Sunday, October 4, 2015

USA: Day 1

Day 1 of the USA Men’s Developmental Camp is in the books. After a light morning session, the action quickly intensified on Saturday night. Taking out the players that did not show up in addition to the players that were injured and there were approximately 50 players spread out over the sophomore (2018), junior (2017), and senior (2016) classes.

The night session consisted of dribbling and passing drills to start, which De’Aron Fox excelled at followed by full-court lay-ups to full-court pull-up jump shots. The players were then split into two groups and went through numerous 4-on-4 full-court sets with different teammates.

Over the past two years, it has been extremely obvious who the players in the senior class are given their strength and size. The difference was not as notable this year, although one of the seniors that did stand out was USA veteran Jayson Tatum. Looking extremely smooth and skilled, Tatum was aggressive during all of the scrimmage sessions and was finishing aggressively at the rim while also showcasing his polished mid-range game. A large majority of his shots come in the 12-17 foot area in addition to MJ / Kobe-esque fade-aways from just outside the paint. While he hit these shots at a good clip today, it will be interesting to see how his game is dissected once he gets to the college level. Tatum’s game is all about the mid-range and right now the NBA is all about the three’s and shots around the rim.

Players That Made An Impression:

Josh Langford, SG / SF, Madison Academy (AL), Michigan State, 2016

If Langford was excited about the Miles Bridges commitment he sure showed it on the court. While not as highly regarded as some of the other 2016 players, Langford certainly proved that he belonged. Starting with the 4 on 4 drills, Langford was finishing at the rim time and time again. While ferociously attacking the basket, Langford also stepped outside the arc and looked comfortable knocking down 3’s from the top of the key and the wing.

Josh Jackson, SF, Prolific Prep (CA), 2016

Jackson is a three-time gold medalist for USA and he certainly played like a veteran on Day 1 of the developmental camp. His high flying exploits were on display, but it also looked like he had taken the time to work on his weakness. Outside shooting. Jackson hit several mid-range jump shots and fade-aways with a majority hitting nothing but net. He also added a three and backed up his ranking as a top three player in his class.

Trevon Duval, PG, Advanced Prep International (TX), 2017

photo by USA Basketball
There wasn’t a more aggressive player on Day 1 than Trevon Duval. He has garnered Derrick Rose comparisons, and while he might not be on the same level athletically as a younger Rose, his style of play is very similar. With an extremely hard crossover dribble, Duval doesn’t have a problem getting by his defender on the perimeter. Once he’s at the next level, Duval takes the ball strong to the basket and can finish at the rim against taller defenders or contorts his body in the air to finish and / or draw the foul.

De’Aron Fox, PG, Cypress Lake (TX), 2016

Fox played the part of the smooth and confident playmaker on Saturday. With excellent ball-skills, Fox controlled the tempo and the half-court offense like a conductor. His lefty jump shot was on target and he got into the middle of the paint time and time again where he was able to finish with a floater or nifty pass to an open teammate.

Markelle Fultz, G, DeMatha (MD), 2016

This time last year, Fultz was getting ready for his first season on varsity. Now, he’s a top 10 player in the country. Fultz uses his long arms and lower body flexibility to slash to the basket and finish creatively around the basket. He has the euro-step down and after taking two long strides can finish on either side of the rim. His outside jump shot needs some work in order to improve its consistency, but Fultz’s short jump shots were finding the bottom of the net with regularity.

Other Notes:

-Jarrett Allen put together a productive and efficient low post performance in the night session.

-Tyus Battle missed a lot of time with an injury, but he is the best defensive wing in camp. The future Syracuse small-forward used his strength to bother both Tatum and Jackson.

-Junior Kaleb Wesson stands 6’9” and 260, but the big boy is soft on his feet and was hitting 15-17 foot jump shots with ease. Going forward, Wesson could make a living off the pick and roll.

-6’5” Nojel Eastern is almost back from a gruesome foot injury suffered in April. The Evanston (IL) product participated in drills and is itching to show his versatile game.

-Junior guard Daejon Davis was cut from the U16 team last year, but played more aggressively and with a purpose on Saturday. The athletic guard loves to attack the basket.

-Mohamed Bomba was blocking shots and finishing with authority at the rim. He needs to shore up his shot form, but the 7’1” center has loads of potential.

-This is the third time Markus Howard has been in Colorado Springs and he definitely looked comfortable in the camp. One of the top shooters in the country, Howard was hitting three’s at good clip in both sessions. He also used a quick first step to penetrate before finishing with soft floaters.

-Wendell Carter Jr.’s low-post footwork is extremely advanced and his outside shot looks good.

-Two relatively unknown players coming in were 6’6” junior wing D’Shawn Schwartz and 6’8” forward Justyn Hamilton. Schwartz displayed a nice lefty jumper and decent athleticism at the wing. Hamilton is long and lanky and while he struggled in the night session he showed some promise early on. Schwartz is a local guy from Colorado Springs while Hamilton is from Charlotte (NC).

-Sophomore Robert Woodard played on the U16 team last year and he showed why he made the final cuts today. While being one of the strongest wings in his class, Woodard also had his three point shot going as he was raining three’s in the scrimmages from all parts of the floor.

