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

adidas Nations high school Superlatives

Leave a comment
source:
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

BEST PERFORMER:

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)

WANTED TO SEE MORE FROM:

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)

BIGGEST SURPRISE:

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)

BEST PROSPECT:

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)

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)
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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
Leave a comment

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

Hartford makes smart decision to allow ‘Pancake’ Thomas transfer

AP Photo
Hartford coach John Gallagher, AP Photo
Leave a comment

Another talented graduate transfer has hit the market.

Cleveland ‘Pancake’ Thomas — that’s a helluva name, isn’t it? — has been granted a release by Hartford and will be allowed to transfer to another program for his fifth season.

“Our biggest priority for Cleveland was that he graduate from the University of Hartford with a valuable degree,” Hartford head coach John Gallagher said in a statement released to ESPN after some speculation that Thomas wasn’t going to be given a release. “That happened. Beyond wishing him the very best, we don’t comment on other program’s players. We are very excited about our group and the upcoming season.”

The term “release” is needed here because Thomas, a 6-foot-3 guard who averaged 18.9 points and shot 42.6 percent from three this past season, spent his first two years of eligibility at New Mexico. A graduate transfer exception is granted to any player making their first transfer after receiving an undergraduate degree. But since Pancake had already transferred once, he was only eligible to apply for a graduate transfer waiver, which the school he is leaving must support.

Remember the saga of Todd O’Brien? He tried to leave St. Joseph’s to spend his fifth-year at UAB but made headlines everywhere when Phil Martelli wouldn’t let it happen? That’s because O’Brien had started his career at Bucknell and needed Martelli to support the waiver.

Gallagher could have done the same to Pancake.

He made the right decision not to — Martelli has enough coaching cache to withstand the onslaught on criticism he received, I’m not sure that is true for Gallagher — even if it will result in Thomas playing elsewhere, hence the cold-hearted nature of that statement.

Anyway, Thomas never averaged more than 3.9 points at New Mexico, so while he’s a tantalizing prospect for programs that are dying for perimeter depth and shooting, this isn’t exactly a kid that’s going to launch himself into the NBA Draft’s first round by jumping up to a higher level.

Shawn Forrest named assistant coach for Jankovich at SMU

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 22:  Head coach Larry Brown (L) and associate head coach Tim Jankovich of the Southern Methodist Mustangs look on during the team's game against the Kent State Golden Flashes during the 2015 Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on December 22, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Southern Methodist won 90-74. The game marks Brown's return from a nine-game suspension.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

DALLAS (AP) Shawn Forrest has been named an assistant basketball coach at SMU, his third school since the end of last season.

Mustangs coach Tim Jankovich announced Forrest’s hiring Tuesday.

Forrest spent the past three seasons as an assistant at Western Kentucky before head coach Ray Harper resigned. Forrest was named a UTSA assistant in May, but two weeks later left for Louisiana Tech before the unexpected opening at SMU.

Jankovich was SMU’s associate head coach before the abrupt resignation last month of Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown. Forrest fills the open assistant spot created on the staff when Jankovich was promoted to head coach.

Before Western Kentucky, Forrest was an assistant coach at Louisiana-Lafayette, North Texas, Arkansas State and Florida A&M.