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Reebok Breakout Classic Day 2 Recap: Derrick Jones puts on a show

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PHILADELPHIA — Derrick Jones ended Day 2 of the Reebok Breakout Classic with the highest scoring game of the camp to date, finishing with 31 points in a win during the afternoon session on Thursday. He followed that up with 18 points in the night cap, combining to shoot 18-for-22 from the floor for the two games.

It was a refreshing show of dominance from Jones, who has developed a bit of a reputation for coasting through games when he feels his competition is overmatched. The 6-foot-6, left-handed wing is as elite as an elite athlete can get, which allows him to thrive in transition and when attacking and finishing around the rim. He’ll find his way on high light reels.

But the reality of his game at this point in his development is that there simply isn’t that much beyond his ability to jump. It looks like it’s starting to come along, as he knocked down a jumper off of a pick-and-roll on Thursday and got by his defender and to the rim in half court sets a couple of times as well. He still has work to do, but that’s a step in the right direction.

Here’s the thing about Jones right now: he hasn’t made the leap to where he’s taking a professional approach to his daily life as a basketball player. And that’s fine. He just turned 17 years old and he’s clearly still maturing into his body, as well as maturing as a person. The good news? He’s not concerned with media attention — he has no interest whatsoever in getting interviewed — and he’s yet to be jaded by a system that monetizes the sport.

As his AAU coach Terrell Myers told, he’s still just a kid playing a game.

Take notice of Jeantal Cylla: Cylla has one of the most unique names that you’ll come across on the circuit this July, but that doesn’t mean that he’ll be one of the most memorable players, especially when he’s taking the court at events like Reebok Camp. He shares a roster with Danjel Purifoy, Kendall Small and Diamond Stone, which makes it easy to be overlooked.

But it also creates opportunity, as a couple good performances with all the eyeballs on the stars is enough to ramp up a recruitment, and it looks like that’s beginning to happen to Sylla. An explosive, 6-foot-7 wing, Sylla spent the second day of Reebok Camp attacking the rim and making plays in the paint. He’s still more of an athlete that plays basketball than an athletic basketball player at this point — he’s in a similar position to Jones — but that development will come with time.

Sylla listed Virginia Tech, East Carolina, South Florida, Houston, FIU and FAU as the schools that have offered him while mentioning that Wichita State, Tennessee, Clemson and Memphis made a point to watch him play during this camp. Gregg Marshall, Donnie Tyndall, Brad Brownell and Josh Pastner all were in attendance on Thursday.

Perry Dozier’s return from injury continues: Dozier is just a little more than 10 months removed from surgery to repair the ACL in his right knee. He claims to be back to 100%, but at the NBPA Top 100 Camp last month, it was clear at times that Dozier was still working his way back to being the player that he was last summer. Thursday was a big step, however, as the 6-foot-6 guard really impressed with his ability to make decisions with the ball in his hands, knocking down a couple of jumpers in the process.

Mike Watkins will have an impact at Penn State: Watkins is the kind of big man that every coach in the country is going to love. He understands his limitations and plays to his strengths. He’s got a terrific motor, he attacks the glass on both ends and he doesn’t mind mixing it up in the paint. Pat Chambers is going to be happy he locked him up early on.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.