By Aggrey Sam
In a game featuring elite talent, celebs and NBA players sitting courtside, at Madison Square Garden, most fans had one question on their mind: Can Jeffrey Jordan hoop? Better yet, would Mike’s son embarrass himself at his pop’s namesake game, the Jordan Brand All-American Classic? If you watched the live broadcast last Saturday night or you’ve heard through reading other media accounts before this incredibly timely update, the answer is no.
Jordan, while he didn’t come in with the same accolades as the other participants, actually fared pretty well in the star-studded showcase. Yeah, he was victimized by Corey Fisher’s handle on a few occasions (he was hardly the only victim) and started the game over players clearly more talented than him, but he finished with nine points and displayed a solid basketball IQ, good athleticism and defensive intensity.
By the way, Jordan ended his recruitment the other day by choosing to attend in-state Illinois—as a walk-on http://basketballrecruiting.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=668221)–over Valparaiso, among other schools. I saw Jeffrey play early in ’07 (http://slamonline.com/online/2007/01/live-from-the-chicago-board-of-ed-tourney/), as well as against Eric Gordon on TV (Gordon flamed Jordan’s Loyola Academy squad for 43), and came away with the impression that he could be a solid mid-major contributor and even an impact player at the low-major level, but certainly not a kid who should attempt to play for a high-major program if he wanted to get on the floor early in his career. I could be mistaken and off his pedigree alone, I wouldn’t doubt it if he proved me wrong, but I just don’t see Jeffrey developing into anything other than a role player for the Illini. Plus, while it’s his in-state school and he’s definitely good enough to walk on the team, with the big-time recruiting in the Big Ten, I could see him getting passed over for more highly-regarded prospects as his career progresses. On the other hand, if he does get the opportunity to play significant minutes, everything he does will be scrutinized, unless he kills. Do you remember Tubby Smith’s son, Saul, when he started at the point at Kentucky? The kid wasn’t bad, the team was nice, but Saul caught hell for every little mistake he made on the court. Even though Mike won’t be coaching Jeffrey, the hate will be multiplied times ten, even in the state where his pop’s a legend. Anyway, let’s get back to the Jordan game. Here’s my take on the other kids who played in the JBAAC:
Corey Fisher, 6-1 point guard, Villanova: Fisher, the MVP of the game, put on an absolute show in his hometown, finishing with 12 points and 10 assists. The Bronx native’s dribbling exhibition and next-level dimes had the crowd rocking, and even though his outside J wasn’t on point, he hit the shot to seal his squad’s 127-119 win. He’s like the kid everyone wants to hoop with on the playground, something I don’t anticipating changing at Villanova next season, where he should be one of the best freshmen in the Big East.
Austin Freeman, 6-4 wing, Georgetown: Freeman, one of several guards in this game built like an NFL running back, was certainly aggressive on offense, showcasing a refined mid-range game, solid athleticism and even hitting a halfcourt shot at the halftime buzzer en route to dropping 16. His physical maturity and basketball IQ will make him a solid rotation player for the Hoyas next season.
Blake Griffin, 6-9 post, Oklahoma: Griffin, a physical and athletic workhorse, lived up to that rep in this game. He put up eight and eight in limited minutes, most of it while battling fellow blue-collar blue-chipper Patrick Patterson. He already reminds me of a more athletic version of a player Oklahoma had a few years ago, Kevin Bookout.
Eric Gordon, 6-4 wing, Indiana: Gordon didn’t put on one of his spectacular offensive performances in this one, but flashed some of his immense ability, finishing with 16 points. While he can shoot from anywhere and take defenders off the dribble, I’m not convinced that the best thing he does is bully people at the rack to get his buckets. Look for the Indiana signee to put up big numbers as a freshman and go to the League.
Gary Johnson, 6-7 post, Texas: Johnson, an athletic and undersized power forward, battled on the boards and finished well down low. He didn’t wow the crowd with any of his skills, but he’ll be a very solid Big 12 player.
Jai Lucas, 5-10 point guard, undecided: Lucas, easily the smallest player in the game, isn’t the type of kid who excels in a free-wheeling showcase, but he still managed to score nine points, dish out four dimes and even grab four boards in limited minutes. He needs to get stronger, but he’s a pure point guard that can run an offense, distribute the rock and play pressure D, all rare qualities these days.
Jeff Robinson, 6-5 wing, Memphis: Robinson, one of the better athletes in the class, also looked like one of 2007’s best shooters. He hit three triples on his way to 17 points, as well as a tough lefty windmill on the break, probably the best dunk of the night. He still needs an in-between game and a real wing handle, but I think Coach Cal will find a way to get him some minutes at Memphis.
