LeBron James Skills Academy Day 1 Recap: College players shine, LeBron joins high school campers

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LAS VEGAS — It goes without saying that the namesake of the LeBron James Skills Academy is the center of attention in the basketball world these days. With James being a free agent, the question of where he’ll play his basketball next season has dominated conversation with some seeing his decision as the first major domino to fall in NBA free agency.

While some would use that status as a reason to remain sequestered away from the public that hasn’t been the case for James, who was present at both sessions of his camp on Wednesday. And for the high school players in attendance, that meant the opportunity to play either with or against James during the evening session. With four games being played concurrently James hopped from one court to the next, taking the opportunity to also help the prospects with some of the finer points of the game.

One of the players who had the opportunity to defend James was 2015 guard Malik Beasley, who sought out the challenge of defending the four-time NBA MVP. And while becoming even better equipped to deal with a player of that level of physicality is something Beasley is looking to do this summer, it isn’t his only focus.

Derryck Thornton stands out at Reebok Breakout Camp

“It is, because I want to get ready for the next level,” Beasley told NBCSports.com. “Also ball-handling, so I can play some point guard [in addition to] the two.”

When asked which schools have been recruiting him the hardest the 6-foot-4 guard played things close to the vest, noting that while he knows the answers it’s something he’ll talk about more towards the end of July. But with the skill set it’s easy to see while many high major programs, including Georgia, Cincinnati, Maryland and Auburn have offered the versatile guard. Beasley was one of the better performers of the first day when it came to the high school players, as he was able to score in a variety of ways while also defending well.

Ivan Rabb, Henry Ellenson lead front court prospects: Two of the best prospects in the Class of 2015 faced off during the night session, but it didn’t come to fruition until the second half. Rabb controlled the paint on both ends of the floor in the first half, blocking shots around the basket on one end and scoring consistently on the other. And while Ellenson didn’t block as many shots at Rabb in the first half, he proved to be the best big man on the court during his time on the floor.

That ultimately led to the two five-star prospects being pitted against each other in the second half, and they played to a virtual standstill. This all occurred on a court being observed by coaches from Duke, Georgetown, Marquette, North Carolina and UCLA (each head coach was in attendance) among many high-major programs.

Sam Dekker, Kelly Oubre among college standouts: One aspect of the camp that proves beneficial is the presence of college players, with those who have performed well at other Nike skills camps receiving an invite to Las Vegas. Like the high school players there was an adjustment period as the players became better acquainted with each other. But the length of time needed to make that adjustment was understandably shorter for the college players.

Two college players who performed well were Wisconsin rising junior Sam Dekker and Kansas incoming freshman Kelly Oubre. Dekker’s coming off of a very good sophomore campaign for the Badgers, and the interesting thing about him is that he’s grown. Listed at 6-foot-7 by Wisconsin, Dekker is listed as being 6-foot-9 this week. Skill-wise he knocked down perimeter shots at a consistent rate while also getting to the basket off the dribble. As for Oubre, the left-hander was aggressive offensively and he was a proficient jump shooter as well.

Other players who performed well Wednesday were guards Anthony Brown (Stanford), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Terry Rozier (Louisville) and Delon Wright (Utah), with forwards Vincent Hunter (UTEP), Jordan Mickey (LSU) and Aaron White (Iowa) among the front court standouts. And VCU’s Treveon Graham deserves mention as well, as he made the plays required of being a good teammate while also displaying the shooting ability that has made him one of the Atlantic 10’s best players.

25-pound weight loss helps Georges Niang expand his game: Earlier this summer it was reported that Iowa State rising junior forward Georges Niang, whose season ended due to a broken foot suffered in the Cyclones’ NCAA tournament win over North Carolina Central, dropped some 25 pounds since the end of the season. The result: a more versatile player who’s better equipped to play on the perimeter on both ends of the floor. And being at a camp that features more perimeter players than prototypical big men has helped Niang as he works to become an even better player in 2014-15.

