Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nike Global Challenge: Foreign Recap

The 2014 Nike Global Challenge included four foreign teams in the four day tournament held in Chicago, IL. Teams from Brazil, Canada, China, and Africa were all invited to compete amongst each other as well as the four USA teams in participation. Overall, the foreign teams struggled when faced with competition from the United States; however China participated in the third place game after upsetting the USA South team and the three other foreign teams all showcased a few talented individuals. 


Shuai Yuan, China, 6’2”, SG
Yuan struggled in his first game but was on fire for his remaining three games. He led all players in scoring at 24 points per game and made a total of 19 three point attempts including 14 in his final two games. In total, Yuan shot 44.2% from behind the arc and almost 55% overall. He hit 7-12 on Friday night against Africa and followed that up with a 7-13 performance on Saturday in the third place game. While Yuan was deadly from the wings he also had enough quickness to get be defenders when they closed out on his outside shot. He might have started slow, but by the end of the tournament Yuan was one of the most exciting players to watch.

Top Players:

Jalen Poyser, Canada, 6’4”, SG, 2015
The leader for Team Canada was without a question 6’4” shooting guard Jalen Poyser. He was named to the All International team and averaged a shade over 20 points per game. Quick and explosive, Poyser wasted no time showing his athleticism in the opening game going for 17 points against USA Midwest. No matter who was guarding him Poyser got any shot he wanted with a long and quick first step. He could explode at the rim for a two hand dunk or a pull-up for a jump shot. While he was fun to watch in the open court and on drives to the basket, Poyser still needs work on his outside shot hitting just 6-19 from three. He has the ability to knock down several in a row, but a slight hitch in his jump shot prevented him from being a consistent marksman. With continued work on his outside shot, Poyser should have his name listed with the top shooting guards in the country. 

George de Paula, Brazil, 6’4”, G
De Paula's 7 foot wing span - HoopsHypeCA
For a player that was not well known outside of his home country, George de Paula certainly made an impression on his short trip to Chicago. In his first game, de Paula exploded for 34 points on 15-21 shooting against the top team in the Challenge (USA West). Playing predominantly as the team’s point guard, the lefty consistently got into the lane for baskets around the rim and hit 3-6 from deep. De Paula plays with a powerful grace given his running back-esque upper body and was usually too strong for quicker defenders to handle. In addition to his strength, de Paula possessed freakishly long arms sporting a 7’0” wing span. He averaged 20.8 points per game and also displayed a nice passing ability at times from outside the arc hitting the Brazilian cutters in stride for easy lay-ups. He cooled off from three after his first game finishing just 5-21 from the arc while sometimes making his lefty stroke look more like a shot put. Even still, de Paula was always a presence on both ends of the floor. With good hops, de Paula was often seen grabbing rebounds and pushing the break in addition to providing defensive pressure on the ball. De Paula also has a certain fun fact. Thanks to an interview by HoopsHype CA, it came out that de Paula lived with Bruno Caboclo, the recent first round draft pick of the Toronto Raptors.

Chimezie Metu, Africa, 6’10”, C, Lawndale (CA), 2015
Just like AAU teammate Stephen Zimmerman, Chimezie Metu looked like a different player at the Challenge compared to his EYBL play with the Oakland Soldiers. Metu showed off his versatility throughout averaging 16 points and 9.8 rebounds per game for Pan-Africa while shooting 59% from the floor. He ran the floor well and displayed some ball-handling and shooting skills in the half court set. He had a few NBA scouts drooling after hitting a 17 foot fade-away, but Metu still needs to tighten up his shot mechanics. In each game Metu looked “free” and “loose” and given his size and length the future USC Trojan possesses a fair amount of upside.

Gao Shang, China, 6’5, SG/SF
Shang was almost as good as his teammate and International MVP Yuan Shuai. He shot 47.6% from behind the arc (10-21) and averaged 21.5 points per game to go with 5.5 rebounds. In the third place game, Shang stepped up his play and almost helped lead China to another upset scoring 24 points on 8-14 shooting. Not just a shooter, Shang was also a slasher and attacked the basket with aggressiveness and athleticism. He had his best game against Jaylen Brown’s squad finishing with 26 points and eight rebounds in an upset win. 

