Terry Rozier, Chris Jones

adidas Nations Saturday Morning Thoughts: Louisville’s backcourt and the lack of 2015 point guards

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LONG BEACH, California — Day two of adidas Nations began with some skill station work, followed by another round of games. With the college counselors playing amongst themselves and there also being four games matching high school-aged players, there was plenty of action to be seen in the gym. Below are a couple thoughts from the action observed during the morning session from Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips.

Friday’s adidas Nations Recaps: High school | College

– Louisville’s backcourt puts together a good morning.

With the Cardinals playing their first season in the ACC, a question to be asked is how they’ll go about accounting for the loss of Russ Smith on the perimeter. Smith began his career as an erratic player, only to develop into a first team All-American as a senior, and guards Chris Jones and Terry Rozier have both shown that they’re ready to step forward and be even more productive than they were in 2013-14. In regards to Jones, he made good decisions with the basketball in his hands, and he was also good when it came to understanding when to look for his shot and when to set up the other players on his team. The key for Jones is continuing on that path and making sure it carries over into the season. (RJ)

Terry Rozier was the best player on the floor in the college camp counselor game I saw this morning and it really wasn’t that close. The sophomore point guard from Louisville finished with 17 points and seven rebounds — in a game with six-minute quarters and some substitutions — and he was simply devastating with the ball in his hands. Often rebounding around rim level, Rozier would push tempo off of defensive boards and utilized a lethal mid-range pull-up that often resulted in a seemingly effortless basket. On high ball screens, Rozier was shifty enough to get in the lane at will and finish around the hoop or find teammates. While he has a propensity to over-penetrate and trap himself, and his perimeter jumper is still a work in progress, Rozier was very impressive in the morning game and has continued to have a breakout summer. (SP)

The lack of 2015 point guards is hurting American adidas Nations teams.

In the high school games, both American Class of 2015 rosters lost to international teams on Saturday morning as the glaring lack of good point guards in the class reared its ugly head. Team Howard fell to the African team, 74-68, as the team’s two main ball handlers were a scoring point guard in UConn commit Jalen Adams and a combo guard in Arizona commit Justin Simon. Adams and Simon are both talented players and scorers, but they don’t get easy looks for other players and that has become abundantly obvious as camp has worn on.

Team Rose fared even worse. Featuring combo guard Tyler Dorsey and Pitt commit and point guard Damon Wilson, they lost to Europe, 79-74, and had only two assists as a team for the entire game. A team that scored 74 points only had two assists and neither of them came from primary ball handlers Dorsey or Wilson. It was a pathetic display of ball movement and execution for Team Rose as they shot 28 percent from the field, 16 percent from the three-point line and 56 percent from the free-throw line in the loss.

Both Class of 2015 American teams are now 0-1 in pool play and will have to work hard just to make it out of pool play at adidas Nations. If that’s going to happen, the guard play for both teams and the overall ball movement has to improve. (SP)

– UCLA’s Norman Powell has played very well thus far.

It goes without saying that Powell will be a key figure for a UCLA team that has to account for the early departures of guards Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine. And the Powell who has been on display in Long Beach is one who’s ready to step forward not only as a producer but also as a team leader. Powell was in attack mode offensively but he wasn’t reckless or selfish in finding his shots, and once he got to the rim the rising senior finished with authority.

RELATED: Powell sees defense, rebounding as keys for UCLA this season

Another UCLA-related note from Saturday: while he didn’t make every shot around the basket, Tony Parker played with some of the focus many have been pining for since he arrived in Westwood. Having Kevon Looney (not playing this weekend), Jonah Bolden and Thomas Welsh in the fold will help UCLA inside, but they need Parker to make good on the promise that led to him being a McDonald’s All-American as a high school senior in order to contend in the Pac-12. (RJ)

Four-star 2017 shooting guard commits to Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams celebrates a play in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Blacksburg, Va. (Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP) LOCAL STATIONS OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; LOCAL PRINT OUT (SALEM TIMES REGISTER; FINCASTLE HERALD; CHRISTIANSBURG NEWS MESSENGER; RADFORD NEWS JOURNAL; ROANOKE STAR SENTINEL; MANDATORY CREDIT
Matt Gentry/The Roanoke Times via AP
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Recruiting, and on-court results, have picked up at Virginia Tech since Buzz Williams took over as head coach. In his second year at the helm the Hokies won ten conference games, and in reaching the Postseason NIT made their first postseason appearance since 2011.

Thursday night Virginia Tech landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2017, as four-star shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker made his pledge.

The 6-foot-5 Alexander-Walker, who’s ranked 91st in his class by Rivals.com, also took official visits to Maryland and USC before making his pledge to the ACC program. Alexander-Walker attends Hamilton Heights Christian Academy in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but as a native of Canada plays his grassroots basketball for the Canada Elite program on the Under Armour Association circuit.

Good with either hand, Alexander-Walker can play either on or off the basketball. And that versatility should serve him well in a system that places a high value on “switch-ables,” or players who can fill multiple roles.

