USA Midwest [3-0, 1st Place]Jabari Parker
Parker was considered one of the top prospects at the event, and he certainly proved why. The versatile forward and Global Challenge MVP did just about everything well. He’s a pure shooter, looking just as comfortable creating his own shot off the dribble as he does in spot-up opportunities. He made shots out to 25 feet, both on-balance and off-balance. Parker may lack elite athleticism or lightning-fast speed, but he seems to effortlessly glide around the court at all times, with or without the ball. His handle is extremely refined, allowing him to get to the basket rather easily. On top of that, he’s an excellent passer, due to his incredibly high offensive awareness. Defensively, he guarded everyone from Julius Randle to Andrew Wiggins and certainly held his own in this regard, despite fouling out in the championship game against Canada. Performances like this are typical for Parker, and I think it’s only a matter of time before he distinguishes himself as the top player in his class.
Poythress wasn’t a starter or one of the leading scorers, but he was one of the best players on the team. He’s a long, athletic, defensive-minded forward in the mold of an Al-Farouq Aminu. He’s not much of a shooter and his handle is unrefined but he manages to be an effective offensive player with his aggressiveness. He is constantly looking to slash and score around the rim, usually finishing with authority or at the very least getting himself to the free-throw line. Defensively, he’s able to contest shooters on the wing due to his length and quick reaction time. Poythress wasn’t the biggest name here, but a few weeks ago Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski went out of his way to try to recruit him, so he must have thought there was something special in the kid.Archie Goodwin
Goodwin’s talent was on full-display at the Global Challenge. The Swiss-army knife of a guard was drilling threes, making sharp passes, penetrating to the rim and finishing in transition. He started off a bit slow, only scoring six points on day 1, but he followed that up with 23 points on day 2 and another 23 on day 3. He was one of the top performers down the stretch of the championship game, scoring five straight points down the stretch to give his team the lead, and then coming up with a steal to ensure that they kept it. Goodwin is silky-smooth and athletic, certainly one of the top prospects on the Midwest squad.
Canada [2-1, 2nd Place]Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins continues to dominate players much older than he is, and he does it without appearing to exert himself at all. The kid is probably the best athlete who played in the event, displaying remarkable explosiveness with the ability to get up and over just about anyone who tries to contest him around the rim. He’s ultra-fluid when running the floor and has a quick first step coupled with a nice handle that allows him to get to the rim at will. He’s a pure three point shooter with impressive range for a player who hasn’t even started his sophomore season yet. Wiggy ended up being Canada’s top scorer, averaging 21 points per game. Obviously, this kid has an unreal amount of potential. It’ll be fun to see how he develops over the years.Anthony Bennett
Bennett turned out to be one of my favorite players at the event. He’s a hybrid forward that can rebound like a 4, but shoot like a 3. He played well all three days of the tournament, finishing with 48 points total (16.0 per game) on 62.5% shooting. Offensively he’s an attacker, working hard to get himself opportunities around the basket. When he gets inside, he’s relentless, usually trying to finish everything with a powerful two-handed dunk. Bennett is also a threat on the perimeter, as he’s a fantastic spot-up shooter from three-point range. He’s also an intense rebounder, fighting to keep possessions alive and hustling after every loose ball. Despite being nothing short of a workhorse on the court, Bennett seemed more laid-back when he wasn’t playing. He was loudly cheering on his teammates, dancing during timeouts and joking around with the kids in charge of dispensing Gatorade. He really reminded me of Dwight Howard in the way that he was a warrior in the game but much more lighthearted on the bench. Anthony Bennett is going to be a stud at the next level, and he projects pretty well to the NBA too. Don’t sleep on him.Sim Bhullar
Bhullar was a big weapon for Canada in their final two games against USA East and USA Midwest. There simply wasn’t anybody that could contest a 7’5" 300 lbs center. Bhullar is pretty skilled for a player of his size. He has very big, very soft hands that allow him to catch virtually every pass that is thrown to him. Because of the space he takes up, he is also a considerable rebounder. Defensively he isn’t great as he lacks the mobility and athleticism to contest a lot of shots or stay in front of the man he’s guarding, but he manages to come up with a couple blocks per game due to his length. The Xavier recruit needs to continue to improve his conditioning, as he appears to become sluggish down the stretch of games.
