LONG BEACH, California — After playing one round of games during the morning session the attendees at adidas Nations were back at it in the evening, with there once again being for high school games and two college counselor contests. Scott Phillips and Raphielle Johnson were in attendance once again, this time focusing solely on the two college games. Play was more physical, and with Arron Afflalo (Denver Nuggets) and Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors) playing in the games (one on each court) the intensity was raised as well. Below are a few thoughts on Saturday’s evening session.
– Pros Arron Afflalo, Kyle Lowry join the college counselors game and their impact on the level of play was evident from the start.
With Afflalo and Lowry playing in the games, ball movement and player movement improved as a result. And if there was one player who took on the challenge of dealing with Afflalo on both ends of the floor was Arizona freshman Stanley Johnson. The 6-foot-8 wing handled the physical play well, finishing through contact and doing a good job of “locking and trailing” Afflalo through down screens. In speaking with a couple NBA scouts in attendance, they came away from the game impressed with the way in which Johnson competed both offensively and defensively. That will be a key for Stanley as the Wildcats look to account for the loss of the versatile Nick Johnson on the perimeter. (RJ)
Kyle Lowry just signed a four-year, $48 million dollar contract with the Toronto Raptors but that didn’t stop him from jumping in with the college counselors and playing hard. Lowry took charges, woofed at officials and was talking some mess to A.J. English at the free-throw line. Lowry got his UCLA teammates the ball and generally upped the level of play against guards like Derrick Walton, English and Zak Irvin. Although Lowry didn’t have any high-profile positional matchups like Stanley Johnson against Arron Afflalo, his intensity resonated with the group and the level of play was significantly increased from the morning session. (SP)
– Tony Parker plays the clean-up roll.
UCLA sophomore big man Tony Parker put together a string of productive efforts on Saturday as he registered a double-double in the night game. Parker didn’t do much with offensive touches in the half court but he did one thing incredibly well in the night game: hit the offensive glass.
Parker posted 11 offensive rebounds and it led to most of his points on Saturday night. Although he struggled with his off-hand and didn’t do much with his post touches, there is something to be said for consistently cleaning up misses and producing points. If Parker can do that for an uptempo UCLA offense this season, Steve Alford will be thrilled. Parker still floats in-and-out of games sometimes, but when he’s fully engaged, he can be very productive. (SP)
– E.C. Matthews working to improve his point guard skills.
As a freshman at Rhode Island, Matthews went from a player who factored into the rotation for head coach Dan Hurley to the Atlantic 10’s best freshman as he was named the league’s Rookie of the Year. Now with Xavier Munford out of eligibility Matthews has been working more on his ball-handling, as he’ll be expected to spend more time at the point guard position in 2014-15. When asked where he made his greatest strides last season, Matthews noted that he had a better understanding of what his role was as the year wore on.
“When the season started I really didn’t know my role,” Matthews told NBCSports.com on Friday. “But as the season [wore on] I got better and I knew what my role was, and that was to score and get everyone else involved. I’m looking to be a captain this year and I’ll be playing the one. I have to work on [strengthening] my right hand, but I think I’ll be able to [play the point].”
Through two days at adidas Nations, Matthews hasn’t been spectacular but he’s been solid, spending time at both guard spots on a team that includes LSU point guard Josh Gray. In Saturday’s night cap Matthews used his length well defensively, getting into passing lanes and even getting the game-saving block on a Terry Rozier jump shot attempt. The offense is still a work in progress when it comes to running the show, but his ability to get into the lane and finish was easy to notice. (RJ)