In a class that is known for its elite big men, it was the guards who stood out on the first day of practice.
Players who impressed:
Cliff Alexander: 6’9 240 PF: Kansas
Alexander takes no chances within 8 ft. of the rim as he dunks everything. He is a physical specimen who brings to mind some Amare Stoudemire comparisons and if he can develop some consistent post moves he will be unguardable. On the defensive side of the ball Alexander is a great shot blocker but the amount of shots he alters is amazing he causes a ton of turnovers based on his presence alone. In the argument of Alexander vs Okafor, Alexander showed a lot more energy on Day 1.
Stanley Johnson 6’7 220: SF Arizona:
Johnson is an explosive athlete who played for California powerhouse Mater Dei HS. Very unselfish player who loves to get his teammates involved, his handles have improved greatly. As his game matures could eventually play some point guard and will be a match – up nightmare for opposing wings. Not a great shooter but uses quick first step to attack the basket and finishes strong at the rim. Johnson has the length and quickness to become a lockdown defender. Also a very good rebounder and competed in every drill today.
D'Angelo Russell 6’5 190: Combo Guard Ohio State:
Russell is one of the best shooters in the class and today was no different as he shot the ball well from the perimeter and showed a consistent mid-range game. Russell has good court vision and should eventually evolve into a point guard where he will ease Buckeyes fans concerns over losing Aaron Craft. Russell utilizes the ball fake and jab step as well as anyone in the class and his strong basketball IQ stood out today.
Tyus Jones 6’1 180: PG Duke:
Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how good Tyus Jones is. He does all the little things right without the flash of an Emmanuel Mudiay or Tyler Ulis. Jones made great decisions during fast break drills often times throwing pin point bounce passes on the break or keeping it himself and finishing with contact. Jones will undoubtedly be Jahlil Okafors best friend at Duke and will give the Blue Devils the true point guard they have been searching for.
Grayson Allen 6’4 195 SG Duke:
The least heralded of the Duke signees was arguably the most impressive on Day 1. Allen was the best 3 pt. shooter on the court today and also showed an ability to shoot off the dribble. Even more impressive was Allen’s athleticism including an amazing block where he met Kansas signee Kelly Oubre at the rim. The Jon Scheyer comparison will be inevitable but this kid can shoot it and play above the rim.
Tyler Ulis 5’9 150: PG Kentucky:
What Ulis lacks in size he makes up for in speed and quickness, he routinely blew past defenders today and threw some amazing passes that his teammates just couldn’t hold onto. It’s a scary thought that Coach Cal will have this young man for 3- 4 years as he will bring stability to the UK program. Intense competitor who doesn’t back down from anyone.
Reid Travis: 6’8 240 PF: Stanford
Travis will not wow you with his athleticism but he was the most consistent big man at today’s practice. He is very physical on both ends of the floor and embraces contact finishing strong around the rim. He has great hand and footwork and his motor is nonstop. His ceiling may not be as high as a Cliff Alexander or Myles Turner but he will be an immediate impact player in the Pac – 12.
The North Carolina Trio: It was a rough first day for the future Tar Heels as Joel Berry could not keep Tyler Ulis from getting into the lane. He also turned the ball over quite a bit many of which were unforced. The year of sitting behind Marcus Paige will definitely benefit Berry. Meanwhile swingman Justin Jackson shows promise but is painfully thin and could not finish at the rim against stronger players. In fairness, Theo Pinson showed the ability to get teammates involved and is a solid ball handler who could play some point if needed, however he too often goes for the homerun play resulting in a turnover. All three of these young men have potential but Berry and Jackson seemed out of their league today.
Kevon Looney: 6’9 210 F: UCLA: Looney is an athletic freak who runs the floor like a gazelle but struggled on both ends of the floor today. On defense he did not show the willingness to get in a stance and guard. While on offense his erratic play resulted in turnovers. Looney is very skilled but it’s hard to point out what exactly his strengths are at this point.
The Big Men: Outside of Alexander and Travis the bigs did not impress today. Jahlil Okafor struggled to catch post feeds and did not play with a ton of effort. The Kentucky duo of Karl Towns and Trey Lyles did nothing to stand out and Myles Turner did not show his normal shot blocking ability. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day for these talented bigs.