A prelude to today’s event championship and third-place games in the Chi.
by Aggrey Sam
Back in 2007, the first time I was dispatched to cover the nation’s summer high school and AAU scene, I attended the inaugural adidas Nations Experience in New Orleans. With top high school players like Jrue Holiday participating and discovering the likes of international phenoms such as Serge Ibaka, I thought the event itself and overall concept was a great idea. The fact that legit pros, coaches with NBA experience (whether coaching or playing) and blending workouts with plenty of games in a competitive tournament-style format was enough, but the addition of “college counselors” such as Robin Lopez (his twin brother, Brook, as well as cats like Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon, Kevin Love, Terrence Williams and Darren Collison were also on hand) made it even better, not to mention the brand’s strong community-service and international aspects.
Fast forward to the past few days and in its fourth year (I also attended the second year of the event, held in Dallas), the event is a huge draw for NBA personnel types (even with a competing, similar Nike event in Portland) and adidas now has amongst its endorsers alums of the first camp. Holiday, Lopez and Ibaka are now the pros assisting with coaching the youngsters, completing the circle adidas intended. I’ll let my man Bryan Crawford handle the big-picture stuff, as well as a recap of today’s chip and third-place game, but below are my usual player evaluations.
First, though, I’ve gotta say that with all my recent travels, it’s been nice to stay local for a change, as the event’s been held at Tim Grover’s A.T.T.A.C.K. Athletics on Chicago’s West Side. Today’s games, which will be broadcast on CBS College Sports at 6 P.M. Central time (consolation game first, followed by the title game at 7:45), will take place at the University of Illinois-Chicago, also in the Wild West. If you’re anywhere near the Chi, I advise you to make that trip. Otherwise, simply tune in to catch some good ball, as the teams from Africa and Latin America face off in the first game and the USA 2011 team takes on the USA 2012 squad for the crown. Now, on to the evaluations…
International and high school player evaluations:
–Jordan Adams, 6-4 rising junior wing, Oak Hill (VA), USA 2012: A Georgia native with an old-school game, this big-bodied sharpshooter has used his bulk, strength, feel for the game and potent stroke to open a lot of eyes.
–Steven Adams, 6-10 post, New Zealand, Latin America: A Pitt commit, this rugged post player is still a work in progress in terms of polish, but his brute strength, rebounding ability and physical nature are a perfect fit for his future college program.
–Isaiah Austin, 7-0 rising junior post, Grace (TX), USA 2012: The nephew of former NBA player Ike Austin still needs to get stronger, but his shot-blocking ability and uncanny perimeter skills and shooting touch bode well for the future, which will supposedly be at Baylor (he’s scheduled to announce his college choice tonight) in a few years.
–Quddus Bello, 6-4 rising senior wing, Westchester Country Day (NC), USA 2011: “Deuce,” one of the top high school athletes in the nation, isn’t necessarily a big-time scorer, but his lockdown D, developing playmaking ability and willingness to do the intangibles had the attention of pro scouts, even in comparison to more highly-regarded prospects.
–Wayne Blackshear, 6-5 rising senior wing, Morgan Park (IL), USA 2011: A Chicago native and Louisville commit, Blackshear is a prototypical wing–armed with a picture-perfect J to three-point range, a strong frame to bang inside with and major-league athleticism.
–Ryan Boatright, 5-10 rising senior point guard, East Aurora (IL), USA 2011: A jet-quick scorer out of Chicago’s ‘burbs, “Boat” is developing into more of a traditional playmaker as he plays alongside better talent, but his creativity with the rock, explosive hops and the variety of ways he uses to get buckets remain the trademarks of his game.
–Quinn Cook, 6-0 rising senior point guard, Oak Hill (VA), USA 2011: Transferring out of famed DeMatha (MD) for his final year of high school (following the path of fellow D.C.-area native and “big brother” Nolan Smith, who was also in attendance), Cook’s polish, ability to run the show, shooting range and heady demeanor all look ready for the rigors he’ll encounter in rural VA.
–Samuel Deguara, 7-5 post, Italy, Europe: The height is a “guesstimate” by Robin Lopez (when in doubt, ask the next tallest guy you’ll see; the roster I was given had him at 6-10), but the massive youngster (adidas didn’t have kicks big enough for him, so he rocked his own Nikes with the Swoosh taped over) is still a project, but he has good fundamentals, soft touch, moves decently, has a solid feel for the game and isn’t afraid to use his size and strength.
