ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WUSA) -- Saturday night, T.C. Williams High School hosted the Capital Classic, the longest running high school basketball All-Star game. It just so happens that five of Maryland's incoming freshman class participated in the game all representing the US All-Star team. A recruiting class that ranks in the top 20 in the nation was without Jake Layman, but still had many Terp fans leaving the game looking forward to next season. One fan on twitter even gave them a nickname, The Crab Five.
Sam Cassell Jr. recommitted to Maryland after reports surfaced that his father, former NBA point guard Sam Cassell, denied that his son was going to be a Terp. Cassell Jr. said that his father was worried because he had committed without taking any visits, but after they spoke about it, they concluded Maryland was the best fit.
That news was just as pleasing to fans as the performances the future Terps displayed Saturday night. I was surprised and disappointed with the play a few Terps. As I watched the game, I scouted the skills of each player, examining their strength and weaknesses. These were my findings:
Shaquille Cleare, Center
"Shaq" Cleare was labeled the gem of this recruiting class and he looked like it on Saturday. He is very strong below the rim and displayed a skill set that you would expect from a college player. When given the ball in the paint, he utilized good footwork to get in better position to make a play. He also seemed very knowledgeable as far knowing when to pass the ball back out to the perimeter to resett the offense instead of forcing or fighting for a tougher bucket. He also showed off a couple of nice dishes from the post to slashing teammates creating a lane for them to score. He is a really good athlete and can jump out of the gym easily and even if he can't position himself to block a shot, he finds a way to make his presence felt in the low post.
He has good bounce attacking the basket, but needs to be a more consistent finisher. From the post, he also struggled to make the sort to mid range shot. I'm sure head coach Mark Turgeon will have him work on it this summer and I think Cleare has a really good chance at starting this fall. He said that Turgeon said he was going to start if he came in worked hard and that would be his motivation. It will happen.
Charles Mitchell, Power Forward
Going into this game, I read a few scouting reports suggesting Mitchell a steal for the Terps. From what I saw in the all-star game, he will be a work in progress. I'm not saying he is a bad player or he lacks potential, but I don't see him immediately coming in and taking minutes away from guys. He reminds me of Jordan Williams during his freshman year. Williams wasn't supposed to play much, but due to injuries and other players situations, he was thrown into the game. Mitchell will have to build his game the way Williams did.
What I like about the guy is his knowledge on the offensive side of the ball. He reads the offense well, knowing where he needs to be, and never seems out of place. He also works well on the offensive glass and went up strong with the put-back. However, the kid is not the best athlete. He does not jump well and was rejected by the rim on a dunk attempt in the second half. His post game needs work as he often struggled to create his own shot in the paint. I think he may be a little out of shape, as well. As he becomes more fit, his game will improve too.
"My role is just to be a great rebounder, a great low post scorer. Whatever [Turgeon] wants me to do, that's what [I'm going to] do," Mitchell said when I asked what he thinks his role will be next season.
Sam Cassell Jr., Guard
Cassell Jr. really impressed me during this game. He demonstrated his ability to shoot the jumper inside and outside of the arc. What was even more impressive was his court vision. Cassell Jr must have studied his father's highlight tape because he was playing unselfishly and was finding teammates for open shots regularly. He took shots when he was open, but definitely seems to be a pass first guard, which would compliment Terrell Stoglin nicely. He also plays good defense in transition. The highlight of the second half was when Cassell Jr. chased down the ball carrier following a turnover, stole the ball, and then blindly threw the ball over his head to a streaking teammate. The teammate blew the layup, but the pass was superb.
Cassell Jr. still needs to work on his halfcourt defense and moving without the ball in his hands, but I think it's very possible to see him have steady minutes by the end of next season. I asked him why he finally chose the Terps and he said, "I know I can a big impact there as a freshman." I think he will definitely have the chance.
Seth Allen, Guard
Seth Allen is considered a two or three star prospect by most recruiting sites. To me, he was the most exciting one to watch on Saturday. Allen has a lot of skills that you look for in a two guard. He can shoot, create his own shot, and can slash to the bucket. His handles were good enough to give me visions of him crossing a few ACC foes for a Top 10 highlight. He doesn't let up on defense, either. He is not a shutdown defender, but he keeps good footing and stays in front of the ball carrier to close driving lanes. He also keeps his hands up and closes out on shots as well. I was not expecting much from him, but after watching him in person, I think Turgeon now has a crowded backcourt filled with talent.
However, what is still to be seen is if he can play the point. He said that's what he is going to play at College Park and he admitted it is going to take some work.
"I'm more of a scorer," said Allen. "That will probably be the hardest transition; being a strong point, but we got all summer to work on that."
Damonte Dodd, Forward
Dodd had a solid game on Saturday. He didn't really try to score at all. He only made a couple buckets and finished the game with six points. What I liked about him, though, was his presence on defense. He looks like he genuinely likes to play defense. He hustled to chase down shots and make blocks throughout the second half. And when his teammates needed it, he played good help defense.
His lack of shots was not concerning to me because the shots he took, he converted. That means he will not be a offensive liability of the court. Plus, he plays under the rim a lot and dunking -- let's just say it won't be an issue for this young guy.
Overall, I think this group had a solid showing and when they were on the court together, they played well. There were some interesting nuggets I also observed. When Allen and Cassell Jr. were on the court together, Allen seemed to run the point more. If they both get in the rotation next season, I would expect Cassell Jr. to control the offense. And in a huge display of confidence, when I asked Allen what he look forward to next season, he responded rather surprisingly.
"[I look forward to] playing at the Comcast Center. Playing Duke. Beating Duke at the Comcast Center," Allen responded smiling. I had to get clarification, so I asked if he was already declaring a victory over Duke next season.
"We're gonna beat them," he replied confidently. I'm sold.
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