If you're wondering why coaches have flocked to AAU games involving the Oakland Soldiers this summer, highlights like this emphatic half-court alley-oop should serve as sufficient explanation.
Findlay Prep shooting guard Nick Johnson catches a 50-foot pass from a teammate in mid-air and throws down a smooth two-handed reverse alley-oop slam during a Peach Jam game on Monday in Augusta. Then, like a true showman, he finishes the play off with a smile and a salute to the camera.
The Soldiers, who are sponsored by well-traveled NBA big man and Northern California native Drew Gooden, are one of the most heavily scouted teams on the summer circuit this year. Among the dozens of coaches who had a courtside view of Johnson's alley-oop on Monday were North Carolina's Roy Williams, Kansas' Bill Self, Cal's Mike Montgomery, UCLA's Ben Howland and Maryland's Gary Williams.
It's certainly not hard to see why coaches would pack gyms to watch the Soldiers considering the talent on their roster. The 6-foot-3 Johnson is a Rivals.com top-50 prospect in the Class of 2011 and holds scholarship offers from the likes of Arizona, Arizona State, Gonzaga, Louisville and others. Guards Josiah Turner and Jabari Brown, and forward Kyle Wiltjer are all listed among Rivals.com's top 25 for 2011, while 6-foot-9 forward Brandon Ashley is an elite prospect for 2012.
When ZagsBlog.com's Adam Zagoria asked an assistant coach at the Peach Jam who he was looking at on Monday, he responded with a chuckle, "The entire Soldier starting five."
No college program will be that fortunate of course, but it would be fun to see what happened if this group stayed intact.
(Thanks, Ballin' is a Habit)