SPARTENBURG, SC — The Nike Peach Jam gets most of the love during the first week of the live evaluation period, but a few hours north, adidas held the finale for their spring adidas Gauntlet league — an event which featured a ton of talent.
Although the 17U level of the Gauntlet isn’t on par with Nike this year, there were still tons of high-major players and a lot of younger talent that college basketball will keep an eye on the next few years. Here’s a look at some of the happenings from adidas.
1. Nick Weatherspoon will push All-American status in the Class of 2017
A few weeks ago at the NBPA Top 100 Camp, Hoop Seen’s Justin Young told me that he believed that Class of 2017 guard Nick Weatherspoon had a serious chance to be a McDonald’s All-American. He might very well be right.
The 6-foot-1 Weatherspoon continues to play well over the last few weeks as he’s a lethal scorer who can also rebound from the perimeter (5.5 rebounds per game in adidas games this spring and summer) and distribute a little bit. The younger brother of Mississippi State guard Quinndary Weatherspoon, Nick still has some room to grow in terms of becoming a more consistent shooter and limiting turnovers, but in a class with weak lead guards, he’ll draw plenty of attention for All-American honors. Weatherspoon told NBCSports.com that his main five schools are Louisville, Mississippi State, North Carolina, N.C. State and Ohio State.
It’ll be intriguing to see if Weatherspoon opts to try and play with his brother at the next level or if he wants to forge his own legacy at a more well established basketball power.
2. Class of 2017 wing John Walker is really intriguing
Over the last few years, bigger wings have become a huge priority for some schools looking to play taller and longer traditional lineups, or if they want more spacing by putting those players at the four. Players like Kevin Durant and Brandon Ingram have shown that having big wings who can shoot over defenders is very valuable.
Although Texas native John Walker isn’t nearly the caliber of prospect as the aforementioned big wings, he’s got a lot of things to like about him after watching him a few times at the adidas Gauntlet.
Walker is still trying to figure out what exactly he is on the floor, but he’s pushing 6-foot-9, and unlike a lot of tall and skinny wings, he’s willing to to battle from a physical perspective. Walker still needs to add strength to avoid being pushed around, but he grabbed some rebounds, wasn’t afraid to defend in the post and got to the free-throw line a bunch in one contest against D1 Minnesota.
With a decent-looking perimeter jumper, Walker is going to be one to track in July and it’ll be fun to see how good he eventually becomes.
Walker’s Texas Pro teammate, Jase Febres, also deserves recognition for some strong performances. The 6-foot-5 guard had some big-time shooting performances in Spartenburg and should get plenty of looks over the next few weeks.
3. Class of 2018 forward Zion Williamson continues strong stretch
After an MVP performance at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in late June, Class of 2018 forward Zion Williamson had a lot of momentum coming into July and he didn’t disappoint in multiple viewings. At 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, Williamson is carrying a little bit of extra weight, but he’s still absurdly explosive as a leaper and that enables him to rebound in traffic over bigger post players while also playing well above the rim on offense.
The intriguing part of this five-star prospect’s game is going to come in how he expands his perimeter game. Many people around Williamson told NBCSports.com that he’s a much better perimeter shooter than advertised, he just has to play the four with Game Elite and still isn’t completely refined in that area. Williamson even acknowledged to me that he has to take that tremendous leaping ability and uses it to get good lift on his jumper because he tends to shoot more of a set shot for the moment.
Besides the developing jumper, Williamson is also a very good passer for a player his size and has a great feel for the game. To me, it’s a positive that he’s not launching perimeter jumpers right now, because he’s playing within himself and doing whatever his team needs. The Class of 2018 doesn’t have many exciting prospects at the moment, but Williamson has firmly placed himself in the top-5 discussion and could push even higher if he improves his perimeter skill level.