adidas Nations Sunday Recap

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LONG BEACH, California — College counselor games finished up on Sunday at adidas Nations as the college players had two more sessions of games and a chance to ball with former NBA all-star Tracy McGrady and Denver Nuggets wing Arron Afflalo. CBT‘s Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips were there to take in the action and give six takeaways from the day’s action, including a high-profile matchup of freshmen and a thoughts on two All-Big Ten candidates.

Frank Kaminsky looking to balance inside, outside play

Wisconsin senior forward/center Frank Kaminsky struggled with his outside shot this weekend, and while the ability to be a “pick and pop” guy who extends defenses is one of his best attributes there’s also the need for Kaminsky to balance his time on the perimeter with carving out some space inside. And in speaking with Kaminsky following his game Sunday evening, he touched on the amount of work it takes to manage that balance and make sure he as effective as possible.

“It’s tough sometimes,” Kaminsky told NBCSports.com Sunday evening. “There are a lot of things that go into it. Working hard in the weight room, conditioning and things like that. It’s not easy but it’s the way I know how to play. It was difficult for a couple of years but it’s getting easier and easier as I [gain experience].”

Another key for Kaminsky and his teammates is the need to account for the graduation of guard Ben Brust. Brust shot the ball well for the Badgers last season, and he was also an important leader for a team that won 30 games and reached the Final Four. According to Kaminsky it will be the responsibility of everyone to step forward in 2014-15, and the fact that so much of Wisconsin’s rotation from last season returns to Madison will help in this regard. (RJ)

Click here for CBT’s coverage from adidas Nations

A.J. English enjoys a productive weekend

After winning 22 games and the MAAC regular season title in 2013-14, Tim Cluess’ Iona Gaels are hoping to get back to the NCAA tournament after falling short of their goal in the MAAC title game. The Gaels will have to account for the loss of guards Sean Armand and Tre Bowman, but they return three key cogs in the attack led by junior guard A.J. English. English, who averaged 17.2 points, 4.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game last season, performed well in the adidas Nations counselor games throughout the weekend while playing two different roles depending on the circumstances.

English saw time at both guard spots Sunday, with his time at the point coming when camp teammate and point guard Derrick Walton Jr. sat out the evening session game. English knocked down shots when open, made some solid decisions off the dribble and also defended well. As for what English was looking to gain from the camp experience, he hoped to make strides in all aspects of his game.

“I feel like I have to get stronger [in all aspects],” English said Friday. “Nobody’s perfect; I’m definitely not perfect. So I try to learn stuff from these great coaches and take in everything they say.” (RJ)

Camp gives LSU’s Josh Gray, Jordan Mickey valuable time on the court together

With Anthony Hickey transferring to Oklahoma state, former Odessa College point guard Josh Gray is an incredibly important piece for Johnny Jones’ LSU Tigers this season. And while Gray has been able to establish some on-court chemistry with his new teammates while taking summer classes in Baton Rouge, sophomore forward Jordan Mickey wasn’t among them. With that being the case, the adidas Nations camp gave those two some valuable time on the court together as they work to understand where the other is most effective.

“It means a lot since he wasn’t [on campus] for summer school,” Gray said when asked how the camp helped him establish greater chemistry with his new teammate. “So coming out here and playing on the same team, that’s helped a lot. Now I know what he likes, what he doesn’t like and what positions he’s [at his best].”

Mickey and Jarell Martin will be the leaders for LSU in the front court, where the Tigers have to account for the early departure of Johnny O’Bryant III. Now a Milwaukee Buck, O’Bryant led the Tigers in scoring and was one of their best rebounders in 2013-14 and how good the Tigers can be this season depends upon what strides Mickey and his fellow big men can make in their individual (and collective games).

“We just have to make up for it as a team,” Mickey said. “We have to trust our offense, trust our coaches and not be selfish players.” (RJ)

Kelly Oubre makes his camp debut; faces Stanley Johnson

One of the biggest names at adidas Nations this week has been highly-touted Kansas freshman wing Kelly Oubre. The 6-foot-7 lefty didn’t play the first two days in camp games, but suited up for a high-profile battle with fellow McDonald’s All-American and incoming freshman Stanley Johnson on Sunday morning.

