After losing the last two games, this year’s version of Team USA was the “Redeem Team” in the Nike Hoop Summit. Every player on the team had been part of USA Basketball in some form, either in a Mini Camp, National Team or in the 3×3 competition. The two youngest players on last years U19 World Championships Gold Medal winning team, Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor, were arguably the two MVP’s during this seasons Hoop Summit contest. USA Basketball did a great job of instituting these players in the program and identifying talent at a young age while getting them accustomed to international play.
With Mike Jones and Cory Alexander back at the helm, the change this season seemed to be a focus on cohesive team play. There was a strong family presence and this team had a familiarity that the past two versions of Team USA did not seem to possess. The talent level did not seem to be as deep as last years game on the whole, though there were a lot of great kids and definite NBA upside amongst this group of top 2014 High School players. After attending all four of the USA Team’s Practices and Team USA’s 84-73 win over the World team, here’s a recap of how they looked:
Okafor’s text book footwork absolutely stands out and is commented upon quite often when talking about what makes him such a standout as a post prospect. Even with that, he also possesses huge, soft hands and a monster base, which is tough to move out of the post. While his athleticism does not stand out much, he has quick, nimble feet and has numerous moves to score near the basket. At close to 6-11, his massive wingspan (7-5) and standing reach (9-2.5) give him more than enough size to translate to the NBA as a center. Despite lacking great explosiveness, he does possess good body control.
Jahlil was able to offset a rather quiet start in the game with a big 2nd half that really set the tone. He finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, 5 of them on the offensive end. Once he got the ball in deep post position, it seemed that no one on the World team had much of a chance of stopping him. Some things for him to focus on would be working out of double teams. When doubled, Okafor sometimes can be forced into making a bad pass, which were the cause of at least a couple of his 4 TO’s on the game. His conditioning seems solid, though he could definitely continue to improve on it. With his advanced post game and physical attributes, he looks like one of the sure things in this class and he should be among the top picks in the 2015 NBA Draft, barring any setbacks. Duke gets the monstrous post presence they were lacking last season.
Tyus Jones PG
The last two Hoop Summit’s, the USA Team has had a difficult time getting good ball distribution from their point guards. That was Tyus Jones’ role on this team and he played it incredibly well. He got off to a slow start the first practice scrimmage, before quietly taking over down the stretch to get Team USA the lead. It foreshadowed what Jones ended up doing in the game, as he was the USA’s go-to guy down the stretch, scoring a variety of lay-ups and floaters. He has a great court sense, plays the passing lanes well, while also being adept at running the pick and roll. He played a team high 32 minutes, scoring 13 points, dishing out 6 assists (with 3 TO’s) and accumulating 5 steals.
While he has great vision and an advanced understanding of the game, there are still questions around his eventual NBA projection. He is not a particularly explosive leaper and does not really blow by the opposition. His outside shot is solid, though he can definitely work on consistency and shot selection. Lack of size also could end up making life a tad difficult at the next level, as he had his passes knocked down quite often even in this setting. Even so, Mike Krzyzewski is getting a gamer who should make an immediate impact. It is no guarantee that Tyus ends up being a “one-and-done” much less an eventual first rounder, though he seems to have a chance down the line to turn into the type of cerebral floor general that NBA teams covet.
The third Duke prospect in the game, Justise came off of the bench to bring large amounts of energy, strong defense and had a team high 16 points in the game. Winslow was arguably the MVP for Team USA, providing an energy spark with 6 rebounds, 4 offensive, and a nice 3-pointer to beat the 1st half buzzer. Defense looks to be his calling card, while his offensive game seems a tad raw. His outside shot is something that will need work, as his release seems to change with every attempt. His attitude looks to be fantastic and while he may not be seen as an elite athlete, he threw down some really nice alley-oops. Duke gets a slasher and perimeter defender who should fill a role immediately, more than likely staying for a few years before considering the NBA.
Easily the most consistent wing player in practice, Johnson was a major standout on defense. His defensive versatility next season should allow him to play huge minutes right away and should complement Rondae Hollis-Jefferson perfectly, assuming he comes back. At 237-pounds, he still has a decent ability to handle the ball. The release on his shot needs to be raised, though he was again probably the most consistent of the 3-men hitting from deep in scrimmage. He finished with only 7 points and 3 rebounds in the game, though he had the task of being the primary defender on Emmanuel Mudiay. It was a job he filled admirably and he seems to be the most NBA ready among the Team USA wings. Scouts commented that he’s an absolute winner and one that will fit in perfectly with any team due to the skills and approach that he brings to the table.
Kelly Oubre SF
Physical attributes standout for Oubre, who has a massive 7-2 wingspan, obscene for a 6’6.5 wing player. Even so, he struggled with his outside shot in practice and he definitely needs to gain confidence in his handle. Maybe he’s a"gamer" as it seems that he’s actually was better at shooting during games, as in the actual game he finished with a solid stat line of 14 points, 5 boards and 3 assists. His athleticism is clear to all, as his dunk on Mike Moser was one of the most impressive plays during the week of practices. What he needs work on is building strength, overall awareness on both ends of the floor and tightening his handle in half court situations, and general feel for the game. It appeared he can work on his lower body as well, getting more power from his base. His upside is apparent, as his length is a tremendous advantage. He may struggle some as a freshman, but appears to be a guy that could be one and done just due to his immense potential.
