Indiana is producing some damn fine basketball talent this year, and several of those players were on the floor Friday night at North Central. Since we're about to get four years and eight (or more?) games of point guard battles between Indiana's Kevin Ferrell and Purdue's Ronnie Johnson I thought I would go north tonight in search of an advanced scouting report. It was also a good chance to see some other talent.
North Central's Patrick Ingram will be in our conference with OMHR, the Iowa Hawkeyes. Park Tudor's Trevon Bluiett is a class of 2014 player that is already drawing interest from Purdue, especially since he was a key contributor as a freshman last season with a state champion. Park Tudor also had a couple of shooters in Troy Spears and Paul Bayt that could shoot three-pointers for any number of Division I teams. Spears is headed to New Mexico to play for Steve Alford and the Lobos, while Bayt will play Division I for the Manhattan Jaspers. North Central's Darius Lathan is drawing interest from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for football.
Basically, there was a metric crapload of Division I talent on the floor tonight, and it was an excellent chance to see how Terone Johnson's little brother stacked up against some pretty solid competition. North Central entered the game at No.1 overall in the state's coaches poll (which ranks teams regardless of class) and No. 1 in the AP Class 4A poll. Park Tudor was No. 1 in the Class 2A poll (they are the defending champs there) and No. 15 overall. They will go higher because of this game.
Park Tudor kicked the living crap out of North Central in this game, and that bodes well for my beloved Kokomo Wildkats who play North Central next week in the Hall of Fame Tournament (which I'll be at watching RJ). Park Tudor won 83-61 because they shot the lights out of the gym from three-point range. They were 13 of 18 from long range, and was 11 of 15 at halftime. Bayt and Spears killed it from outside, mostly because Ferrell drove inside and kicked it out to them as wide open shooters. They were 8 of 11 from long range with a combined 30 points. North Central had no idea whatsoever in how to attack the 2-3 zone, and had no chance because of it. Ronnie Johnson was the only player that played remotely well for them, which was disappointing.
Ronnie Johnson - First, let's get to RJ's final line on the night. He had 17 points, one assist, and two rebounds, but what impressed me most was his hustle. He was the only player on North Central's roster that realized you beat a 2-3 zone by attacking it, not shooting over it. He was on the floor a few times going after loose balls and dove in for a few rebounds. Since his teammates refused to attack the basket against the zone it limited him to the one assist.
RJ is a lefty, and his left handed shot is not the prettiest, but it can be effective. He was shooting a lot of deep three-pointers and finished 4 of 13 from long range and 6 of 20 overall, so it wasn't the best night shooting. Again though, his teammates had no idea how to attack the zone. Breaking a 2-3 zone is a team effort, especially in a motion offense. Any time RJ drove the defense collapsed on him and prevented him from passing or scoring. Still, I could see a lot of Purdue in him because he was a defensive hustler and not afraid to go after loose balls.
Defensively, I liked RJ because he was the only player that had a prayer of hanging with Ferrell. Ferrell abused Ingram most of the night. RJ took him for most of the second half and only gave up four points and an assist. Ferrell smoked him once on the dribble, but missed the layup. Ferrell's only field goal of the second half came on a fast break. Ferrell played the entire second half until PT cleared its bench with 1:30 left, so RJ kept him fairly quiet. I would rate his defense against Ferrell at about a B. When Ferrell went crazy in the second quarter it wasn't because of RJ. For the most part he held his own. What makes a true evaluation hard of how they went at each other was the zone. Park Tudor didn't come out of its 2-3 much, and it limited Ferrell's defensive opportunities on RJ.
Kevin Ferrell - I saw Hanner Perea last season and felt he was a five-star based solely on athleticism. He lacks polish. Ferrell is a legitimate Division I point guard that could start for almost any team in the country right now. He's listed at 5'11", but if he's 5'11" I am 6'3". He is very similar in size to RJ, but I would give RJ 5-10 pounds more. RJ is not anywhere near as big as his brother, either. What Ferrell lacks in size he more than makes up for in quickness.
Ferrell is a very dangerous player for the Hoosiers because his speed and ability to slice through defenses gives them an element they currently lack. He went crazy for nine points and five assists in the second quarter by driving the lane and either scoring the ball or dishing outside to wide open shooters in Bayt and Spears. In turn, they shot the lights out of the gym. Park Tudor was down 10-8 with 4:08 left in the first quarter, but went on a 40-22 run over the next 12 minutes because of its three point shooting.
