SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Five players who stood out Saturday at the 2016 Spalding Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass.
Frank Jackson, Lone Peak (Highland, Utah) — The Duke-bound guard took a few bad shots, but when you score 49 points, it’s hard to quibble.
“Frank Jackson is a lot quicker than he looked on tape,” St. Francis coach Drew Catlett said. “He’s so tough and physical.”
Blessed with a quick first step, Jackson was able to get his shot nearly every time he wanted. He also showed big-time range, hitting seven of 18 three-pointers.
“I know my guys trust me and I trust them,” Jackson said. “To be an elite player, you have to rebound and work on defense.”
Kobi Jordan-Simmons, St. Francis (Alpharetta, Ga.) — Saturday was a big day for the 6-6 senior guard. Despite fouling out in his team’s overtime 94-92 defeat of Lone Peak (Highland, Utah), he led his team with 34 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. He’s too quick for most players to stay in front of, but he also uses that quickness to open opportunities for his teammates and for defense. He also committed to Arizona live on ESPN on Saturday.
“Bigger guys, I just space them out and play my game,” Jordan-Simmons said. “Smaller guards, I went in the post. I really try to keep my teammates involved so they can stay in the game. I had a couple of nice dimes, I think. The right play is very important.”
Thon Maker, Athlete Institute (Toronto) — The 7-1 center had seven of his game-high 10 blocks in the first half in his team’s 73-59 loss to No. 4 Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.). The undecided player will be a game changer for any college, just on his defense in the post, but he also showed his well-rounded game with 16 points (including two three-pointers) and eight rebounds.
“Oh, he’s going to the league, for sure,” Findlay Prep guard Carlos Johnson said.
T.J. Leaf, Foothills Christian (El Cajon, Calif.) — The UCLA signee led his team to an 82-80 defeat of No. 17 Sacred Heart (Waterbury, Conn.), with a 30 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. The 6-9 senior forward hit 13-of-18 shots (72 percent) from the floor.
“I love his game,” said Sacred Heart guard Mustapha Heron. “I played with him on the USA team this past summer. He played really well. He played hard, so it was fun.”
Mustapha Heron, Sacred Heart (Waterbury, Conn.) — His last-ditch shot didn’t fall in his team’s 82-80 loss to Foothill Christian, but he was the driving force in his team’s comeback. The Hearts (8-1) trailed by 19 points going into the final quarter when Heron took over. He had a game-high 31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals. The Auburn signee, a 6-4 guard, is physical enough to play right away next season.
“A better shot would have been nice,” Heron said of his last-second heave just past halfcourt. “I don’t think if I hadn’t raised my level of play we wouldn’t have been this close to winning the game. The crowd gave us great momentum and they helped carry us throughout the game. After winning 40 games in a row, you never want to have a feeling like this. The biggest lesson is the little things count.”