“I feel that [now I can] guard smaller guys and keep them in front of me,” Niang said. “I noticed I couldn’t do that last year when I was heavier, so [the weight loss] helps. Also, getting up and down the court is a lot easier. I rarely feel tired now, so I feel like where my stamina is I can keep going and pushing guys to another level.”

Arizona PF Ira Lee cited for DUI

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Tuesday afternoon it was announced that Arizona sophomore power forward Ira Lee was been cited for driving under the influence on Saturday.

Lee was ultimately released, and according to the Arizona Daily Star he faces misdemeanor charges for failing to yield at an intersection, driving under the influence as a minor (Lee is 20 years old) and extreme DUI involving a blood-alcohol content above .20. Lee is set to be arraigned on September 10.

In a release the Arizona basketball program announced that the incident has been referred to the Dean of Students for review and “the Athletics Department is reviewing the incident for team consequences.”

As a freshman Lee served as a reserve behind starters Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic in the Arizona front court, averaging 2.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.2 minutes per game. With Ayton and Ristic both off to the professional ranks, Lee is expected to be a key contributor in an Arizona front court that includes transfers Chase Jeter (Duke; sat out last season) and Ryan Luther (Pittsburgh), sophomore Emmanuel Akot and freshman Omar Thielemans.

Loyola celebrity nun Sister Jean celebrating 99th birthday

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CHICAGO (AP) — Sister Jean is celebrating her 99th birthday months after gaining national attention as chaplain of the Loyola-Chicago basketball team that reached the NCAA Final Four.

The university held a campus party with students and school staffers Tuesday for Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt. The Catholic nun became a celebrity last March for her fandom and for praying before each game for her Ramblers — and for their opponents.

Schmidt says her health is better some days than others as she’s been recovering since last year from a broken hip. She received a number 99 basketball jersey and a birthday cake frosted in the team’s maroon and gold colors.

Players say they’re still inspired by her example.

Ramblers guard Marques Townes describes her simply as “Genuine, sincere, passionate, loving, caring, sweetheart.”

NC State PG Blake Harris granted immediate eligibility

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When former Missouri point guard Blake Harris transferred to NC State in January, the expectation was that he would not be eligible to compete until the end of the fall semester. However that will not be the case, as Tuesday afternoon NC State announced that Harris has been granted immediate eligibility.

Harris started nine of the 14 games in which he played at Missouri, averaging 3.8 points and 3.1 assists in just under 14 minutes per game. The addition of the former 4-star prospect gives NC State head coach Kevin Keatts additional depth and talent at the point, which is key given the up-tempo, pressure style the Wolfpack generally play.

In addition to Harris, NC State will also be able to call upon sophomore Braxton Beverly and junior Markel Johnson, with those two being part of a team that won 21 games and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015 last season.

In total NC State will have three transfers from Division I schools eligible to compete in 2018-19, with guards Devon Daniels (Utah) and C.J. Bryce (UNCW) ready to go after sitting out last season.

One player who will not be available for the Wolfpack this season is forward Manny Bates, with it being announced that he will redshirt after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder. Bates, a 6-foot-11 forward from Fayetteville, North Carolina, dislocated the shoulder in early August.

The NC State front court will be led by newcomers, with grad transfer Wyatt Walker (Samford) and junior college transfer Derek Funderburk among the options.

Xavier lands commitment from four-star big man

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Xavier picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2019, adding an under-the-radar prospect in Zach Freemantle, a 6-foot-9 forward out of New Jersey.

Freemantle currently ranks 129th in 247 Sports composite ranking, but will likely move up after a strong July landed him a handful of high-major offers.

He’ll join Elias King and Daniel Ramsey, two more four-star prospects, in Travis Steele’s first real recruiting class for the Musketeers.

VIDEO: You need to see this Zion Williamson mixtape

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Zion Williamson made waves across the internet over the weekend as we got our first chance to get a glimpse of college basketball’s resident Viral King in Duke’s exhibition trip up to Canada.

So with that in mind, let’s go back and look at Williamson’s mixtape from his senior season of high school. I’ve never seen someone make in-game windmills and between-the-legs dunks look so commonplace.