SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. – In a key Big Eight Conference battle between second place Janesville Craig and third place Sun Prairie, the Cardinals held serve at home and moved within 1.5 games of leader Madison Memorial. Completing the regular season sweep, Sun Prairie got a combined 51 points from their star backcourt in a 71-64 win over Janesville Craig. Here’s a look at a few talented prospects who shined therein…
Jalen Johnson – 2020 – PG – Sun Prairie
The state’s top ranked freshman, Johnson didn’t disappoint despite recently coming off an injury that sidelined him for more than the first half of the season. Despite playing out of position, mostly on the wing, Johnson scored 22 points, including a couple of big buckets to put the game away. Johnson is an intriguing prospect because of his size and length for the point guard position. Already at 6-foot-6, Johnson is also very skilled for his age. Coming up through the GNBA circuit, Johnson would often flirt with triple doubles. Johnson got things going early by knocking down two triples, forcing the defense to respect his outside game. From there, he was able to get to the rack and use his size and soft touch around the rim to finish. Once he’s able to move back to the point guard position, Johnson will likely be able to tap more into his all-around game that makes him so special.
San’Trell Payton – 2017 – PG – Janesville Craig
Payton has proved he can possibly play at the Division 2 level if given the opportunity. Putting together another standout performance on Thursday, Payton was unguardable for most of the first half. An undersized lead guard, Payton had adapted and can get his shot off against tight defense. He poured in a number of triples throughout the game to keep Craig close. When defenders over crowd him, Payton has more than enough burst and wiggle with the basketball to get to the rim. A 1,000-point scorer, Payton has a knack for hitting big shots. He seems to rise to the occasion against the best competition. He had 27 points in Thursday’s loss. Payton should be generating some scholarship looks, but if not, is one of the better Division 3 prospects out there.
Marlon Ruffin – 2018 – SG – Sun Prairie
It’s time that Ruffin starts getting noticed as one of the top players in Wisconsin’s 2018 class. A player that continues to make gains, Ruffin dominated Thursday’s contest, scoring 29 points. Ruffin works to get the best shot available. His first option is always to get to the rim. Even with defenses packing the paint, Ruffin seems to always find driving gaps. If Ruffin gets airborne, he’s often too explosive to stop. His outside and mid-range game has been a work in progress, but Ruffin is showing noticeable improvement with his stroke and actually shot quite well from outside the paint on Thursday. Defensively, Ruffin is a stopper. He’ll take on the challenge of the other team’s best scorer night in and night out. At 6-foot-4, 185-pounds, Ruffin is also a terrific shot blocker. He came over from the weak-side and sent shots back emphatically on Thursday. Division 1 programs starting getting involved with Ruffin before the season. Expect even more to jump in this spring.