–Kevin Ferrell, 5-10 rising junior point guard, Park Tudor (IN), USA 2012: Despite his diminutive size, “Yogi” stole the show for his squad by running the show to perfection, becoming a terror in transition, playing tough D and leading his team to an undefeated record heading into tonight’s chip.
–Cezar Guerrero, 5-11 rising senior point guard, St. John Bosco (CA), Latin America: Guerrero’s a bit of a ringer (he’s been a well-known high school prospect since entering high school), but he more than lived up to the hype I’ve been hearing from West Coasters for years now (he’s never played well or has been hurt when I’ve seen him in the past; I pulled Cesar aside to let him know I was happy to see he proved me wrong), as he shot lights out from deep, finished over the tall trees inside, dished out dimes in abundance and was a terrific leader.
–Pavlin Ivanov, 6-4 combo guard, Italy, Europe: A versatile scorer and playmaker, Ivanov played with a lot of flair, whether getting to the rim with his shifty handle, finishing there with bouncy athleticism, knocking down deep jumpers or pull-ups off the dribble or handing out dimes with his solid court vision.
–Amile Jefferson, 6-7 rising junior combo forward, Friends Central (PA), USA 2012: Hailing from the same school current pros Mustafa Shakur and Hakim Warrick attended, this Philly product plays extremely hard, bangs in the post despite his skinny frame, defends and boards with toughness, has the agility and skills to play on the perimeter and possesses excellent athleticism and length.
–Peter Jurkin, 6-11 rising junior post, United Faith Christian (NC), Africa: The Sudanese big man, who plays high school ball in North Carolina, is still developing, but his athleticism, high motor, defensive presence, rebounding ability, toughness and ability to run the floor justify why he’s one of the most coveted post players in his class.
–Bakary Konate, 6-10 post, Mali, Africa: A pro over in Spain, Konate is simply a beast on the glass, an intimidating defensive presence and developing offensive force, with a solid frame, great mobility and an extremely high ceiling.
–Quincy Miller, 6-9 rising senior combo forward, Westchester Country Day (NC), USA 2011: Arguably the nation’s top player, SLAM’s diarist did nothing to lessen his rep, as he knocked down deep treys, rebounded the ball at both ends, finished above the rim in exciting fashion, gave opposing big men fits with his driving ability, posted up smaller wings, went coast to coast in transition and pretty much dominated the action whenever he was on the floor.
–Shabazz Muhammad, 6-5 rising junior wing, Bishop Gorman (NV), USA 2012: One of the top players (if not the best; he’s certainly the best scorer) in his class, the southpaw swingman put on his usual clinic on how to get buckets by knocking down deep jumpers, using his powerful frame to bully his way to the rack, posting up smaller guards and being a force on the offensive boards.
–Bryan Pamba, 6-3 combo guard, Ivory Coast, Africa: Based in France, Pamba is a shifty ballhandler with nice athleticism and strength, the ability to knock down jumpers, finish in the paint and defend at a high level.
–Hanner Perea, 6-7 rising junior combo forward, United Faith Christian (NC), Latin America: A Colombian prepping in the States, where he’s a well-known commodity due to his exploits on th circuit, Perea is still a bit raw, but his slashing drives, toughness in the paint, excellent motor, finishing ability, defensive prowess and good feet make him a prospect to be monitored closely.
–Marshall Plumlee, 6-11 rising senior post, Christ (NC), USA 2011: Like his big brothers (more on them soon), the youngest Plumlee is extremely agile and athletic for his size, runs the floor well, affects games above the rim and has a world of potential.
–Issa Soumare, 5-7 point guard, Mali, Africa: Probably the quickest player in the building, Soumare utilized soccer-style footwork, slick change-of-pace moves, pressure D, solid court vision and a huge heart to impact games for his squad.
College “counselor” evaluations
–Quincy Acy, 6-7 junior post, Baylor: An undersized post with big-time athleticism, this Dallas-area native has Joey Dorsey-type bounce, power, rebounding prowess, finishing ability and energy, and although he won’t wow observers with polish or touch, he finds a way to consistently make an impact on both ends of the floor.
