Caveat: I don’t watch a lot of high school basketball, and I make no claim to be a good evaluator of talent (I am on the record as saying that I didn’t think OG would be a good college wing). Take all of this with a grain of salt.
Officially A Missouri Tiger #Miz— Frankie Hughes (@_4l0w) April 10, 2016
— Frankie Hughes (@_4l0w) April 12, 2016
ZouGang— Frankie Hughes (@_4l0w) April 12, 2016
On Frankie Hughes:
The first thing that stands out about Frankie is his size. We all know how high schools like to exaggerate the height of their players, but Frankie stands out as a legit 6’3", or even taller; Curtis Jones of Huntington Prep is listed at 6’5", and they were the same height.
Hughes can contribute right away as a spot up shooter in the half court. His release is quick and quiet, and in these three games, he was pretty much automatic in catch and shoot situations. His footwork is a little sloppy on the move either off the dribble or coming off screens. He needs work, but that kind of thing is supremely fixable. His shot selection is very good for a high schooler, so I expect him to shoot a high percentage right away.
Frankie attacks the rim well in transition, but that really isn’t his game in the half court. He distributes the ball well in transition, and if he drives in the half court, it is usually to pass, rather than finish. As the highlights show, he does have plenty of athleticism to finish at the rim, it just doesn’t really show up in the half court.
I can see why the coaches are high on Hughes’ ability to handle the ball at the next level. He played the 3 for Garfield Heights, but when they were pressed and the ball was forced out of the point guard’s hands, Frankie was a calm outlet to get the ball up the court. He got sped up in transition a couple of times, and he can be sloppy with the ball when he plays too fast, but, at least in these three games, that was a pretty rare occurrence. He won’t be the guy to take command of the offense and orchestrate off a ton of ball screens, but I feel confident that he can get the ball up the court and get us into our sets.
Probably my favorite part of Frankie’s game is his passing. He isn’t a flashy passer by any means, but he moves the ball very well in the half court, and he is very unselfish. He has a very mature game. In the game against Genesis Academy, he was guarded by a guy who looked to be about 6’7". He had quite a bit of trouble getting clean looks, but rather than force shots, he moved the ball well and found the hot hand (number 12 hit 8 or 9 threes that game). Frankie had several assists just from making the extra pass to set up a teammate. My favorite sequence of his came against Huntington Prep. Hughes had just hit threes on back to back possessions and he got the ball again on the wing in transition. The D was closing out hard, but he had plenty of time to get off a heat check three. Instead, he made the extra pass into the corner for a wide open three from his teammate. It wasn’t a difficult pass by any means, but it was perfect basketball. We desperately missed these kinds of plays last season, and I think this skill set will earn Frankie a good chunk of minutes as a freshman.
Garfield Heights plays a lot of aggressive trapping defense, so it was difficult to see how Frankie held up defensively. He showed quick hands, and got quite a few steals out of their press. He wasn’t isolated one on one very often, so I couldn’t get a great feel for his on ball defense, but he has the size and athleticism to be a great defender. To emphasize again, his size on the perimeter just isn’t something we have had the last couple years.
Frankie is a good shooter with the tools to be great. He isn’t a point guard, but could man the position for up to 10 minutes a game (think Jimmy McKinney). His game at this point is spot up threes and transition buckets; otherwise, he plays with a lot of savvy. He moves the ball well and takes good shots. He should complement KJ well, as he doesn’t dribble much in the half court. I think he fits well with all of our current pieces, though he and CVL in the game together would be a pretty passive pair.
I think he will be best served at about 15 minutes a game off the bench (if 10 of those minutes are playing point guard, I don’t think we’ll get the best of him). I really love his game, and I think he is a great get. He competes at a high level, and he has a ton of potential. His savvy, size and skill make him a candidate for all-conference honors in his junior and senior years.
On Willie Jackson:
Willie has good size on the wing; I believe he is a legit 6’6", his length; however, allows him to play much bigger.
Willie’s offensive game right now consists almost entirely of hustle points. He played in the post at Garfield Heights, but in these three games, he never showed much of a post up game; everything came from offensive rebounds and in transition (think early Kawhi Leonard). He can get away with relying on hustle points, though, because he is just so darn good at it.
Jackson gave up size in two of the three games I linked, and he dominated the boards anyway. It was encouraging to see him have the same kind of success against bigger players. Willie really is a beast on the boards; every time a shot goes up, you can see him sprinting in to get the rebound. He is relentless, and I think this part of his game will translate well to the next level.
Jackson also showed some ability in pick and pop situations. He made 4-5 jump shots in these three games, but he also airballed a free throw, so it’s safe to say his jumper needs work. His release looks fine mechanically; it’s high, but a little slow. I think with repetition and good shot selection he can grow into a good shooter.
Willie put on a show against Huntington Prep. I wanted to see him matched up against Miles Bridges, and he really performed well. He didn’t guard Bridges, which was a little disappointing, but I understand why his coach would want to avoid foul trouble on his best player. Miles Bridges is 6’7" 225 lbs. and one of the best athletes in the country, and he absolutely looked the part (21 pts. 17 rebs.). Willie, though, time and again went over and through Bridges for rebounds and put backs (20 and 19). It was great to see Jackson perform so well against one of the best players in the country. If he can take Miles Bridges, he can take any wing in the SEC.
Again, I wasn’t able to get a great look at Jackson’s ability to defend the ball. He wasn’t posted up a ton in these three games, either, so he wound up without a ton to do. Willie can be pretty passive in help defense; despite his length and athleticism, he didn’t show much as a weakside shot blocker. I don’t know if he was instructed to stay out of the way to avoid foul trouble, or if he was just saving energy, but there were times where he was content to stand and watch. That is, until a shot went up. You can see a very real change in his demeanor when the ball is in the air. Willie sprints to the boards and competes until he has the ball. He also does very well in transitioning defensive rebounds to offense. We all saw how Michigan St. thrived when Denzel Valentine grabbed a board and pushed or passed the ball up in transition. Willie Jackson has the ability to bring that same dynamic. He isn’t as accomplished of a passer, but he does look to be aggressive after clearing a defensive board.
If Willie can add a high-30’s three point jumper and elite defense to his skill set, he could be an early-entrant and a high draft pick. If he lives out his career as a garbage man/hustle points guy, he should still be a very good player. He has elite rebounding ability as a guard. Mizzou has a few good (or, rather, growing) all-around players, but I don’t think we have anyone with an elite skill of any kind. Willie’s elite skill gives him a high floor as a college player, his physical assets give him a high ceiling as well. I think there are 6-8 points per game to be had as a freshman just off of put backs and transition dunks. How much he adds to his game defensively and on the perimeter will determine just how special he will be.