Portsmouth Invitational Tournament Preview - Players to Watch

The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (PIT) for seniors starts tonight, and 64 of the top seniors will get a chance to show what they can do in front of a gym full of NBA personnel.  The PIT has dealt with the numbers of seniors who either turn down their invites or pull out after they have accepted. Unfortunately, in its current structure, this will likely continue to be the case.

There is a good opportunity here for some players, but the games often do very little to enhance the reputation of a good many as well. Like any situation where you get a group of players together who are all hoping to gain recognition, games can become a personal showcase for many players, and big men who don’t handle the ball are among those who can suffer. With scouting becoming more and more sophisticated, the days of the unknown player making a splash at Portsmouth is also likely behind us. There will still be a few who pop up, but for the most part, the players who are there have been seen many times before.

This doesn’t mean players won’t have a chance to showcase their skills. On the contrary, some will have a chance to show that there is more to their game than they did in certain college systems.  Here is a list of players (though far from inclusive) to keep an eye on this week:

[Full list of players participating here]

Sean Armand, Guard, Iona – One of the best three-point shooters in the nation, Armand showed this past season that he could score in other ways as well. At 6’5, he has little problem getting good looks, and he thrived in the up-tempo system at Iona. I wouldn’t be surprised if he leads the tournament in scoring.

James Bell, Guard/Forward, Villanova – Bell put together a fantastic senior season on a Wildcats’ team that surprised the nation. He’s a good defender and rebounder for his size, though he was inconsistent on offense. He can be a better shooter than the numbers showed and I expect him to find plenty of good shots this week.

Jerelle Benimon, Forward, Towson – Benimon has the body of a classic power forward, but his offensive game is much more than that. He often operated as the Tigers’ primary ballhandler and ended up leading the team in assists. Still, he is also a very good scorer around the basket and can be a terror on the offensive and defensive boards.

Jason Brickman, Guard, Long Island – The nation’s leading assist man, Brickman has tremendous vision and ballhandling skills, along with the ability to knock down open shots. He’s not a very good defender, but he will have the chance to prove some people wrong. Either way, the tournament assist record is in danger with him there.

Josh Davis, Forward, San Diego State- The Tulane transfer became an integral part of an Aztecs’ defense which was one of the toughest in the nation. His offensive game suffered a bit against tougher competition, but he is a high-level rebounder and a strong competitor.

Andre Dawkins, Guard, Duke – After a year off for personal reasons, Dawkins came on strong for the Blue Devils in the middle of the season with his timely three-point shooting. If he gets hot from behind the arc, the points will pile up quickly.

Fuquan Edwin, Guard, Seton Hall – Edwin entered this past year coming off a very good junior season where he had established himself as one of the nation’s best defenders and an increasingly reliable shooter. This season was inconsistent, but he still emerged as the Big East’s best defender and he will likely lock down some very good scorers this week.

Anthony Ireland, Guard, Loyola Marymount – Ireland is coming off a very successful career with the Lions, one in which he never seemed to get the attention he probably deserved. Quick and crafty, the 5’10 Ireland often plays much bigger than his size, attacking the basket whenever the chance is there. His passing skills are underrated, and were certainly overshadowed by his scoring ability. He will likely thrive playing with very good talent around him.

Javon McCrea, Forward, Buffalo – McCrea was a dominant force around the basket the past few years for the Bulls, using his wide   body to create all the space he needs to rebound and score. McCrea was also a very active defender and good shot-blocker for his size. The tournament should give him a chance to show his strengths while proving there is more to his game.

Mark McLaughlin, Guard, Central Washington – Well traveled in his college career, McLaughlin finally found a home with the Division II Wildcats. One of the leading scorers in the nation, McLaughlin has good size and a nice feel for the game. Expect him to come out with something to prove at Portsmouth, and also expect him to impress many who don’t know him well.

Aaric Murray, Center, Texas Southern – After tumultuous stops at La Salle and West Virginia, Murray settled in at Texas Southern this past year and had a very strong, and drama-free, season. He has good size and skill, though it was maddening to see him disappear for long stretches in games. It will be important for him this week and prove that he can play at a high level consistently.

Roberto Nelson, Guard, Oregon State – Nelson was a bright spot in an Oregon State offense that often lacked any real cohesion. While not incredibly quick, Nelson knows how to find ways to get the basket and has no problem playing through contact. This past year, Nelson was able to show that he could be a strong distributor as well, though with the scoring burden usually falling on him, he didn’t get a chance to put up the assist numbers he probably could. I expect him to do it this week.

Isaiah Sykes, Guard, Central Florida – Sykes put up big numbers for a Central Florida team that needed him to carry a heavy burden this year. 6’6 and strong, Sykes had little problem getting to the basket against the guards or small forwards who needed to guard him. He is a great rebounder for his size, especially on the offensive boards, and he also sees the floor very well. His versatile game should play well this week in front of the scouts in attendance.

Jamil Wilson, Forward, Marquette – Wilson never seemed to really put together the type of season he seemed capable of, though to be fair, the Marquette offense in general seemed to struggle. Like many Marquette players the past few seasons, Wilson is a good defender and rebounder. This week, he should also be able to show that there is more to his offensive game when the restraints are lifted.


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