–Alec Burks, 6-6 sophomore combo guard, Colorado: From being regarded as a little-known mid-major prospect to Big 12 ROY to potential lottery pick, this K.C. product has exploded onto the scene in a major way, as his smooth handle, ability to knock down shots, great size for the backcourt, nice athleticism and knack for scoring have NBA types very impressed.
–Terrell Holloway, 6-0 junior point guard, Xavier: After co-starring with Jordan Crawford last season, it appears that Holloway is ready to shine on his own, as his shifty ballhandling, savvy, deep range, deceptive quickness and toughness all gave the opposition fits.
–Tyler Honeycutt, 6-7 sophomore wing, UCLA: After suffering through an uncharacteristically bad UCLA season, Honeycutt won some admirers by knocking down jumpers and finishing with flair above the rim, although the finesse player could stand to add some physicality to his game.
–Perry Jones, 6-10 freshman post, Baylor: Arguably the top talent in the building, Jones was plagued by inconsistency as a high school prospect and after struggling on the first night of the camp’s college runs, it seemed to still be an issue (keep in mind, he’s only 17 years old), but he bounced back to pretty much dominate–using his big-time athleticism, advanced perimeter skills for his size, excellent quickness and ability to run the floor, nice passing ability and displaying an improved motor–leaving onlookers extremely impresed.
–Shelvin Mack, 6-2 junior combo guard, Butler: A bulldozer of a guard, Mack continues to grow on observers, as his combination of strength, lockdown D, poise, savvy, ability to finish in the paint, playmaking make it clear that even without Gordon Hayward, the cupboard isn’t bare for Butler.
–Marcus Morris, 6-8 junior combo forward, Kansas: Having seen “Wing Twin” and his brother for years, it’s nice to see their potential turning into production, and in Marcus’ case, he’s become a fluid ballhandler with the versatility to post up, an increasingly consistent outside shooter and above all, a likely first-round pick in a year.
–Markieff Morris, 6-8 junior post, Kansas: “Big Twin,” as he’s known in Philly is less of a traditional post than a face-up four-man, but his improved athleticism, rebounding ability and solid frame allow him to bang inside, while his accurate mid-range J, nice ball skills and feel for the game create matchup problems for defenders.
–Mason Plumlee, 6-10 sophomore post, Duke: The most high-profile of the Plumlee clan, is indeed a major-league athlete, and while he’s still figuring out how to put that attribute to best use in game situations, his big-time motor, excellent foot speed, ability to beat other big men off the dribble and defensive presence are all weapons he can use right now.
–Miles Plumlee, 6-10 junior post, Duke: The eldest Plumlee (they aren’t twins) is often overlooked (but not because of his physical appearance; unlike the doppelganger Morrises–who I recognize from their games, having seen them since they were high school freshmen in Philly–the Plumlees are more like the Lopez twins, with Miles going with a lumberjack look that rivals Robin’s “Sideshow Bob” visage), and while he’s not quite the freaky athlete his little brother is, he’s extremely bouncy, has added some bulk, is very active in the paint and while it’s not all the way there yet, he’s working on bringing a face-up dimension to his game, as evidenced by his three-point range.
–Thomas Robinson, 6-8 sophomore post, Kansas: Stuck to the pine as a freshman (granted, he was playing behind Cole Aldrich and both Morris twins), this D.C. native is back to being a rebounding machine with a relentless motor, the ability to play well above of the rim and a force on the defensive end, all of which should result in him surprising a lot of folks in the Big 12 this season.
–Jared Sullinger, 6-8 freshman post, Ohio State: “Sully” will never be a high-flying athlete, but the adjustment he’s already made from the high school level (where he was simply bigger and stronger than the vast majority of his competition) has been impressive, as his high-post game, excellent hands, court vision, understanding of positioning and ability to step out, handle and shoot have me convinced that not only will he wreak havoc on the college game this season, but he will overachieve as a pro (at least in the minds of those who doubt him), a la Kevin Love.
–Josh Selby, 6-2 freshman combo guard, Kansas: Playing in his first competitive action since a wrist injury when he got to summer school, Selby still has some kinks to work out, but his ever-present explosiveness, rugged D (a B-More trademark) and his knack for getting buckets were evident, and if he can start to understand how to play in a structured half-court setting and run the show, he’ll be playing for pay in the very near future.
