The top high school recruits and international prospects have spent the week preparing for their upcoming battle in the annual Nike Hoop Summit (April 9th). We were able to attend several of the practices to see how the players look this year.
World Select Team
This year’s international roster lacks the big names that past few rosters have had (Donatas Motiejunas in 2009 and Enes Kanter in 2010), but does feature a number of intriguing NBA prospects. I caught their Wednesday practice, which was not only very intense, but very organized as well. The coaches and the players seem extremely committed to winning Saturday’s game, which is consistent with what we’ve seen over the last few years. They started off with warm-ups and stretching, before moving on to several drills and then finally, an intersquad scrimmage. Here’s a brief summary on what I witnessed of some of the notable players.
Lucas Nogueira – Lucas "Bebe" Nogueira has a lot of first round hype surrounding him, so there’s little doubt that many scouts have been keeping a close eye on him. Throughout Wednesday’s practice, he seemed to lose himself more than anybody else. He had trouble understanding the drills and he didn’t connect on very many of his jump shot attempts. Defensively, he found himself overmatched by the likes of 7’1" 279 lbs Przemyslaw Karnowski and 6’9" 243 lbs Bismack Biyombo. Nogueira still has a lot of weight to gain. He only clocked in at 218 lbs and he has trouble defending in the post due to his chicken legs. That’s troublesome for a player projected to play the center position in the NBA. However, he is still young and shows signs of promise. Nogueira is a legit 7’0" in shoes with a 7’6" wingspan. His length combined with his athleticism and instincts makes him a great shot blocker with a lot more potential in this area. He even surprised me by making several sharp passes to his teammates in the scrimmages. The US squad doesn’t have any players with the size of Biyombo or Karnowski, so Nogueira could have an easier time scoring during Saturday’s matchup.
Przemyslaw Karnowski – Karnowski was an absolute monster in practice. He’s a poor athlete, but that didn’t prevent him from throwing down some backboard-straining dunks. Nobody was able to keep his 7’1" 279 lbs frame from establishing position in the post. Despite being matched up against better athletes, Karnowski had his way down low. He also showcased his jump shot, knocking down several shots from around 18 feet. Defensively he had no trouble against Nogueira and Biyombo, and he showed good shot blocking ability. Still, his foot speed will definitely be a concern against a player like Anthony Davis. He’ll be an interesting player to watch on Saturday.
Bismack Biyombo – No international player is getting more buzz these days than Bismack Biyombo. That could be because of his recent measurements (6’9" in shoes, 243 lbs with less than 5% body fat and an outrageous 7’7" wingspan), or it could just be because people like saying his name (I certainly do). Biyombo didn’t showcase much of an offensive game on Wednesday, but he did bring a lot of energy to the practice. The athletic big-man showed a lot of toughness and activity on defense. He also boxed out and rebounded very well. Oregon Live Interview and footage.
Kyle Wiltjer – The future Kentucky Wildcat showcased the kind of potential he has. Though it was a relatively quiet practice for him, he shot the ball well from the perimeter and had some very nice moves in the post. Wiltjer has great footwork and an impressive touch around the rim. He’s also a solid ball-handler and passer. Wiltjer is a very smart forward who should be an impact player in Saturday’s game.
Dario Saric – Saric is the youngest player in the Nike Hoops Summit this year (1994 born), but he doesn’t play like it. Dario is a prolific outside shooter with a very versatile and well-rounded game. He has good ball-handling and passing ability. Saric needs to continue to add weight, but he has plenty of time for that.
Davis Bertans – Bertans is a forward with excellent length and perimeter skills. He assumed a leadership role and was directing the players through their stretching routine. Bertans shot the ball well and played tough defense. He showed during the drills that he can really shoot the ball well when coming off of screens due to his excellent form and footwork. His ability to play the small forward position at 6’10” will interest a lot of NBA teams.
Guo Ailun – Guo might have been the highlight of the practice. During the drills he showed off his excellent ball-handling and shooting skills. Coming off screens, his midrange game was automatic. During the scrimmage, he would penetrate into the lane — bouncing around his defenders like a billiard ball with his 6’4" frame — and set his teammates up for easy shots. Guo is also a scrappy defender. He competed hard the entire scrimmage and really showed that he belonged on the team.