Top Shooters:
Corey Johnson, Canada, 6’4”, SG, Vermont Academy, 2015
Armed with a jump shot straight out of a shooting video, Corey Johnson hit five three’s in the opening game of the Challenge. While he cooled off a bit after his initial outburst, Johnson finished the four day event shooting 38.5% from three (15-38). Right now Johnson is hearing from mid-majors along with schools such as Creighton and Virginia Tech but expect that to change come November with the arrival of the National Prep Showcase. He can hit three’s from a stand still position as well as off the dribble and has good size and strength for a shooting guard. 

Lucas Vezaro, Brazil, 6’0”, G
It wasn’t a good first game for the Brazilian guard who went 1-12 from the field, but after getting the initial jitters out Verazo was a knock down shooter from deep. He then went 4-7, 3-7, and 4-10 from behind the arc. Not the quickest or most athletic of guards, Verazo consistently found open space from the left and right wings with the help of George Paula’s penetration. He averaged 17.3 points per game while shooting 39.3% from behind the arc.

Tantalizing Prospects:

Ted Kapita, Africa, 6’9”, PF, Huntington Prep (WV), 2015
Big man Ted Kapita started the Global Challenge with a bang, but ended with a whimper. At 6’8” and sporting a chiseled upper torso, Kapita dazzled the crowd and the NBA scouts with his professional ready body and output. In a close loss in Pan Africa’s opening game, Kapita finished with 36 points and 16 rebounds in an overtime loss on 15-22 shooting. He played with energy, led the break at times, threw down alley-oop dunks, and even scored on jump shots from 15 feet. After that performance, a lot was expected of Kapita going forward. Unfortunately, in subsequent games Kapita averaged 8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He struggled with foul trouble and showed that he was still fairly raw on the offensive end. A good straight ahead runner, Kapita lacks fluidity at times and is not the quickest on his feet laterally. He still showed some glimpses on a spin move down the lane, but wasn’t able to regain his opening game magic. Kapita stood out for his basketball body, but he is still a raw talent with room to grow.

Lucas de Souza, 6’9”, PF, Brazil
De Souza is another long and lean stretch forward that was one of the key contributors for Brazil. He made an impression in his first game running the floor, stepping outside for deep jump shots, and being active on the defensive side of the floor. He averaged 10.5 points and almost seven rebounds a game throughout, but often played a bit out of control evidenced by his 13 turnovers. De Souza was quick off his feet and possessed a versatile skill-set; however he did not excel in any one single area. He hit a three in his first game but he shot with his right elbow out wide leading to a fair amount of jump shots off the rim. Overall, de Souza was fun to watch on both sides of the floor and has potential given his height, length, and athleticism but will need to work on his skill-set to become a more dominant player in the future.

Future Potential:

Narcisse Kalamba, Canada, 6’6”, SF, Montreal, QC
Not to be confused with the Boardwalk Empire protagonist, Valentin Narcisse, the Canadian Narcisse Kalamba exhibited lots of potential over the four day span of the Global Challenge. A long and lanky wing, Kalamba was a blur on his drives to the basket and averaged 10.8 points per game. He excels in transition but is still a work in progress when it comes to his jump shot. He did hit several mid-range shots and four three pointers but shot under 44% from the floor and 23.5% from the arc. Kalamba still shoots more of a set shot than an actual jump shot and needs to work on locking in on his follow through given many of his misses were off to the left and the right. Kalamba has the athleticism and skill on the break, now he just needs additional work on his shooting mechanics in order to become the leader for next year’s Canadian team.

Most Explosive:

Yakwe Kassoum, Africa, 6’7”, Our Savior New American (NY), 2016
Long and lean, Kassoum was the most explosive foreign player given his strong two footed jumping ability. He averaged just 6.5 points per game, but was a menace on the defensive end whether it was blocking shots or pressuring the ball handler all over the court. Right now Kassoum has lots of unharnessed power, but is still raw on the offensive end. He has the size of a small forward, but lacks the offensive skills to play consistently outside the paint. He struggled mightily to dribble the ball on the break, but he could get into the paint on one or two dribbles in the half court set. Once he got in the paint he usually finished going to his left with a lay-up or jump hook. Either option wasn’t getting blocked given his leaping ability.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Nike Global Challenge: USA Recap

The USA teams were the class of the Nike Global Challenge with the USA West team handing the USA East their first loss in the championship game on Sunday afternoon. The West team was stocked with talent from Texas and also got some help from Stephen Zimmerman and Dejounte Murray. Throughout the challenge, the four USA teams suffered just one loss to the foreign teams with the USA South falling to China on Day three.

