Roy Rana returns for his third stint as coach of the World Team, with Marin Sedlacek assisting in his 13th appearance at the Hoop Summit. Both seemed very pleased with a deep and talented roster that should be very competitive in the game on Saturday. The first four practices available to the scouts/agents/media have showed some signs of what these players may offer down the line and for many of them, the future is bright.
Andrew Wiggins (6-8, Canada, 1995):
After strong performances in the McDonald’s All-American game and Jordan Brand Classic, fatigue may be setting in some for a player considered to be the #1 prospect outside the NBA. At times he just seems to be going through the motions, with a college decision still on the horizon and really very little left to prove to scouts who love his long term potential. Nonetheless, there were some murmurs that they would like to see more energy and assertiveness.
Regardless, Wiggins stills manages to display his otherworldly athleticism. During the Wednesday morning practice in particular, his shot seemed to be falling much more regularly and he threw down an absolute hammer of a dunk and a few alley-oops that few in the world are capable of.
He might have had more energy during practices last year, but expect him to put it all on the line once the game starts. If he did not top or come close to his 20 points from the 2012 game, it will be a surprise. His measuring in at 6-8 (which looks to be legit) with a 7-foot wingspan should only further NBA scouts/GMs infatuation with “Maple Jordan”. His weighing in at only a few pounds heavier than he was last year was a bit surprising, but he is wiry strong and seems to have a frame for more muscle. In the meantime, he is an incredibly impressive athletic specimen and gives the World Team the best athlete on the floor.
Sergey Karasev (6-7, Russia, 1993)
Easily the most consistent long distance shooter during the practices, Karasev is a smooth lefty combo wing with NBA aspirations. He is a decent athlete, though when guarded by Wiggins or Livio Jean-Charles he has been bothered by their length/athleticism. As far as skill level is concerned, his is quite high and he seems to have numerous ways to score and needs very little room to get his shot off. He has definitely impressed in this setting and he more than likely will keep his name in the draft as his feedback is sure to be positive. He plays like a seasoned pro and will be the main guy the USA will not want to leave open on Saturday.
Dennis Schroeder (6-2, Germany, 1993)
Sometimes the speed of Team USA at the PG spot can cause major match-up issues for the World Team in the Hoop Summit. With Schroeder running the point, that will probably not be a huge issue. He is very quick, can penetrate, and his length and speed makes him a really pesky on the ball defender. He has not shot the ball exceptionally well, and driving seems to be more his style. He will definitely need to gain more weight down the line, though his experience is apparent and he has been the best leader at the PG position in these early practices.
Livio Jean-Charles (6-9, France, 1993)
A player who has impressed with his length and athleticism, Jean Charles has been a presence on most winning scrimmage teams. Has a high, somewhat slow, release on his jumper, though it still seems to be effective. Offensively he seems to be a slasher, though where he really shines is on the defensive end. Players constantly need to know where he is and he has provided numerous chase down blocks. His height and length (7-2.5 wingspan) make him plausible at either forward spot, though he would definitely have to bulk up as a 4 and may not possess the ball skills to be a 3. In Saturday’s game, he could be a big match-up problem and with Karasev and Wiggins, the World Team will be pretty hard to stop.
Mouhammadou Jaiteh (6-11, France, 1994)
Measured in at a size that makes him a legit center prospect, it is pretty hard to believe he is only 18 years old. Much more defined physically than Karl Towns, for instance, though at the same time not nearly the athlete, even getting rim checked on a few dunk attempts. Too high a release point on his shot as well and after getting out jumped a few times by his counterparts at center, settled in and really asserted his physical dominance on Wednesday. Easily the best rebounder of the bigs, "Mam" has been a terror on the offensive glass. Also possesses the most post skills, though he has a ways to go. His lack of lateral quickness and lift limit his upside, but do not be surprised if the long limbed Jaiteh is starting for the World Team in the middle.
Karl Towns (7-0, Dominican Republic, 1995)
The youngest player on either team this year, Towns skill set for his size stands out. He has also been very vocal, receptive to coaching and has been working hard during the practices. Towns’ athleticism may not be elite and his post game is still a work in progress, it just seems that he is working on both and has improved his body from his stint with the Dominican Republic men’s team this past summer. Has a feathery touch from the outside and has been taking reps at both the 4 and 5 spot. Also has done a pretty solid job of not drifting too far out on the perimeter, despite his ability to hit 3’s.. The upside is definitely there for Towns and while he has some things to work on, he appears to be extremely smart and willing.
