Three of Florida’s incoming 2019 players were on display Monday in the Hoophall Classic, a showcase between some of the best high school teams in the country. Scottie Lewis and Alex Klatsky were there for Ranney School while Omar Payne was representing for Montverde Academy. This was a great chance to see the incoming Gators against some great competition and they didn’t disappoint. Here is what went down.
The first game of the day was Ranney versus Federal Way High School, a team featuring the #5 player in the 2019 recruiting class named Jaden McDaniels, a 6’10”, 200 pound forward that has scouts comparing him to a young Kevin Durant with his scoring ability and skill at that size.
Unfortunately for young Jaden, he had to deal with Scottie Lewis.
Ranney, without many impactful players with size, ended up putting the much smaller Lewis on McDaniels and it worked brilliantly. Using his quick feet, defensive anticipation, and dogged determination Lewis constantly bothered McDaniels on all areas of the floor, beating him to spots and pushing him away from the places he wanted to get to. He even stood up the bigger forward on a few post ups and forced misses in close, something you wouldn’t have expected given the height difference.
All in all, the #5 ranked player in 2019 McDaniels was held to 2-15 shooting by the much smaller Lewis. The competitive fire Lewis showed in embracing the matchup was apparent from the opening tip and his intense focus never seemed to waiver. He came up with some timely steals that lead to breakaway dunks and was able to secure a few key rebounds, once again playing as if he were 6 inches taller than he really is. His business-like demeanor was like that of a 7-year NBA pro and the leadership he exhibited helped lead his team to a major win.
Oh, and there was also the fact he scored 26 points on 9-14 shooting.
Watching Lewis in the past his defense was always the thing that caught your eye and established him as elite while his offensive game, truthfully, left a little bit to be desired. Scoring has been an area he’s been working on as of late and if today was any indication, that work has been paying off. Most improved was his jump shot that looked incredibly smooth as he hit multiple long jumpers off the bounce, shots that seemed to be so accurate they hardly touched the net. Most notably was a play were he caught the ball at the top of the break, jab stepped hard to the right to move the defender, and then took a smooth one dribble pull-up to his left.
The ball left his hand so purely I was certain it was going to fall and it didn’t disappoint.
Finishing inside was no problem for the explosive Lewis as well as he had multiple extremely athletic layups and dunks, especially a baseline drive that he finished with a crafty reverse layup. His jumping ability and wingspan are indicative of a player that could finish well around the hoop and his intelligence and savvy help in that area as well. I don’t think finishing around the cup will ever be an issue for him.
Seeing Lewis knock down threes off the dribble is a scary sight given his excellence in other aspects of the game and he’s looking like someone who could be dominant as a freshman at Florida. His athleticism and skillset is going to work perfectly for Mike White’s dribble drive offense and his defense is going to keep him on the floor in all situations. He really impressed today.
Alex Klatsky also plays a big role for Ranney as both a ball handler against pressure and also as a spot up shooter. He struggled to find his shot early in the game but in the second half he drilled a couple corner threes. His jump shot looks beautiful and I really appreciated watching him move away from the ball and utilizing proper shot preparation. He knows his role offensively and really plays within it, only taking good shots and moving the ball when there isn’t an opportunity to let a jumper to fly. You can tell he’s used to playing with great players and he knows how to find his spots while also working towards supporting the main players as much as possible. Even though he had a few turnovers you can tell he has the trust of his teammates and coaches, something that always says a lot about a player in high school. Klatsky has the chance to be a great program player during his time at Florida and his shooting will definitely have it’s time to shine in the O’Dome.
Omar Payne was up next with his star-laden Montverde squad against an overmatched Sierra Canyon team from California. Montverde won this one handily and overall it was a bit of tough evaluation setting to see Payne. First of all, Montverde is absolutely loaded with talent including in the frontcourt at Payne’s position. Secondly, this game was mostly a blowout and the second half didn’t have the tempo and intensity of a normal game due to the margin in score.
It was still nice to get a chance to see Payne out there against what is a good team (by the national rankings) and what was first noticeable was his size which was noticeably bigger than the last time I watched him a few months ago. He definitely still has some work to do with Preston Greene in the strength and conditioning program but he looks mostly like a college-ready body.
His biggest highlight was early in his first shift when he ran out in transition and caught a pass near the rim before finishing with a monster flush. It was good to see him rim running in transition and it was great to see him rewarded by the guard who fed him the ball. Other than that he was quiet offensively as he was mostly sitting in the “dunker” position (the weak-side block) while the talented Montverde perimeter players orchestrated things.
Defensively he didn’t seem like he was moving as quickly as the last time I saw him play and it made me wonder if the extra weight he has put on has slowed him down a bit. He seemed to be a lot more mobile in the past and though he wasn’t super slow or anything he didn’t have the lateral quickness where I thought he could really stick with guards on the perimeter. Perhaps it was just the slow speed of this blowout game that kept him from reaching full effort and I’ll be curious to watch him again.
On the glass Payne kept a few balls alive offensively and had a few solid box-outs on the defensive end but missed a few that resulted in offensive rebounds for Sierra Canyon. Once again, the score may have kept him from being at 100% focus-wise and lets be honest, pretty much no young player is disciplined in properly boxing out all the time, but that could be the difference between him being a good or a great rebounder.
I also have to note that Andrew Nembhard’s younger brother Ryan was extremely impressive for Montverde. A high school freshman in the class of 2022 (though there is always a chance for reclassification for kids of this caliber this young) he was excellent at pressuring the ball defensively and pushing in transition when he team gained possession. He plays a different game than Andrew and is much more athletic and he’ll be a really interesting player to watch. Florida officially offered him earlier this month but I’m sure they’ve been looking at him for a while.