Reebok Basketball Summit
Pros and prospects train at Reebok’s headquarters.
by Abe Schwadron / @abe_squad
On Tuesday, Reebok rolled out the red carpet for the top-five performers from its 2011 Breakout Challenge, inviting the high school standouts to Reebok headquarters in Boston for two days of star treatment. During the Reebok Basketball Summit, the selected players were given the keys to the company, complete with larger-than-life likenesses plastered around Reebok’s in-house basketball court, where a cast of NBA stars put on a personal training session.
John Wall, who four years ago rocketed up national rankings thanks to his participation in the Breakout Challenge, helped handpick the five high schoolers: Seth Allen, Jonathan Milligan, Darrick Wood, and Daiquan Walker from the Class of 2012, and Rysheed Jordan, Class of 2013. (Jordan, perhaps the most highly touted of the five, was unable to make it to Boston due to illness.) Wall and fellow Reebok teammates Jason Terry, Jameer Nelson, Ramon Sessions and Isaiah Thomas were in the building to impart their wisdom, and put the young talent through two days of hoop camp.
After a morning meet-and-greet with the Reebok staff and a casual Q & A emceed to a tee by the JET, the training got underway with some drills. Wall demanded most of the attention, cracking jokes and howling after one errant jumper, “I’m too fast! I’m like the Matrix when I move!” Things got serious, quick, though, when a pick-up game broke out, NBA vs High School. The elders dominated for most of the session, overpowering the youngsters with strength and speed, as Ye and Jay’s “Watch the Throne ” thumped through the in-house speaker system. Highlights included a Wall tomahawk courtesy of an off-the-glass pass from Thomas, and a transition three rained in by Terry, after which Thomas declared, “That’s Game 6 right there!”
Priority No. 1 for the pros, though, was teaching. Brian Lee, head of Reebok Basketball, said he was happy to see the high school prospects taking full advantage of the opportunity to “get first-hand feedback from NBA vets and future stars.”
Wall said he hoped to stress the importance of staying humble and hungry. “I got to be the No. 1 player because I wanted to prove myself, and I still have that mindset.” And Terry repeated his personal motto time and again: “The road to success is always under construction.” The four rising seniors who came to Boston can certainly relate, as products of the Breakout Challenge’s unique way of finding talent. Here’s a quick rundown of how each prospect looked during training:
Seth Allen, Fredericksburg, VA, 6-2, 180 pounds, Maryland
Allen displayed the most polished jump shot of the high school standouts, though his pure form gave way to frustration at times during training. The future Terp can hit from all angles, confidently using the backboard even from the baseline Tim Duncan-style, and he has surprisingly nice ups. Allen’s ballhandling could use work, as could his distribution and his quickness on the defensive end, but he didn’t back down against the pros—drawing high praise from Wall—and his jumper is ACC-ready.
Jonathan Milligan, Casa Grande, AZ, 6-2, 160 pounds, Undeclared
Unknown in his home state of Arizona before the Breakout Challenge, Milligan impressed Wall enough to earn a spot at the Summit. His long arms, great vision, sneaky athleticism and top-flight handle make him an ideal pure point guard, despite his skinny frame. He disappeared at times during full-court runs against the NBAers, but in fairness, Milligan’s game is built for running an organized team, not the chaos of a pick-up game. Something about Milligan—maybe it’s his big-time smile or lanky build at the lead guard spot—brings to mind the image of Hoop Dreams’ Arthur Agee.
Daiquan Walker, Philadelphia, PA, 6-2, 175 pounds, Undeclared
Of the high school players in attendance, Walker was the most physically advanced, able to get to the rim and compete on the boards. The Philly product is sturdy and has broad shoulders. Walker looked to soak in all the advice he could during the event. The release point on his jumper is low, and his leaping ability is limited, but his high motor, above-average defense, and ability to be productive without flash has multiple Big East schools showing interest.
Darrick Wood, Alexandria, VA, 6-4, 170 pounds, St. John’s
Wood is unassuming as a physical specimen, his spindly body still yet to fill out. But then you watch him dunk a basketball. Wood threw down a pair of tomahawks that rocked the gym during one training session, followed by an impromptu dunk contest… against himself. The DC-area native’s explosiveness is apparent on his jumpshot, too, as his rise-and-hit ability should allow him to get his shot off when he takes on the Big East at St. John’s. The NBA contingent appreciated Wood’s competitiveness—Thomas praised Wood’s ability to “back up all his talking.”
The instant camaraderie among the pros and the prospects was unmistakable. “I think Jason said it best, it’s like a family atmosphere here,” said Thomas. And for the NBA players enduring what Sessions called a “different” summer, it was a welcome chance to enjoy each other’s company.
For Reebok, it’s about finding diamond in the rough-type talent and a return to being a basketball powerhouse. Which starts with Wall, whose infectious personality seemed to rub off on everyone in the building, his smile as wide as any of the high school kids. On the court, he zoomed around in his new signature sneaker, the Zig Encore, and looked to have an improved jumper to go with his dazzling speed.
As for whether we might see him at a rumored Las Vegas summer league during the continued lockout, Wall didn’t hesitate. In fact, he sounded like his Reebok pupils. “I’m there. Whenever there’s a league or a chance to be around pro guys, I’m there.”