Ferrell is not the scorer that RJ is, and he will be limited on his scoring ability at the next level because of his size. He had a nice step-back three-pointer tonight, but he was 4 of 10 from the field and 4 of 5 from the line. He will have to score at the next level like LewJack: either on the drive or at the line. He can hit the occasional three, however. He is about like LewJack right now, and light years ahead of Lew with his jumper at the same stage.
He is incredibly fast too, and that is his biggest asset. He abused Ingram all nice with his speed, but RJ was able to keep up with him for the most part. Another positive in his favor is that he is already playing with talented teammates that can help him in a press (which NC threw at them for a bit) and he can make better. He will only have better teammates at the next level.
Who would you choose?
Ryan Bucher asked via Twitter which player I would choose. This is my first time seeing RJ play without TJ, and second time seeing Ferrell. It is hard to make a choice because I think both will be different type of point guard at the next level, and Park Tudor's defense limiting the rest of North Central gives RJ almost an incomplete. There is no question that Ferrell is extremely talented. He has next level speed and solid handles. He did foul more and have more turnovers than RJ, but only by one in each category.
I think that RJ is the better scorer, but Ferrell is the better distributor. Ferrell is quicker with better handles, but against the zone RJ didn't get to exhibit his ability to break down guys off the dribble or pass. Conversely, a 2-3 zone would be very limiting to Ferrell as long as it stayed out on shooters. That was the biggest difference tonight. Park Tudor couldn't miss from three in the second quarter, built a big lead, and was able to hold on.
Overall, I would say the battle was about even. If forced to choose at gunpoint I would say Ferrell was better because RJ had a tough night shooting, but RJ made life tougher on Ferrell man-to-man while Ferrell was able to hide in the zone defensively. Ferrell's speed is solid element too, but RJ was much more active defensively and on the glass.
Finally, I should talk about Bluiett since he is a 2014 target and he had a better game than both Ferrell and RJ. He finished with 24 points, four rebounds, and an assist and is honestly a player we need to lock up right now. As a freshman he was a 6'5" post player, but he is evolving into a very dangerous 6'5" 205 pound guard that is going to be able to score at will. He did tonight for sure. He can hit the three, rebound, defend, get to the free throw line, and pass. He reminded me of Kelsey Barlow, only with a more developed offensive game and his give-a-shit turned on at all times. With polish, he could be fantastic.
Bluiett is going to be a rising player in the 2014 class, and I am glad we are on him early. There is a strong chance he could be the centerpiece of a four-time state champion, which has never happened in Indiana. At 6'5" and at the 2A level he is asked to play as a forward a lot, but he is developing a game as a sophomore as a guard. That kind of versatility will only make him more desirable. I left the gym really impressed by this kid. He would make a very nice addition to our 2014 class.
Since we're going to see Ingram with Iowa the next four years I thought I would offer a scouting report. Of all the Division I players on the floor he was the least impressive. That was after a 17 game where he was 7 of 10 from the floor. Defensively, he was a liability that was abused by Ferrell to the point where he had four fouls midway through the third quarter. Offensively, he had absolutely no clue whatsoever how to attack a zone.
At least Ronnie attempt to attack and did something more than shoot over or pass around the zone. Ingram never did anything remotely attacking. A lot of his points came after the game was decided. He was part of the team for North Central that simply checked out in the fourth quarter. Park Tudor led 66-51 after three, and RJ was the only one that really tried to make a comeback in the fourth quarter. One man against the zone can't do a whole lot, especially when his four teammates gave allt he body language of quitting.
There was some great talent on the floor. Lathan would be a solid forward prospect if he wasn't already a defensive tackle prospect. RJ and Ferrell will have several more chances to settle their battles. Bayt and Spears are the type of shooters that can help spur an early round NCAA upset. Ingram can shoot, but isn't on the same level as RJ and Ferrell. Finally, Bluiett is going to be an excellent player. He's already grown by leaps and bounds as a player since I saw him nine months ago in the state finals.
As far as RJ vs. Ferrell, I would probably call this a draw. Ferrell is faster and more efficient, but RJ is the better defender and scorer. Round two will come next year in either West Lafayette or Bloomington.