Atlantic sophomore Jamal Palmer already one of area's best basketball players
Thursday, December 20, 2012
by Jeff Greer
Atlantic coach Brad Flaig throws some significant names around when discussing sophomore wing Jamal Palmer.
"Dave Noel at Boynton Beach," Flaig says, referring to the star guard who played college hoops at Central Florida and pro ball in Greece. "He was off the charts. He just worked and worked. Jamal and him, they're very much alike."
Flaig then moves on to Florida guard Kenny Boynton -- "Jamal can be better than Kenny, and Kenny's a heck of a player."
So is Palmer, which is why Flaig, a veteran coach who led Boynton Beach to the state championship game in 2003, believes he has a rising star on his Atlantic roster. Palmer, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound scorer who can play three positions, is quickly becoming the area's next big basketball name, following in the footsteps of Dwyer alum Joel James and Cardinal Newman grad Jackie Manuel.
On the final evaluation day of last year's recruiting period, Miami sent its top assistant coach north to watch Palmer, who was a freshman at the time. Flaig receives "a whole mess of letters" from colleges, as does Palmer's AAU coach, Brandon McThay.
"If that's not an indication of how big he can get, I don't know what is," Flaig joked earlier this season.
Palmer's doctor tells him he's on his way to 6-foot-5 or 6-6, ideal height for college recruiters looking for versatile wing players. But Palmer spent much of the offseason after his breakout freshman campaign working on his perimeter game, playing hours on end wherever there was a hoop.
He averages two three-pointers a game this season, and he's helped Atlantic race to a 6-2 start. Last season he only hit 21 threes in 22 games.
"People noticed that I like to take the ball to the basket, so I had to learn how to score away from the rim," Palmer said. "I'd just go spot to spot around the perimeter."
Yet Palmer is best when he's in attack mode, and his display in Atlantic's rout of Royal Palm Beach this month showed why.
Palmer caught a pass on the wing on a secondary fast break. His first step lost his main defender. He split between two more with his second, and as he leaped toward the basket, he ducked under a fourth defender and coolly flipped in a reverse layup.
The crowd's oohs and aahs shook the standsand Palmer's teammates flexed and screamed. Palmer just grinned.
"That kid can flat-out play," Grandview Prep coach Joe Dawson said a week later as he watched Palmer and Atlantic play Palm Beach Lakes.
Is he a Division I prospect?
"Oh, gosh yes," said Dawson, who coached Cleveland State-bound Ismaila Dauda and has a future Division I point guard in Ivan Canete on his current squad.
That's Palmer's potential, to be even bigger than the 6-9 Dauda or the sublimely smooth Canete. Palmer could surpass Dwyer's Greg Louis or Jupiter's Bobby Hain, who play at Penn and Youngstown State, respectively, and always looked like big-time college prospects when they played high school.
His aura matches that of James or Manuel, the current and former North Carolina Tar Heels. Palmer is youngand learning. But he's got the attention of Palm Beach County's basketball community, and at this level, potential is the most lucrative currency.
"It's totally up to him," Flaig said. "He controls his own destiny. His potential is unlimited. He can do it all, inside and out. He's definitely matured in the last year, and he's going to mature even more in the next two years."