Best Duo:

Stephen Zimmerman, 6’11”, C, 2015 & Tyler Davis, 6’10”, C, 2015 – USA West
Back in April before the start of the EYBL season, Zimmerman and Ivan Rabb were supposed to be a fearsome frontcourt duo. That wasn’t necessarily the case and Zimmerman rarely broke double digits in EYBL competition. Playing with Davis and a plethora of outside shooters gave Zimmerman the space he needed to operate down low. With a 17.5 point and 11.5 rebound average, Zimmerman grabbed the MVP of the Challenge and looked more confident and fluid in the process. He did a lot of his work in the paint, whether it was dunks, lay-ups, or short hook shots but he also displayed his outside shooting ability (at times) as well as his passing skills from the high post.

While Zimmerman got the MVP, Tyler Davis was the workhorse down low using his 270 pound frame to his advantage. Before sitting out the championship game, Davis averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds including a 19 point, 14 rebound effort in his last game. Throughout the challenge, Davis ran the floor and banged down low in the post. The majority of his baskets came in the paint on follow-ups or fundamental post moves, but he also stepped outside of the paint and knocked in a few mid range jump shots and delivered several assists to Zimmerman.

Both players noted they enjoyed playing with each other and the chemistry was evident from the opening tip on Wednesday night.

Toughest Competitor:

Chris Clarke, USA East, 6’6”, SF, Cape Henry (VA), 2015
Chris Clarke and the words “motor” have been synonymous all summer long and certainly nothing changed in the Challenge. Clarke was all over the floor attacking the basket or hounding opposing players in the full court press. For his efforts, Clarke was named to the All-Tournament team after averaging 16 points per game and shooting 71.8% from the floor (21-38). In addition Clarke also grabbed almost 3.3 offensive rebounds per game. Anytime Clarke got the ball he went straight toward the rim. When China went to a 2-3 zone in the first game, Clarke flashed to the middle, caught the ball in the zone and in one quick movement turned and was at the rim in one dribble. He never seemed to get tired and Clarke never went away from his strengths. Whoever winds up with Chris Clarke will get a difference maker from Day 1 in college. 

5 USA Notables:

Jalen Brunson, USA Midwest, 6’2”, PG, Stevenson (IL), 2015
Hailing from the Chicago burbs, Brunson looked right at home playing within the city limits. While Brunson is known for his three point stroke in high school play he only shot 23% during EYBL action. Well, in four games at the Challenge Brunson finished 10-15 from behind the arc. He had no trouble with the FIBA distance and hit several tough step backs in addition to NBA three’s. Brunson controlled the game for his Midwest team throughout their third place finish and averaged 14 points and 6.25 assists per game. The class of 2015 is weak at the point guard spot, but over the past two weeks at the CP3 camp and the Nike Global Challenge, Brunson definitively established himself as the top point guard in the class and an impact player at the next level. 

Edrice Adebayo, USA East, 6’8”, PF, Northside (NC), 2016
Bam’s offensive game continues to improve. Known as “raw” on the offensive end, Adebayo’s skill-set is starting to catch up to his athleticism. In his second game against Africa, Adebayo jumped out to a quick start with a fast break dunk, reverse lay-up in traffic, and a 12 foot jump shot. He already has a college ready upper body and is quick off his feet. With good form on his free throws and jump shot, Adebayo is starting to get more confidence in his 12-15 foot jumper. He hit several over the three day stretch and did so off a pick and pop or face-up. He led his East team in scoring at 17 points a game and also grabbed 7 rebounds. With continued skill work, it won’t be long before Adebayo rises rapidly up the rankings. 

