Learning To Lucas
Thon Maker, Carlton Bragg, Prince Ali show out at John Lucas Camp.
John Lucas has been through it all. No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, and later suspended for drugs. Head coach of three NBA teams, but never kept a job more than two seasons. Gone through rehab, and now helping athletes stay clean in rehab. It’s all cyclical and giving back is clearly a huge part of Lucas’ life, whether it be on or off the court.
“How many of you have been the No. 1 pick? How many of you have coached three NBA teams? How many of you have 10,000 points and 7,000 assists?” he asked a group of 150 high school players during the camp’s introduction. “How many of you are alcoholics? How many of you are drug addicts? Well, I can raise my hand to all of those.”
Players went through hours of drills each morning, then put all into action in the games that followed in the afternoon. Jay Bilas spit some knowledge on the campers too, letting them know that “the best player on the floor is the most difficult one to guard, but the easiest one to play with.”
With players from more than 20 states and five countries, there was no shortage of talent. Here are a few of the guys who showed out at the 2013 John Lucas Midwest Invitational:
Thon Maker, 7-0, PF/C, The Carlisle School (VA), 2016
The nation’s No. 1 sophomore (according to ESPN) lived up the hype with his remarkable inside/out play. There were times in which he was doing things that 7-footers just aren’t supposed to do. He handled the ball in the open court, showed sick mobility defending the pick and roll, and dropped a number of pretty dimes. Drawing comparisons to KG, you could absolutely see the similarities with his high arcing jumpers both facing the tin and turning over each shoulder on the block. While Maker’s frame has filled out, he’s still going to have to get stronger in his lower body, as seen in his matchup with AAU teammate Edrice Adebayo. Regardless, the Australian import held down his top spot in the class and has made some huge jumps in his game.
Carlton Bragg, 6-9, PF, Cleveland VASJ (OH), 2015
Unquestionably the best player in the camp, Bragg took over with his skill level and motor. The definition of today’s hybrid forward, the Cleveland product hit quick release three-pointers, posted smaller defenders, and straight up dunked everything in the paint. Fresh off of visits to both Kentucky and Louisville, Bragg finds himself literally being recruited by every major program in the country.
Prince Ali, 6-4, SG, The Sagemont School (FL), 2015
There were guards with higher rankings, but there wasn’t a guard who played better than Ali. Aside from having the dopest name in the camp, he had the game to go along with it. A well put-together guard, Ali was able to finish through contact against anyone he went up against. The Florida product’s ability to put together slick takes to the rim with either hand made him next to impossible to guard, and while we didn’t see him shoot it much from deep, that didn’t change the fact that he was a serious problem to guard.
Deng Adel, 6-8, SF, Victory Rock Prep (FL), 2015
Unbeknownst to just about everyone coming into the camp, Adel is a versatile forward from Australia via Sudan, who shocked everyone with his athleticism and skill level. While stats weren’t kept for the event, there was no question who the leading scorer was. The junior finished everything around the rim, boasted a blinding first step and kept the D honest by hitting three-pointers. There’s a lot of potential for him on the defensive end too, leading us to believe that he will follow Dante Exum and Ben Simmons as the next big-time prospect from down under.
Derek Funderburk, 6-9, PF, Lakewood St. Edward’s (OH), 2016
Once the camp concluded, many scouts and media members sat around debating who the top-five players in the camp were. While the four players listed above were on virtually every list, a name that kept coming up for the final spot was Funderburk. A lanky forward from Cleveland, Funderburk made huge improvements in his game and is a mismatch for most big men. He has the coordination to take slower forwards off of the bounce, but has the newly added strength and athleticism to finish over the top of athletic forwards. The strides that Derek made in his game have made him the top post in the sophomore class in Ohio, and will give him a chance to shake up the national 2016 rankings.
Mario Kegler, 6-7, SG/SF, Jackson Callaway (MS), 2016
Being forced to sit out his entire freshman season because of Mississippi’s ludicrous bylaws, it’s been over a year since Kegler has played a game of organized basketball outside of AAU. That didn’t hinder the MBA Hoos product one bit at the Lucas Camp, as seen by his ability to get buckets on anyone. Owning an advanced skill set due to his daily 6 a.m. workouts with AAU coach Omhar Carter, Kegler has the ability to chop you up off the dribble and then finish in a variety of ways at the rim. He keeps the D honest with his perimeter J and is a better passer than you’d think for a tall wing. Teaming up with the nation’s No. 1 junior (Malik Newman) at Callaway, Kegler & Co. will be the unquestioned favorites to win the state title in Mississippi.
Dikembe Dixson, 6-7, SF, Thomas Nelson HS (KY), 2015
Dixson was a guy who we left Kentucky raving about. The super long wing made plays on both ends of the floor with his athleticism. He hit open threes, slashed to the rim with ease, and looked to dunk on any defender he saw in the lane. Under the radar no longer, Dixson is definitely about to blow up.
Alterique Gilbert, 5-11, PG, Miller Grove HS (GA), 2016
There wasn’t a point in Louisville who could hold Gilbert. Unknown to most scouts, Gilbert had scouts asking, “Who is number 37?” throughout the weekend. The physical lead guard got to the rim with ease and showed no conscience shooting the rock out to 25 feet. Gilbert played the role of more of a scoring point guard, but played it to perfection to finish up as the camp’s top lead guard.