WESTFIELD — A couple notes, thoughts and impressions from Saturday (April 24) at the Midwest Mania event in Westfield. More to come tomorrow, along with video and write-ups from interviews, but here are just a few opinion-based bullet points.
FLETCHER LOYER IS CLUTCH
Purdue commitment Fletcher Loyer is an elite jump-shooter. Elite. Like, I can’t imagine there being many players, if any, I’d rather have taking an in-rhythm three-pointer for my team than him. His mechanics are picturesque and consistent, he has excellent body control which helps him make shots on the move and he’s confident as hell in his own ability, as he has every reason to be. But he is also a highly versatile offensive player, as clever scorer who knows how to manipulate defenders and get to his spots. His floater off the dribble (is there any other kind) is money typically.But he’s also shown a bit of that so-called clutch gene. Last time I’d seen him play live, he was relatively quiet by his high standards against Blackhawk Christian, then went on a late tear of shot-making and broke open a close game.Today, in the afternoon, Loyer spent a good deal of the game against Albany City Rocks on the bench, as the Rocks were attacking him on post-ups, causing Indy Heat some defensive problems. Indy Heat’s coaches did a nice job managing things, offense-defense subbing when they could, and when Loyer was back on the floor for an offensive possession with around 50 seconds left, the game tied at 49 (I think), he made the biggest shot of the game.Loyer had 19 and 14 points, respectively, in his two games today, according to the scorekeeping, and Indy Heat beat two fellow EYBL teams in Expressions Elite from the Boston Area and the City Rocks from New York.Loyer can really score, but he can really pass and make decisions, too. He’s going to be the smartest player on the floor a lot.
JAMEEL BROWN IS VERY GOOD
This was the first I’ve seen of Jameel Brown live, and the former Purdue commitment was very impressive.His height and length are legitimate and he can really shoot the ball, but also plays with a maturity and modesty to his game that really makes him a nice piece on a team loaded with elite talent. Brown both fits in and stands out, if that makes sense.He looked a little shaky with the ball at times in the first game, but for a bigger guard who may not be an absolutely pure point guard, that’s no cause for alarm. Brown is more of a wing, but could definitely be an Eric Hunter 2.0 type who can play both positions at the next level.I’ll say this, too: Brown seems like a delightful kid, and don’t think I just throw the word ‘delightful’ around willy-nilly.He said that Brandon Brantley has picked up his recruitment for Purdue, and said Purdue is very much still a real consideration for him. He said his decommitment was no slight whatsoever to Purdue. Wouldn’t expect him to say anything else, but still.
ON BRADEN SMITH
I don’t think I saw the very best of Braden Smith on Saturday night in his 16-point performance in a win over a team from Texas. He didn’t shoot the ball great and he seemed at times to have modest problems with the height and length the other team did field.But it is apparent that Smith is a smart and tough point guard who may not be all that big or an elite athlete, but gets stuff done. He was so productive as a junior at Westfield that Gonzaga and Villanova are among those who have started calling about him.(Smith did say that he has some connections at his school to the Pacers front office and they have helped get his name and tape out to some of these far-off schools.)Smith said Purdue is talking to him regularly. They need a point guard in this class and though they would likely prefer a player with high-end quickness if possible, Smith seems like a Matt Painter sort of play substantively.
KEBBA NJIE SHOULD BE ON PURDUE’S RADAR
The big man from LaLumiere looks different from last summer, a little more authority on the block and playing with a really distinct energy. He’s young for his grade and last summer reminded a bit of JaJuan Johnson at the same age in terms of his rawness, but obvious potential.Playing and training at LaLumiere seems to paying off, as is playing and practicing against big men Vincent Iwuchukwu, Tristan Thompson and West Lafayette export Rocco Muratori — all of them are at LaLu — every day.
Also…Njie is going to be a center at the next level, IMO. He’s only 6-foot-9 right and still has some bulking up to do, but this is one of those kids who might wake up one more (so to speak) being 6-11, 245 and suddenly he’s a national recruit.
And if he doesn’t, he has enough physical tools and enough skill that as is, he is a good enough player to be a high-major recruit, maybe even a high high-major recruit.