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May 30, 2007

NIKE Memorial Day Classic top underclassmen

There were a number of top underclassmen playing in the 17-under division of the NIKE Memorial Day Classic last weekend. Many of those prospects played pivotal roles for their team.

None of the underclassmen stood out more than Xavier Henry, who was the top performer regardless of class at the event.

Here is a look at Henry and four other prospects who join him on the top underclassmen list.

NIKE Memorial Day Classic top underclassmen
Xavier Henry, SG, AAU Team: Athletes First

Henry wasn't just the top underclassmen performer at the NIKE Memorial Day Classic, he was the top performer overall at the event.

His "off" game was a 16-point effort. When he was on, he was simply unguardable. At 6 feet 6, 210-pounds, Henry has the length to shoot over defenders, the strength to post them up and the athleticism to create his shot in most situations.

Along with his scoring prowess, Henry also can handle the ball like a point guard and rebound like a power forward. Over the past year, he has taken huge strides in becoming a complete player. If he continues his natural development as a player, he could be a star at the highest level.

Kendall Marshall, PG, AAU Team: Boo Williams

It has never been easy to earn playing time on the always-loaded Boo Williams roster, so it is quite impressive that Marshall a freshman point guard - has nailed down an important spot on the 17-under squad.

With a feel for the game well beyond his years, Marshall was never rattled by the defensive pressure that opponents threw at him. The smooth left-hander handled the ball with strength, consistently got into the lane and also knocked down open 3-pointers.

Whether Marshall will remain an elite point guard in his class remains to be seen. He does need to improve on the defensive side of the ball. But at this stage of the game, you would be hard-pressed to find a better freshman point guard in the country.

Kyle Hardrick, C, AAU Team: Athletes First

He might not have the size or athleticism of some of the other big men on the 17-under circuit, but 2009 power forward Hardrick consistently produces for Athletes First.

Hardrick has a nose for the ball and a great understanding of positioning. His hands are sure when he does get to the ball, and his quick release on post shots beats longer and better athletes to the punch. A focused competitor, Hardrick also produces off hustle plays. He often beats his man down the court.

Simply put, every team needs a player like Hardrick to be successful. Oklahoma is quite fortunate to have Hardrick as a commitment.

Durand Scott, SG, AAU Team: New York Gauchos

Speaking of competitors, Scott of the New York Gauchos is at the top of that list.

Physical and with a hard edge to his game, Scott is developing into an excellent wing defender. In a previous tournament, he did a nice job defending Demar Derozan. In the NIKE Memorial Day Classic, he fared quite well against another elite wing in Henry.

Scott doesn't just defend and rebound. He attacks the rim extremely well off the dribble and can finish tough shots with either hand around the basket. He is keeping defenses honest by knocking down open 3-pointers.

Leslie McDonald, SG, AAU Team: Memphis YOMCA

McDonald is one of those young prospects who has success written all over him. He is good now, but it is evident that a big-time player is ready to emerge.

For starters, McDonald has an effortless, high-arcing and soft shot that is continuously becoming more accurate. Besides being a shooting threat, McDonald is adept at snatching rebounds out of a crowd against bigger players. On the defensive side of the ball, he can lock down either guard position.

He still has room to become more aggressive off the dribble. However, there is no doubt that with his mind for the game and his natural physical tools, McDonald's development as a player is far from complete.



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