NC Pro-Am Day 4 Recap
Austin Rivers, Harrison Barnes, John Henson and more…
Day 4 of the NC Pro-Am brought a sold out gym and the match-ups that summer basketball is made of. You had Raymond Felton and JJ Miller going at it if you like veteran point guards, you had Austin Rivers and Lorenzo Brown squaring off if talented combo guards is your thing, and if you like athletic wings, then you were set with Harrison Barnes against Dominique Sutton. The gym was sold out, the music was fresh, and the crowd was hyped. Did we mention it was free to get in? The self-proclaimed “Mecca of Summer League Basketball” came through with another dope night of hoops.
Here’s a look at some of the guys who balled out on Day 4 of the NC Pro-Am:
Raymond Felton, 6-2, PG, Portland Trail Blazers- Felton came in to the Pro-Am with guns blazing, bombing (and connecting) from beyond the NBA 3-point arc at any chance he had. Coming off of a career season (well, half season) that he was having with the Knicks, he was the casualty of two trades in the past six months; first to the Nuggets as part of the Melo deal, then to the Blazers in part to free up more minutes for Ty Lawson. It appears that the former UNC star has been making the most of his time off of work and has gained a few lbs in the process. On the bright side, the added weight has made Felton a tough guard in the post—something we may see him add to his repertoire with the Blazers.
JJ Miller, 6-0, PG, Overseas- If you’re looking for a guy that’s the prime example of hard work and dedication, look no farther than Miller. Coming out of tiny North Carolina A&T, he worked his way up through the lower tier leagues of Europe to the point that he is now approaching a near six figure contract after a great season in Belgium. Carrying that same toughness to the hardwood at the Pro-Am, the combo guard went right at Raymond Felton each time down the court. The quickness and crafty game that JJ brought to the table was a problem for Felton (given his added weight) and makes him one of the tougher guards to defend in the Pro-Am.
John Henson, 6-10, PF, Junior, North Carolina- After adding a legit 20 pounds to his previously wiry frame, Henson has made the transformation from prospect to player in the past six months. Having watched a number of players train for the NBA Draft in the spring, there’s no reason that he wouldn’t have been amongst the first 10 names called with his improved physique. There may not be a better shot blocker in all of college basketball this upcoming season, with Henson improving his timing mightily and being able to block shots with either hand equally well. One former NBA assistant coach who was in the gym guaranteed that Henson would league the league in blocks within the first five years of his career and while I’m not willing to throw out predictions like that just yet, I certainly expect a monster junior season out of the former McDonald’s All-American.
Austin Rivers, 6-4, PG/SG, Freshman, Duke- The most heralded player at the Pro-Am had a so-so showing against Lorenzo Brown after dominating in his first two Pro-Am games. The explosive combo guard couldn’t really get his J to fall from the outside, but set the crowd on fire with a few nasty crossovers that he shook defenders with. Rivers continues to prove the haters wrong who claim he’s just a shooter and won’t be able to get by guys on the next level, and this was just another example that he’ll be straight.
Lorenzo Brown, 6-4, PG/SG, Sophomore, North Carolina State- In terms of sheer talent, there aren’t many guards that offer more than Brown. He’s grown to 6-5 and can play either guard position, yet remains an enigma at times with his inconsistent play. An amazing athlete with a nasty cross, he’s the type of guy who you can iso at the top of the key and will get past anyone. Against Rivers his J wasn’t falling and he had some turnover issues, but nobody in the gym could stay with him off the bounce. With transfer Alex Johnson coming in to run point for State next year, look for Brown to get buckets while still showing his playmaking skills off of the ball, a la Alec Burks at Colorado.
Dominique Sutton, 6-5, SF, Senior, North Carolina Central- In a gym filled with NBA players and all of the Duke/UNC/NC State kids, there may not be more of a fan favorite than Dominique Sutton. The ex-Kansas State defensive stopper transferred to NC Central to be closer to home and his gritty style of play has become infectious to everyone in the gym. Similar to JJ Miller, Sutton could care less that most people have Harrison Barnes pegged to go in the top 5 of next year’s NBA Draft. In fact, that seemed to motivate him more to put the clamps on Barnes and show that he can guard the best of the best. I saw Sutton frustrate O.J. Mayo so much in a high school game in ’06 that Mayo almost came to blows with him, and that pesky style of play is still the staple of Dominique’s game. An NBA athlete and defender, the undersized senior is still on the outside looking in as far as the league is concerned, unless he develops a reliable J from the perimeter.
Harrison Barnes, 6-6, SG/SF, Sophomore, North Carolina- After turning down the chance to be a top-5 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, expectations were high for Barnes in the Pro-Am. Matched up against the physical Sutton, he struggled a bit and could never really get things going. The Iowa native had a number of dunks in transition which the mixtape guys loved, but didn’t get it going once the pace slowed and things settled down in the half court. One Pro-Am game certainly isn’t going to an affect on the potential Naismith POY’s draft stock, so there isn’t much to worry about here.