Nike Skills Academies Recap
The nation’s elite A.T.T.A.C.K.
by Aggrey Sam / @CSNBullsInsider
After a long Bulls season, I’m not hitting the summer AAU and camp circuit (in fact, I’m not covering any tournaments at all, although I might attend a local event or two as just a fan) too heavy this year, but being a Chicago resident, I couldn’t miss out on the two days of media access this past weekend for the three Nike Skills academies that took place at A.T.T.A.C.K. Athletics. Amar’e Stoudemire and Deron Williams were in the building Saturday for the final day of their respective camps, while the first day of Kevin Durant’s event began Sunday.
Just because I like to nitpick, I noticed that a few kids weren’t at the camp that best fit their games (for example, Florida sharpshooter Brad Beal could have probably benefited more from being in KD’s camp than D-Will’s, while fellow freshman Austin Rivers of Duke might have been best served doing the opposite), but overall, the combination of drills, instruction, interaction with current pros, the chance to be evaluated to NBA personnel (one of the side effects of the impending lockout is pro scouts won’t be able to attend summer events like July’s LeBron James Skills Academy and August’s adidas Nations Global Experience in L.A.) and structured runs with top-notch peer-group competition is a great opportunity. With no further adieu, here are a dozen high school and college players each who did their thing in the Windy City:
Justin Anderson, 6-6 small forward, Montrose Christian (MD), KD: The Virginia commit must continue to polish his ball skills and add consistency to his jumper, but his off-the-charts athleticism, tremendous motor, offensive-rebounding prowess and defensive-stopper potential (with encouragement from fellow Montrose product Durant, he put on a show defensively in the drills portion of the camp) ensure that the chiseled lefty will always make an impact on the court.
Dominic Artis, 6-0 point guard, Salesian (CA), D-Will: The lightning-quick Bay Area native and Oakland Soldiers floor general is underrated by some as a mid-major prospect, but after seeing the diminutive wizard with the ball keep the rock on a string, dart into the lane for clever finishes, motor up and down the court for successful transition opportunities, keep his teammates happy with his on-point dimes and knock down open outside jumpers, this observer definitely isn’t in that group.
Jamel Artis, 6-5 wing, St. Benedict’s (NJ), D-Will: No relation to the previous prospect, the Baltimore native (he attended Charm City’s fabled Dunbar High School, alma mater to Sam Cassell, Reggie Williams, Muggsy Bogues and the late Reggie Lewis, among others) is a very intriguing prospect, as he’s perhaps best with the ball in his hands as a playmaking point guard, but has the strong frame, slashing ability and athleticism of a wing (he’s a smooth operator on the baseline), allowing him to snatch defensive rebounds, push the tempo and complete fast breaks by either finishing himself or via his excellent court vision and passing ability.
Brandon Ashley, 6-8 senior power forward, Findlay (NV), STAT: The Oakland native, who recently transferred to the Nevada prep school, showed great versatility as a scorer–he ran the floor to get buckets in transition, knocked down mid-range jumpers, finished around the rim, put back offensive boards and beat defenders off the dribble–and still maintained a presence as a rebounder and shot-blocker.
Cameron Biedscheid, 6-7 senior small forward, Cardinal Ritter (MO), KD: Another event, another strong performance for the Notre Dame commit, who isn’t a freak athlete and certainly needs to get stronger, but simply knows how to play, utilizing his length, tremendous footwork (his battle against the aforementioned Anderson in one-on-one drills might have been Sunday’s highlight), mid-range game, ability to move without the ball and pure shooting to get the job done.
A.J. Hammons, 6-11 senior center, Oak Hill (VA), STAT: The massive Indiana native has always had potential and is now putting it to use as an effective low-post scorer and strong rebounder, while also improving his footwork, touch on his face-up jumper, defense and conditioning, which is most obviously manifested in his ability to run the floor.
Danrad “Chicken” Knowles, 6-10 senior power forward, HCYA (TX), KD: A home-schooled Houston-area product, “Chicken,” the player probably closest to the camp namesake’s size, build and style of play, is a comfortable shooter with deep range, a defensive presence due to his length and a decent finisher around the basket, despite badly needing to add bulk to his slender frame.
Mitch McGary, 6-10 senior power forward, Brewster (NH), STAT: Another Indiana native prepping on the East Coast, McGary continued his run of impressive events by using his intensity, non-stop motor, powerful interior game, relentless rebounding, physical play, ability to put the ball on the floor and feathery touch out to three-point range to confound opponents.
Jabari Parker, 6-8 junior small forward, Simeon (IL), KD: I try not to be prone to hyperbole, but just off the plane after leading the USA under-16 national team to gold-medal honors and the tourney MVP in Mexico, the Chicago native showed out in his hometown, displaying his pretty, high-release jumper from both mid-range and long distance, smooth ballhandling and playmaking skills, advanced fundamentals and knowledge of the game, the rebounding of a post player and improved bounce that has enhanced his ability to finish at (and above) the rim in an all-around package reminiscent of a young Grant Hill.
Julius Randle, 6-10 junior power forward, Prestonwood Christian (TX), STAT: If Parker wasn’t the most impressive prep prospect at A.T.T.A.C.K., then Randle, another Class of 2013 star, had to be, as his size, ballhandling ability (not only did he made jaw-dropping off-the-dribble forays to the bucket, he occasionally ran the point in the scrimmages), solid frame, combination of interior and perimeter skills make the sky the limit for his ceiling as a player.
Cameron Ridley, 6-10 senior center, Bush (TX), STAT: Touted by many as an elite prospect in his class, the Texas commit has definitely made great strides and his upside is evident, but while the fundamentally-sound big man has developed into a solid rim-protector, rebounder and back-to-the-basket scorer, he must continue to polish his post moves and improve his agility to deliver on the future some predict for him.
Aaron Rountree, 6-8 senior small forward, Greenfield (NC), KD: A little-heralded Wake Forest commit, Rountree is still a work in progress, but the lanky wing has an excellent stroke, good athleticism, finishes inside, contributes on the boards and makes plays without the ball, although he’ll need to add weight to be similarly effective in the ACC.