NEWBERN, Tenn. -- The first night of the Penny Hardaway Hoopfest in the far outskirts of Memphis saw three of the area's brightest stars show off their skills at Dyer County High School. With Memphis' big-time reputation for breeding top talent, the young players have a lot of pressure on them to perform at a high level. So far, the boys from the Volunteer state have been up to the challenge.
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
Robert Hubbs had one advantage compared over the rest of the local stars on Thursday: He got to play on his home court. In addition to that, Hubbs also had the raucous crowd, which looks at the five-star Tennessee signee as a hometown hero, behind him. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard added to his legend with 29 points in an efficient scoring outburst.
Without forcing any action, Hubbs let the game come to him, waiting for the right spots to attack and then powerfully getting to the rim against a Charleston (Mo.) team that had no one who could match Hubbs.
What sets Hubbs apart from other wing prospects is his touch around the rim. When he gets a ball up over the rim from the painted area, it just always finds a way into the bottom of the net. Usually a more-than-efficient jump-shooter, Hubbs neglected to fire many long shots on Thursday, instead slashing to the rim and finishing several power dunks.
With his team tied going into the fourth quarter, it officially became "Hubbs time" as the future Volunteer created off the dribble with his shifty handle, collecting several assists in the process once Charleston began double-teaming.
KING OF TENNESSEE
It would be easy to question the shot selection of four-star Memphis commit Nick King, a 6-foot-5 wing out of Memphis East. But when King is feeling it, there isn't much any defense can do on the high school level to slow the young man down from getting buckets. While his team was unable to complete a hard-fought comeback, King turned a so-so first half, one in which he settled for some tough jump-shots, into a standout second session, finishing with 27 points and nine rebounds in a two-point loss.
While he strongly favors his left hand on drives, King showed just how elite of a prospect he can be as he attacked the rim and showed high-level athleticism in finishing, even through contact. There's no arguing that the four-star wing is a tough competitor, and with his team down big, King began draining contested step-back and fade-away jumpers like they were simple layups.
The future Tiger is the rare player who can create a shot for himself off the bounce whenever he wants, which should lead to solid scoring production at the college level as he continues to improve his decision-making.
With all of the talent in the Memphis area it, can be easy to forget about 2014 four-star combo forward Marcanvis Hymon of Whitehaven High School. After watching his game on Thursday, it seems that sometimes even Hymon's own teammates don't quite get the point. One thing was clear at Dyer County: When Hymon gets the ball in the low, mid or high post, good things are usually going to happen.
A 6-foot-7 skilled forward with very good athleticism, length and a high motor, Hymon has improved his offensive game by leaps and bounds since the AAU season ended in late July. Hymon is much more comfortable with his back to the basket, and now has excellent footwork, using a lot of advanced pivot moves to free up space for a shot, drive or pass.
While it would've been nice to see Hymon demand the ball on the block more often against an opponent that he was able to dominate athletically, the forward put together a nice overall game. He also made an impact on both the glass and the defensive end, where he showed good effort in blocking several shots and making multiple efforts to rebound tipped balls.
It wasn't just the three Tennessee stars who stood out as several other prospects strung together solid performances at Dyer County High School.
LouRawls Nairn, Bel Aire (Kan.) Sunrise Christian's four-star point guard from the class of 2014, would be a heavy favorite in just about any foot race. In his team's narrow win on Thursday, Nairn showed off breakaway speed with the ball in his hands, as well as the ability to change gears or directions, on a dime. As fast as he is, Nairn is also a good basketball player. The 5-foot-10 point guard likes to play in the open court where he is a pass-first point guard. The junior has a tendency to force the issue a little bit, but he was very productive on Thursday as he tallied 13 points and 10 assists on the night. There are plenty of things upon which Nairn needs to improve, but his change-of-pace style and control of game tempo make him a very good college prospect. After the game,he listed Ole Miss, Kansas State, Kansas, Arkansas and UCLA as the schools recruiting him the hardest.
Janari Joesaar, a three-star Ole Miss signee, is known as a prolific shooter for his Sunrise Christian team, but in the win over Memphis East the 6-foot-6 wing forward showed that he can be an all-around scorer when called upon. Joesaar scored 16 points by both knocking down 3-pointers and finding ways to craftily get to the rim in transition with euro-step finishes. Joesaar is a deceptive athlete who should be able to find a niche as an offensive spark for coach Andy Kennedy during his college career.
Kenny Cheatham, a 5-foot-9 point guard from the class of 2016, is a promising enough prospect to have already earned himself a nickname, "Lucky." The freshman from Memphis Whitehaven looked much more skilled than he was lucky on Thursday, tallying a game-high 19 points in a loss. A very good ballhandler who can create his own shot off of the dribble, Cheatham is more of a scoring guard then a passer at this point. He's capable of knocking it down from long range, and sees the floor well. Cheatham's decision making will have to improve, but there's plenty of good basketball ahead for this young lead guard.