–Iman Shumpert, 6-5 junior point guard, Georgia Tech: A Chicago-area native (Oak Park-River Forest High School, where he played with SLAM’s own Quinn Peterson, to be exact), Shumpert has the size and athleticism pro scouts crave, and while his J still needs to make strides, his bullying of smaller guards, relentless penetration, open-court game, finishing ability, passing skills and tough D and rebounding from the perimeter gives him a lot to work with.
–Chris Singleton, 6-9 junior combo forward, Florida State: Another alum of the first adidas Nations, this Georgia native has always had pro tools like a producer, but is starting to figure it out, as his jaw-dropping athleticism, ability to knock down open jumpers, ballhandling for for his size, solid frame and willingness to bang could have him in the green room next June.
–Nolan Smith, 6-2 senior combo guard, Duke: At this point in his career, Smith looks like a vet–from his calm demeanor, versatility, polish and tremendous IQ–but his length, ability to play both backcourt spots, underrated athleticism, selflessness and shot-making ability will be his calling cards as a pro, especially if his pairing with highly-touted frosh Kyrie Irving works out as expected this upcoming season for the defending national champs.
–Maalik Wayns, 6-0 sophomore point guard, Villanova: Wayns, a favorite of mine since his days at Philly’s Roman Catholic, may have only played a bit role in his freshman season, but with his bulldog nature, pass-first mentality, determined D, powerful frame and feel for the game, don’t be shocked if he makes a major impact on the Big East, especially his outside J continues to improve.
–Two players on the USA 2011 team, Rodney Purvis and Cameron Ridley, are actually underclassmen. Purvis is a rising sophomore scoring guard from North Carolina, while Ridley is a rapidly-developing rising junior post out of Texas.
–Pros Corey Brewer and Jrue Holiday got out and ran with the college kids a little bit. Brewer seemed to be working himself back into shape, while Holiday went easy on the youngsters, but was still obviously a level above them. Holiday’s older brother, Justin, a rising junior wing at Washington, was one of the counselors. The majority of the pros in attendance seemed to really enjoy coaching their respective teams, which was great to see. Serge Ibaka, however, may have been the most enthusiastic, which makes sense, as his dominating play at the first camp in ’07, led to where he is today.
–One of the highlights for me was spending time with former University of Colorado star Donnie Boyce, who enjoyed a solid career overseas after his college days. His former high school teammate at famed Proviso East in Maywood, Ill., just outside Chicago, Michael Finley, was also in attendance. Finley held a camp for kids at A.T.T.A.C.K. during one of the long breaks between sessions. Boyce coaches a grade-school AAU team during the summers, but he’s also an assistant for the D-League Reno Bighorns. Two other former Chicago legends who were reportedly in the gym were Antoine Walker and Cedrick Banks, as well as Gilbert Arenas.
–Besides the Morris twins, the Plumlee trio and the Holiday brothers, two other kids in attendance–rising junior combo forward Alex Murphy and rising senior post Cody Zeller–have brothers that ball. Murphy’s older brother, Erik, plays at Florida, while Zeller’s brother, Tyler is at UNC and Luke used to hoop at Notre Dame. In other family-related news, rising junior post DaJuan Coleman is NOT the son of former NBA player Derrick Coleman (despite the similar size, facial appearance and Syracuse residence), per his AAU coach. In addition, NBA ref Danny Crawford was there to both supervise officials and ref games. In case you don’t know, Crawford’s son Drew, a sophomore wing at Northwestern, is nice with it.
–Congrats to my man Tim Connelly, former head of player personnel for the Wizards and new assistant GM in New Orleans. Got a chance to meet the Hornets new GM, Dell Demps, whose son Tre is a top high school prospect and Northwestern commit…The European team consisted of all Italians, reportedly the entire Benetton Treviso junior squad…Renardo Sidney can’t catch a break. After sitting out at Mississippi State last season, the former prep phenom hurt his ankle early on in the first college run…Two mid-major guys, Damien Lillard of Weber State and Xavier Silas of Northern Illinois, are holding their own with the big-name collegians. Lillard, in particular, really turned heads…Nice to see Philly so deep in Chicago. Amile Jefferson held it down for the high school players, while Maalik Wayns, the Morris twins and Aaric Murray did their thing during the college portion.