College Camping with LeBron
The top college ballers from the LeBron James Skills Academy.
Ryan Jones provided us with a comprehensive recap of the events, including the entire story behind “the dunk.” For part two of our coverage, we opt to take a closer look at the top college campers as well as a few of the NBA guys that took part in the action. The college players went through drill work with NBA coaches in the morning sessions, learning the niches of the game and moves that you just don’t see on an everyday basis at the collegiate level. For the nightcap, it shifted to an open gym with LeBron bringing in his crew of pro guys to face the college guys on one court, with the losing college campers playing on the other. LBJ brought Cavaliers Mo Williams, Christian Eyenga, Danny Green, Tarence Kinsey and Darnell Jackson. Here are the top guys from the runs that went on:
Willie Warren | 6-3 | Combo Guard | Sophomore | Oklahoma
Warren was one of the more acclaimed college players coming into the camp and did very little to disprove that notion. In front of the plethora of NBA scouts, he made a concerted effort to show his playmaking skills, despite the fact that he could get to the rim on just about anyone off of the bounce. This Sooner shot the ball well from NBA range, played lockdown defense, and had a couple of nasty dunks on the break. While no one walked away calling him a true point guard, the Fort Worth native showed he’s definitely making strides in the right direction.
Manny Harris | 6-6 | Combo Guard | Junior | Michigan
Manny Fresh was one of the more difficult players to defend one-on-one in the camp. He played with a Jamal Crawford style, possessing elite size for his position, length, and ability to get his shot off. The Detroit product played super hard and it showed on the defensive end, where he put the clamps on both point guards and shooting guards. Harris definitely has to work on his ability to run a team before we call him a pure point guard, but he did make quite the impression over the week.
Jordan Crawford | 6-4 | Combo Guard | Sophomore | Xavier
Ryan Jones went in depth about “the dunk” in his piece, so there’s no need for me to really get in to it. The consensus amongst the people I polled that saw the dunk (myself included): It was nice… but nothing that you won’t see on Sports Center’s Top 10 plays every single night. LBJ came over late rotating and got banged on well before he reached the peak of his jump. No slight to Crawford though, because how many people and say they punched on the King?
Patrick Christopher | 6-5 | SG | Senior | California
Christopher has nasty scoring instincts and can do a ton of work with two dribbles, as his foes saw this past season in the PAC-10. Whether it be shooting the three, pulling up off the bounce, or getting to the cup in transition, he gets it done. Unfortunately, he does very little else. NBA scouts will closely watch this scoring machine at Cal this upcoming season to see if he can answer the questions they have of whether or not he can get his shot off at the next level, and defend at that level. He does however have the size, scoring ability, and outside shot that you look for in a two guard.
Chris Wright | 6-7 | SF | Junior | Dayton
It’s hard not to love the sheer physical package that Wright offers. At 6-7 and jacked, the guy has perfect size for a small forward in terms of height (though he does have super short arms). He can straight jump out of the gym, and a super first step going right. The Dayton junior is surely going to have to sure up his ball handling and perimeter jumper though if he truly wants to take himself to the next level as a prospect.
Devin Ebanks | 6-7 | Combo Forward | Sophomore | West Virginia
Ebanks came in to the event as one of the more highly touted guys, coming off of a nice freshman campaign at WVU. He’s in the breed of today’s hybrid forward (a la NBA summer league guys James Johnson, Earl Clark, and Anthony Randolph), with perimeter skills that can kill big guys, but the post game to give it to munchkins in the post. At LBJ, he showed off an improved perimeter jumper after shooting the ball from beyond the arc at a X clip last season. Ebanks still maintained his ability to handle his own on the glass and change the game with his athleticism, so it wasn’t like he was just jacking up jumpers all day. The NYC native is still rough around the edges, but we definitely like the potential that is there.
Al-Farouq Aminu | 6-8 | Combo Forward | Sophomore | Wake Forest
Another new age forward in attendance. He easily could’ve traded in his textbooks for a first round paycheck after this past season, but opted to come back to Wake to polish his game and improve his draft stock. With good size, crazy length, and athleticism to match, it’s easy to see why people like his physical package. The sophomore showed that he’s still a ways away from being a wing full time on the offensive end, based on his lackluster shooting and erratic ball handling. The guy has a killer first step though, and can really cause chaos on the defensive end.
