Although there are nine different teams of high school-aged players at the adidas Nations event in Long Beach, California, there are also 28 college players serving as counselors. In addition to helping the coaches work with the high school players, the college counselors are also getting in some game action in front of NBA scouts and executives. Below are a couple notes on Friday’s play, with their being just one round of game play following a morning session of skill work.
– Derrick Walton Jr. had a good day running the show for his team.
As a freshman at Michigan Derrick Walton Jr. started 36 of the 37 games in which he played, which was a necessity considering the fact that Trey Burke entered the NBA Draft following his sophomore season. Walton improved as the season wore on, posting averages of 7.9 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists on a team that won the Big Ten regular season title outright and reached the Elite Eight. And with Nik Stauskas now in the NBA, Walton is one of the returnees who will need to step forward for John Beilein in 2014-15.
On Friday Walton was very good with regards to distributing the basketball, making sound decisions in the pick-and-roll game and getting his teammates the ball where they were best positioned to enjoy success. One of the beneficiaries was teammate Zak Irvin, who knocked down multiple jump shots on the tail end of those Walton passes. With an eye towards next season, this weekend will be good for the two Wolverines as they (along with Caris LeVert) are the ones best positioned for a breakout 2014-15.
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– A slimmer BeeJay Anya displays increased stamina, athleticism.
Anya didn’t play as well as he would have liked Friday, but a positive to take out of his effort was the amount of weight he’s lost after arriving at NC State weighing 337 pounds according to the Fayetteville Observer. Anya stated during a break in the action that he’s dropped some 56 pounds, and the impact the weight loss has had on his stamina and athleticism was noticeable. He ran the floor better than he did at any point last season and was consistent in doing so; one good sprint of the floor wasn’t followed by a period of loafing. And around the rim Anya looked more fluid in his movements, resulting in better opportunities to score.
The loss of T.J. Warren was a big one for the Wolfpack, but they have some solid returnees due back along with the addition of a solid freshman class and Alabama transfer Trevor Lacey. If Anya and his teammates prove capable of stepping forward to account for the production lost with the departures of Warren and leading assist man Tyler Lewis, NC State could surprise some people in the ACC.
“We need to pick up the scoring [as a group],” Anya told NBCSports.com when asked how the Wolfpack will look to account for the loss of Warren’s scoring ability. “We’re a balanced team, and we plan on having multiple players average double figures. So in order for us to do that we’re going to have to play as a team, move the ball around and be able to play physically. It’s going to be hard, but I think we’re very capable of doing it.”
– Perry Ellis’ name has to be mentioned when discussing Big 12 Player of the Year candidates.
After averaging 5.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game as a freshman, the Kansas forward emerged as one of the Big 12’s most improved players as he accounted for 13.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Yet with the presence of freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, Ellis’ contributions were only good enough for a spot on the Big 12’s third team all-conference squad as voted on by the coaches. While there will be a lot of competition for not only a spot on the league’s first team all-conference team but also Big 12 Player of the Year, Ellis has shown signs of progressing into being that kind of player at both the LeBron James Skills Academy and now adidas Nations.
Ellis has looked like a polished player offensively, knocking down perimeter shots while also being skilled enough to score in the paint. Kansas won’t lack for talent, as is usually the case, but Ellis will need to be a leader for this group. And if his play in July is any indication, Ellis is ready to face that challenge head-on (and excel).