By Michael Visenberg and Evan Tomes
Each year, adidas Nations is known for showcasing a great deal of international talent, and this year featured some exciting new prospects along with some improved veterans. With Canada and Africa both making the Monday ESPNU televised games, there were quite a few players on both teams that will factor heavily into the next few high school classes. All of the teams seemed improved from past years, here is a look at the brightest talents.
Chol Marial 7-2 190 C Cheshire Academy 2019 (South Sudan)
After scoring a total of 18 points in his first four games, Marial stepped up big against Team Rose in the televised matchup for third place, matching his output for the week, scoring 18 points on 8-for-9 shooting. He also blocked three shots in the game showing nice elevation, and utilizing his abnormally long arms. He also showed advanced ambidexterity throughout the event; during the matchup against Team Rose, he scored on back-to-back possessions hitting a jump hook with his left and right hand respectively. With great coordination, fluidity, and ball rotation; he has confidence in his midrange shooting, finishing the event shooting 72.7% from the field. Marial averaged 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, while showing flashes of his high level long term potential. He wears a smaller-than you-would-expect size 14 shoes and has smaller hands than one would think given his size, though this seems to help with his shot and gives him rare agility for a player with a reported 7’10 wingspan. He still struggles in reacting to plays and also struggled some in catching and handling the ball in transition, but he also can get the ball off from places few others can. As he gains strength and experience, expect big things from Marial in the future.
Lamine Diane 6-7 190 SG/SF Findlay Prep 2017 (Senegal)
Diane went into the event with only one college offer but expect his interest to intensify. Diane is an aggressive and a talented scorer, leading the event scoring 27.7 points per game. He has the ability to make contested jumpers but settles and lacks consistency, making 3.5 threes per game in first four games then going 0-10 from three in his final two games combined. He draws a lot of fouls and provides a scorer’s mentality. However, he can be a black hole at times, not passing much, but has the ability to score when the defense is set, regardless of the flow of the game. He can work on moving without the ball and too often has tunnel vision when he puts the ball down. While he’s good at taking the ball to the hole, his driving tends to be predetermined and doesn’t have a counter when his initial gap closes; forcing a desperate pass or picking up his dribble in the middle of the paint with the defense collapsed on him. His ball handling can improve as well as protecting the ball when attacking. He has the length and athleticism to be a good defender but didn’t show much commitment to getting in a defensive stance and moving his feet. Overall, Diane proved to be a high level talent and should further contribute as a senior at Findlay Prep.
Jordan Nwora 6-7 220 SF Vermont Academy 2017 (Nigeria)
Finishing at 22-52 3PT (42.3%), Nwora displayed an advanced shooting stroke and was great off of the catch as well as spot-up. He averaged 23.8 ppg through his 6 games, including a 37-point output in Africa’s 111-105 victory over Team Rose. While he is not a particularly explosive athlete and his ball skills need refinement, he scored in a variety of ways. He made some plays close to the basket, even throwing down a few times in transition. Defensively he lacks ideal speed and lateral quickness for a wing, but he has nice length and a strong frame. Making plays for others is not his strength, but he showed a lot of potential as a wing that will stretch the floor. Numerous high majors are competing for his services and his summer has vaulted him up recruiting rankings.
Christian PoPoola 6-3 170 Bishop Gorman PG 2017 (Nigeria)
After having a nice role for Africa at the previous Nations, Popoola played quite a bit of lead guard, taking the reins from the injured Wabissa Bede. He has some nice straight-line speed, even throwing in change of speed and ability to finish through contact. It still seems he is more of a combo than a true point, and while it seems that he had many more assists than he was credited for, he also struggled to make reads and give the ball to his teammates in good scoring situations. Foul trouble was also something that plagued him, though at the very least it showed he was aggressive and engaged. He announced his commitment to BYU the day after the event and they got a very nice athlete with some ability to score off of the bounce. If he works on his off-ball skills and outside shooting, he could be in the rotation down the line.