Friday, October 2, 2015

USA Men's Developmental Camp Preview

October is here. Why is that important? For basketball recruiting junkies it signifies that the USA Men’s Developmental camp has arrived which is one of, if not the best event of the year. For two days 50+ of the top players in the sophomore (2018), junior (2017), and senior (2016) classes will gather for drills, skill work and intense scrimmaging in one gym at the USA Olympic complex in Colorado Springs.

The format rotates every other year and the developmental camp which starts on Saturday features 18 seniors that will be staking their claim for the Nike Hoop Summit in April in addition to 40 players from the sophomore and junior classes that will be getting ready for next year’s U17 World Championships and U18 FIBA America’s tournament.

This past summer the USA U16 team won the FIBA America’s gold medal and all 12 members will be in attendance including leading scorers Gary Trent Jr., Markus Howard, and Wendell Carter. Just because all 12 members will compete in Colorado Springs, doesn’t mean that they are all a lock to make the U17 team next summer. In 2010, 67% of the players from the U16 team made the U17 team. In 2012, just 58% of the U16 players returned and in 2014, 75% of the U16 players returned in 2014.

Two of those players that returned in 2014 for the U17 team were Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles. Tatum committed to Duke during the summer and while Giles is in the midst of his official visits, it’s widely expected that he ends up in Durham next season. In 2014, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones were inseparably on and off the court during the two-day camp. They later committed to Duke and then went on to win a national championship before becoming lottery picks after just one season….

Two years ago, the senior class used their size and strength to make an impression on the younger players. Okafor and Myles Turner gave Diamond Stone all he could handle down low and Rashad Vaughn and Stanley Johnson dominated on the wing. No surprise that all four players are in the NBA. How will players such as Jaylen Hands and Trevon Duval fare against De’Aron Fox and Kobi Simmons? How will Michael Porter and E.J. Montgomery match-up Tyus Battle and Josh Jackson?

This year the senior class features a plethora of five-star recruits including Giles, Tatum, Jackson, Terrance Ferguson, Malik Monk, and Jonathan Isaac. While the seniors will be mixed in with the younger players for a good majority of the camp, they will also go through drills and scrimmages amongst themselves.

As for the sophomore and junior classes, both Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr., are supposed to be in attendance. Both of these players are at the top of their class. One player who got cut from the USA U16 team that I expect to make an impact is 6’5” shooting guard Cameron Reddish. The sweet shooting guard from Pennsylvania was fairly quite last spring during the USA U16 tryouts but his talent was evident in the limited touches he received. Ranked as a top 10 player in his class, I expect Reddish to make a strong impression this weekend.  

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wenyen Gabriel: Cashing In At Kentucky

Wenyen Gabriel’s stock soared during AAU play in the summer. As a result, he cashed in and committed to John Calipari and Kentucky just two days after his official visit to Lexington. The 6’9” Gabriel chose the Wildcats over Duke, Maryland, Providence, and UConn.
photo by NY Post


Hailing from Manchester (NH), Gabriel transferred from Trinity High to prep power Wilbraham & Monson for his junior season where he earned Honorable Mention honors in a talented New England prep league. It wasn’t until after his junior season that things started to fall into place for the rail thin Gabriel.

Playing for the Mass Rivals AAU program on the Adidas circuit, Gabriel’s performances started to draw the who’s who of the coaching world each time he took the court. In the final stage of the July live period, scholarship offers were coming in daily. During the Adidas uprising tournament in Las Vegas, Gabriel averaged 17.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per game as he led his team to the championship game. Two weeks later, playing in front of a handful of NBA scouts at the Adidas Nations tournament, Gabriel averaged 17.7 points per game and 14.7 rebounds.

Going Forward:

Right now, Gabriel is a long and thin stretch forward. His biggest strength comes from his motor. He takes every possession seriously and is accustomed to getting points off the break and off of offensive rebounds. With a quick second jump, Gabriel keeps going on the boards until he puts the ball in the basket. Gabriel also has a unique skill-set for his height and during play at Adidas Nations was often seen grabbing a defensive rebound and subsequently pushing the ball up the court himself. He has the ability to handle the ball and knock in jump shots from the outside.

“Right now I don’t have a set position,” said Gabriel while at Adidas Nations. “I would like to hopefully develop myself into more of a wing player for the long term. I’ve progressed each year, gotten a little better and added something new each year. Last year in high school I played mostly on the inside and worked on my inside game. Being able to play AAU with [Mass Rivals coach) Vin [Pastore] over the last two years, he let me develop in every part of my game by playing on the perimeter, face-up, all that. Now this is my last year and I was able to put it all together. Going forward I still have a lot to add to my game.”

Gabriel will need to work on tightening up his ball-handling while also fine-tuning his shot release given his right elbow tends to stray out to the right side. A big selling point for Kentucky most likely came from showing Gabriel how he could improve his wing abilities. Last year Trey Lyles played primarily on the wing despite being more of a natural power forward. With Isaac Humphries, Tai Wynard, and Sacha Killeya-Jones in the fold, Kentucky offers Gabriel a great opportunity to continue his upward trajectory and improve upon his NBA skills. Gabriel has his senior season at Wilbraham & Monson to continue his climb, but now the talented is Kentucky’s first five-star recruit in the 2016 class with more to follow throughout the year.