Nike Skills Recap
Twenty college players who impressed in Chi-Town.
by Aggrey Sam / @CSNBullsInsider
Over the weekend, I made the quick trip from the South Side to the West Side for the Deron Williams, Amar’e Stoudemire and Kevin Durant Nike Skills camps at Chicago’s A.T.T.A.C.K. Athletics. Being in an NBA Draft state of mind with Thursday’s proceedings on the horizon, my primary focus was on the college prospects in attendance, though more than a few high school kids caught my eye, including Mamadou Ndiaye (a raw, 7-4 center with a lot of potential and solid mobility for his size), Derrick Griffin (a 6-8, big-time athlete committed to Texas A&M for football, where he intends to combine his wide-receiver duties on the gridiron in the fall with some action on the hardwood) and Kasey Hill (an elite scoring point with playmaking ability and sadly, one of the dwindling number of top national prospects at the event I’ve seen beforehand), among others.
In addition to John Lucas and various NBA assistant coaches who were running the players through drills, likely top-five pick Bradley Beal, who played at the event last year, was in the building Saturday (his agent, Mark Bartlestein, is based in Chicago) and Windy City native Tim Hardaway came through Sunday to watch his son, while the camp namesakes (minus Durant, at least Sunday) were also around, though not when the media was around. And of course, a handful of NBA scouts, although less than in the past, were also in the gym.
Anyway, here’s a quick rundown of 20 college players who impressed me:
Trey Burke, 6-0, Sophomore, Michigan
Burke was one of the nation’s top freshmen last season and after flirting with declaring for the Draft, looks poised to build on his debut campaign, as he showcased an improved outside stroke, which should help a loaded Wolverines squad attempt to get back to the program’s glory days.
Deonte Burton, 6-1, Junior, Nevada
One of the best mid-major players in the country, Burton’s aggressive mentality and explosive scoring, coupled with a strong frame and uncanny finishing ability, have him positioned to be a sleeper first-round pick next year.
Vincent Council, 6-2, Senior, Providence
There’s been a lot of attention paid to the Friars’ incoming recruiting class, featuring top-25 prospects Ricardo Ledo and Kris Dunn, but Council’s experience, toughness and floor generalship will be the key to their season, as evidenced by the Brooklynite’s savvy play in the Chi.
Edward Daniel, 6-6, Senior, Murray State
Daniel’s hair (now braided up, instead of his trademark blowout) and star teammate Isaiah Canaan (who also played well here), may get more love than his game, but the Alabama native—whose motor I’ve loved since his days on the AAU circuit with Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe—despite being undersized, more than held his own, using his athleticism, strength and relentless rebounding to make an impact.
Michael Dixon, 6-1, Senior, Missouri
With the eligibility of Marcus Denmon and Kim English exhausted, Dixon should go from sixth man to primary perimeter option for the Tigers and he looked ready for the job, as he was extremely vocal and knocked down long-distance jumpers.
CJ Fair, 6-8, Junior, Syracuse
Fair should also benefit from departures in his program and while the Baltimore product is still transitioning into becoming a true wing, the lefty’s length, underrated athleticism, willingness to mix it up inside and soft touch will help his cause.
Tim Hardaway Jr, 6-5, Junior, Michigan
A wing sniper with length and athleticism, Hardaway attacked defenders off the dribble for pull-up jumpers or dynamic forays to the rim, while showing an all-around game, as he made a strong effort on the boards and defensive end.
Rodney Hood, 6-8, Junior, transfer
The former Mississippi State swingman still hasn’t decided whether he’ll attend Duke or Ohio State (he’s supposed to choose later this week), but he showed why he’s perhaps the nation’s most coveted transfer, as his size, smooth offensive game and versatility caused matchup problems.
Ryan Kelly, 6-11, Senior, Duke
A prototypical stretch power forward, Kelly sported a fitting Euro-style goatee and had the game to match, knocking down corner threes, playing the pick-and-pop game to perfection and even displaying a nice running hook.
CJ Leslie, 6-9, Junior, North Carolina State
Always full of potential, Leslie seems to have figured out his niche, utilizing his length and explosiveness, yet understanding when to put the ball on the floor and when to take perimeter jumpers, as well as showing solid footwork and craftiness inside.
Mark Lyons, 6-1, Senior, Arizona
Playing for former Xavier coach Sean Miller as a grad-school transfer this upcoming season, the hard-charging Lyons might have been the most impressive guard at the camp, fearlessly attacking the basket and proving he could function as a lead guard without Tu Holloway around, traits that should take the focus off the Crosstown Shootout brawl with Cincinnati and put it firmly on to his talent.
CJ McCollum, 6-3, Junior, Lehigh
If Lyons wasn’t the best guard in attendance, then it was probably McCollum—who returned to school after considering entering the Draft following upsetting Duke in the NCAA Tournament—a knockdown shooter, both off the catch from deep and mid-range off the dribble, as well as possessing combo-guard skills.
Doug McDermott, 6-8, Junior, Creighton
Blessed with the basketball IQ of the coach’s son that he is, McDermott’s versatile game—he can play with his back to the basket, be a playmaker and hit deep jumpers—is his calling card.
Rodney McGruder, 6-5, Senior, Kansas State
One of the last remnants of the DC Assault-to-Manhattan, KS, pipeline, McGruder’s always been solid and his non-flashy approach continues to pay dividends, as the wing is capable of scoring both inside and outside, yet more than willing to do the dirty work.
Tony Mitchell, 6-9, Sophomore, North Texas
Probably the top athlete in attendance, Mitchell’s powerful explosion is his trademark—particularly on follow-up dunks and in transition—but he’s showing signs of rounding out his game, as his footwork in the post, ability to beat other big men off the dribble and accuracy on mid-range jumper are all making progress.
Mike Moser, 6-7, Junior, UNLV
Moser should have been at the KD camp (the consensus biggest quibble with the events was players being at the wrong position camp), but with the way he beat defenders off the bounce, drained outside shots, attacked the boards, made skilled, clever plays and used his athleticism and savvy to finish at the rim, it really didn’t matter.
Otto Porter, 6-8, Sophomore, Georgetown
Porter showed his surprisingly stellar freshman season was no fluke, as his versatility, on-court intelligence, fundamentally sound game, work ethic, athleticism and strong frame translated into consistent production inside and out.
Phil Pressey, 5-10, Junior, Missouri
The best pure point guard in the building (outside of the elder Hardaway), Pressey’s jets, court vision, improving outside jumper, defensive acumen and uncanny finishing ability mitigated any questions about his size, generously listed as an even 6-0 on the camp roster.
LaQuinton Ross, 6-8, Sophomore, Ohio State
I have a soft spot for “Q,” who I wrote about when he was a high school freshman and I was immediately pleasantly surprised at the 228 pounds (down from 240!) he now carries on his once-spindly frame, but even more so at how he used his new body to go to work in the paint, complementing his long-range shooting.
Deshaun Thomas, 6-7, Junior, Ohio State
Saving the best for last (or just going in alphabetical order), Thomas was the best prospect from the weekend and looked like a top-10 pick in 2013, as the high-scoring southpaw piggy-backed on his strong finish to the college season by expanding his game to showcase accurate shooting from deep, improved ballhandling ability and pull-up jumpers and floaters from mid-range, to go along with his powerful post-up game.