by Dave Spahn / @davespahn
For the first time ever, the annual Nike Global Challenge switched to the Washington, DC, area. The event has been previously held in Portland the last few years, but made the move from the west coast to the east coast. While a handful of national standouts missed the event due to injuries, scheduling conflicts or fatigue, the talent level stayed pretty consistent with the past few years and did not disappoint.
USA Midwest took home the championship title in a hard fought game vs Canada, but the entire weekend was filled with highlight plays and competitive hoops. Here is a look at some of the top American players at the event.
(Note: Some players who play high school basketball in America played for other countries and were not counted in this list. Only the players who competed for the USA teams are included. Rodger Bohn will be writing about the international kids soon.)
Pinson ended the weekend with arguably the best three-day showing of any prospect at the event. He played at a consistently high level every game on both sides of the floor. Offensively, Pinson put his high basketball IQ on display with some impressive passes in traffic. He hit the open man on most occasions and found a good balance between when to pass and when to take his own shot. Pinson only helped solidify his status among the nation’s elite and opened the live period with a bang.
Lee played some of the best basketball of his career during the Nike Global Challenge. An active defender, Lee found a way to alter seemingly every shot that came near him. What makes his defensive presence rare, however, is his ability to take charges. Not many great shot blockers actively look for charge opportunities, but Lee makes an effort to take charges when he knows he cannot block a shot. He loves to get out in transition and run the floor, and his offensive game has slowly started to come around. Lee showed as much potential as any player in the Nike Global Challenge and set himself up well for a successful July live period.
After giving fans the best highlight of the weekend, Williams continued his high level of play through the completion of the event. He came through with his usual freak athlete plays, but he started nailing outside jumpers like he’s never done before during his first two days. He hit multiple threes in the second half against China in his first game, showing off his shot in transition and on spot-up attempts. If he can continue to consistently knock down outside shots, Williams will be a scary prospect.
Young took home MVP honors from the event for good reason. A scoring machine, Young put up big numbers for most of the weekend and played a huge part in his USA Midwest team’s upset win over Canada in the championship. He possesses a unique blend of size, athleticism and skill that all add to his scoring prowess. Canada had no answer for Young when he had a full head of steam heading at the rim, especially after he knocked down a few triples in the second half. Young proved his elite status this weekend and shows no signs of slowing down.
A relatively new name to the circuit, Clark also made a name for himself in the championship game against Canada. Clark has an uncanny ability to get in the lane and make plays for others, setting up multiple wide open dunks for his teammates throughout the day. He blew by the Canada defense and guarded the point guard position extremely well. His toughness, motor and quickness all make him a coach’s favorite. Look for Clark’s recruitment to soar at the conclusion of July.
King took a nasty elbow to the face in the last minute of the championship game that got him carried off in a stretcher, but he played a fantastic game up until the injury. King dedicated himself on the defensive end better than usual and did a great job neutralizing Andrew Wiggins, arguably the nation’s best player. Known for his shooting ability, King brought much more to the table than his deep range. He attacked the rim much better, and he rebounded the ball at an extremely high level. His energy and focus seemed to be as high as ever on Sunday—a good sign for the rest of his games this July.
“Cat” played the point guard spot perfectly during long stretches of the games for the USA East squad. Barber’s opponents simply could not stay in front of him, letting him seemingly dance around every defender who tried to contain him one-on-one. He dominated the third quarter against Canada and turned a 12-point halftime deficit into a one point lead. He played as good of on-ball defense as any other point guard in the event, and he put his handles on display in the half court and the full court. Barber was a human press breaker during the Canada game in front of nearly 100 coaches. Once Barber improves his decision making in late-game situations, he should be heavily in the mix for the top point guard spot in the country.