Luguentz Dort 6-4 220 SG Arlington Country Day 2018
Dort took a definite step up from last year, as he has gotten even stronger and more explosive, competing very well in his two contests against Team Harden (17.5 ppg). His frame is incredibly solid, he already sports a college body at this point in time. His length served him well on defense, and he could get off of the floor very quickly on cuts to the basket. Much more of a scorer than a playmaker at this time, he is not blowing by one-on-one defense to get to the basket, and was just 1-10 from 3PT. Regardless, the Montreal native had a very productive camp and went down as one of the better underclassmen in attendance.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker 6-5 185 PG/SG Hamilton Heights 2017
The Virginia Tech commit has been creeping up recruiting rankings all summer, as a shifty combo guard with scoring acumen. He sees the floor very well and is about as close to ambidextrous as a prospect can be at this stage. Walker developed quite a bit physically, though what was even more impressive was his ability to play both with and without the ball. He finished 11-19 3PT (57.9%), while rarely making costly mistakes and showing a great understanding of the game. He is not overly explosive and can struggle finishing in traffic and through contact, but with his nice size, length and skill set, it looks like he will make an impact once he hits campus.
Howard Washington 6-2 170 PG Athlete Institute 2017
Washington decided to take a post-graduate year at the Athlete Institute after playing the past two years at Montverde Academy. He can play on the ball fairly well, though was best as a spot-up shooter, going 16-32 3PT (50%), leading Canada’s dangerous outside barrage. He still ended up leading Canada in assists as well, though he can definitely improve his decision-making. Washington is still committed to Butler and can take the year to gain the strength necessary at the college level.
Oshae Brissett 6-7 200 SF/PF Orangeville Prep 2017
Brissett was Canada’s bounciest athlete, and had a few fantastic flashes. One included a coast-to-coast trip that included a behind-the-back dribble to free the lane and a massive poster finish over Chol Marial. The issue was his consistency as a performer, as he struggled with shot selection and establishing himself in half court settings. Brissett has nice length and some high level bounce both without momentum and with a full head of steam. He was mainly a post for Canada, though should he work on his ball skills and outside shooting, and focus on becoming a wing prospect. At present, he can defend either forward spot and sould receive interst from high majors.
Andrew Nembhard 6-3 180 PG Montverde Academy 2019
For a 2019 player to lead adidas Nations’ runner-up in minutes played, it must really speak to Nembhard’s understanding and maturity. Nembhard has an advanced feel for the game and constantly seems in control, which his 13 assists to only 7 turnovers attests. While he is not an elite athlete, he still has good body control and change of speed. He scores a lot off of floaters, and his jump shot is a work in progress, though still seems to show potential as a scorer. The latest top Canadian prospect to join Montverde Academy, he has the makings of a high level PG prospect in his class and an excellent teammate going forward.
Ignas Brazdeikis 6-7 225 SF Orangeville Prep 2018
Scoring is the absolute name of the game for Brazdeikis, he is strong and has a number of ways to put the ball in the basket. The lefty is comfortable finishing with either hand, having an array of floaters and push shots. He is fearless attacking the basket, and very strong at this stage. Not incredibly explosive, he will sometimes force the issue and should look to become more of a playmaker. He still can attack a bit off of closeouts and was a consistent scorer for Canada, where he is considered among the top of the 2018 Canadian class.
Mayan Kiir 6-9 220 Victory Rock Prep PF 2017 (Australia)
Possessing nice size for a PF, Kiir showed some intriguing ability in the open floor and nice footwork. He may not be a tremendous athlete, but he makes up for this with body control and agility. There were times where he showed very nice vision. He competed hard on the glass and he got to the FT line almost 8 times per game (25-38 FT for 65.8%). He is not particularly quick and had difficulty defending laterally on the perimeter. His body still is pretty advanced at this point in time and he should be more physically ready than the average college freshman. Right now he is being looked at by both Illinois and Louisville, and he would fit well with either school.
Sam Waardenburg 6-9 190 Rangitoto College PF 2017 (New Zealand)
Waardenburg started Nations slow, than showed out in Asia-Pacific’s final game of the event. Early on, he struggled to catch the ball and the game appeared too fast for him. However, in the final game he came alive scoring 30 points in 25 minutes while shooting 10-12 from the field and 3-3 from three. He also grabbed ten rebounds, five coming on offense, with some nice vertical ability on display. He has to get much tougher and stronger, but showed great touch from multiple spots on the floor as well as footwork, pivots/step backs, and solid court vision. When his jump shot was working for him, it opened up his drive out of the high post much more. Waardenburg averaged 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounders per game, shooting 60% FG and 63.6% 3PT.
