in the water he takes his game to another level and does so intelligently. When most wing players feel the momentum change and are feeling hot, you can bet that a long jumper is coming. When Muhammad is feeling it he does one of two things-- (1) gets to the line, or (2) gets to his sweet spot on the floor (left elbow of the lane). Shabazz thrives in isolations situations on the left side of the court where he frequently hits the pull-up off the drive or spins baseline and finishes with his dominant hand, the left. He was clearly the best player in the event.
Has any player improved as much from one summer to the next as Mitch McGary? The answer is a clear and resounding NO. McGary dominated every big man that went up against him in the Invitational. He is exceedingly physical down low on the block but has the ability to take slower big men outside and face up for the jumper or drive. He has a rapidly improving offensive repertoire on the block as evidenced by his up-and-under and drop steps all weekend. In an absolutely loaded class, I would not be surprised to see him end up a top 3 big man.
If there is one word to describe Marcus Smart it is "strong." His shot is still a work in progress but nobody is stopping him from getting to the rim. As readers from the last few summers know, I am not one to focus on the intangibles of a player, but I would be remiss if I did not make mention of Smart's leadership skills. When his team was down, he pulled his guys together and refocused them. He just exudes a winner's mentality and it rubs off on everybody he plays with. Some kids just have that aura and Smart is one of them.
Tidbits and Rumors
(1) Kaleb Tarczewski- A few weeks ago I stated that Kaleb Tarczewski is more wide open than most seem to think. Now I can report that multiple sources have heard that Tarczewski is intrigued by the idea of playing in, what projects to be, a very uncrowded Carolina frontcourt. While those sources still feel he is a Kansas lean, one source stated that Roy Williams has "turned his head."
(2) Shaquille Cleare- Houston product Shaquille Cleare has been hearing from lots of schools of late, but rumor is that two have separated themselves from the pack-- Maryland and Baylor. With the retirement of Gary Williams, Scott Drew's school might be sitting in pole position for the power forward's services.
(3) Deandre Daniels- Little has changed on Daniels' side. Multiple sources on the trail have confirmed over and over again that Daniels and his father both want Duke. The newest wrinkle, however, is that Duke has slowed down the process to make sure that all of Daniels' academic affairs are in order. While Daniels is a good student, he has attended a number of schools and Duke is in the process of doing its due diligence and collecting all the requisite paperwork.