adidas Nations Sunday Recap

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LONG BEACH, California — College counselor games finished up on Sunday at adidas Nations as the college players had two more sessions of games and a chance to ball with former NBA all-star Tracy McGrady and Denver Nuggets wing Arron Afflalo. CBT‘s Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips were there to take in the action and give six takeaways from the day’s action, including a high-profile matchup of freshmen and a thoughts on two All-Big Ten candidates.

Frank Kaminsky looking to balance inside, outside play

Wisconsin senior forward/center Frank Kaminsky struggled with his outside shot this weekend, and while the ability to be a “pick and pop” guy who extends defenses is one of his best attributes there’s also the need for Kaminsky to balance his time on the perimeter with carving out some space inside. And in speaking with Kaminsky following his game Sunday evening, he touched on the amount of work it takes to manage that balance and make sure he as effective as possible.

“It’s tough sometimes,” Kaminsky told NBCSports.com Sunday evening. “There are a lot of things that go into it. Working hard in the weight room, conditioning and things like that. It’s not easy but it’s the way I know how to play. It was difficult for a couple of years but it’s getting easier and easier as I [gain experience].”

Another key for Kaminsky and his teammates is the need to account for the graduation of guard Ben Brust. Brust shot the ball well for the Badgers last season, and he was also an important leader for a team that won 30 games and reached the Final Four. According to Kaminsky it will be the responsibility of everyone to step forward in 2014-15, and the fact that so much of Wisconsin’s rotation from last season returns to Madison will help in this regard. (RJ)

Click here for CBT’s coverage from adidas Nations

A.J. English enjoys a productive weekend

After winning 22 games and the MAAC regular season title in 2013-14, Tim Cluess’ Iona Gaels are hoping to get back to the NCAA tournament after falling short of their goal in the MAAC title game. The Gaels will have to account for the loss of guards Sean Armand and Tre Bowman, but they return three key cogs in the attack led by junior guard A.J. English. English, who averaged 17.2 points, 4.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game last season, performed well in the adidas Nations counselor games throughout the weekend while playing two different roles depending on the circumstances.

English saw time at both guard spots Sunday, with his time at the point coming when camp teammate and point guard Derrick Walton Jr. sat out the evening session game. English knocked down shots when open, made some solid decisions off the dribble and also defended well. As for what English was looking to gain from the camp experience, he hoped to make strides in all aspects of his game.

“I feel like I have to get stronger [in all aspects],” English said Friday. “Nobody’s perfect; I’m definitely not perfect. So I try to learn stuff from these great coaches and take in everything they say.” (RJ)

Camp gives LSU’s Josh Gray, Jordan Mickey valuable time on the court together

With Anthony Hickey transferring to Oklahoma state, former Odessa College point guard Josh Gray is an incredibly important piece for Johnny Jones’ LSU Tigers this season. And while Gray has been able to establish some on-court chemistry with his new teammates while taking summer classes in Baton Rouge, sophomore forward Jordan Mickey wasn’t among them. With that being the case, the adidas Nations camp gave those two some valuable time on the court together as they work to understand where the other is most effective.

“It means a lot since he wasn’t [on campus] for summer school,” Gray said when asked how the camp helped him establish greater chemistry with his new teammate. “So coming out here and playing on the same team, that’s helped a lot. Now I know what he likes, what he doesn’t like and what positions he’s [at his best].”

Mickey and Jarell Martin will be the leaders for LSU in the front court, where the Tigers have to account for the early departure of Johnny O’Bryant III. Now a Milwaukee Buck, O’Bryant led the Tigers in scoring and was one of their best rebounders in 2013-14 and how good the Tigers can be this season depends upon what strides Mickey and his fellow big men can make in their individual (and collective games).

“We just have to make up for it as a team,” Mickey said. “We have to trust our offense, trust our coaches and not be selfish players.” (RJ)

Kelly Oubre makes his camp debut; faces Stanley Johnson

One of the biggest names at adidas Nations this week has been highly-touted Kansas freshman wing Kelly Oubre. The 6-foot-7 lefty didn’t play the first two days in camp games, but suited up for a high-profile battle with fellow McDonald’s All-American and incoming freshman Stanley Johnson on Sunday morning.

It was a fun matchup of two of the best freshman college basketball will see this season. Johnson used his power game and skill level to go off of the bounce to attack Oubre while Kelly unleashed some feathery perimeter jumpers to the tune of a 6-for-7 outing from three-point range. Oubre also showed off some passing ability while attacking the basket or if he was trapped on high ball screens and he generally looked the part of potential impact player this season. Oubre still has some work to do on the defensive end against bigger and stronger players, but he has the natural talent and athletic traits to be a difference maker at Kansas this season. Oubre finished the game with 20 points and three rebounds while Johnson had 18 points, five assists and four rebounds. (SP)

Terran Petteway closes out a strong week

One of the camp’s most steady performers this week was Nebraska junior wing Terran Petteway. The reigning All-Big Ten selection consistently hit shots from the perimeter, attacked using shot fakes and also played very hard on both ends of the floor.