USA East [2-1, 3rd Place]Nerlens Noel
Noel certainly has a lofty reputation in the basketball community. He’s considered by many as the top defender in the country, and has even been drawing some comparisons to Bill Russell. Unfortunately, he failed to show that kind of potential during the Global Challenge. Noel finished the tournament averaging a measly 5.3 points per game, and even his defense was sketchy. He bit on a lot of pump fakes, which put him out of position and set the offense up for easy scores. He missed wide-open layups and fumbled passes that would have set him up for open shots around the basket. He was overwhelmed in the first two games, and Game 1 was against Chinese-Taipei, a team with only one player over 6’6" (Le Te-Wei, who is listed as 6’8"). He was also a non-factor on the glass, being easily boxed-out by much smaller players. He bounced back a bit in his third game, in which scored 10 points and pulled in 14 rebounds. There’s no doubt Noel has a ton of potential, and even when he’s playing poorly like he was this weekend, he’s an intimidating presence in the paint that alters a ton of shots. He’s a very green prospect, who was matched up against more experienced players, so struggles like this should be expected. Noel will need to add strength and develop more patience when contesting shots if he wants to be considered for the top overall pick in the 2014 draft.Omar Calhoun
The future UConn Huskie showed off his vast offensive skill-set and his high basketball IQ. He shot the ball well and was the leading scorer in the tournament, averaging 21.7 points per game. He looks very comfortable playing off the ball, finding seems in the defense and getting himself open looks on the perimeter. He’ll definitely by a great half-court player, but he also thrives in transition. He runs the court well and is typically mistake-free in fast break opportunities. Unlike a lot of the other young players (who tend to get a little sloppy/excited), Calhoun will almost always get off a high percentage shot in transition. He’s athletic, smart and skilled. He’ll be very successful at the next level and possibly beyond.Ricardo Ledo
Supremely confident with a penchant for making spectacular plays, Ricardo Ledo seems to leave a strong impression whenever he plays in front of a crowd. He’s an explosive athlete and a strong finisher around the basket; one that’s not afraid of contact whatsoever. Ledo relishes any chance he has to challenge the defense at the rim, and with his strength and athleticism, he’s usually the victor. He does have a reputation for sacrificing the easy play for the fancy one, and he showed that on day 1 when he successfully pulled off a self ally-oop off the backboard. When he’s not aggressively driving to the rim or throwing down dazzling dunks, Ledo is usually shooting from the perimeter, mostly with positive results. He’s a big talent with lottery potential.
USA West [1-2, 4th Place]Julius Randle
Ranked the top overall player in his class by ESPN and it’s not hard to see why. The super-skilled big man can do things that are rare in players his size. Displaying a tighter-than-expected handle with a nice crossover and good use of hesitation dribbles, he appears fully comfortable with the ball in his hands on the perimeter. In fact, it’s not uncommon at all to see him lead the fast break all by himself, before setting up a teammate for an easy basket with a dazzling pass. Randle had the no-look pass working well all weekend, making defenders look foolish. The court vision he displays is nothing short of remarkable for somebody who projects to play in the post. His foot speed and athleticism were also impressive, and definitely gave him an advantage over the centers who were trying to guard him. Defensively, he’s not much of a shot-blocker, but has excellent anticipation playing the passing lanes and showed the ability to pick-pocket other players to start a fast break opportunity. Randle’s size serves him well around the basket, both in terms of rebounding and scoring. The long term inside/outside potential he has is fascinating. He’ll likely be a top-5 pick when he declares for the NBA draft.Aaron Gordon
Gordon was always one of the most energetic players on the court. He was a game-changer with his length and athleticism, contesting everything around the rim and getting a hand on every loose ball. He appeared to be one of the top rebounders of the weekend, getting a lot of put-backs and sometimes just out-hustling everybody else. Offensively he also made a big impact. His jumper was money out to the three-point line, and he scored 64 points total (21.3 points per game), 30 of them on day 3. He looked pretty comfortable with the ball in his hands too. At one point he was controlling the ball at the top of the key and maneuvered his way into the paint before he finished at the rim and drawing a foul. Despite being the youngest player on the team, Gordon was one of the stand-outs on the West. There’s a lot to like about him for the future.Brandon Ashley
Ashley was overshadowed by Randle and Gordon, but played pretty well regardless. He is one of the top recruits in the class of 2012 because of his length and athleticism, both attributes he displayed during the tournament. Ashley only averaged 10.3 points per game, but played solid defense and showed that he has a lot of potential for the future.