It was a fun matchup of two of the best freshman college basketball will see this season. Johnson used his power game and skill level to go off of the bounce to attack Oubre while Kelly unleashed some feathery perimeter jumpers to the tune of a 6-for-7 outing from three-point range. Oubre also showed off some passing ability while attacking the basket or if he was trapped on high ball screens and he generally looked the part of potential impact player this season. Oubre still has some work to do on the defensive end against bigger and stronger players, but he has the natural talent and athletic traits to be a difference maker at Kansas this season. Oubre finished the game with 20 points and three rebounds while Johnson had 18 points, five assists and four rebounds. (SP)

Terran Petteway closes out a strong week

One of the camp’s most steady performers this week was Nebraska junior wing Terran Petteway. The reigning All-Big Ten selection consistently hit shots from the perimeter, attacked using shot fakes and also played very hard on both ends of the floor.

As one of the more experienced guys in the event, the 6-foot-6 Petteway looked like an even more complete scoring threat than last season with the variety of ways he scored the ball this week in Long Beach. Petteway had minimal difficulty getting his own shot, and besides UCLA guard Norman Powell, might have helped his NBA stock more than any other player in attendance this week. (SP)

Jabari Bird steadily improves as week goes on

One of the players I wanted to see the most this week was Cal sophomore wing Jabari Bird. The 6-foot-6 Bird started the week slowly but came on strong during the final day of games on Sunday. Bird finally seemed more comfortable hunting his own offense and his jumper seemed to be more consistent, as well.

Bird also rebounded the ball well from the wing and was engaged on the defensive end while battling some higher-profile wings. The sophomore will be an interesting player to watch this season under Bears’ first-year coach Cuonzo Martin and this week seemed like a step in the right direction for him going into year two in the Pac-12. (SP)

Wichita State getting more national respect with non-conference scheduling

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Wichita State is starting to gain more national respect with regards to its non-conference schedule.

Since moving to the American Athletic Conference this spring, the Shockers have not only gained the benefit of being in a multi-bid league every year, but they’re also getting better teams to play them outside of conference play.

According to a report from Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle, the Shockers now have non-conference games scheduled with Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this season. With Wichita State also playing in the Maui Invitational, it gives the Shockers plenty of opportunities to schedule quality opponents and improve its NCAA tournament seeding. And that’s before Wichita State starts conference play.

Although Wichita State was getting invited regularly to prestigious non-conference tournaments such as Maui or the Battle 4 Atlantis, they were having a tough time getting certain schools to book home-and-home series. The Baylor series signifies a small, but significant, change to how Wichita State might be able to do things now.

USC forward Bennie Boatwright returning for junior year

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USC has a chance to be really good next season as forward Bennie Boatwright announced that he’s returning for his junior season.

The 6-foot-10 forward put up 15.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 36 percent from three-point range as his return means that the Trojans should be a major contender in the Pac-12 next season. Elijah Stewart also announced this week that he is returning as USC could start Jordan McLaughlin, De’Anthony Melton, Stewart, Boatwright and Chimezie Metu next season.

With Duke transfer Derryck Thornton Jr. also becoming eligible and McDonald’s All-American guard Charles O’Bannon Jr. entering the program, the Trojans are a potential top-10 team.

Following decommitment, four-star recruit makes eye-opening remarks about Ohio State

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Ohio State lost a four-star recruit on Wednesday when in-state Class of 2018 wing Darius Bazley opted to open up his recruitment.

As a rising senior who is just finishing his junior season of high school, Bazley’s decommitment isn’t going to immediately hurt the Buckeyes next season. But the 6-foot-7 wing’s comments about why he opted to open up his recruitment are pretty jarring.

In a story with Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch, Bazley opened up about why he decommitted from Ohio State. Bazley’s eye-opening remarks include how the Buckeyes might not get him ideal NBA exposure and how Ohio State might miss the NCAA tournament in his freshman year.

“I was excited when I first got the offer,” Bazley said to Jardy. “Ohio State is still a great place. It’s nothing against the school or anything, but my one ultimate goal is to get to the NBA and I just didn’t feel as confident as I did when I first committed that Ohio State was one of those schools that could get me there. At the end of the day I’ve got to perform no matter where I go, but I think there’s other schools out there that could put me on a bigger stage and in a better position to show those NBA scouts when I get to college what I can do.”

Bazley also didn’t appear to be pleased at the recruiting class coming into Ohio State for the Class of 2017, which is the class that is coming in this season. Remember, Bazley is a Class of 2018 recruit who still has to finish his senior season.