De’Aaron Fox, USA West, 6’4”, PG, Cypress Lake (TX), 2016
The talented USA West team had Zimmerman and Davis down low and a plethora of shooters on the wings, but they also had junior De’Aaron Fox running the show. Fox led the Challenge with 7.25 assists per game and also turned in a strong 3.2 A/TO rate. Fox hit shots when he needed, but for the most part the talented guard was content to push the pace, break down his man off the dribble, and find an open teammate. Fox didn’t make the cut for the USA 17U team, but he did showcase his skills in Colorado Springs and continued to do so in one of the last big time events of the summer.

Dejounte Murray, USA West, 6’5”, SG, Rainier Beach (WA), 2015
Murray was the only representative from the Pacific Northwest, but the future Washington Husky won a few NBA scouts over with his skill set. Murray averaged almost 14 points per game and hit some clutch baskets in a closely contested win over the USA Midwest team. With his length and quickness, Murray got to the rim on the break and usually got by his defender on the wing in the half court set as well. He did turn the ball over too much, but Murray also provided some highlight reel plays in addition to his timely scoring.

Jaylen Brown, USA East, 6’7”, SF, Wheeler (GA), 2015
The USA South team went just 2-2 in the Challenge, but’s new number one player in the class of 2015 still played up to the lofty expectations set for him. Using his brute strength and improved mid-range game, Brown averaged 21 points per game and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 48% from the field. He did most of his damage in the paint but showed enough ball-handling skills for all the scouts that wanted to see him in action. 

Top Shooters:
Playing under FIBA rules, the three point line was set at 22.1 feet compared to a high school arc of 19 feet and 9 inches. To no surprise the USA teams struggled from behind the arc more so than the international teams. With the extended arc, there were still a few players that demonstrated their shooting ability from all areas of the court.

Malachi Richardson, USA East, 6’6”, SF, Trenton Catholic (NJ), 2015
Only five USA players made over seven three’s in the Challenge and the future Syracuse Orangeman was one of them. Richardson finished the week hitting 7-18 good enough for 39%. Richardson went 5-7 in his first game against China and wasn’t really affected by the longer three point line. With his 6’11” wing span, Richardson’s shot is pretty hard to block and he also has a quick release. To go along with his mechanics, Richardson also gets a tremendous amount of backspin on the ball reminiscent to Gilbert Arenas back in his heyday. He averaged 14.5 points for the tournament and while he only made two more three’s after his first game he established himself as one of the top shooters from the USA.

Austin Grandstaff, USA West, 6’3”, SG, Rockwall (TX), 2015
Looking purely at the stats, it was teammate Matt McQuaid that shot better from behind the arc going 7-20 compared to the 8-26 that Grandstaff shot. That being said, Grandstaff makes his way into the top shooters listing for when he made his shots. They usually came at the beginning of games rather than towards the end in blowouts. Grandstaff made his attempts look easy with a quick flick of the rest and hit several from well beyond the FIBA international line.  

Mr. Consistent:

Esa Ahmad, 6’7”, SF, Shaker Heights (OH), 2015
The talented wing from Ohio is never flashy in his performance, but he seems to always get the job down. This held true in Chicago with Ahmad averaging 13.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. His field goal attempts through four games went this way: 5-7, 6-8, 3-9, and 8-9. He took advantage of a porous Chinese defense in the third place game with his strong drives to the basket. Ahmad is not going to blow you away with athleticism, but he is strong and just quick enough to consistently get to the rim. He is not a deadly outside shooter, but he went 5-10 from behind the arc. His stock improved over the summer, but Esa Ahmad is still overlooked in the class of 2015 despite his consistent nature.

Quietest Performance:

Deyonta Davis, USA Midwest, 6’8”, PF, Muskegon (MI), 2015
Davis averaged just less than 13 minute a game, but managed to score 8.8 points and grab seven rebounds while shooting a ridiculous 85% from the floor. Davis only attempted 20 field goals, but he converted 17 of them. The jumping jack from Michigan is one of the quickest leapers in the country and cleaned up down low. Coming into the AAU season, Davis did not have much exposure but the future Spartan certainly showed that he was worthy of such a high offer. 