Though he measured in about an inch shorter than his typically listed height, his 7-3.5 wingspan, 9-foot standing reach and 251-pound frame all nullify any size concerns for Alexander as a 4. His trademark is being explosive near the rim and he had more ferocious, punishing dunks than any other USA Team member in practice. He is very difficult to box out and his length leads to some massive rejections. His post footwork is a work in progress and while he has added range to his jumper, he is still not overly confident away from the basket. Cliff had a pretty quiet game and he has only been playing organized basketball for just over four years. His development has been quite positive and if Joel Embiid is any indication, Bill Self could do wonderful things to get the most out of him at Kansas. Will probably have a very short stay, as he has physical attributes and motor are tailor made for the NBA.
After sitting out his junior season of high school due to knee issues, Turner shot up the rankings due to his amazing play during the summer. Close to 7-feet and coming in at over 240-pounds, Myles has some bounce along with a soft touch on his jumper. His lone basket in the game was a long two and he hit a few from deep in scrimmages. Beyond this, his post game seems to be a work in progress and he needs to work on his base. While he gets some decent lift off of the bounce, his overall movement is possible cause for concern. He left the game due to an ankle injury, which while it is not serious, also points to the concerns that his legs still look to present him. His leg flexibility and dexterity are a big concern to scouts. Hopefully, he is just growing into his body and it will fade in time. This still should definitely be monitored as he develops next season. Still uncommitted, Myles should be deciding on a school soon. They will get a post player with a lot of upside offensively and a major threat as a shot blocker.
Theo Pinson SG/SF
With enough height and length to eventually be considered a SF, Pinson showed that he possesses some guard skills as far as his handle and vision. He also shot the ball pretty well in the practice scrimmage sessions, though he could work on his release and shot selection. Strength will be the next step to making him an impact college player, though he showed a quick first step and aggression as a perimeter defender. He was quiet during the game with 3 points, though he also had 4 assists/rebounds and a couple of steals. Should get solid minutes right away at North Carolina playing both spots on the wing. Pinson has a lot of upside with his length and athleticism, but will need to get stronger and more consistent to realize his talent.
Reid Travis PF
A late addition to Team USA, Travis is built like an absolute tank and definitely did not look out of place. He was among the most consistent performers in their scrimmages, especially the first night when he was among the leading scorers. Even in the game, he made his presence felt with 6 points off of the bench. Not overly explosive and limited shooting the ball, he also will take time to develop as a defender at the college level. His lack of ideal height for the PF spot more than likely keeps him in college for a while. Stanford gets a player who has the brain and brawn to contribute immediately, not to mention he could possibly develop into a big time performer once he gets a few years under his belt.
Joel Berry PG
The Florida high school legend had a pretty quiet week and he was the lone player on the team held scoreless. He had a pretty tough time creating space off of the dribble, though he did show some range and had a pretty solid final practice on Friday. He had a blocked shot in the game, as well as having a nice one in the Thursday practice, though both came off situations where he seemingly got beat to the basket. Joel is a heady player with experience and will give Roy Williams another floor general that has dual threat ability at the PG.
Shooting was a major concern for Team USA during the past two games and Blackmon seemed to be an insurance policy if this became an issue. Playing only 5 minutes, Blackmon made 1-2 three pointers and was the most consistent long-range shooter on the team during practices. His size is not ideal for the NBA level, but his ability to stretch the floor should be huge for Indiana. With solid length to somewhat offset his lack of ideal size, his work over a few years in college will determine where he ends up as a pro.
Team USA had a couple of practices against some local (Oregon) players, just about all of them having played college basketball. Standing at around 6-feet tall and having participated in a couple of Team USA mini camps, 16-year old sophomore Payton Pritchard was the lone high school product. Already a two time State champion and this years Oregon 6A player of the year, Pritchard did not look out of place at all once he came into the game. His confidence and poise were both on full display in front of a room full of NBA scouts, as he scored a three, a couple of strong drives to go along with a handful of assists and steals. Generally considered a top 50-prospect in the HS Class of 2016, if this were an audition for the 2016 version of Team USA at the Hoop Summit, Pritchard definitely put himself on the short list.
Mike Moser PF
The Oregon senior was not allowed to play in front of NBA scouts during Thursday practice, he was probably the biggest name we have seen go up against Team USA over the past three years of scrimmages. Moser immediately made his presence felt, giving Cliff Alexander a sneak preview of the stretch 4’s he might have to face once he gets to college. Moser scored 11 quick points, giving his group a 14-6 lead over Team USA in Friday’s first scrimmage. Eventually, Team USA gained more of a concept of what Moser brought to the table and slowed him down, though he did finish with the most points in the scrimmages by quite a bit. He also caught the bad end of a thunderous Kelly Oubre throw down, though he definitely had his moments as well. Moser was probably not the reason Team USA won the game on Saturday, it just definitely did not hurt to go up against a seasoned stretch 4 with the shooting ability he possesses. Moser’s lack of strength and fluidity gives him virtually no chance as an NBA forward, but he could have some success in lower levels in Europe.