“Ohio State, they didn’t make the NCAA Tournament this year,” Bazley said to Jardy. “They didn’t even make the NIT, which is unfortunate, but I looked into the recruits they have coming into next year, they didn’t look too good for the future. So I felt like when my class came in, yeah, we would’ve been OK, but good enough to make the tournament? I don’t know. I just felt as if I was to de-commit, actually take my time, figure everything out it would just be a lot better.”

Ohio State was once one of the major destinations for one-and-done players a decade ago so these remarks are very surprising. D’Angelo Russell was a top-five pick in the NBA Draft only two years ago, and while the Buckeyes might not be as successful in recent years as they once were, they still get plenty of national exposure with regards to producing NBA talent.

The NCAA tournament comments might carry some more weight though. The Buckeyes have missed the NCAA tournament in two consecutive seasons and things are also looking difficult for them to reach the Big Dance for next season. If Bazley wants to play in the NCAA tournament, then I could understand him wanting to open things up and explore more options.

Still, you don’t often see a player make comments like this about a school after decommitting–especially a program with as much national exposure as Ohio State. Bazley is likely going to face some heat for his remarks, but if those are his true feelings about a future life decision, then he should explore what else is out there.

Nevada gets transfer commitment from Omaha forward Tre’Shawn Thurman

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Nevada continues to build its roster through transfers as the Wolf Pack added Omaha forward Tre’Shawn Thurman on Thursday.

The 6-foot-7 Thurman will have to sit out one season before playing his senior season but he is coming off of a very good campaign for the Mavericks. The versatile forward put up 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 49 percent from the field.

One of the Summit League’s better players the last two seasons, Thurman should be a solid rotation forward for Nevada as he has a chance to be a breakout player with one more year of development. If Thurman can improve his 25 percent three-point shooting then he could be a major factor for Nevada.

D-League salaries, two-way contracts increase NBA Draft early entries

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Yesterday, I wrote a piece about how it’s dumb to criticize players for entering the NBA Draft without costing themselves their collegiate eligibility when the NCAA’s new NBA Draft rules are specifically designed for said players to be able to do that.

In that column, I mentioned that D-League salaries are on the rise and that the NBA’s new CBA instituted something called “two-way contracts,” and I wanted a chance to elaborate and clarify a couple of the points that I made.

Let’s start with the “two-way contracts,” which NBA teams each get two of. They are essentially a retainer that those teams can place on younger players they want to be the 16th and 17th men on their roster, holding their rights as they bounce between the D-League — where they will likely spend the majority of the year — and the NBA. The catch is that those players have to have less than three years service as a professional, and the point of it is to provide a financial incentive for younger players with the potential to reach the NBA to remain stateside while allowing those NBA teams to develop them.

That financial incentive is fairly large, as well: Two-way players will make $75,000 guaranteed and will be able to make up to $275,000, depending on the amount of time they spend with the NBA team.

That means there are an extra 60 jobs this season that can end up paying players with less than three years of professional basketball experience upwards of a quarter-of-a-million dollars.

That’s not a bad starting salary.

The other point that I wanted to address is the rising D-League salaries which, technically, will not be rising. There are still going to be Tier A and Tier B players, who make $26,000 and $20,000 respectively. But the NBA has something called affiliate players, which each of the now-25 NBA teams with a D-League affiliate can pay up to $50,000 for training camp. NBA teams are allowed a maximum of four affiliate players, who will still make their $26,000 salary from their D-League team.

In other words, that’s 100 more jobs available in the United States where a professional basketball player can make $76,000, and that’s before you consider that the five NBA teams that do not yet have a D-League affiliate will still have to play players to get them into training camp.

That $76,000 is not a life-changing amount of money. Neither is the $275,000 that a two-way contract can pay. But it’s a pretty damn good paycheck to make for an entry-level job into the industry that you always dreamed of being in.

Athletes have an unbelievably small window where they can capitalize monetarily on their gifts.

If a 21-year old sophomore decides that he wants to continue to develop his game and chase his NBA dream by making $76,000 as a D-League player, is that really all that crazy?

After all, 135 of the 450 players, or 30 percent of the roster spots, on NBA’s opening night were taken by guys that had spent time in the D-League.

There’s more than one way to make a dream come true.