adidas Nations Championship Final Recap
Time to show and prove.
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
Unlike my man Aggrey Sam, I didn’t do a lot of traveling to watch basketball this summer as I mainly stuck to events that were closer to home. While it’s cool to get out, travel, and see the world, it’s even sweeter when the world comes to your backyard. That’s what happened when adidas brought its annual Nations camp to Chicago this year.
Held at Attack Athletics on the west side of Chicago, it was an enjoyable experience for me personally and an honor to be invited to attend. It was an opportunity to see some of the best high school players in the country that everybody knows about, to guys who are the best players from their respective parts of the world that you’ve probably never heard of.
The culmination of the five-day event was the 3rd place and championship games held at the UIC Pavilion on Monday night which were also broadcast live on CBS College Sports.
First up, the 3rdplace game pitted Team Latin America against Team Africa. The Latin American team was led by 6-7 wing player Hanner Parea from Colombia who plays prep ball at United Faith Christian Academy in North Carolina, and 5-11 PG Cezar Guerrero, a California native who plays his HS ball at St. John Bosco, the same school that produced Schea Cotton (go grab SLAM issue #141 and check out that gem penned by the aforementioned Mr. Sam).
In the interest of keeping it real, I’m usually not a huge fan of West Coast basketball players, but for me, there are always exceptions and Guerrero was one of them. He’s not your typical Cali born player as he exhibited a toughness and recklessness to his game that you typically don’t see from players on the Left Coast. He’s very adept at running a team and setting up his teammates, but he can also go one-on-one and get to the basket and finish with ease as he showed time and again not only during the 3rd place game, but also in pool play over the course of the entire week. He was far and away the best player on the Latin American team and easily one of the best players in the camp.
Like most young PG’s, he’s prone to bad decision making at times, but his awareness is so good that when he does make a mistake he knows it and rarely makes it twice.
I have to say that I was not only impressed by him as a player, but also as a person. He’s a good kid who was very appreciative of the opportunity that the adidas Nations event gave him. “To be honest with you, I think this is the best camp I’ve ever been to. I love this camp,” said Guerrero after his Latin America squad defeated Team Africa 73-59. “The competition was great and it was great to play against players from other countries to see how they play.”
And if West Coast players are usually branded as “soft,” Guerrero let it be known that it’s not that kind of party when it comes to his game. When I asked him what his goals were and what he wanted to accomplish coming into the camp, his answer was straightforward and to the point, “To win the championship. To be a winner. To be a killer and try and take out anybody in your way. Like Kobe.”
He finished the game with 20 points and 6 rebounds and was named player of the game.
Guerrero is poised to make some noise during his senior season this year. His is definitely a name to remember and a player to be on the lookout for in the future.
Other players from the Latin American team that performed well were Steven Adams from New Zealand, Davi Rossetto de Oliveira and Cristiano Silva Felicio from Brazil, and Luis Carlos Trevino Siller from Mexico.
Team Africa was led by Bryan Pamba, a native of the Ivory Coast in Africa who is currently playing in France. He has a good feel for the game and was one of he most gifted players physically of anyone in the camp.
At 6-3, he displayed solid ball-handling skills along with an ability to get to the basket and finish. He’s also a capable defender who can make it hard on the person he’s guarding. The weakest part of his game right now is easily his jumpshot which is wildly inconsistent and not very pretty to look at. If you take away his drives to the basket and force him to work strictly from the perimeter, he’s not very effective, but he won’t let that stop him as he’s more than capable of making up for it in other areas of his game.
I was very impressed by his skillset and he should be a player who will do big things in the future as his game progresses.
Another player who impressed for Team Africa was the smallest player in the entire camp, 5-7 Issa Soumare, a native of Mali. He was by far the quickest and fastest player at adidas Nations. The constraints of having to play within a 94-foot boundary didn’t do his speed justice. If he were on the soccer pitch, you’d get an opportunity to see just how fast he really is. Aside from that, the diminutive, lefty PG displayed an ability to set his teammates up for easy baskets and his stop-and-go/change of direction game is something you’d have to see to believe.
The championship game was an “All-American” final as Team USA’s 2011 and 2012 teams faced off against one another for the gold championship trophy. Leading up to Monday night’s championship game, it had been a pretty one-sided affair in the head-to-head matchup between the two squads. The 2012 team had beaten the 2011 squad five times over the summer.
The seniors were looking to exact a certain amount of revenge against their junior counterparts for the adidas Cup trophy.
USA 2011 was led by Quincy Miller, SLAM’s current keeper of the diary and also a Chicago native who plays his HS ball in North Carolina; as well as by fellow Chicago area natives Wayne Blackshear and Ryan Boatright. Deuce Bello, also from North Carolina was a key player on the 2011 squad as well. His high-flying dunks kept things interesting all week.
Rodney Purvis, a 6-5 guard from North Carolina was also impressive as he was playing “up” on the 2011 squad. He just completed his freshman year of HS in Raleigh, North Carolina and didn’t seem out of place playing with older teammates.
The USA 2012 squad featured Kyle Anderson from New Jersey who at 6-8 ran the point the entire camp. Playing alongside him were Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, a very heady PG from Indianapolis, Shabazz Muhammad from Las Vegas, and Isaiah Austin, a 7-0 C from Texas who committed to Baylor while at the camp.
The game started off rather slowly as neither team seemed able to find a rhythm in the game. The play was very sloppy and erratic and the two teams combined for 66 points in the first half with the 2011 squad hanging on to a 4-point lead over the 2012 squad, 35-31.
The second half was much more entertaining and competitive as the seniors decided they were done playing with the juniors and slowly started to put the game out of reach.
Quincy Miller showed why he’s widely considered the best player in his class as he slowly started to impose his will on all-comers from the junior squad and things even got a little chippy between him and Jarnell Stokes, a 6-8 center from Memphis. But it was all in the spirit of competition, nothing more. You like to see that from guys.
But it became the Quinn Cook and LeBryan Nash show in the second half as both players showed why they are two of the elite players in the nation and also the best in their class.
Nash used his size, strength, and quickness to get to the basket and finish at the rim, which included some power dunks while beating his man off the dribble on attacking drives to the basket. He also showed a decent shooting stroke as he knocked down several perimeter shots.
Cook ran the show very well and basically took the game over by making sound decisions with the basketball and making timely plays when his team needed it. Whether he was setting his teammates up for easy scores at the basket or getting his own offense, he led his 2011 squad to 82-68 victory and walked away with player of the game honors by putting up 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.
As the fourth installment of adidas Nations comes to an end, it’s important to look at how much it has grown and advanced in that time. Said Chris Rivers, adidas’ Global Assets Manager, “A couple of years ago adidas saw that in order for them to succeed in basketball, becoming more global would have to become a part of the plan. adidas Nations became the first step in doing that. Since then it’s grown on multiple levels. The first year, if you weren’t invited, you really weren’t aware of it. However, now you have kids in the ninth and tenth grade who are looking forward to being a part of the adidas Nations program. And now that we have some alumni in the NBA and multiple college players who have come through the ranks, people are adding being an adidas Nations kid to their resume much like they add being a McDonalds [All-American] kid or a Mr. Basketball in their state or a Gatorade National Player of the Year.”