As one of the more experienced guys in the event, the 6-foot-6 Petteway looked like an even more complete scoring threat than last season with the variety of ways he scored the ball this week in Long Beach. Petteway had minimal difficulty getting his own shot, and besides UCLA guard Norman Powell, might have helped his NBA stock more than any other player in attendance this week. (SP)

Jabari Bird steadily improves as week goes on

One of the players I wanted to see the most this week was Cal sophomore wing Jabari Bird. The 6-foot-6 Bird started the week slowly but came on strong during the final day of games on Sunday. Bird finally seemed more comfortable hunting his own offense and his jumper seemed to be more consistent, as well.

Bird also rebounded the ball well from the wing and was engaged on the defensive end while battling some higher-profile wings. The sophomore will be an interesting player to watch this season under Bears’ first-year coach Cuonzo Martin and this week seemed like a step in the right direction for him going into year two in the Pac-12. (SP)

Report: Western Kentucky’s Lamonte Bearden staying in 2018 NBA Draft

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Western Kentucky guard Lamonte Bearden will stay in the 2018 NBA Draft after hiring an agent, according to a report from ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-3 Bearden just completed his redshirt junior season with the Hilltoppers as he averaged 11.8 points, 3.4 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game. A slippery guard with good size, Bearden shot 47 percent from the field and 82 percent from the charity stripe while also getting in the passing lanes for 1.7 steals per game.

Although Bearden has good size and athleticism at lead guard, his perimeter jumper has been inconsistent during his college career. He was 31 percent from three-point range (a career high) this past season. Starting his college career at Buffalo, Bearden helped lead the Bulls to the NCAA tournament before opting to play in Conference USA for Western Kentucky.

The Hilltoppers will certainly miss Bearden’s presence in their backcourt as the program has seven new players signed for next season.

USC makes a statement landing Class of 2019 four-star forward Isaiah Mobley

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USC ended a strong week of recruiting with another major statement on Friday afternoon as four-star Class of 2019 forward Isaiah Mobley pledged to the Trojans.

The second major Class of 2019 commitment for USC during the week, the 6-foot-9 power forward joins five-star big man Onyeka Okongwu. The Compton Magic teammates should be able to help replace the loss of Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, with Mobley playing the skilled, floor-spacing Boatwright’s role and Okongwu providing the interior energy of Metu.

Having two highly-touted big men commit in the same week is huge for USC. And it looks like the start of even bigger things in a continually-evolving SoCal recruiting war against Pac-12 rival UCLA.

Landing both Mobley and Okongwu is significant for the Trojans for a number of reasons. As previously mentioned, both come from the famous Compton Magic grassroots program that runs on the adidas Gauntlet. While landing AAU teammates from a regional program is common for high-major programs of USC’s stature, the commitments signify that the Trojans are the ones with the biggest pull with the Magic at the current moment.

And the Magic used to get raided by UCLA.

In the past few years, the Bruins signed T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Jaylen Hands and Jalen Hill from the Compton Magic. Now, it’s USC who looks to be in the driver’s seat recruiting the program.

The Trojans aren’t done, either.

Newly-hired USC assistant coach Eric Mobley is the father Isaiah Mobley, as well as five-star Class of 2020 big man Evan Mobley. As Rivals national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi noted in his story about Isaiah, “Barring something strange happening, look for the younger Mobley to join his brother and father by committing to USC within the next two weeks.”

That would mean the Trojans would have landed three top-30 caliber big men in the span of a few weeks. That allows the USC coaching staff to recruit other positions extremely hard. Outside of Kentucky, USC has arguably the best future recruiting status of any program in the country.

The Trojans have taken full advantage of UCLA letting go popular assistant coach David Grace. The Bruins are still pulling in top-100 prospects, as evidenced by Grant Sherfield and Jaime Jaquez’s commitments in the Class of 2019, but losing two Magic kids in a week to a rival has to sting.

Considering where USC was last fall with the FBI investigation, who saw this type of recruiting swing coming? Other programs involved in the investigation like Arizona, Auburn and Oklahoma State have landed solid recruits. They also haven’t pulled in nearly the high-level talent that the Trojans currently have committed.

Even amidst the uncertainty surrounding the FBI investigation, USC is still pulling in elite talent while beating local rivals. It’ll be fascinating to see if the Trojans can continue to recruit at this level as they try to fill out the rest of an important recruiting class.

USF signs Oklahoma State transfer Zack Dawson

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USF landed a major addition on Friday as the school announced the signing of Oklahoma State transfer guard Zack Dawson.

The 6-foot-3 Dawson is a former consensus top-100 prospect coming out of high school as he’ll have to sit out the 2018-19 season due to NCAA transfer rules. A native of the region, Dawson will have three years of eligibility remaining once he’s able to play again.

