Players learn to play the right way at the John Lucas Invitational.
John Lucas and Brian Merritt are back at it again. After having an outstanding group at the 2010 John Lucas Midwest Invitational, they’ve topped it for 2011. Unlike most of the elite camps and showcases that take place in the spring, there is an amazing deal of teaching going on before games are even being played.
Coach Lucas’ right hand man Merritt explains: “With today’s innovations in technology, every player’s game is completely broken down when being scouted. We bring these guys here to teach players how to play the game the right way,” the former longtime DI assistant coach said. “When guys make plays, they need to know where to go, how to create the proper spacing, what reads to make off of pick and rolls, and where the ball is supposed to go. Most kids don’t know what they’re looking for, and it’s simply not taught at the high school level.”
Lucas, the former No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft and NBA head coach, holds a slightly different philosophy, emphasizing taking the game seriously from a young age if you truly want to be a professional. Merritt re-emphasized Coach Lucas’ feelings by telling SLAMonline, “guys who want to be professional basketball players need to approach the game the way other people their age would approach things, such as being a doctor or a lawyer. Treat it like you want this to be your profession, not just a game you play.”
The influx of the talent begins with the 2013 class, led by the No. 1 player of SLAMonline’s Fresh 25, Jabari Parker. The next big thing out of Derrick Rose’s alma mater set the summer ablaze and has nearly established himself as the consensus top player in the class. Parker’s high school teammate, 6-3 Kendrick Nunn, will be joining him in Louisville fresh after a commitment, then de-commitment from Texas A&M. If you love big guards who will give you highlights, look no further than the Harrison twins out of Texas. Both standing 6-5 and ranked among the top 10, Andrew is more of a point while Aaron is more of the natural scorer. Other top juniors who will be at camp are 6-7 Cali shooter Stephen Domingo , 6-2 Wisconsin recruit Bronson Koenig, 6-7 freak athlete Troy Williams, and 6-6 North Carolina forward Greg McClinton.
As far as the 2014 class is concerned, everything starts with 6-10 Dakari Johnson. After playing his freshman season at St. Pat’s in Jersey, the massive post followed head coach Kevin Boyle down to Montverde Academy in Florida. 6-9 Trey Lyles and 6-0 James Blackmon Jr are both committed to Indiana, put in work during the summer together for Spiece, and will roll to Louisville together. Texas is coming in with a pair of dynamic wings in 6-7 Justin Jackson and 6-6 Justise Winslow. The home schooled Jackson is more of an old school, throwback player while Winslow is the type of new school guy who will put you on a poster real quick. 6-7 Leron Black out of Memphis, 6-2 playmaker Larry Austin from the Chi, and 6-9 shotblocker Khadeem Latin are just a few of the other top sophs who will be there.
The 2015 class may not have even played a high school game yet, but in this day and age, that doesn’t stop the top players from being identified. Malik Newman, a 6-4 combo guard, has drawn comparisons to Tyreke Evans and may be the best player to come out of Mississippi since Monta Ellis by the time it’s all over with. Diamond Stone has grown to 6-10 and showed at the last Lucas camp in Houston that he may have the most advanced skill set of any big in the class. Rounding out the top freshmen is 6-6 KeJuan Johnson out of Atlanta, who has been getting mad media love since he postered a HS senior when he was 13.
It feels mildly odd to write about players who are still in middle school, but Lucas and Merritt assembled a group of eighth graders that deserves a mention. 7-0 Thon Maker from Australia via Sudan made his US debut in Houston and shocked people with his coordination for a player so big. The 6-8 man child Khalea Turner from Louisiana has been touted as the top player in the class for years now, to the point that many have compared him to a young Chris Webber. North Carolina is well repped with 6-6 athlete Harry Giles, silky smooth 6-5 guard VJ King, and emerging 6-9 Edrice Adebayo. A few more names to remember are 6-10 Trevor Stanback, 6-2 Adrian Moore and 6-5 Caleb Swanigan.
Merritt wraps everything up by saying “at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’re ranked 2, 3, 4, 5 in the country. If you can’t crack your college rotation as a freshman, nobody is going to care. We are here to help make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Games run from 12 p.m. ‘til 8 p.m. on Saturday, then 7:30 a.m. ‘til 1 p.m. on Sunday at Hoops The Gym. Hoops is located at 10201 Sycamore Station Plaza, Louisville, KY 40299. Games are open to the public and admission is $7 per day. For more information call (502)814-6677.