(2016 point guard Dennis Smith, Jr. Credit: adidas)

adidas Nations high school Superlatives

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Kelly Kline/adidas

LONG BEACH, California — The 2014 version of adidas Nations is behind us now, but with CBT‘s Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips both in attendance, they decided to break down some of the top high school players in the event by going over a list of superlatives for the week. Be sure to check out the college counselor superlatives and be on the look out for brief recaps of every college counselor in attendance later this week on College Basketball Talk.

Click here for CBT’s coverage from adidas Nations


Dennis Smith – The Class of 2016 point guard is already a top-5 player in the class, according to Rivals, but the North Carolina native had a fantastic week in helping his Team Lillard win the camp’s title. The 6-foot-2 Smith shot 71 percent from the field over the five games at adidas Nations and if you take three-pointers out of the equation — in which he was a respectable 36 percent on 4-for-11 shooting — Smith shot a ridiculous 85 percent on two-point field goals (23-for-27).  As if that wasn’t enough, Smith also led the camp in assists (4.8 per game), steals (three per game) and also shot 92 percent from the free-throw line. When you consider most of the guys in attendance were older, those numbers are incredibly impressive. (SP)

Dennis Smith – Thon Maker won MVP honors and fellow guards De’Aaron Fox and Eron Gordon also performed well for Team Lillard, but the choice here is Smith even with attempts to avoid duplicating my colleague’s answer. Smith was that good, working incredibly hard to get to the basket while also making sure his teammates were taken care of (as noted above he led the camp in assists). If Smith can get that perimeter shot in order, defenders whose best course of action is to sag off of him will be in even more trouble than they already are. (RJ)


Kobi Simmons – Another Class of 2016 guard and five-star prospect, Simmons had a great week, as a point guard, at adidas Unrivaled in Chicago in early July only to see his play regress this week at adidas Nations. The 6-foot-5 Simmons hunted his own offense aggressively but shot low percentages from the field (36 percent, 25-for-68) and the three-point line (16 percent, 4-for-24) and also had nearly double the turnovers (17) than he did assists (nine). Simmons is still an immense talent, and will be one of the better guard prospects in the 2016 class, but there is clear separation from Dennis Smith and Simmons after this week and there are legitimate questions if Simmons is actually a point guard after this summer. (SP)

T.J. Leaf – Leaf wasn’t around long, playing in just one game before leaving for an unspecified reason. It would have been nice to see the highly regarded 2016 prospect play throughout the event, especially in the title game against the loaded squad that included the likes of Dennis Smith, Thon Maker and Eron Gordon. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be, meaning that those in attendance didn’t get another chance to evaluate him against some of the best players in the country. (RJ)


Billy Preston – There were murmurs from the West Coast all spring and summer that the Class of 2017 forward was playing at a high level and Preston proved it with his play at adidas Nations. The 6-foot-8 Preston shot 56 percent from the three-point line (9-for-16) this week and also rebounded the ball pretty well, especially considering he was facing a lot of players two years older than him. There’s still a long time to go for Preston to enter college, but high-majors should be interested because he’s a stretch forward that can also rebound. (SP)

Wesley Alves da Silva – Jalen Poyser could be another option for this spot, but I’ll go with the 6-foot-5 Brazilian (he plays for Palmeiras in Brazil) in this spot given my limited knowledge about him. Alves da Silva averaged 18.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game during adidas Nations play, shooting 54.5% from the field. He attempted just three three-pointers the entire weekend, as he spent most of his time looking to create opportunities inside the arc. This performance capped a summer that included the FIBA Americas U18 Championships, where he accounted for 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest. Not sure if Alves da Silva’s name comes up in college basketball recruiting circles as time rolls on, but his name may be one to keep in mind down the road. (RJ)


Dennis Smith – While adidas Nations featured a number of high-level prospects like Class of 2015 top-ten players Jaylen Brown and Chase Jeter and Class of 2016 top-ten player Thon Maker, Smith is the type of athletic point guard with skill that doesn’t pop up very often. While Smith attempted to make some flashy plays that led to turnovers in the spring, he was incredibly efficient in Long Beach this week and made everyone around him better. It’s probably a toss-up between Maker and Smith long term, but I’ll go with Smith at this point because Maker’s ability to add strength and his average hands are question marks going forward. (SP)

Thon Maker – Since my colleague went with Smith I’ll go with Maker, who performed well most of the weekend for the 2016 group that won the title in impressive fashion. At 7-foot-1 he moves fluidly, and despite the lithe frame more than held his own on the glass with an average of 8.0 rebounds per game. Maker didn’t miss a shot in the semifinals, scoring 18 points on 6-for-6 shooting from both the field and the foul line. The perimeter shot is still a work in progress, but given his size it’s more important that Maker continue to hone his skills inside of the arc. If he can do that and gain some physical strength, Maker will cement his status as the best choice in this category. (RJ)

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.