Dismissed from Oklahoma State on Dec. 14 for violating team rules, Dawson averaged 4.4 points and1.6 assists per contest as he only suited up in five games for the Cowboys. Once Dawson is eligible to play for USF, he gives the Bulls a potentially dynamic backcourt along with rising sophomore guard David Collins.

“We are excited to welcome Zack back home to Florida as a member of the Bulls family,” USF head coach Brian Gregory said in a release. “He is a dynamic and versatile guard who can impact the game in a variety of ways. Zack comes from one of the best high school programs in the state, South Miami High School, so he immediately brings a championship attitude here to the University of South Florida.”

This is a really nice pickup for the Bulls, as they utilized a local transfer to help bolster the roster. Landing top-100 kids out of high school is going to be tough until USF boosts its basketball credibility. But getting a former top-100 player on the transfer market is a solid approach to building the Bulls into a respectable threat.

Michael Porter Jr.: ‘I’m the best player in this draft’

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The more I think about it, the more that Michael Porter Jr. is becoming the most interesting prospect at the top of the 2018 NBA Draft.

As a high school senior, he was considered by many to be the top player in the class, a 6-foot-10 combo-forward with a lethal three-point shot, NBA dunk contest athleticism and the versatility to, one day, be a multi-positional defender that would seamlessly fit into fit into the modern NBA.

But his one and only season at Missouri was derailed by back surgery, and that has allowed the rest of the class of 2017 to shine while we have focused on everything else that comes with drafting Porter. The reputation that he had for the majority of his high school career of being soft. The intel that was coming out of Missouri, that he was cocky and arrogant and something of a bad teammate. Questions about whether or not he is truly a wing or a four, more like a more athletic Lauri Markkanen.

When the only thing that we’ve had a chance to see this season is an out-of-shape Porter struggling in postseason games, it shouldn’t really be a surprise that his hype train has derailed.

“I know without a doubt that I’m the — I played against all these guys, they’re all great players — but I’m the best player in this draft,” Porter told ESPN. “And I just can’t wait to show what I’m capable of.”

And therein lies the conundrum for any team drafting him.

I have little doubt that Porter is going to be able to score and score a lot in the NBA. I think he and Bagley are the safest bets to average 20 points at the NBA level before their rookie contract runs out.

But putting up points and playing on winning basketball teams are not one and the same. For a ten-year stretch after his rookie season, Rudy Gay averaged at least 17.2 points while making the playoffs once during that stretch. Is that what Porter is going to turn into at the next level? Or will be find a way to become the kind of NBA defender his athleticism says he should be and, by the time he signs his first contract extension, end up the player that Paul George is?

The mitigating factor here is that Porter is going to do a fantastic job in every interview he has. He’s an intelligent, charismatic and articulate kid that is going to be able to sell himself. The red flags that he has aren’t going to show when he’s sitting down in front of NBA general managers.

They would have shown up — or been written off — if there was a season’s worth of game-tape available, but there isn’t. What that means is that scouts are going to have to decide whether or not Porter, who by all accounts had a very impressive senior season in high school, is that player or the one that had the reputation for being soft for years before that.

And all of that is going to come after the doctor’s have a chance to examine his back to see if the surgery he underwent fixed what was wrong, or if this is the kind of situation where a recurrence is likely.

The result is the widest range for any player at the top of the draft.

He could sell someone on taking him as a top four pick. He could also slide his way down to the Knicks at No. 9 or the 76ers at No. 10.

Which is what makes him the most interesting prospect at the top of this draft.

P.J. Washington ‘definitely going back to school’ without first round guarantee

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Kentucky forward P.J. Washington is one of the handful of players that currently finds themselves in the tenuous position of having their name in the NBA draft pool without having a clear picture of where, exactly, they are going to end up getting picked.

Will they be a late-first round pick? Will he be an early second round pick? Will he even be drafted at all?

Washington told reporters at the NBA combine this week that, if he’s a first round pick, he’ll be heading to the NBA. If he only gets a second round guarantee, he’ll be returning to school.

As we detailed last week, getting selected in the second round does not mean a player is destined to end up being broke his first year out of school. In the last six drafts, only one college player picked in the top ten picks of the second round (31-40) did not receive a guaranteed contract. In the 2017 NBA Draft, every college player selected in the top 50 received a guaranteed deal of at least one year, and Thomas Bryant was the only player whose one-year guaranteed deal was at the league minimum.

That doesn’t mean that Washington should leave Kentucky if he’s going to be a second round pick. If he returns to school, becomes a 42 percent three-point shooter (and can make free throws) and proves that he’s more versatile defensively than he was his year, then he could move up into the first round in a weaker 2019 draft.

It’s a risk for him, financially, to leave after this year if he doesn’t get that first round guarantee. It’s also a risk to return to school, where the best-case scenario isn’t always what happens.

I don’t envy the decision he has to make, but I am glad that Washington will have every chance in the world to be informed about the decision.