Disappearing Act:
Donovan Mitchell, USA East, 6’3”, G, Brewster Academy (NH), 2015
It’s hard to blame Mitchell for one lackluster performance after being one of the hottest players throughout the July period. After jumping up to five-star status and committing to Louisville, Mitchell struggled in Chicago averaging just four points and 2.5 assists per game. Mitchell had talented guards around him, but in 82 minutes he shot just 7-20 from the field and was a relative non-factor in three out of four games. In the championship game, Mitchell went against one of his clones in King McClure and he let the Texan get the better of him. It’s been a long summer for Mitchell and one subpar tournament should be nothing to worry about, even though it did end his hot play on a down note.  

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Nike Global Challenge: Day 3

A full slate of games took place on Day number three of the Nike Global Challenge yesterday at Whitney Young high school. The USA teams went up against each other producing some entertaining fireworks and the Chinese team pulled a huge early morning upset to propel themselves to the third place game. 

Best Game: USA West 115 USA Midwest 100
Played in front of a packed house in the middle of the afternoon the two USA teams went back and forth until the final minutes with the talented West squad prevailing. Six players scored in double figures for the West including Stephen Zimmerman, Tyler Davis, King McClure, Matt McQuaid, Dejounte Murray, and DJ Hogg. Junior point guard De’Aaron Fox paced the team with 12 assists after facing a 60-49 halftime deficit. On the losing side, senior point guard Jalen Brunson put together a monster performance finishing with 20 points and seven assists.

Shuai Yuan
Biggest Upset: China 114 USA South 110
After losing their first game by 35 points, not much was expected from the Chinese team. Instead they bounced back in a high scoring close win over the USA South team featuring Jaylen Brown. China was led by 6’5” Shang Gao who scored 26 points on 9-16 shooting and guard Shuai Yuan who added 23 points. Later in the day, the Chinese team beat Pan Africa by 21 propelling them to the 3rd place game on Saturday. Yuan led the way in the evening with 33 points on 7-12 shooting from behind the arc.

Top Five Performances (not including Shuai Yuan)

Chris Clarke, 6’6”, SF, Cape Henry (VA), USA East, 2015
The energetic small forward was a monster in an early morning win over Pan Africa. Clark relentlessly attacked the rim and finished with 19 points and four rebounds on 9-10 shooting. Whether it was on the break or off the wing, Clarke continuously put pressure on the defense and got to the rim. When the opponent went to a 2-3 zone, Clarke flashed to the middle, caught the ball, and was at the rim in one hard dribble. While he rarely shoots from outside the paint, Clarke did hit on his only three point attempt in the second half. In the evening session Clarke added 13 points on 5-8 shooting.

Stephen Zimmerman, 6’11”, C, Bishop Gorman (NV), USA West, 2015
Zimmerman continues to play well in the Global Challenge and might have had one of his best games of the summer against the undersized Midwest team with 21 points and nine rebounds. Zimm did most of his damage down low with lay-ups, dunks, and alley-oops. He ran the floor well and co-existed down low with Tyler Davis. While most of his buckets came in the paint, he did hit a soft seven foot jump shot in the first half and finished 10-16 from the floor. 

Tyler Davis, 6’9”, C, Plano West (TX), USA West, 2015
The 270 pound Davis was too much to handle down low. The big Texan grabbed 14 rebounds, including five on the offensive end and also added 19 points. Despite playing on a hurt foot, Davis got up and down the court and showed some nice foot work on his shots in the paint. He worked the high low with Zimmerman and was solid catching the ball down low or delivering a pin point pass from the top of the key.

Jalen Brunson, 6’2”, PG, Stevenson (IL), USA West, 2015
Despite the loss, Brunson was almost impossible to stop for the USA West team. In the first half he was scoring off the dribble with floaters and lay-ups and then in the second half he started to hit on deep three’s from well NBA range. Overall, the steady point guard finished with 20 points on 7-11 shooting and 3-4 from behind the arc.

Jalen Poyser, 6’4”, SG, Canada, 2015
The Canadian team got their first win of the tournament over Brazil Friday afternoon and Poyser led the way with 23 points including eight of the team’s first ten points in a quick first half burst. Poyser drained two three’s and then beat his man down the floor for a lay-up off of a steal. The athletic guard continued to make a difference throughout the game and kept Brazil just out of reach with his timely shooting. For the game, Poyser went 7-14 from the field and a perfect 6-6 from the line.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Nike Global Challenge: Day 2

Day Two of the Nike Global Challenge started with a blowout but also featured two games involving USA teams that came down to the wire. 

