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May 21, 2013

Southern Jamfest: What we learned


SOUTHERN JAMFEST: Saturday | Friday

Last weekend, Rivals.com was in Hampton, Va., for the Hoop Group's annual Southern Jamfest. The event featured most of the area's top talent. Here's a look at what we learned over the weekend.

Year of the Wing

For the better part of the past two months, Rivals.com has been traveling across the country watching grassroots tournaments. At each stop, we've noticed that the class of 2014 appears to be about wing players.

Not only are there several solid wings in the class of 2014, there seem to be a lot of them with outstanding size. So, it shouldn't have come as a surprise to see the trend continue in Hampton as Devin Robinson, Jared Nickens and Donte Grantham were among those to emerge.

Currently ranked No. 106 nationally, Robinson is the only one of the three mentioned wings in the Rivals150 for 2014. That will change during the next update to the rankings. A 6-foot-7 wing from Christchurch (Va.), Robinson will be ranked the highest.

A big-time shooter with deep range, above-average athleticism and excellent ball skills, Robinson could very well experience a 70-80-spot move up the rankings if what he showed in Hampton is what can really be expected of him moving forward.

Auburn, Cincinnati, Xavier, Notre Dame, Florida State, VCU, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State are among the high-level programs that already see his ability and Robinson will be watched closely by many more during July.

Moving on to Grantham, the West Virginia native was a great find. A senior from Martinsburg who was his state's player of the year as a senior, the three-star (currently) prospect will spend a year in prep school before college, making him a 2014 prospect. Like Robinson, Grantham is a tall and lanky wing who can shoot the ball with range. Because of his rebounding and ability to finish in the lane, Grantham could also be used as a stretch four man in some setups. He's a pretty safe bet to enter the rankings as a solid four-star prospect and has gotten offers from Clemson, Penn State, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Maryland and Miami, while many others have shown interest.

At 6-foot-6, Nickens is a guy who can play the small forward or slide over and play some at the shooting guard if you want to play a big lineup. A native of Jersey who is attending the Westtown (Penn.) School, Nickens has always been a pretty good spot-up shooter. Now, he's added to his ability off the dribble, gained some strength and really looks to be rounding into shape. Like both Grantham and Robinson, Nickens is originally a class of 2013 player and he's actually worked on his game instead of hoping that an extra year will magically make him better.

Maryland, Oregon State, Miami, Oklahoma, Wake Forest, Dayton, Providence and Temple are among those who have begun to press hard in his recruitment.

Finally, if you are looking for a sleeper in the big-wing department, allow us to introduce you to 6-foot-6 (maybe 6-foot-7) Paul Rowley. A product of Leesburg (Va.) Loudoun County, Rowley has great size for a shooter and is as dangerous from deep as just about anybody Rivals.com scouted in April or May. Also a pretty fluid athlete, Rowley has been hearing from mostly high-level academic schools due to his outstanding grades. Count him as somebody that Rivals.com would like to see again and that college coaches should be doing some more investigation on.

Maker's mark

Get ready to read a lot about Thon Maker over the next three years. The surefire five-star prospect from the class of 2016 is a truly unique prospect and he's going to be picked apart in every way imaginable over the next few years.

Standing a legitimate seven-feet tall -- if not bigger -- the 16-year-old Maker has already been to a few high schools and played for a few different summer teams. Now settled in at the Martvinsville (Va.) Carisle School for high school and with Boo Williams on the summer circuit, he has been flourishing. He's not your typical 7-footer, either.

Maker is highly skilled with the ball and because of that he can play some in open space. He takes the ball the length of the court after rebounds, he hits step-back, 3-pointers, he drives from the wing to the hoop and he is a well-above-average passer for a young post player. He will block some shots and is a good rebounder, but with his length and ability there is room for him to improve in each area. Most importantly, he's got to get stronger and continue to develop his low-post game so that his perimeter skills can supplement his game and make him even more of a matchup problem. Also, being sure to hold onto the ball is an area to work on, but it will likely improve with added strength.

Because he is already 16 and technically a little old for the class of 2016, some detractors have questioned how good he really is. However, turning 19 as a high school senior isn't all that uncommon anymore and more importantly, Maker is currently playing against mostly seniors to be where advantages that his age might give him are negated.

Bottom line, Maker is a unique prospect with loads of talent and a versatile set of skills. Should he improve as any freshman could be expected to improve between now and the time he enters college, who knows what his limits as a prospect may be?



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