The Canada connection paid off for Virginia Tech in the recruitment of Alexander-Walker, with assistant coach Jamie McNeilly being a native of the country himself and having a connection to the Walker family. The Hokies will lose two perimeter players at the end of the 2016-17 season in Devin Wilson and Seth Allen, which will give Alexander-Walker the opportunity to earn minutes as a freshman.

Oakland lands former Oklahoma State guard Clark

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When point guard Stevie Clark began his career at Oklahoma State in 2013, the Top 100 prospect was expected by many to be an impact player for the Cowboys. Things didn’t go as planned however, as off-court issues ultimately led to Clark’s dismissal from the program before his sophomore season. Add in a lawsuit filed by Clark in which he alleged that he was forced by the school to take psychotropic drugs, and it’s safe to say that his time in Stillwater was anything but smooth.

Clark ultimately landed at Arkansas Baptist College, and on Thursday it was reported by the Detroit Free Press that he’s committed to Oakland University to play for head coach Greg Kampe. Clark joins a program with an immediate need at the point, with All-American Kahlil Felder having entered the NBA Draft and hired an agent as well.

The obvious question regarding Clark is whether or not he’s managed to take care of business off the court, and in an interview with Mark Snyder of the Free Press the Oklahoma native made note of the benefits of getting away from home for college.

Playing in Rochester, far from his home, will serve him well, he said.

“Anywhere away from home is the best thing,” Clark said. “It’s just hard balancing everything being close to home.”

Clark will be one of the options Kampe has to choose from at the point, with incoming freshmen Brailen Neely and Billy Thomas also among the new arrivals, and sophomore Jaevin Cumberland looking to earn more playing time than the 5.6 minutes per contest he averaged as a freshman.

Creighton point guard Watson Jr. to return for senior season

Creighton's Maurice Watson Jr. (10) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Xavier in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. Creighton won 70-56. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Creighton’s chances of moving up the Big East standings and returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014 improved a great deal Thursday, as starting point guard Maurice Watson Jr. announced that he will be returning for his senior season. Watson, who began his college career at Boston University, entered his name into the NBA Draft pool without hiring an agent but decided that another year in Omaha would be best for him.

Watson was one of the most impactful transfers in the country last season, as his play at the point was a major factor in the Bluejays winning 20 games and going 9-9 in conference play after being picked to finish eighth in the Big East preseason poll. Watson averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game last season, earning second team All-Big East honors.

With Watson’s return the Bluejays will welcome back three of their top four scorers from last season, with center Geoffrey Groselle being the lone departure. Head coach Greg McDermott adds a talented shooting guard in Marcus Foster, who sat out last season after transferring in from Kansas State. With Watson and Foster working together, Creighton will have a formidable perimeter tandem leading the way in 2016-17 with the likes of forward Cole Huff and guard Isaiah Zierden also being key contributors.

In addition to what Watson can provide in games he’ll also serve as a good mentor for Kaleb Joseph, who will have to sit out next season after transferring in from Syracuse. Joseph, who will have two seasons of eligibility remaining, fell out of the rotation as a sophomore so the year in residency should benefit him as he works towards grabbing the reins in 2017-18.

h/t ESPN.com

UConn, four-star 2017 big man Brown part ways

Brown, Zach
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Back in mid-January UConn made waves on the recruiting trail by securing a verbal commitment from 7-foot-1 center Zach Brown, a player seen by many as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2017. That partnership came to an end Thursday, as the two parties decided to part ways. News of the mutual decision was first reported by Scout.com.

The Miami native is currently ranked 28th in the Class of 2017 by Rivals.com, and Thursday’s news opens up a spot in the front court that UConn head coach Kevin Ollie and his staff will now have to fill. Amida Brimah, who’s currently going through the NBA pre-Draft process, will be a senior next season should he return to Storrs as will Kentan Facey.

Among the interior options who will have eligibility remaining beyond next season for the Huskies are sophomore Steven Enoch and incoming freshmen Mamadou Diarra and Juwan Durham.

UConn was in the running for 2016 power forward Taurean Thompson, but multiple outlets have the Brewster Academy product considering Michigan State (which added UNLV grad transfer Ben Carter Wednesday), Seton Hall and Syracuse at this point in his recruitment.

UCF lands commitment from transfer Terrell Allen

New UCF men's NCAA college basketball coach Johnny Dawkins speaks at his introductory press conference Thursday, March 24, 2016 in Orlando, Fla. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel via AP) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT
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Having already landed one transfer in former Michigan guard Aubrey Dawkins (the new head coach’s son), UCF landed a second Thursday afternoon as former Drexel guard Terrell Allen announced that he’ll finish out his college career playing for Johnny Dawkins.

Allen, a CAA All-Rookie Team selection in his lone season at Drexel, announced the news by way of his Twitter account. After sitting out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules, Allen will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

On a team that struggled throughout the 2015-16 season, winning just six games, Allen averaged 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 32.5 minutes of action per game. The 6-foot-2 point guard finished the season ranked in the top ten in the CAA in both assists and assist-to-turnover ratio, with his assist tally ranking eighth and his A/T ratio of 1.9 placing him seventh.

With B.J. Taylor entering his junior season and Jeremy Carter-Sheppard joining the ranks this summer, the addition of Allen gives UCF another option at the point for the 2017-18 campaign.