Kyle Singler, 6-8 combo forward, Duke: Singler basically did it all in this game, hitting jumpers, handling the ball, finishing and even playing D in the post. He finished with 16 and seven, but never forced the issue. As for his impact at Duke, expect Singler to be what Mike Dunleavy Jr. was supposed to be.
Derrick Rose, 6-4 point guard, Memphis: Rose is an example of a mega-talented player who is also the ultimate team player. The Chicago native scored 12 points, pulled down 10 boards and dished out five assists, while mostly playing on the wing due to Corey Fisher’s presence. His uncanny body control, finishing ability, defensive intensity and court vision will make him a star right away. I know I’m high on him right now, but the best comparison I can think of is Jason Kidd.
Chris Wright, 6-7 combo forward, Dayton: This Chris Wright (not the point guard) was the most athletic player in the event, which is saying something. He finished with 10 and 10, was a presence on the boards, hustled all over the court and got the Garden crowd out of their seats on a few occasions. Headed to Dayton, right in his backyard, I wouldn’t be shocked if he develops into one of the better players in the A-10 right away.
Jerryd Bayless, 6-4 combo guard, Arizona: It’s easy to see why Bayless’ smooth game and athleticism have made him one of the best guards in the class, as he finished with an easy 17 points. A good shooter both off the drive and catch, he can also get to the hoop and finish. While some think Bayless will step into Arizona’s vacated starting point-guard spot, he’s much more of a scorer than a distributor at this point.
Nick Calathes, 6-5 combo guard, Florida: Calathes only had nine points, five boards and four dimes, but he was one of the more intriguing players to watch in the game. With his excellent court vision, sweet stroke and versatility, he’ll be a perfect fit for Billy Donovan’s system.
Donte Greene, 6-10 combo forward, Syracuse: The Baltimore native, Towson Catholic product and future Syracuse star isn’t ‘Melo, but his offensive versatility is almost as scary. Greene, who scored a game-high 20, knocked down treys, rose up for high-flying bangs and just seemed to be at another level than everyone else for certain stretches of the game. I’d like to see him get stronger and continue to polish up his wing game, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he was out after a year of college.
Jeffrey Jordan, 6-1 combo guard, undecided: See above, but let me stress that while he might have been the least-talented ballplayer on the court, he appear as if he didn’t belong.
Kosta Koufos, 7-0 post, Ohio State: Koufos, the tallest player on the floor, definitely didn’t play like it in the first half, as he struggled to finish in the post, but in the second he showed the skills that have made him such a highly-touted prospect. Koufos ended up with 14 and eight and while he’s not Greg Oden, his range and skillset will make Ohio State fans very happy in time.
Kalin Lucas, 6-0 point guard, Michigan State: I didn’t get to see as much of this Lucas as I would have liked, reportedly due to injury, but he showed excellent quickness. Despite his small stature, if he can play tough D and run an offense, he’ll be in the mix for Michigan State early in his career.
Patrick Patterson, 6-8 post, undecided: In an all-star game setting, it can be tough to evaluate a post-oriented kid like Patterson, but he made it easy. The top available recruit in the nation had 12, 12 and three blocks and was a dominant inside presence. Wherever he ends up, he should be an immediate impact player, due to his physical nature, solid fundamentals and athletic ability.
Chandler Parsons, 6-8 wing, Florida: Like his more heralded high school and future college teammate Calathes, Parsons’ numbers (11, four boards, four dimes) don’t reflect his impact on the game. His versatility, athleticism, stroke and feel for the game were very impressive. With the Gators losing all of those juniors to the NBA Draft, expect to see a lot of Parsons
Durrell Summers, 6-4 wing, Michigan State: Summers didn’t show much as far as flashy ballhandling or deep range on his J, but he’s an active and bouncy athlete that isn’t afraid to go up against the tall trees in the paint. Considering Tom Izzo’s success with athletic swingmen, he seems like an excellent fit for the Spartans.
Chris Wright, 6-1 point guard, Georgetown: This version of Chris Wright certainly wasn’t shy about putting the ball up (game-high 17 shots), but he also shared the rock, handing out nine dimes. The compact, fundamentally-sound scoring point may have to bide his time behind Georgetown’s returning starting backcourt, but look for him to make his mark in the Big East in due time.
Spotted in the crowd: Rudy Gay, Chris Paul, Charlie Villaneuva, Andre Iguodala, Spike Lee, Marvin Harrison, Eddie George, Twista (performed), Jadakiss, Corey Stokes (a Jersey kid headed to Villanova in the fall), Ahmad Rashad and of course, Mike.
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By Aggrey Sam