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May 20, 2012

Custer, Grandstaff among K.C. Classic stars

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. At the Kansas City Classic, they don't hand out championship trophies. The winners are the recipients of title belts, and on Saturday some of the Midwest's top talent was on display as they started working their way toward today's title bouts. Among the day's stars was host team MoKan Elite's sophomore point guard Clayton Custer who looked to be getting his mojo back.

Custer bouncing back

Sophomore point guard Clayton Custer admitted that he hadn't been himself during the last two weekends of play. The six-footer from Overland Park (Kan.) Blue Valley Northwest hadn't played with his usual confidence and swagger the past few weekends for MoKan Elite during Nike's EYBL.

A stint at home in front of his family and friends may have been exactly what the doctor ordered, though, as Custer was back to playing at a high level. He hit pull-up jumpers, got into the lane and finished floaters with contact, worked refs for calls and helped lead his team to a bunch of wins Saturday.

The junior-to-be said he remained confident despite his struggles.

"I never lost my confidence," Custer told Rivals.com. "Maybe I got a little overconfident and felt like I'd made it. I realized that I haven't done anything yet, and I need to stay on a mission."

The recipient of early offers from the likes of Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Houston, Custer plans on hitting Nike's Elite 100 camp for the nation's top underclassmen in June and may take a visit to Kansas State to check in with the new staff.

For the most part, though, he'll use June to rest up and prepare for July, and he'll be sure to be taking the floor with confidence.

"Sometimes I feel like people think I'm good because of the way I carry myself," said Custer. "When I'm confident and play with that swagger, it comes out in my game and I'm at my best."

Team Texas 16s a nice group

Wes Grandstaff's Team Texas 16-and-under team is a nice group. In fact, they are a team full of freshmen that plays up in the 16-and-under division rather than in their natural 15-and-under age classification. So far, playing up hasn't been an issue for the Team Texas crew, and after a terrific run at last weekend's Next Level event in Dallas, they were playing well again in Kansas City.

Leading the way is a kid that the program director couldn't be more familiar with, his son. Austin Grandstaff, a 6-foot-4 combo guard, is still recovering from a cracked pelvis suffered during the high school season. But the 2015 prospect is impressive. Along with terrific size for a guard, Grandstaff plays the game with great pace, a high level of skill and loads of toughness. He loves to hit runners and floaters, will make open looks from the perimeter and is a willing and capable passer. During June, Grandstaff may make pit stops at Duke and possibly Creighton and Nebraska if he and his father make a trip to the College World Series.

Grandstaff isn't all the talented Texans feature, though. Manning the paint is Grandstaff's high school teammate at Rockwall (Texas) High, 6-foot-8 center Elijah Thomas. A big and strong kid, Thomas already is adept at using his body to clear space and finishing with either hand depending on which side of the hoop he's attacking from. He has good hands, works hard on the glass and uses timing as opposed to raw athleticism to be an effective shot blocker.

While Thomas provides the interior muscle, shooter deluxe Matthew McQuaid is a hard-nosed off guard who has legit 22 foot range and quick trigger. Dennis Hogg is a thin and skilled wing from Plano (Texas) West who is already nearing 6-foot-7 and has a nice looking set of perimeter skills. Another player to watch is bouncy 6-foot-5 swingman Jordan Murphy. The freshman from San Antonio (Texas) Central Catholic has big hands, great instincts in transition and a nonstop motor to go along with his quick leaping ability.

Quick Hitters

A five-star prospect in the class of 2014, 6-foot-8 small forward Kevon Looney looked good on Saturday. Playing in KC with the Milwaukee Rebels, the Milwaukee (Wis.) Hamilton product showed off improved athleticism and ball handling to go along with ever-improving range on his jumper. Looney is simply a kid with a knack for making basketball plays on both ends of the floor, and his high shoulders and length allow him to fully utilize his size making him a matchup problem who can play on the interior or perimeter. According to Running Rebels coach Shelby Parrish, Looney already has offers from Wisconsin, Marquette, Kansas, Illinois, Tennessee and Michigan.

A teammate of Looney's on the Rebels and a class of 2014 kid at Milwaukee (Wis.) Hamilton, 5-foot-8 point guard Damontrae Jefferson is a talent himself. He's obviously on the small side, but the little point guard plays with tremendous heart, is super quick and absolutely fearless on the floor. He's a flashy ball-handler and big-time athlete, and on Saturday he got cooking from deep making at least seven or eight threes during the first half of the second Rebels game we kept an eye on.

Our policy with kids who haven't started high school yet is to not seek them out, but every now and then we run across a youngster playing up. Saturday, we came across 6-foot-8 freshman-to-be DeRon Davis from Denver playing for the Colorado Hawks 15s. He's very young, but he's also tall, skilled and looks to have considerable upside as he grows and fills out. We'll look forward to watching his development down the road and there's little doubt that college programs will begin watching him closely this July.

The Colorado Chaos are always a solid, hard-working group that features some of the best Division I talent the state of Colorado has to offer. This year is no different. Leading the way for the Chaos is 6-foot-3 shooting guard Carlton Hurst. A three-star prospect who has offers from St. Mary's, Colorado State, Wyoming, Pepperdine and Buffalo, Hurst is on the verge of taking his game to the next level. The southpaw is a big-time athlete who explodes to the rim off of strong dribble drives, and while he's not the greatest jump shooter, his first step forces defenders to back off, which gives him ample time to size up shots. Others such as Wichita State, New Mexico, Oregon and Nebraska are keeping tabs, and the development of his jumper and right hand will be crucial in selling high-major programs on offering him a scholarship. Look for him to fit in a campus visit to St. Mary's after taking part in a Bay area tournament next weekend.

Another Chaos player to keep an eye on is Austin Sparks. A fluid and skilled 6-foot-8 big man from Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Valor Christian, Sparks motors up the floor with long, graceful strides and gathers himself quickly to explode to the rim. A bit on the thin side, he has easy range to 18 feet in pick-and-pop situations and is a solid mid-major prospect who has attracted early attention from South Dakota, Southern Utah and Northern Colorado.

MoKan Elite point guard Lourawls Nairn continues to improve each time out this spring. The class of 2014 floor general from Bel Aire (Kan.) Sunrise Christian is built like a Big 12 tailback and has the speed of one to go along with that strength. One of the fastest players in the country from end to end, "Tum Tum" has become more and more proficient running a team and each week you can see his skill catching up to his high-level athleticism.

Missouri State fans already know plenty about 2013 commitment Austin Ruder. The Nixa (Mo.) High product is a big-time wing shooter, and he got it rolling Saturday afternoon. The 6-foot-2 shooting guard works hard off the ball to put himself in position to catch with a clean look, and his superior shot preparation and quick release allow him to maximize those looks that he gets.

Eric Bossi is the National Recruiting Analyst for Rivals.com. He can be reached at eric_bossi@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ebosshoops.

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