Joel Embiid (7-0, Cameroon, 1994)
With a deep booming voice reminiscent of Dikembe Mutombo, Embiid has the physical and athletic tools that make him stand out as a likely NBA prospect. He is very quick for his size, has great length while literally throwing the ball down at times when he dunks. Another note is that while Towns was measured as being the same height, Embiid has at least an inch on him, so he is a “true” 7 footer.
But it’s not all positive for the last minute addition that will likely be the #1 center prospect in this high school class. Lets just say he has a LOT to work on. It is apparent that while he has made major strides in his three years of playing basketball, but his court awareness and feel for the game limit his impact. Pump fakes easily get him off his feet, and he is a constant threat to foul and he also neglected to call out a couple picks that leveled teammates.
Establishing post position is also a relatively new concept. He’s also fallen head over heels in love with shooting 3s, which is a huge detriment to his game. There has yet to be a scrimmage where the big man didn’t launch a three or a pull-up 18-20 footer. His mechanics are not bad, just makes everyone scratch their heads that a guy with his physical presence would do such a thing. Even after making a three, scouts were vocal about preferring to see him in the post.
Regardless, I have been keeping a very close eye on the young man and there is a lot to like. Bill Self will get him past his long-range obsession (hopefully he takes 0 three pointers next year) and he will also learn more of the intricacies of the game. Defensively he’ll be able to make an impact and once he learns to properly box out, he could be a terror on the glass. This is a guy who is still very much a work in progress and while one can see he is oozing with potential, he’ll need to be a sponge at Kansas next year.
Dante Exum (6-6, Australia, 1995)
As the leading man for an Australia team that took the silver medal at the U17 World Championships, Exum really turned heads with his ability to get to the basket. He is a combo guard and has grown a couple inches since last summer, which will likely move him from a combo to a full time 2. Still only 17, his body will need some time to develop and he has been a tad inconsistent from mid and long-range.
What he does possess is athletic ability on par with what many come to expect of the top American high school prospects. He is not afraid of contact and has gotten to the line as well as anyone on the World Team. The rumor is that he will be playing his last year of high school in the USA and he should be recruited by a number of major schools.
Playing both guard spots, expect him to possibly take back-up duties at the point during the game. If he does come to the states, he should be amongst the top 10-15 prospects in the 2014 HS Class and should garner McDonald’s All-American status. He and Ben Simmons played very well as a duo; if Exum stays in the HS Class of 2014 they could both be playing in this contest next year.
Nikola Ivanovic (6-3, Montenegro, 1994)
Very heady player with visible leadership ability, though lacking in athleticism as far as the pro level is concerned. After Karasev, Ivanovic has been the most consistent outside shooter and at times has bothered people by being in the right place at the right time. Has played better off of the ball as opposed to bringing it up the floor, though he is not bad at changing speeds and can catch defenders off balance. His basketball IQ is solid, but it seems that his lateral quickness may limit his NBA potential.
Tomas Dimsa (6-6, Lithuania, 1994)
A late addition and last minute arrival, Dimsa has some nice athleticism and has an ability to make flashy plays without going overboard. He stuck a few triples in the scrimmages, though transition seems to be more of his bread and butter, as well as slashing to the basket. Has not put the ball on the floor much and while he measured at 6-6, he may be a tad less with a wingspan not much longer than his height. Definitely a player to watch and a step up from the Lithuanian players since Valenciunas as far as future NBA prospects are concerned. Physical strength is a real concern however.
Gabriel Deck (6-7, Argentina, 1995)
After starring for Argentina at the U17 and U18 levels, the competition in these practices has been fairly tough for young Gabriel Deck. While some have given him Scola comparisons, they seem to come more from being from Argentina. He has worked hard and is the lone player with a translator; the issue is that he is an undersized 4 on a team full of giants. Not overly athletic, though he seems to know his limitations and is willing to fight for rebounds, close baskets. He shot exceptionally well from the line during his junior play for Argentina, just has not had much opportunity to show this during the practices. Unless he gains a few inches or greatly improves his skill set, his NBA prospects appear limited.
That is all for now, will have more after the next two practices on Thursday/Friday, along with a synopsis of how each does during the game.
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