Kevin Pangos – The future Gonzaga Bulldog had a very solid practice. He showcased his strong shooting ability and his overall craftiness offensively. Pangos should get plenty of playing time for the international team on Saturday.
USA Junior Select Team
This year’s US roster is made up of some of the most talented high school players in the nation. They lack the size of the international squad, but best them in terms of athleticism and pure scoring ability. Their late Thursday practice was not nearly as organized as the international’s, but that’s understandable as this was only the second practice that the team has had together. They started with warm-ups and stretching then moved on to various drills and to finish off the practice, they had a scrimmage with a separate team composed of local players from Portland and Portland State University.
Anthony Davis – Davis is billed by many as a top-3 pick in the 2012 NBA draft and it’s not hard to see why. Davis combines a versatile skill-set with excellent length, fluidity and athleticism. In Thursday’s practice he didn’t make much noise until the scrimmages. He had not one, but two beautiful outlet passes that set his teammates up for easy dunks. He was also on the finishing end of a nice alley-oop pass, courtesy of Brad Beal. Davis wasn’t shy about shooting from the perimeter, but throughout the drills and the scrimmage he failed to connect on very many shots. Defensively, Davis was able to intimidate players around the rim and did a good job matching up with the locals in the scrimmage. As the tallest person on the US roster (standing 6’10"), Davis is going to have his hands full with the size of the international team. It will be interesting to see how he competes with the likes of Karnowski and company. Davis will be giving up several inches and quite a few pounds but we’ll see how his athleticism compensates.
Austin Rivers – The offspring of NBA head coach Doc Rivers is known as a gifted offensive player, and that’s exactly what those of us in attendance witnessed on Thursday. Austin Rivers is a 6’3" combo guard with an innate scoring ability. He can get anywhere he wants to on the floor with his smooth yo-yo handle. He has a vast amount of moves off the dribble including hesitations and crossovers and he also has a gift when it comes to splitting double-teams. Because of this collection of moves off the dribble, Rivers can effortlessly penetrate at will. When he gets to the rim, he can create for others or use his impressive body control to finish plays at the rim. His range is seemingly unlimited, and he was nearly automatic from mid-range and behind the arc during the various drills. On top of his offensive ability, the future Blue Devil was very competitive while playing defense. Rivers will likely have his way with anybody who tries to matchup with him on Saturday. Definitely an MVP candidate.
James McAdoo – McAdoo was really quiet during Thursday’s late practice. He showed off his athleticism and size with a few nice rebounds and put-backs in traffic. Besides that, he didn’t shoot the ball very well (didn’t shoot much at all in the scrimmages) and we didn’t get to see that versatility that makes him such an interesting prospect. Still, he’s a smart player with good size and a high skill level. The US squad could use a strong performance from him on Saturday.
Brad Beal – Beal was definitely in his element on Thursday. He handled the ball well, played solid defense and connected on a good amount of his jump shots. He was sharp at both coming off of screens and spotting up in the corners. Beal has great potential in terms of a step-back jumper, which can be vital for a shooting guard creating separation from his defender. Overall, Beal is looking like a great prospect and should see a lot of success in Saturday’s game and beyond.
Tony Wroten – Wroten was another stand-out in Thursday’s practice. He played extremely pesky defense for the duration of both scrimmages, amassing a very high number of deflections, blocks and steals. He also handled the ball a lot, and showed off his dynamic playmaking ability. He’s not afraid of contact at all, using his solid 6’5" 205 lbs frame to stay on balance and finish plays at the rim. Like Beal, Wroten’s athleticism could be a lot to handle for the international team.
Rakeem Christmas – Christmas had a few nice plays, including a put-back jam and a few blocks. Outside of that he really struggled. He just couldn’t buy a jump shot (air-balled several), but nobody’s expecting him to be Ray Allen. The US team will need his size against the frontline of the international team.
Michael Gilchrist – Gilchrist played well in transition, using his athletic ability to throw down several impressive dunks. His energy and physical tools helped him provide a presence defensively in the scrimmages.
Quinn Cook – Cook sat out of practice with his knee wrapped. Supposedly his injury is not anything serious and he should be ready to go this weekend.