Game of the Day: USA South 121 Africa 116 (OT)

In an intense game that went back and forth throughout the second half all came down to free throws in regulation. After a crazy last 10 seconds the ball ended up with future Providence big man Alex Owens under the basket. Going up for a lay-up as time expired; Owens was fouled and sent to the line with no time on the clock. One free throw would win the game, but Owens missed both and the exciting game continued in a five minute overtime period. 

For Africa, lead guard Ehab Amin got things started with back to back three’s, but Antonio Blakeney’s pull-up game was too much and the USA pulled away for a five point win.

Top Five Performers:

Ted Kapita, 6’9”, C, Pan Africa, 2015 – 36 points, 16 rebounds, 15-22 FG’s, 6-9 FT’s
Ted Kapita
It was quite the performance for one of the fastest rising big men in the country. Sporting close to a 7’3” wing span and a Dwight Howard esque upper body, Kapita was on top of his game throughout the long affair. Kapita can run the floor and bang down low. He scored in a variety of ways including alley-oops off the pick and roll, behind the back moves on the break, and a 15 foot jump shot. Kapita’s size gave the USA team fits all day. 

Ehab Amin, 6’4”, G, Pan Africa, 2014 – 28 points, 6 assists, 10 steals, 10-23 FG’s, 5-13 3PT
Amin ran the Pan Africa with a sense of confidence and poise yesterday. He started the game off attacking the USA team and established the fact that his team was not going to back down. Amin shot well from behind the arc including back to back three’s in overtime before running out of steam at the very end. He was strong in the pick and roll and enjoyed lobbing the ball up to a variety of high flyers on the African team. While he was the second leading scorer he also exerted effort on the defensive end and finished with 10 steals. He put ball-pressure on the USA guards and was aggressive in the passing lanes.

Amin is scheduled to start play at Texas Corpus Christi in a few weeks; however if any big name schools come calling with an offer he would most likely jump at the chance to test his skills. He was hurt for the majority of his prep year in Wisconsin and believes he can play at a high level. If his first game in the Global Challenge was any indication he certainly can. 

Antonio Blakeney, 6’4”, SG, USA South, 2015 – 24 points, 4 rebounds, 10-19 FG’s
Blakeney is one of the top shooting guards in the country and the Florida native started slowly in his first game. After taking some time to get warmed up and facing a halftime deficit, Blakeney showed why he is now a five-star player. He hit a three from the corner and exploded down the lane for a high flying two hand dunk. Throughout the second half and overtime, the USA team turned to Blakeney for a bucket and he responded with numerous one or two dribble pull-up jump shots. In the winter his baskets came primarily from outside the arc and around the basket, but now with a mid-range game he has become extremely tough to stop.

Jaylen Brown, 6’7”, SF, USA South, 2015 – 22 points, 14 rebounds, 7-12 FG’s, 2-3 3PT
Just like Blakeney, Brown was able to step up his game in the second half. As Scout’s new No. 1 player in the class of 2015, Brown showed why with his powerful drives to the basket and timely outside shooting. He crashed the boards and also registered three assists. On the downside, Brown at times tried to do too much or got himself in trouble around the basket turning the ball over nine times.

Malachi Richardson, 6’6”, G/F, USA East, 2015 – 21 points, 4 rebounds, 5-7 3PT
In a blowout win over China in the day’s first game, the future Syracuse wing was on fire from deep. Richardson hit five out of seven three’s and finished with 21 points. He hit three’s from both wings and has deep range on his outside shot. Richardson gets a lot of backspin on his shot similar to Gilbert Arenas many years ago.


Matt McQuaid, 6’4”, SG, Duncanville, TX, 2015
After de-committing from SMU in the summer, McQuaid had an extremely strong July proving to be one of the top shooters in the country. In two games at the Global Challenge, McQuaid hit two three’s in each game. 

As far as recruiting goes, McQuaid said that he doesn’t have a timetable, but definitely wants to take visits which is something he didn’t do before committing to SMU.
Right now he is hearing the most from four schools. Texas, Michigan State, Indiana, and Creighton.