Yancy Gates | 6-9 | PF | Sophomore | Cincinnati
The biggest player in camp in terms of weight had to be Yancy Gates, tipping the scales at a massive 274 pounds. While “un-athletic big man” may be the first thing that comes to your mind, understand that he can still do a between the legs dunk even at that weight. Gates is a special athlete who has a super soft touch when facing the basket. He caught everything that was thrown to him when running the floor, usually finishing with a dunk. There have been issues about him tending to fade too much on the perimeter and not play hard enough, but those weren’t apparent here. Yancy’s next stop is San Francisco to train with Blake Griffin’s trainer and if he gets his body like Blake’s, we’ll surely be hearing a whole lot more about Mr. Gates next season.
Larry Sanders | 6-10 | PF | Junior | VCU
Probably the most unknown player in camp, Sanders had the longest wingspan at a whopping 7-7. He’s a nasty shot blocker who can catch and finish around the rim, with a dunk if possible. Sanders was the rawest of the big men on the offensive end, but has made some serious strides over the past couple of years. He can now finish with either hand around the rim and likely would’ve been a first round pick this year had he entered the NBA Draft. Definitely a guy die-hard NBA Draft fans should keep an eye on.
Cole Aldrich | 6-11 | C | Junior | Kansas
For being the NBA Draft prospect with most the most acclaim coming into the event, he left NBA scouts walking away with a sour taste in their mouth. Sure the guy has killer size, a massive wingspan, and nice athleticism. He also shot the ball really well from the outside in the drills. That’s about where the positive play ended for Aldrich, who struggled guarding just about every big he went up against (which was odd since he was a great defender last season at KU). He played very timid and pulled out of the 5-on-5 play after somehow hurting himself in no contact drills. As one NBA scout said, “It’s a very bad sign when you see a center ice his knees after not going up against anybody.”
Jerome Jordan | 7-1 | C | Senior | Tulsa
The longest player in camp, Jordan had an up-and-down performance in front of NBA GMs. It’s hard not to like his length, athleticism, and size for the center position. The guy shows flashes of being a really nice player down the road, showing off a nice looking jumper and moving with a certain grace to himself in the drills. Then the games rolled along and he was a complete non-factor in the first couple of games, looking very timid and shying away from contact. Fast forward to the final day of games, where you saw a complete 180. Jordan played super hard in the open gym setting against Darnell Jackson, converting on all his buckets inside (usually with a dunk) and maintaining position down low despite his slender frame. There’s no questioning the potential that the dude has, but numerous NBA personnel that we spoke to threw out the dreaded Patrick O’Bryant comparison, which is not a good thing.
LeBron James | 6-8 | SF | Cleveland Cavaliers
The easiest way for me to put things would be like this: LeBron was like the varsity star playing with the JV squad. He could’ve scored virtually any time he wanted, but really wanted to get the younger guys to get involved. He got to the rim whenever he wanted, created space for jumpers with ease, and constantly got his teammates wide-open shots. James openly admitted that he was a little out of shape, but a little out of shape for the King was still better shape then 99.9 percent of the planet. Yes, he got banged on. And yes, he did lose a couple of games in the open run. However, one play will not tarnish the reputation of arguably the League’s best player.
Christian Eyenga | 6-6 | SG/SF | Cleveland Cavaliers
NBA scouts were just as eager to lay their eyes on Eyenga as they were on the college campers. Having played in the third division of Spain (LEB Silver), he received very little acclaim and was only a solid role player there (even though he is only the age of a college freshman). When we first laid eyes on him, it was clear within five minutes that he would’ve been the most athletic freshman in college basketball last season. Eyenga uses that athleticism to out jump foes, have an explosive first step, and put the clamps on people defensively. On the flip side of things, he was less skilled then any of the college wings that were in attendance. He’s got nice form on his jumper, but has extremely erratic results shooting from the perimeter. It’s clear that this freak show needs to play overseas for another few years before he’s anywhere near ready to contribute in the League, but the long-term potential is scary if he pans out.
Rodger Bohn is a former director of prep scouting for DraftExpress.