Nike Hoop Summit: USA Thursday Practice

Nike Hoop Summit: USA Thursday Practice
Apr 06, 2007, 11:07 am
If the intensity of the Team USA afternoon practice is any sort of indication, the International team could be in trouble on Saturday. Despite it being the second practice of the day, the top high school seniors in the nation scrimmaged hard for more than half of the two hour session. The intensity was high, the pace was fast, and the play was fundamentally sound.

There was nothing in this practice to shed additional light on the “great point guard debate”, with neither O.J. Mayo nor Derrick Rose taking over for any significant stretch. Instead, it was more of what we have seen from the class of 2007’s top floor generals. Mayo was his usual up and down self, displaying his NBA-ready jumper while still forcing the action on offense on a regular basais/taking the occasional play off on the defensive end. The highlight of the practice for Mayo would be a perimeter blow-by and layin that can be described as nothing less than Dwayne Wade-esque. Where Mayo continues to impress with the spectacular on a somewhat inconsistent basis, Rose still brings consistent, controlled, heady play within the framework of his elite athleticism. Rose still displays that funky sidearm release on his shot, but was knocking it down with regularity from 15 feet this afternoon.

Kyle Singler was probably the most impressive individual over the course of the session, contributing in so many ways and never letting up mentally. He’s not an elite athlete at the NBA level, but he is going to be an elite player in the ACC the moment he steps foot on the court. This afternoon he was swishing open jumpers, crashing the glass as well as any of the big men, passing and handling exceptionally well in the open court, and repeatedly getting more athletic opponents to bite on pump fakes near the basket. His general court awareness is superb, and there are few players willing to scrap as hard as Singler when the ball is loose on the floor. If utilized properly, he will be an All-America candidate from day one.

As for how he will be utilized, I had a chance to ask Singler about this after the game. He expects to see time at the “2 through 4” positions next fall, and play a role “sort of like Luol Deng.” So don’t be surprised to see a lot of Singler at the 4-spot next year…

Of course, this would all be predicated on fellow Hoop Summit participant Patrick Patterson following the expected course of action and heading somewhere other than Duke. The Huntington (WV) physical specimen was tight-lipped on any sort of college decision, only stating that he continues to list six schools, with the idea of cutting his list down to three very soon and eventually announcing his decision on May 1. Patterson is built like a tank yet still explosive enough to keep up with Michael Beasley up and down the court. His main offensive weapon at the moment is probably his jumper in the lane, but he has the tools to develop into a phenomenal college player. The common train of thought is that a Billy Donovan-coached Florida leads the pack, but that idea isn’t being pried from Patterson’s lips. If he did head elsewhere, Duke might be a logical destination considering the recent decision of Josh McRoberts to head pro and the Blue Devils’ need for a traditional power forward.

Jonny Flynn was the most impressive of the point guards, but that makes sense in this setting. Flynn is a phenomenal athlete with a motor that doesn’t shut off, and his fearless mentality is sure to make him a fan favorite at Syracuse. His scoring abilities weren’t on display here, simply because his teammates are so good at it.

It wasn’t a good practice for Jerryd Bayless. The Arizona-bound combo guard wasn’t hitting from the outside, and doesn’t have the physical strength to really force the issue against other elite members of this class. He was playing mostly off the ball in this one, but didn’t show the ability to contribute in other ways when his offense isn’t clicking. Adding some weight is a major priority heading into 2008.

With the absence of Kevin Love, Michael Beasley once again found himself a man amongst boys in the post. The much-hyped forward dazzled with his touch and awareness around the basket, and pretty much had his way physically. Beasley really doesn’t fit into any stereotypical molds in terms of position or projected future, but really knows his way around the mid-post. His physical maturity really stood out even in this most competitive of settings, and whichever college coach does end up with his services next year is getting a player that can do pretty much whatever he wants whenever he wants. Sometimes this amounts to not playing defense and lollygagging up and down the floor, but a motivated Beasley isn’t going to find many worthy adversaries at the college level this fall. And until late in the practice, Beasley did a great job of staying focused and aggressive.

The bar was set fairly high given who was on the court, but Syracuse-bound combo forward Donte Greene looked more the part of prospect than player in this practice. He didn’t make much of an impact on either end of the court, tending to float around on the perimeter and force his face-up offense when he did attempt to get involved. Green’s length and athleticism were instantly obvious whenever he did attempt to put it to use, but those moments were rare. It will be interesting to see how Green, a prospect with immense natural tools and plenty of upside, responds throughout the rest of the weekend.

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