by Nima Zarrabi / @NZbeFree
The idea was scribbled on to a napkin about five years ago.
The cats at adidas basketball were looking to create a grassroots basketball tournament that went beyond top competition on the hardwood. The end result was the adidas Nations global experience, the premier international grassroots program. Now in its fifth year, the tournament kicked off this past weekend at HAX in Harbor City, CA and featured some of the best high school basketball players from around the globe. “It’s really a unique opportunity that we’re giving these kids,” says Lawrence Norman, Global Vice-President for adidas basketball. “They get a chance to meet a kid from Europe, a kid from Africa. That’s a good feeling. You have the best kids in the world coached by some of the best coaches we could find. It’s the best of on court combined with social and cultural benefits you can’t get anywhere else.”
Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Latin America represented the international contingent. Over 150 players from 18 countries are competing for a shot at the championship game on Monday night. Some of the best players in college basketball are attending the event as camp counselors, including Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Baylor’s Perry Jones.
I came through for the first day of pool play on Saturday morning. The event is well organized and run very well—adidas has done a great job accommodating both the players and media members in attendance. With games going on five different courts, it’s pure sensory overload. I spent most of the morning watching Team USA Blue (2012) take on Latin America. With SLAM diarist Shabazz Muhammad out with an ankle injury, USA Blue was led by the great post play of Andre Drummond (20 points, 12 rebounds) and Cameron Ridley (16 points, 10 rebounds), cruising to an easy 92-74 victory.
Drummond has an NBA body and some supreme skill. He can clearly dominate when he wants at this level. There is a great deal of buzz surrounding him right now—will he attend prep school or college in the fall? Word is that he will make a decision by August 10. During one stretch on Saturday, I saw him put down a nasty breakaway dunk and he followed that up with a Larry Bird-esque make from behind the backboard as he was floating out of bounds. It was ill.
St. John’s signee Ricardo Gathers shined for Latin America, posting 28 points and 8 rebounds. The 6-7, 245-pound Gathers is built like 49ers tight end Vernon Davis and is an absolute terror on the block. I had a chance to spend some time with Gathers and was very impressed. An extremely nice and humble young man, Gathers was ill throughout the tournament and had made a hospital visit the day before.
During the late afternoon session, I took in the Team USA Blue 2012 against the Team USA Blue Class of 2013. The youngins dominated most of the game, but struggled late and fell to the upperclassmen 104-98. With his dyed dreadlocks flying around, Nigel Williams-Goss showed some nice flashes with crisp drives and finishes. Keith Frazier displayed a nice shooting touch and finished with 14 points. Jacksonville’s Solomon Poole put down the nastiest dunk of the game and had 12 points. Malik Price-Martin led the ’13 class with 19 points and 6 rebounds.
Amile Jefferson and Rodney Purvis stood out for the 2012 class. Purvis dropped 21 points and Jefferson took advantage of his crazy length to the tune of 14 points and 6 rebounds. Ridley, who has committed to Texas, continued to dominate, finishing with 28 points and 8 rebounds.
* An impressive group of coaches are attending the tournament. Detlef Schrempf, LaSalle Thompson, Kiki Vandeweghe, Don MacLean and Mike Dunleavy Sr are coaching squads and offering their expertise. Several NBA stars have strolled in to lend their support: NBA MVP Derrick Rose, Wesley Johnson, John Wall and Kenneth Faried. Wall was sporting Reebok sneaks and attending the late session after spending most of the day at the Drew League in South Central L.A. Johnson—rocking a fresh pair of adidas Gazelles—said he was there to support the brand and to also show love to his boy DaJuan Coleman.
* Three sets of brothers are participating in the tournament: Duke’s Miles and Mason Plumlee, UCLA’s David and Travis Wear and Aaron and Andrew Harrison—highly sought after twins from the state of Texas, Class of 2013.
* Ohio State’s Sullinger has trimmed down his fro and appears to have lost some weight.
* In the championship game today, USA 2012 Blue led by Drummond, Purvis and Ridley will face USA 2013 Red, led by the Harrison twins and Chris Walker.
* The third place game features USA 2012 red led by Gabe York and Kyle Anderson will take on USA 2013 Blue led by Keith Frazier and Solomon Poole.
* Word is that Muhammad may try to play tonight if his ankle has improved.
* If you’re in the L.A. area today, be sure to stop Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson for the Championship game. Tickets are $10 and the event will start at 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET.
* The game will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network.