adidas Nations Wrap-Up

By Aggrey Sam

Although I’m the resident high school basketball expert here, I’d put my college hoops knowledge up against anyone. And not to step on the toes of Cub and Jeff, but when observing the college workouts and scrimmages when I was covering adidas Nations in Dallas, I made a few observations. Last year, some of the players to attend included lottery picks Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Eric Gordon and DJ Augustin (not to mention first-round pick Serge Ibaka, who played on the African team with the high-schoolers), but was somehow lightly attended by pro personnel. This year, the level of talent wasn’t as high, but it drew many more scouts and other NBA team officials. Below are the 10 players who stood out to me the most.

Cole Aldrich, 6-11 sophomore center, Kansas: Aldrich (who I wrote about his senior year of high school) built on the momentum of his national-semifinal game performance by physically abusing opposing big men at the camp and wowing scouts with his athleticism and touch (peep his old-school, over-the-head shooting for next season), ensuring that Bill Self has at least a little (besides Sherron Collins) left in the cupboard.

Olu Ashaolu, 6-6 freshman wing, Louisiana Tech: Olu, one of the nicest kids you’ll ever meet, redshirted at Karl Malone’s alma mater last season (Malone is actually on staff there), but the Canadian product put his off year to good use, developing a nice mid-range and slashing game to go with his power, hops and rugged low-post game.

Shaun Dumas, 5-11 senior point guard, Xavier (La.): Dumas, the shortest player in the college workouts (you know you’re a midget, Shaun), picked up where he left off at last year’s event, but without the presence of the aforementioned lottery picks, the NAIA star’s quickness, defense, court presence and overall leadership were on center stage and attracted quite a bit of attention from the pro scouts in attendance. [That’s Dumas in the picture going against UCLA’s Darren Collison].

Jrue Holiday, 6-3 freshman combo guard, UCLA: Holiday, who participated in the high school portion of the camp a year ago, didn’t miss a beat while playing with the older guys, as his explosiveness, athleticism and all-around play showed that his prep hype was more than deserved and that he should be counted upon to make an early splash in the Pac-10.

Scotty Hopson, 6-5 freshman wing, Tennessee: The only other true freshman in attendance wasn’t too shabby either, as Hopson’s versatile offensive game—the Kentucky native jumps out of the gym, has range for days and gets to the bucket with ease—gave defenders fits.

Gani Lawal, 6-8 sophomore power forward, Georgia Tech: Highly touted out of high school, the ATL-area native had an up-and-down rookie campaign at his hometown school, but the explosiveness, versatility and skill that made his name in the prep ranks were back in affect among some of the best of his peers and should lead to a productive year for him.

Arinze Onuaku, 6-9 junior center, Syracuse: Already more imposing than most NBA power forwards, Onuaku beasted the competition in Dallas inside on both ends and on the glass, but also showed nimble footwork and a soft touch, weapons that should be prominently displayed this upcoming season–if he can finally stay healthy.

Jarvis Varnado, 6-9 junior center, Mississippi State: Somewhat of a sleeper nationally, the soft-spoken Varnado was arguably the nation’s most intimidating defensive force last season, but his surprisingly skilled offensive game was a welcome revelation, as he showed he could step out to hit jumpers, maneuver for buckets on the block, run the floor for dunks on the break and finish with power.

Terrence Williams, 6-6 senior small forward, Louisville: One of the best players at this event last year, Williams (who I personally thought would have tested the draft waters last year) was at a different level than the other players in Dallas, as he was either too strong, too quick, too skilled, too athletic or simply too good for other players to handle.