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January 23, 2013

Hoop Hall Classic: What We Learned


HOOP HALL: NWG breaks out | Wiggins vs. Vonleh

Each year, the Hoop Hall Classic has a tremendous lineup of teams and players. The 2013 edition didn't disappoint as the weekend produced plenty of highlights. The weekend also gave us a lot to think about and here's what we learned.

Good grades

Going strictly by things that can be physically measured such as size, there are point guards in the class of 2013 who are more impressive than Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep's Nigel Williams-Goss.

The Washington-bound senior has good size at about 6-foot-3, but there are some point guards with better size. He's a good athlete, but there are some who are more athletic. But how many point guards in the class of 2013 are better winners than Williams-Goss? Because at the end of the day, how much he wins has to be a big part of evaluating him going forward.

Not only does Williams-Goss win, he competes and raises the level of those around him. Watching him encourage his teammates while putting forth a huge effort of his own during a comeback win over a loaded Montverde (Fla.) Academy squad left quite the impression. Now, the question is how does his Hoop Hall performance -- and his entire season as a senior -- impact him when the final rankings come around?

Williams-Goss ranks No. 61 in the 2013 Rivals150 and it has become plenty clear that his current ranking is too low. Exactly how high does he move up? There is still a lot to be determined between now and when final rankings are completed after the post-season all-star games, but it is safe to say that Williams-Goss is going to make a fairly sizeable climb.

No. 1 in Chicago?

Ever since Andrew Wiggins moved to the class of 2013, Chicago (Ill.) Whitney Young center Jahlil Okafor has taken a firm hold of the No. 1 spot in the 2014 Rivals150.

That hold is one that Okafor has only tightened over the past few months, and he was again outstanding at the Hoop Hall during a dominant 26-point outing. Now, we have a question on our hands about who the best player in Chicago is, regardless of class, between he and 2013's No. 3 player, Jabari Parker.

For the past couple of years, the Duke-bound Parker has been the recipient of a tremendous amount of media attention and lofty expectations. He's deserved it. All the Chicago (Ill.) Simeon player has done is win a bunch of state titles, compete for USA Basketball and be named national player of the year. Like Okafor, Parker was also at his best during the Hoop Hall Classic when he put together a sparkling 28-point effort.

If we base the answer off high school accomplishments, then Parker is the winner. If we base it off the future and long-term potential, then it becomes a very interesting debate. It's a question that is even more interesting as their teams prepare to face off on national television Saturday night.

After careful consideration, we are going to give a slight edge to Okafor at the moment, making him tops in not only 2014, but in Chicago. While Parker is a hybrid of small and power forward at the highest levels, Okafor is a pure, back-to-the-basket scorer with the skill and size to play the five at the highest level.

Going up

When you are ranked No. 6 nationally, it is awfully tough to be underrated. However, after another viewing of 6-foot-8 combo forward Aaron Gordon from San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty, it's hard not to think that he's just that.

There are still aspects of the game where Gordon needs to improve. The 17-year-old needs work with his jumper. He still needs to add a little bit of strength and he lacks the ideal size of a power forward or overall perimeter skill of a small forward.

That said, the positives about Gordon's game far outweigh the negatives and it also has to be understood that any examination of his game is done under an intense microscope because he's such an elite-level talent.

Here's what we know is not going to change with Gordon. He's always going to be a freaky athlete with great length and a non-stop motor. He's always going to be a high-level rebounder, big-time finisher around the rim and outstanding passer. We can reasonably expect that his ball-handling and shooting will continue to improve as they have over the past year. Also, it's hard not to take into account the fact that Gordon is the youngest of the elite-ranked players in his class and won't turn 18 until mid-September of his freshman year.

Because of all of that, it is fair to say that Gordon is a bit underrated at this juncture.



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