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January 22, 2013

Flyin' to the Hoop: Wheeler's big four

MORE: Sunday at the Flyin' to the Hoop Classic

The fourth and final day of the Flyin' to the Hoop Classic in Dayton, Ohio, featured a lot of quality in-state action, as well as strong performances from teams from Texas, Georgia and New York. With one last chance to prove they were the best among the competitors, here's who stood out during the six games that were played on Monday.

Triple threat

Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler High School boasts a quartet of future high-major targets, and the scary thing for opponents is that all four players are underclassmen. In Monday's blowout victory in Dayton, three of these prospects turned in standout performances.

The Wheeler frontcourt of 2015 five-star center Daniel Giddens, 2014 power forward Elijah Staley and 2015 four-star small forward Jaylen Brown showcased the highlight-reel athleticism that players from the Atlanta area are famous for.

A 6-foot-10 defensive presence, Giddens is one of the most storied sophomores in the country, having been in the national spotlight since he was in eighth grade. With a class full of five-star big men, you might think that there would be a lot of pressure on Giddens to check the rankings among various services often, but he insists that isn't the case.

"My mom looks at the rankings sometimes, but it really doesn't bother me. I know there are a lot of good big men in 2015, but it's going to take care of itself," Giddens told Rivals.com. "Whether someone ranks me No. 1 or No. 20, I'm still going to get my looks."

With the rich history at Wheeler of developing high-major players, Giddens has the advantage of receiving feedback from players who have been in his situation. The schools that have offers on the table for Giddens include Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Georgia Tech and North Carolina.

Giddens said Kentucky and Duke are new schools on his list, as coaches from those staffs have been active with the Wheeler staff of late. In particular, Giddens credited Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne for starting to build a strong relationship with the center. However, for the moment, Giddens isn't worried about the future and his recruitment. He is grateful for what he has.

"Seeing schools like North Carolina, Duke and Kentucky recruit me just tells me that I'm getting one step closer to my dream," the five-star sophomore said.

Brown is receiving interest from roughly the same schools, listing Kentucky, Cincinnati, Iowa, Texas, Missouri, Georgia Tech, Georgia, NC State and Alabama at the top of his list. Like Giddens, Brown credits the relationship that UK assistant Payne has created with his circle as one of the reasons the Wildcats are in the mix to land his services.

On the court, the two jell perfectly, with Brown being a standout athlete and slasher to counter the power and defensive prowess of Giddens. With that chemistry, the two are also AAU teammates with the Worldwide Renegades; both have said there is a chance that they consider going to the same school.

"I think that either one of us can be game changers at the next level," Giddens said. "If we were to go somewhere together, then it could be something special."

Brown was quick to counter, "I just want to find somewhere where I can fit in early and play, and then hopefully get to the next level."

But it is highly unlikely that a school from outside of the South lands the duo.

"This is our first time in Ohio," Giddens said. "We hate the cold. We've been here for one day, and I think my feet are already frostbitten."

The final piece to the trio is 6-foot-8 junior Staley, a power forward who is athletic and successful on the defensive end. Staley is unsure if football or basketball is the best fit for him at the college level. The 2014 prospect said he would attend several ACC and SEC football camps this summer while playing AAU basketball before making a decision on which college sport to play.

On the hardwood, schools that are interested in Staley include Alabama, Florida State, Miami, Georgia, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

One last time

Heading into the final game of the Flyin' to the Hoop Classic on Monday night, everyone was asking two questions. One, can Dallas (Texas) Prime Prep live up to the hype and repeat its dominant performance from Sunday night? Two, does Dayton (Ohio) Huber Heights Wayne have the talent to pull the upset? The answers to those questions were yes, Prime Prep was worth the hype, and no, as good as HH Wayne is, it can't defeat Prime Prep. The boys from Dallas busted the game wide open in the third quarter and coasted through the fourth to win 77-61.

For the second straight day, Prep's most dominant player was 2014 five-star Emmanuel Mudiay, who was named the event MVP. Mudiay taking control of the game wasn't surprising; the fact that he did so while attempting only nine shots, and scoring 10 points, was the surprising part. The 6-foot-4 point guard recorded eight assists, including several passes in transition that can only be described as special. With excellent athleticism, and long arms for his size, Mudiay can affect the game in many ways with defense, and those deflections and steals often lead to Mudiay dunks or Mudiay assists.

"It's what the defense is giving me," Mudiay told Rivals.com. "However they play us, that's how I'm going to control the game. My coach has been talking to me about being a great vocal leader; they're tough on me, but I'm listening."

After a visit from Kentucky coach John Calipari during Sunday's game, Mudiay was reflective on not only the recruiting process but what all of the attention means.

"I talked to Coach Calipari after the game; he told me good game. He also said he's going to be at a lot more of my games, which just shows that I'm blessed."

At this point in his recruitment, Mudiay has no plans to shorten his list, has no visits on the horizon and genuinely seems like he isn't even considering the process. When prodded about which schools are paying him the most attention, Mudiay listed Kentucky, Arizona and SMU -- and then said most of the Big 12 is in his ear on a near daily basis.

In addition to Mudiay, Prime Prep got excellent outings from two frontcourt players in 2015 four-star power forward Elijah Thomas, who scored 11 points off of the bench, and four-star 2013 power forward Jordan Mickey, who exploded for 27 points and eight rebounds.

Thomas showed a mature skill set in the mid-post, scoring over either shoulder and making good passes in high-low situations. The 6-foot-8 sophomore has great strength for his size and is improving his conditioning every day at Prime Prep. The LSU signee, Mickey, not only had his jumper working from midrange, but he played with great physicality on every possession. A hard-hat type of player, Mickey is an elite athlete who will play with a high motor every time he gets on the floor.


Evan Bradds. Fans around the Midwest were quick to praise the coaching staff at Belmont when it got a commitment from the 6-foot-7 combo forward prior to the July evaluation period. So far this season, and particularly on Monday, the Belmont coaches continue to earn that praise, because they've got a good one in Bradds. One of the better athletes for his size in Ohio's 2013 class, Bradds is capable of playing any of the five positions on offense. He has the combination of size and length to defend multiple positions as well. Bradds excels as a jump shooter out to the 3-point line and is skilled at pushing the ball in transition and finding teammates. We'd like to see Bradds take more of a scorer's mentality in the half-court, especially with aggression toward the rim, but it is tough to knock some of the decisions he makes as a passer.

Jaaron Simmons. A very good mid-major prospect who is receiving high-level interest from schools including Tulane, Virginia Tech, Duquesne, Liberty, Hofstra and Dayton, the 6-foot Simmons is one of the better unsigned seniors in the Midwest. Simmons poured in 25 points in a win on Monday for his Kettering (Ohio) Alter squad, dominating the transition game with crafty layups through traffic. He is skilled as a midrange scorer with a jumper and as a slasher who can draw contact at the rim and finish. A good competitor, Simmons is a pure point guard who likes to facilitate first on the AAU circuit, and he has the quickness on defense to hang at the mid-major level or higher.

Tervell Beck. One of 2016's most dynamic athletes on the wing position, the 6-foot-5 Beck is a big-time performer at Cleveland (Ohio) Central Catholic. Capable of handling the ball on the wing, shooting a spot-up 3-pointer and distributing the ball, Beck is a true wing player who could continue to grow taller. The freshman has yet to accumulate an offer, but he has the interest of several high majors and will likely attract more attention after dropping 18 points on Monday night.

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