Nike Skills Academies Recap
The nation’s elite A.T.T.A.C.K.
Harrison Barnes, 6-8 sophomore small forward, North Carolina, KD: Barnes was likely the best prospect in his group (however, Kentucky forwards Michael Gilchrist and Terrence Jones, who would have been his prime competition, were both no-shows) and scouts salivated over his matchup with Durant in four-on-four halfcourt drills, but while his smoothness might be unparalleled, his jumper remains cotton, he’s as fundamentally sound as can be and he’s added some strength to his frame, his ability to create off the dribble and finish both above the rim and through contact weren’t tested to full capability in Chicago.
Bradley Beal, 6-4 freshman shooting guard, Florida, D-Will: Although Beal is the owner of one of the purest strokes around, it’s what he did when his shot wasn’t dropping that was most impressive, as he drove to the basket for tough finishes, used his strong frame snatched big rebounds on both ends and made solid decisions as a passer, aspects of the game he’ll continually have to hone to reach his potential as an all-around player, rather than being piegonholed as only a shooting specialist.
Alec Brown, 7-0 sophomore center, Wisconsin-Green Bay, STAT: With apologies to big-bodied UCSB wing Orlando Johnson and energetic Oral Roberts wing Dominique Morrison, no mid-major seniors jumped out as the next Norris Cole (the former Cleveland State and Miami Heat first-round draft choice opened eyes at last year’s event before his stellar senior campaign), but Brown, while physically overmatched and seemingly struggling with the athleticism and speed of the game, showed long-term potential as a step-out big man with range, as well as a shot-blocking presence.
Anthony Davis, 6-10 freshman power forward, Kentucky, STAT: As impressive as Davis was last summer, a year has clearly done wonders for his game, not to mention his confidence, as the projected top pick in the 2012 NBA Draft has learned how to deal with stronger opponents, has an understanding of when to use various aspects of his versatile skill set, developed a smoothness with his jumper and ball skills and picks spots to show off his dazzling playmaking, all the while not forgetting to play with energy, intimidate opponents as a shot-blocking force and either push the ball himself or run the floor for fast-break finishes, the attributes that primarily started his ascent as a prospect.
Antonio “Scoop” Jardine, 6-3 senior point guard, Syracuse, D-Will: Having seen Scoop develop since he was a high-school freshman, it’s remarkable to see how he’s remained so effective with his athletic limitations, but in watching him control the offensive action, use angles to stay in front of his man defensively, run the pick-and-roll at a high level, keep defenders honest with his jumper, find teammates for layups or open jumpers and use his size and old-man game to penetrate and finish in the lane, I tend to agree with an NBA scout who believes he can be at least a fringe pro.
Shabazz Napier, 6-0 sophomore point guard, Connecticut, D-Will: Napier, overshadowed by teammates Kemba Walker and classmate Jeremy Lamb for the national champs, already earned respect for his dogged defense and brassy plamaking in his debut season, but in Chicago, the Bostonian showed he could also be an offensive threat, as he got into the lane repeatedly and finished at the rim, knocked down open jumpers from deep and pull-ups from mid-range, displayed improvement as a set-up man and simply made plays.
Austin Rivers, 6-4 freshman shooting guard, Duke, KD: Doc’s heralded son wasn’t at his phenomenal best Sunday–one of the smaller players there, his usually-potent J wasn’t falling and while he’s an explosive open-court athlete and isolation player, the half-court drill work and scrimmaging, combined with his comparable lack of strength allowed bigger, older and more physical opponents to lean on him a little–but don’t jump off the bandwagon just yet, as his feeling-out process saw him make high I.Q. decisions, exhibit unselfishness and play like the coach’s son he is, qualities that will help him be successful in college, although the high-scoring outputs and highlight-reel moves will undoubtedly be there, too.
Thomas Robinson, 6-9 junior power forward, Kansas, STAT: After spending two years behind the Morris twins (and Cole Aldrich), the D.C. native will finally have the opportunity to fully showcase his physical gifts and if this camp was any preview, he’s added more offensive polish, improved footwork and touch on his shot, a capable mid-range jumper, composed and powerful straight-line drives and a better understanding of the game to his explosive athleticism, tenacious work on the boards, active defensive presence and a motor that doesn’t quit.
Terrence Ross, 6-6 sophomore wing, Washington, KD: A big-time athlete with deep range, Ross, who some observers believe will have a breakout season, improved his ballhandling ability, added some bulk and has generally become a better all-around player–passing and defending, in particular–hopefully ensuring that the Huskies don’t suffer a major drop-off in the post-Isaiah Thomas era.
Jared Sullinger, 6-8 sophomore power forward, Ohio State, STAT: Much more effective playing with familiar teammates, set plays and under the whistle, Sullinger’s usual low-post effectiveness was at first mitigated by superior athleticism, but he soon adjusted by outworking foes on the interior and using his wide body for position, then stepping out to comfortably loft soft-touch 18-footers, something I witnessed on the AAU circuit, not utilized often in his freshman year and sure to make a comeback on college campuses throughout the Midwest this winter, although continuing to trim the pounds wouldn’t hurt his cause either.
Maalik Wayns, 6-1 junior point guard, Villanova, D-Will: Like Jardine, I saw Wayns’ entire high-school career, but unlike his former Philly Catholic League rival, the ‘Nova floor general has made significant changes to his style of play and while he must strive for consistency as an outside shooter, he’s found a niche as a suffocating ball-pressure defender, efficient and attacking driving playmaker and adept finisher in traffic, whether using his physical nature to create space or surprising taller defenders with his sneaky athleticism.
Tony Wroten, 6-5 freshman point guard, Washington, D-Will: Another reason U-Dub is expected to remain near or at the top of the new Pac-12 (still feels funny saying that, let alone writing it) is the southpaw freshman, who should be among the college game’s best passers and playmakers immediately, but also understands how to bully smaller guards with his strong frame and finish with power and finesse, as well as chip in on the glass and not be a defensive liability.