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)

Cyclones add big man for 2017

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 15:  Head coach Steve Prohm of the Murray State Racers shouts from the sidelines against the Colorado State Rams  during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 15, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Iowa State secured its first commitment Wednesday of what will be a pivotal class of forwards in 2017.

KeyShawn Faezell of Mississippi committed to Steve Prohm and the Cyclones, he announced Wednesday.

“After praying to God to lead me in the right path and talking with my dad,” Faezell wrote, “I’ve decided to further my education and basketball career under coach Prohm at Iowa State University.”

Faezell, a 6-foot-9 consensus top-150 forward in the 2017 class, joins wing Terrence Lewis as the first two members of a class that figures to number at least six for ISU. The addition of Faezell is key because ISU will be losing three members of its frontcourt it will likely be leaning on heavily in 2015-16 in Deonte Burton, Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie. A 2016 big man, Cameron Lard, has also yet to enroll in classes this fall due to academic issues, making Faezell’s commitment even more important should Lard be unable to get clearance.

“They need some people to come in and compete,” Feazell told the Ames Tribune. “I think I fit in the program.”

Prohm’s teams dating back to his Murray State days have always been guard-oriented and guard-heavy, but beginning to stack the roster with quality big men will be key as he looks to continue the Cyclones’ success in the Big 12, which includes a school-record five-straight NCAA tournament appearances.

BYU adds commit for 2019

Dave Rose
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BYU added a commitment from a high school senior this week, but the Cougars won’t be seeing him on campus until 2019.

Kolby Lee, a 6-foot-9 forward from Idaho, pledged to BYU on Monday evening, but won’t suit up until after serving a two-year mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints, according to the Deseret News.

“I had a great feeling about BYU, and I prayed about it,” Lee told the paper. “I just feel like it’s the right fit for me. It just seems right. It feels right.”

Lee chose BYU over offers from  Utah State, Boise State and UC Davis. He was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN and three by Scout.

His decision to forego immediately joining BYU certainly isn’t a new wrinkle for the Cougars, who routinely see their players either delay their initial eligibility or pause it mid-career while serving on missions.

Self pays freshman Jackson a major compliment

Josh Jackson, from Napa, Calif.,, dunks over Nancy Mulkey, from Cypress, Texas, as he competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
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Freshman phenom production under Bill Self has been something of a contentious topic. Many fault the coach, who has won one national title and 12-straight Big 12 championships, for not developing one-and-done talent to their fullest potential during their single-season stays in Lawrence. Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo are Exhibit 1-A and 1-B for this argument in recent years.

Whatever outside criticism there is (Andrew Wiggins did go No. 1 overall just 2 years ago, after all), Self isn’t shying away from hyping the latest freshman with big expectations to come to KU. When asked who the greatest athlete of all-time is at the school’s annual Tradition Night last week, Self had a simple, if tongue-and-cheek, response.

“I’ll say Josh Jackson,” Self said of the the 6-foot-8 shooting guard ranked No. 1 in his class, according to Lawrence Journal-World.

With others answering with the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali, it’s pretty fair to say Self was playing to the crowd with the answer, but it’s still telling that he was willing to deliver such a sound bite, even if it was before a welcoming audience. Self didn’t try to seriously depress expectations for Wiggins, a player Jackson is often compared to, and it looks like he won’t for Jackson as well.

Jackson, though, won’t have the burden Wiggins had as there’s one of the country’s best backcourts in Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham to help shoulder the workload for the Jayhawks.

 

ACC non-commital on HB2 stance

John Swofford
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With North Carolina unwilling to rescind their controversial so-called bathroom bill, the NBA has withdrawn its All-Star Game from the state this year and numerous high-profile music acts have canceled performances as a result.

The ACC is declining to join them with a hard-line, or really any, position.

“We don’t want to damage our league with any premature decisions,” commissioner John Swofford said on The David Glenn Show. “We’ll just see how it plays out.”

The ACC, of course, has quite the presence in the state with North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest all in the Tar Heel State. Swofford’s comments are sure to draw the interest of the LGBT community, which has roundly been critical of the bill, which requires people to use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, and has recently been active in college athletics, opposing the Big 12’s potential inclusion of BYU in its expansion plans over concerns of the Church of Latter Day Saints school’s honor code.

North Carolina’s bill has also drawn the eye of the NCAA, which is requiring potential championship sights to provide information on local anti-discrimination laws.

One of the loudest voices in the ACC, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, has come out against the law.

“It’s an embarrassing bill,” Coach K said last month.

The Champions Classic renewed through 2019

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 27: Bill Self head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks claps for his team as they celebrate winning the Big 12 Conference Championship after they defeated Texas Tech Red Raiders 67-58 at Allen Fieldhouse on February 27, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. With the win, Kansas clinched its 12th straight conference championship. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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The Champions Classic is back, baby!!!

On Wednesday, the four schools that participate in the event — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State — announced that they have signed deals to extend the life of the doubleheader for another three years.

This is terrific news. The Champions Classic is always the best early-season event of the season, an annual double-header that always ends up putting together two of the best non-conference games in packed NBA arenas. This year, it features Duke, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, squaring off with Kansas, who is a consensus top three team with the No. 1 freshman in the class, Josh Jackson, on their roster, in one game.

The other game? Kentucky, the third consensus top three team nationally, going up against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, who will be, at worst, a top 15 team in the preseason polls.

So yeah, we’re going to get a pair of sensational basketball games in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15th. MSG also just so happens to be the best arena to watch a great neutral site basketball game.

It’s going to be awesome.

There’s only one possible way to make it better: turn it into a two-day event, with the winners squaring off for the Champions Classic title the following night.

Make it happen.

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

Nov. 14, 2017 (United Center, Chicago)
Kansas vs. Kentucky
Duke vs. Michigan State

Nov. 13, 2018 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Michigan State vs. Kansas
Duke vs. Kentucky

Nov. 12, 2019 (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Kansas vs. Duke
Michigan State vs. Kentucky