Deng Gak 6-10 195 Blair Academy C 2017 (Australia)
Gak is a fluid athlete with some absurd length and a nice ability to run the floor. With an alleged 7’4 wingspan, he had a decent touch near the hoop and could beat his man in transition to for quick dunks. He even showed some ability to make close jump shots at times. At this point he plays within himself, showing limited ball skills and lapses in defensive awareness. His lack of girth was also a hindrance when defending the post, positioning on both ends was a challenge for him. He is still very much a project at this time, though he has size and athleticism that many high majors feel they can work with and develop. It will take time, but he could be worth it with patience and development.
Jhivan Jackson 5-11 160 Euliss Trinity 2017 (Puerto Rico)
Standing just 5’11, Jackson impacted the game in many ways. His touch on floaters was precise, as he displayed multiple times, throwing one right over the top of Chol Marial’s extended hand to catch the bottom of the net. His speed and body control combined with advanced ball handling is impressive; and he took the ball right at the defense. He is tough, confident and knocked down big shots in close games. Jackson stood out in multiple statistical categories with 22 points (3rd overall), 6.4 rebounds (5th overall), 3.6 assists (1stoverall), and 2.8 steals (1st overall) per game. He needs to improve playing off of the ball as he can lose focus, and his size may worry some college coaches. He still showed an aggressive nature and an explosive ability, as he grabbed rebounds at the rim and played beyond his size quite often in his 5 games at Nations.
*Remy Brewer and Bernardo Da Silva are a couple of players to monitor for Latin America. Brewer hails from the Virgin Islands and is only in the Class of 2019. At around 6’6 and 215, he showed some very nice athleticism and tools to work with. Da Silva had a tough time when he was on the floor, though at only 15-years old, he has a nice form on his shot and size 17 feet. The 6’7 Brazilian will be attending Wasatch Academy this year.
*Africa had a number of lengthy bigs besides Chol Marial, and one of them who displayed some upside was Nathan Mensah. At 6’10 with a rumored 7’5 wingspan, he is a rim runner who showed some ability to rebound. He goes to Prolific Prep and is being monitored by teams such as San Diego State and Oregon.
*He unfortunately had a bad knee injury that kept court time to a minimum at Montverde Academy, but Marcus Carr looks to be back into the swing of things. He has a definite burst of speed, though could stand to learn more about switching gears. It seems he had a very strong summer and the 2017 should be hearing from high majors. Hoping he can become yet another Canadian Nations alum and show further improvement next July.
*Canada and Africa both had players born in 2001, Cashius McNeilly and Malcolm Cazalon respectively. They played quite sparingly, though showed some flashes of ability that will make both guys to monitor going forward. McNeilly is seen as one of Canada’s top 2020 prospects with some explosive ability and ball skills. Cazalon has a very good basketball body, wing size and some ball skills, being linked to ASVEL in France.
*Jahvon Blair was BioSteel All-Canadian game MVP this year and he showed an ability to get important buckets for Canada. “Juggy” had some slow games against the athleticism of Team Harden, though has size and is a lefty who has a quick release.
*We could go over many more players for Canada, though will end with mentioning Josip Vrankic. Has the look of a solid stretch 4 down the line, with some ball skills and ability to slide his feet defensively. He played solid minutes for a strong Wasatch Academy as a junior as they competed in the Dick’s National High School Invitational.
*A large part of Asia-Pacific finishing at 2-3 was the play of their guards. Australian Cameron Healy ran really well off of screens and flashed a really nice shot. When Isaac Letoa was on the court, one could expect top end athleticism in a small package, as he averaged 5 rpg and flashed major quickness. Plus, while he is not necessarily a guard, Kouat Noi was back on the wing this year and provided scoring with good size. If he can maintain focus, TCU has landed a solid get.
*Lucas Pereira is a load down low and while he has been playing exclusively in Brazil, would conceivably be a post many college coaches would like to work with. He does lack quickness and needs to improve his feel, though he has a frame that helped him garner plenty of space around the basket.
*It was great to see all of the World teams get a win here, except for China losing all of their games to a series of club teams on the Adidas Uprising circuit. Canada was a very complete team that could shoot the lights out at times. Africa had size and athleticism at every position, and they even showed some ability to stretch at certain positions. Asia-Pacific and Latin America both made things competitive on a game-to-game basis. Great job of putting the camp together for Nations and it was great to see a pair of International teams play at Cerritos on Monday, even if they both came up short.