Believe it or not I have never been to the NIKE Hoop Jamboree, which takes place annually at this time of year in St. Louis, Mo.
However, our North Carolina editor Rick Lewis was in attendance this year and he tells us that "without a doubt" 6-foot-8 freshman Julius Randle from Plano, Texas (Prestonwood Academy) was the best player in camp.
"Randle is a southpaw with tremendous athleticism and he made a strong case for being the top-ranked prospect in the Class of 2013," says Lewis. "Randle is long, lean, and mean inside the paint. He plays the game with passion and a purpose, which is unique for someone with his skill set and athletic ability. Randle plays with a high motor and, once he gets his hands on the ball in the paint, he is an absolute beast."
The first player that Lewis mentions from the Class of 2012 is 6-9 sophomore Cameron Ridley from Richmond, Texas (Ft. Bend Bush).
"He's a wide body that is tough to defend in the low post," says Lewis. "Simply put, Ridley is a beast on the inside and his sheer size and strength creates problems for opposing players. He does an excellent job of using his body and establishing low post position."
Another player that stood out was 6-7 sophomore Brandon Ashley from Oakland (Bishop O’Dowd) Calif.
"Ashley has a long and lanky frame, but his sheer athleticism and quickness creates mismatch problems for opposing teams," says Lewis. "His ability to utilize his explosive leaping ability allows him to easily score over bigger and stronger players in the paint. In addition, he has the ability to step out and knock down the 10-15 foot jump shot. More importantly, he has exceptionable ball handling skills for a player his size and beats most defenders with the dribble drive."
One of the top wing guards in the Class of 2012 is 6-4 sophomore Ricardo Ledo from Barrington (St. Andrews) R.I. "Ledo is a high level athlete with a smoothness to his game," says Lewis. "Ledo also has the speed and quickness to blow by defenders and the ability to knock down the open jumper. Very few wing guards displayed Ledo's combination of athleticism, skill, and basketball IQ."
And 6-4 sophomore Archie Goodwin from Little Rock, Ark. (Sylvan Hills) was simply outstanding.
"This southpaw did it all," says Lewis. "If Goodwin wasn’t knocking down open jumpers, he was attacking the basket and making some nifty reverse lay-ups. But even more important, Goodwin has the ability to create his own shot. Last, but not least, Goodwin showcased his excellent ball handling skills and even played point for his team. Like Ledo, Goodwin displayed a nice combination of athleticism, skill, and basketball IQ."
Lewis also tells us to be on the lookout for 6-4 freshman Deonte Burton from Milwaukee, Wisc. (Vincent).
"Burton is a fierce competitor and plays extremely hard. And I do mean extremely hard, as he utilized a variety of offensive skills during the event. He knocked down jumpers, but also could dribble drive and create an effective pull-up jumper. On the defensive end of the floor, he was tough as nails."
It also looks like 6-8 freshman Kuran Iverson from West Hartford (Northwest Catholic) Conn., continues to make a name for himself this spring.
"The young Iverson reminds me of a younger version of Quincy Miller," says Lewis. "But Iverson may be more developed at the same age. Iverson also has more athleticism than Miller. So it will be interesting to see if can maintain being one of the top five players nationally in the Class of 2013. Iverson is extremely long and already has all the tools to be a high level athlete and player. On the defensive end of the floor, he uses his length to block shots and has great timing on the boards. Once he secures the rebound, Iverson is talented enough to start the break in transition. Iverson has all the tools and intangibles and will challenge Randle over the next few years as one of the top players in the Class of 2013."
Other players that enjoyed a solid and productive camp was 6-2 freshman Nigel Williams-Goss from Henderson (Findley Prep) Nev., 6-7 freshman Jabari Parker from Chicago (Simeon) Ill., 6-6 sophomore Jarmal Reid from Decatur (Columbus) Ga., and 6-7 sophomore Charles Mitchell from Marietta (Wheeler) Ga.