The high school hoops season is underway. Last week, Hookem247 took in a number of games featuring three future Longhorn guards and a center who has been offered by nearly every top program in the country.
Texas signee Julien Lewis of La Marque has scored 37 and 49 points, respectively, in his first two games.
Here’s our exclusive recruiting breakdown:
Julien Lewis, SG, La Marque, 6-4, 185 – signed with Texas
At a shade under 6-foot-4 but wiry strong, Lewis brings size and strength to the Longhorns’ backcourt. He flashes spurts of quickness and explosive movement, but often hides his athleticism too much.
Some of that may be because of a nonchalant approach and pace he plays with, but sometimes it’s simply because he’s not using all of his talent consistently.
Offensively, Lewis has an “old school” game. He will back his defender down from the three-point line into the mid-range post, but he does it looking to pass more than score.
Off the bounce, he looks to lull defenders to sleep with a series of slow, measured dribbles before using a quick first step and the ability to play low to the ground to create driving angles.
At times, he can force the right-handed drive too much, but he has the ability to react to a defender cutting off his angle, changing direction to get into a scenario where he takes a couple of hard dribbles before getting into a mid-range jumper.
Going left, sometimes he shoots a 10-12-foot runner elevating off of one foot. Because of that, he is susceptible to player control fouls against defenses that rotate.
As a jump shooter, he has NBA range, but is much more of a streak shooter from deep as opposed to being a consistent shooter.
What he does have is the feel and understanding of how to create space to get off a clean look.
Lewis can elevate quickly and that, combined with his feel, allows him to rise up over any defender at the high school level. He tends to settle for too many fade-aways and that is part of his inconsistency outside 20-feet.
Defensively, he has the height, length, strength, quickness and reactions to be a very good man-to-man on the ball defender at the next level.
At times, he guesses too much or attempts to jump passing lanes with too much frequency and gives up clean-look threes or straight-line drives after jumping with his feet instead of sliding and returning to cut off a driving angle.
Overall, Lewis has the chance to develop into a very good player for Texas, a guard that can play off the ball or run the offense in a pinch. His court vision and ability to stick passes is underrated.
Lewis has scored 37 and 49 points in two wins to start the season.
Sheldon McClellan, G/W, Houston Bellaire, 6-5.5, 195 – signed with Texas
The first thing that stands out when watching McClellan play is the ideal pace he plays with. He never seems rushed and is seemingly always in control of his body and mind at the same time. He has the ability to stop, start and change direction very well for a guard his size.
He will be a player that gets to the free throw line a lot because of those qualities, because he changes speeds and direction so well off the bounce or in transition.
When he gets to the line, he’s around an 85-percent shooter. So he will be an aggressive player off the bounce with no fear of walking to the line.
McClellan is silky smooth in everything he does and that includes his jump shot. He can catch and shoot or create space and get into a jumper off the bounce equally well. While his release is about six inches too low ideally, he makes shots with defenders on him tight. He understands how to create space, elevate, and shoot the fadeaway. He runs the ball screen game with patience and pace as well.
Defensively, he has the ability to be active with the hands causing steals and deflections and an extra gear when the pass is in the air.
That same ability to change direction and stop/start on offense shows up on defense, but he has to be more consistent sliding his feet and not jumping as much. He makes instinctive plays on defense whether it’s correctly measuring his opponents next move or jumping a passing lane. Like the majority of high school players, he’ll have to learn how hard he has to play on every possession defensively at the next level.
As a rebounder, he can snatch boards when he wants to, but he’s not always looking to attack the glass on either end. He will have to get used to attacking the defensive boards with more physicality at the next level.
McClellan opened the season with 56 points in a win over Houston Washington and has since averaged around 20 per game.
Cameron Ridley, C, Fort Bend Bush, 6-10, 235 – class of 2012
Ridley is the type of true center prospect that college programs covet because they have a hard time finding them. He is a rare breed.
He’s a 6-10, long-armed center that mentally understands he is a center. He doesn’t have dreams of playing on the wing or away from the basket.
His mental makeup and mindset make him a target of the top college programs from coast-to-coast.
On the court, he has ideal length, a developing frame that will add good weight/strength and improved floor-running skills since this time last season. He is clearly more fluid changing direction and getting up and down the court. Rarely does he look like he is laboring even in a fast paced game.
Offensively, Ridley has a very impressive game for a player that hasn’t come close to his ceiling. He already has a high release and does a great job of keeping the ball high and going straight up without wasted motion on offensive rebounds and put backs. He continues to show good hands and understands he has to have a wide base and present his post up position with an extended hand and arm as a target for his teammates to work an entry pass. He has also shown the ability to knock down the 10-12 footer working over the right shoulder or left shoulder in the post or on a catch and shoot from the baseline or near the elbow. He has also shown the patience and footwork to catch in the post, take his time, make a move and work up and under. The game on the offensive end seems like it moves slowly for him, which is rare with young post players.
The mechanics of his shot will have to improve but should be fine over time. He brings the ball back behind his head, but does it with a high-release so he’s not affected on the high school level. On the next level and beyond, he will have to eliminate the wasted motion. He also has a difficult time at the free throw line because of his mechanics, but he does have touch at the line.
On defense, he is a shot changer more than a shot blocker. He doesn’t chase the ball to try to contest shots from bad angles. His foot quickness laterally can improve and will have to against quicker posts on the next level. He does a good job of playing with extended arms and forcing contested shots. As a rebounder, he is an “area” rebounder. He’s not the quick twitch, bouncy athlete that will chase rebounds and keep the ball alive. He will block out, using smarts and technique to snatch rebounds in his area.
Overall, Ridley is a must get for any program because true centers are rare. He has made tremendous strides from his sophomore to junior seasons. With his work ethic and willingness to be coached, he will only keep improving.