Rucker of The South, Pt. 2
The NC Pro-Am gets fierce.
While the first day of action we caught down at the NC Pro-Am was legit, the culmination of the time spent there was easily the second day. With all of the big guns from Duke, UNC and NC State who were in town lacing them up, it was no coincidence why fans were flocking into the gym two hours before action even kicked off.
The headline game of the night put Team McGladrey (with the trio of NC State freshman) against a stacked Team Stackhouse, which offered PJ Tucker, Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock, John Henson, and NC recruit PJ Hairston. All of the Duke boys took part in the undercard that led up to that battle, with the best match-up of those pegging Miles Plumlee against fellow Blue Devil power forward Ryan Kelly.
The competition was fierce, the music was bumping, and the gym was without an open seat. Not sure how much you can ask for out of summer basketball, besides all of the NBA guys who don the rosters actually lacing them up. Oh, and in the battle of UNC and State, UNC narrowly came out on top after falling down by nearly 20 in the first half. Those Tar Heels have some resiliency.
Here’s a glimpse at a number of the top guys whom we caught in Durham:
Harrison Barnes | 6-8 | SF | North Carolina | Freshman
Barnes was the player who had the most acclaim going into the Pro-Am and while he didn’t disappoint, he didn’t exactly dominate either. The immense talent that he posses was evident on three plays in particular: First, when he smoked CJ Leslie with his first step and threw down a monstrous jam in the paint. Secondly, when he rocked Leslie to sleep with a hesitation dribble and busted a 3 in his eye. And thirdly, when he basically dunked on the entire NC State team off the vert. Aside from that, Barnes was relatively quiet but still look for him to be in contention for All-ACC first team as a rookie.
CJ Leslie | 6-8 | PF | North Carolina State | Freshman
Leslie continued his ridiculous play at the Pro-Am with an outstanding game against arguably the nation’s top incoming freshman, Harrison Barnes. While Barnes got his, CJ was more dominant in that he changed the game on both ends of the floor. There wasn’t a single UNC guy who could keep in front of CJ, which explains why he shot nearly 20 free throws on the night. Defensively, he did a nice job moving his feet and altered whatever came near him in the lane with his shot-blocking prowess. John Wall’s high school running mate is in fact so talented that as long as keeps tightening up his handle and improving his shot, could easily bounce to the League after a single season in college as well.
Josh Powell | 6-9 | PF | Atlanta Hawks
Powell was basically in chill mode going up against the Duke squad with Kyrie Irving and Josh Hairston. It was evident that the two-time NBA champ was physically superior to all of the guys he was going against, but tried to kill them softly with his skill game as opposed to bullying foes down low. Fresh off of signing his deal with the Hawks, it was clear that Powell was trying to work on his face-up game based on the number of outside Js that he put up. Hardly a star by any means, expect the gritty veteran to get some extended burn from the Hawks this year and improve upon his 2.7 ppg average from last season.
Ryan Kelly | 6-10 | PF | Duke | Sophomore
An afterthought by many college basketball fans after getting a mere 1.2 ppg last season, Kelly came out with a chip on his shoulder when matched up against the guy he’s competing for minutes with, Mason Plumlee. There was one instance that he put his teammate on skates, hitting him with a pair of crossovers and an up and under before calmly sinking a 15 footer off the glass. You have to love the potential that Ryan has as a pick and pop four man, but you also have to hate how disgustingly good Duke is going to be this upcoming season.
Mason Plumlee | 6-11 | PF | Duke | Sophomore
Kelly may have gotten the best of him in terms of their individual match-up, but Plumlee surely showed more NBA upside than his teammate. He destroyed an out of bounds oop in which his head was above the rim, slashed to the cup well from the perimeter, and knocked down a number of outside jumpers. While I’m sure Coach K would have loved his near 7-footer to play with his back to the basket a little more, you can’t help but be intrigued with the potential that he has taking opposing big men off of the dribble,
PJ Hairston | 6-6 | SG/SF | 2011
One of the very few elite high school players able to hold their own at NC Central, Hairston did his thing and had no problem getting buckets against the heralded group of NC State frosh. The future Tar Heel hit a number of deep threes, hustled for loose balls all over the court, and attacked the rim relentlessly despite having to hop on an early flight in the a.m. to Orlando to do work for his AAU team at AAU Nationals.
Ryan Harrow | 6-0 | PG | North Carolina State | Freshman
Harrow drew the biggest gasp of oohs and ahhs out of the crowd with his electric style of play, yet also showed the poise that will make him an adept playmaker right away in the ACC. While it’s easy to fall in love with his hops and dazzling crossovers, there is much more to his game. Ryan made really solid decisions with the rock in his hands and the game getting tight. He also proved he can hit the outside J when left open, but remained to be a bit of a liability on the defensive end at times with his lack of strength. Regardless, he comes into State as of of the most exciting players they’ve had in recent memory with the game to back it up.
Reggie Bullock | 6-7 | SG | North Carolina | Freshman
After giving Lorenzo Brown the business in their first match-up, Bullock was not quite as on in their second meeting. He played solid defense, made the right pass, and drilled deep threes when left open…but didn’t really look to establish himself as the scoring threat that it did the first time. No worries though, the McDonald’s All-American will be completely fine at UNC and should get some immediate burn, unless Roy Williams catches him making comments like this again.
John Henson | 6-10 | PF | North Carolina | Sophomore
After starting off the game a little slow, Henson regained the confidence that made him a McDonald’s All-American as a senior in high school. He looked much stronger than the year before and was an outstanding intimidator in the three second area as a shot-blocker. Although he saw a lot of burn at small forward as a frosh, John appeared to be focusing on working on his back to the basket game and it showed with the pair of nice drop-steps that he converted with dunks. Look for Henson to be a vital reason of why UNC will be long removed from the NIT this season.
Marshall Plumlee | 6-11 | C | 2011
Making a surprise appearance at the Pro-Am was the baby of the Plumlee fam, Marshall. After just recently becoming the third of the clan to pledge to Duke, he decided to put his skills on center stage for fans in Durham. Although not quite the crazy athlete that his bros are, Marshall is a little tougher and did a great job of sealing the older comp off in the post and getting buckets. If both Mason and Miles stay in school after this season, it will be “Three’s Company” at Duke for 11-12.
Bishop Daniels | 6-3 | SG | 2011
Playing on the CP-3 All-Stars with Hairston, Daniels also had to jet down to Florida the following morning to get it in on the AAU circuit. Everyone always knew about the ridiculous bounce that he’s put on center stage ever since he was catching oops from John Wall as a sophomore at Word of God. Fast forward two years and Bishop’s game has really come along. The rising senior turned some heads with his passing ability, complementing the Plumlee’s perfectly well in the role of combo guard. The questions about his outside J still weren’t answered, but Daniels has shown enough progress to where we’re confident saying that he’ll be a legit high-major player at the next level.