2007 Las Vegas AAU Tournaments - Day One
By Aran Smith
The 2007 Las Vegas AAU events (Nike Main Event, adidas Super 64 and Reebok Summer Championship) got underway on Sunday but with Sonny Vaccaro (the man who created Vegas summer basketball and all three tournaments), out of the game, the match ups and opening rounds lack the same fireworks of a year ago when the Big Time Tournament featured match ups such as Derrick Rose vs. OJ Mayo, plus an unbelievably stacked So Cal All Stars roster that included Kevin Love, Renardo Sidney, Brandon Jennings, Taylor King, and Daniel Hackett.
This year each of the shoe camps has a good deal of talent, but the talent is spread further around, making seeing a high number of prospects in one setting tougher, and cause for more running around. (which wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't so darn hot in vegas!) It should also be noted that the current senior class doesn't appear to be nearly as talented as last year's class.
[img_assist|nid=3737|title=Jrue Holiday - Photo: Mike Burnley|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=320|height=480]We got started at Cox Pavilion with the New York Gauchos who feature a terrific 6-1 point guard by the name of Kembra Walker. The UConn bound guard shows a great understanding of the position plus the quickness and athletic ability to take his game to the highest level. He's in great hands heading to play under Jim Calhoun at UConn. He displayed the ability to find teammates with quick and imaginative passes.
The Atlanta Celtics feature one of the top juniors in the country in Derrick Favors. Favors is a 6-8 forward with a big wingspan and tremendous athletic ability. He has an NBA frame right now plus the agility to run the floor like a gazelle. With an inside outside type of skill set, he reminded me of a poor man's Michael Beasley. He lacks Beasley's raw explosiveness and skill level, but his maturity level and coach-ability appears to be much better than Beasley. He was most impressive blocking a number of shots of the Indiana Elite. Also impressive for the Atlanta Celtics was Lebron lookalike Chris Singleton. Singleton has a long, athletic frame and shows a willingness to hustle. We'll have to see more of him to get a better feel for his skill level, but he left a positive impression. Favors' teammate Howard Thompkins sat out apparently due to injury.
After a half of watching the Celtics it was downstairs to the Cox auxiliary gym to see (last year's battle of the camps champions) Pump and Run All Stars which feature UCLA recruit Jrue Holiday plus the Wear twins David Wear and Travis Wear. The pair is extremely agile and reminds some of Dirk Nowitzki with their style of play and soft touch.
Holiday and Pump and Run took on the Playaz Basketball club in a very close match up. With Ben Howland watching on (seen in photo with hat on), Holiday dueled the surprising Playaz guards in an exciting match up. Holiday has such a smooth all around game, he makes things look effortless, and with such a great feel and body strength he'll surely be an instant star in Westwood.
USA Blue 105 USA White 104
[img_assist|nid=3738|title=Dwight Howard - Photo: Mike Burnley|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=320|height=386]With the USA Team in town preparing for the 2008 Olympics, we stepped over from the Cox Pavilion to Thomas and Mack to watch the USA Team scrimmage itself in the State Farm Challenge.
The game turned out to be very entertaining and a terrific barometer for a number of players with a bunch of dream match ups including Lebron matching up with Kobe, Jason Kidd facing Deron Williams, and Dwight Howard going head up with Amare Stoudemire.
Jason Kidd vs Deron Williams is becoming close to a toss up as Williams' improvement over the past year has been phenomenal. In the NBA Kidd still has the upper hand on Williams, but that may not last long, and Williams may actually be the better International player due to his shooting ability. Kidd should definitely be on the Olympic team in Beijing, but Williams should definitely get strong consideration as well.
Kevin Durant looked very sharp running the floor alongside Kobe and knocking down midrange jumpers as well as dunking on the break. Durant already looks completely comfortable playing with the game's elite and he's just 18, wow!
Lebron was overheard courtside saying this game was much more fun than the All Star game.
The game turned out extremely exciting with a Lebron vs Kobe finish. Kobe's 3 pointer found the bottom of the net, while Lebron's desperation game winner missed.
With such a tremendous group of players coming into their own, Team USA seems to be in good shape heading into the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Figuring out which pieces fit in the best with one another might be the biggest challenge to make sure the USA team is not deficient in any area. Most importantly, this team appears to understand how difficult winning will be, and has a real hunger to bring gold back to the country where the sport was invented.
We stepped out early to catch the end of the Ohio Basketball Club for a peak at rising senior and Ohio State bound center BJ Mullens. Mullens has a lot of hype surrounding him, listed as the #2 pick for the 2009 draft on NBADraft.net, and he did not disappoint. He shows a great sense for the game plus he's extremely agile. His team lost the game in overtime to Kansas City Pump and Run and he seemed to turn his ankle in the OT period. More on him in the coming days.
After that it was off to Foothill gym in Henderson to catch some Reebok games. The games turned out to be mostly blow outs so it wasn't exactly seeing prospects being challenged.
Florida based Team Breakdown team made quick work of their opponents the Baltimore Stars. They boast a one two punch of junior Kenny Boyton and super sophomore Brandon Knight. The backcourt plays terrifically together and they are complimented by a deep and athletic group of teammates. And although we haven't seen all 8 teams that are supposedly above the rest, these guys should surely be one of the contenders for the Reebok Championship.