Even in college and the pros, summer basketball can be an interesting dynamic. Most figure that party lines with AAU teams end when the ball bounces going into their senior year of high school, but that isn’t quite the case. Many guys head back to their hometowns to train for their next year of college or the league, but are still drawn to the party lines of their colleges or agencies. This leads to having boatloads of talent all in the same city training in different gyms when they could be easily be getting that work with the very best. Chris Thomas is starting to bridge that gap in Indianapolis.
Passing through NapTown, I immediately hit up “CT” to see what guys he was going to have in the gym. Having trained the likes of Gary Harris, Glenn Robinson III, and RJ Hunter, it was more often than not that he was going to have some pros in the building. The Nike Elite Basketball trainer who does the LeBron and Kobe Camps in China gets the bulk of the city’s finest young players in the gym together on the regular, whether they’re in high school, college, or the league.
“It’s all about world domination,” Thomas explained. “You might not get to that level [the NBA], but the benefit is that this is a way to come in and play against pros without any obligation at all.”
The format of Thomas’ open gym is quite intriguing as well. Players start off playing one-on-one, two-on-two, etc before concluding the night with four-on-four full court play. Spacing was emphasized as were making sure ball screens were set on each possession to simulate the NBA game. Players only used the NBA three point line and proper rotations on D were constantly stressed. More than an open run, it seemed as if the players were merely practicing the principles that were being reinforced.
“That’s what we do all week. Real basketball is not that hard, but you just know how to play it,” he explained. “San Antonio and Atlanta both got 60-plus wins this year playing real basketball.”
With legit talent and even more legit disciplines being exhibited on the hardwood, it was simply a great night of hoops. Here are a few of the guys who caught our eye:
Gary Harris, 6-4, SG, Denver Nuggets
With most rookies picked in the back half of the first round spend some time in the D-League, the Denver Nuggets took a different approach with Gary Harris and it looks like it’s paying off. He didn’t get much burn early in the year, but as the year went on and the squad struggled, saw his PT skyrocket. Gary looked much more confident playing with the ball in his hands, made some great reads out of pick and roll situations, and finished above the rim. Despite the fact that we were still sitting in the summer, the 20-year old looked like he could play an NBA game today. With a new coaching staff in order in Denver, there should be plenty of chances for Gary to show his stuff in his sophomore campaign.
Trevon Bluiett, 6-5, SG, Xavier, Sophomore
With Matt Stainbrook having graduated, Xavier will be led by 6-foot-9 beast Jalen Reynolds and Trevon Bluiett. A straight up scoring machine, Bluiett can simply score the ball much more efficiently than the vast majority of wings at the college level. The Indy native was sick creating off of the bounce, effortlessly creating space with a series of jab moves. His mid-range game was automatic and transitioning to the NBA line is going to be no problem whatsoever. The sophomore is going to need to continue to improve on D, but as far as getting buckets is concerned, he should be right there amongst the Big East leaders this season.
Marquis Teague, 6-2, PG, Free Agent
Things haven’t necessarily gone as planned for Marquis Teague, but he’s definitely been putting in the work to change the future. After bouncing to the league following Kentucky’s national championship season, he was a first round pick in the NBA Draft, only to see himself play sparingly over his two years with the Nets and the Bulls. Still with the same devastating speed and change of pace that got him to the league, Marquis showed off a lot more confidence in his J and finished creatively at the rim with both hands. At just 22 years old, he is still younger than many rooks in this year’s Draft and will surely get another opportunity to prove his talents in the league.
Kellen Dunham, 6-5, SG, Butler, Senior
One of the best shooters in the college game, Kellen Dunham showed that he can do a lot more than just scorch the nets from long range. He was great coming off of pin-downs, hitting two dribble pull-ups, and was even quite surprising creating for himself off of the bounce. The Butler senior hopes to make it into the league as a specialist, but adjusting to the NBA three point line will be no problem whatsoever with the type of range that he owns.
Julian Mavunga, 6-8, PF, Overseas pro
While plenty of the other guys were much more well known amongst American basketball circles, it was the overseas vet Mavunga that straight dominated the comp. He played the game at his own pace, stretched the D with his ability to shoot it from three, and gave everyone a post footwork clinic when he got it on the block. Having won a title last year in Kosovo and having a number of workouts with the Pacers, Julian appears destined to take his talents back across the water, albeit with a hefty raise.
Gavin Schilling, 6-8, PF, Michigan State, Sophomore
Schilling looked like he was destined for a breakout sophomore campaign in East Lansing. With a body like Blake Griffin and some serious bounce to match. He was a role player on last year’s Spartans, but is surely destined for a bigger role this year. He is impossible to stop going to the rim at full speed, is a beast on the glass, and brings more skills to the table than you’d think out of a player his stature. Coming off of a strong trip to Italy with MSU, Gavin appears destined to back it up his performance in the Big Ten.