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September 30, 2012

The Workout: Big names in it for Embiid

SARASOTA, Fla. - Now in its seventh year, The Workout sponsored by Tom Topping and Nike Team Florida has become an annual stop on the recruiting trail. Just like every other year, the juniors and seniors went on Saturday while the freshman and sophomores will hit the floor on Sunday. Leading a talented group on the first day of action was rapidly rising senior big man Joel Embiid.

Fall decision coming

A little over a week ago, we listed Embiid at the top of our list of currently unranked players who we would have our eyes on during the high school season. With his play on Saturday, the 6-foot-11 center from Gainesville (Fla.) Rock School left no doubt about who was the best player and prospect in the gym. And he will definitely be making his way into the final rankings come spring.

A native of Cameroon, Embiid only took up the game of basketball about a year ago, and the 17-year old is making rapid strides. He has to get a little more flexible and add strength, but he is a high-level rebounder, alters shots, has good hands and does a good job of establishing and holding position. The form on his jump shot is good, and he's already developed a strong spin move that he's comfortable using to go right or left.

It hasn't taken college programs long to jump on the bandwagon as Florida, Kansas, Louisville, UCLA, Marquette, Texas, DePaul,Wake Forest and Virginia have all been in to offer, and Embiid's looking to set up some visits.

"I think I would like to visit Virginia, Kansas, Florida and maybe some of the others," Embiid told Rivals.com. "I want to sign early."

For Embiid, the move to the states was more about educational opportunities, and now basketball is opening several doors. So it's no surprise to see that academics will be important, as will finding a place where he can continue to adjust to American life.

"First for me is academics," Embiid said when asked what he's looking for in a school. "A good coach and good people around who can help me get better. I'd like a coach that knows my game and how to get me better."

Marshall hopes for big year

With his senior season only a few months away, 6-foot-3 wing Morris Marshall is hoping to finish his high school career in style. If Saturday was a preview to his season, then the high-flyer from Lake City (Fla.) Columbia is priming himself for a strong finish.

One of the best athletes in the event, Morris is a big-time finisher in transition who was knocking down 15-20 foot jump shots. He looks to have improved his handle some, and he's got the ability to put the ball on the floor.

A good student with a 2.9 core GPA and a qualifying ACT score, Marshall is ready to go academically. Now it's just a matter of catching the right school's eye.

"It's been pretty quiet right now," said Marshall. "I've got Seton Hall and Central Florida on me some. I hope more schools will recruit me."

Other Saturday standouts

Maybe the worst thing that happened to point guard Imani Edwards was hitting a tough, contested three early on in the second game of the day, because after that, he kept gunning away from deep without much success. However, the 5-11 floor general rebounded very nicely in the next set of games. He's thin, but very quick and did a nice job of reading ball screens, making his move and getting into the lane to make plays for others. Because of his quickness and ability to score some, he's a threat to make things happen off the dribble.

Repeating his solid performance from last year's freshman/sophomore day, 6-foot-3 shooting guard Jay Henderson had a solid day on Saturday. He's a good spot-up shooter, makes smart decisions with the ball and is starting to grow into his frame. He's had mid- to high-majors in to see him, and the development of his strength and off-the-dribble scoring game will play a big role in what level he ends up playing in college.

He's still a bit on the raw side, but 6-foot-8 junior Dan Manzi from Tampa (Fla.) Tampa Bay Christian has a chance to develop into a quality big man. He's big, he's strong, he has length and he doesn't seem to mind mixing it up in the paint a bit. Next for him is to develop a couple of reliable low post scoring moves.

A 6-foot-5 senior, Marcus Hill has the look of a guy who has probably played mostly in the post, but the product of Armwood High School looks like he would be a good fit on the wing. He hits spot jumpers from 12-17 feet, runs the floor well, was one of the day's better defenders and will go get on the glass.

College coaches looking for bigs will be spending some time at Golden Gate High School to watch junior big man Akindele Licorish and senior power forward Cory Kenning. A bit more raw than Kenning, the 6-foot-8 and 240-pound Licorish is a space-eater with the capability to play physically. Also around 6-foot-8 and strong, Kenning has a higher level of skill and is comfortable making mid-range jumpers. He will definitely trade some elbows in the lane and was easily one of the day's most productive rebounders.

A former verbal pledge to UCF, senior D.J. Bowles was the best point guard in the gym. The strong 6-footer plays without making many mistakes, controls tempo, gets teammates involved and plays outstanding on-the-ball defense. He can play fast without it messing with his ability to make good decisions and deliver smart passes. He should be a commodity this year at Oldsmar Christian.

One of the best wing athletes in the gym was 6-foot-3 shooting guard Craig Wilmore from Daytona (Fla.) Mainland. The high-flyer picked a couple of missed shots out of the air to ram them home with violent slams, and he also knocked down his fair share of perimeter jumpers. Depending on what type of in-between game the junior develops, his stock could rise pretty quickly.




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