Colorado Springs, Colo.--It took about five minutes in the gym to realize that this might be the finest collection of players ever to participate at the USA Basketball Youth Developmental Festival.
One of the unique things about this camp is that kids from both sides of the shoe wars get to mix, mingle and play with and against each other.
The first day of the camp included a three-hour practice session that for the most part was uneventful. However, that changed when 44 of the finest players in the country laced them up on Friday with their respective teams with an eye on Sunday's gold medal game.
The talent level here in Colorado Springs is big time. A quick tour around the gym revealed that the North, South, East and--yes, even the West--teams are loaded. Traditionally, the West has struggled out here, but this year's squad is loaded. From Arron Afflalo to Dorell Wright, the roster is dotted with stars; as is each of the four teams.
Here are some quick thoughts from the practice session:
A few weeks ago, Arron Afflalo didn't appear to have much fun at the Pangos Camp. He wasn't himself because he wasn't relaxed. Today, he had it going. The charismatic UCLA-bound guard was loose, smiling and in turn had it rolling from downtown. Look for him to have a big week.
Kalen Grimes was energetic in his team's practice session. Grimes tops out at 6-8, but he was throwing down dunks with regularity during the session.
With Marvin Williams and Robert Swift headlining the frontcourt of the West, a guy like Robert Rothbart might find himself free to shoot some shots from the perimeter. We haven't seen Rothbart in a year, but he's grown and he's got a nice touch from the outside.
NEWS & NOTES
*Look for Jason Rich to cut his list down to seven schools on Monday.
*There's going to be a heckuva point guard battle here. In attendance is Jordan Farmar, Sebastian Telfair, Shaun Livingston, Drew Neitzel, Jason Horton, Marquie Cooke and Tiki Mayben here. We list Darius Washington--whom some consider a PG--as more of a shooting guard, but toss his name in the mix as well.
*Ohio forward Josh Duncan doesn't get out to many events, but he's here this week. Duncan, who has not taken any official visits, declined to share the list of schools he's looking at, preferring to keep his list to himself.
The South and East were the winners during the early games on day one of competition. Mike Williams and Sebastian Telfair led their teams to wins.
South (1-0) 122, North (0-1) 99
East (1-0) 134, West (0-1) 124
Mike Williams, PF, South: The Texas commitment had his way inside against the North. He stayed home, rebounded and finished. The athletic Williams is enjoying a stellar spring and summer run and he is doing it by playing to his strengths. He is a great tipper and superior athlete inside the paint. He had 28 and 13 in the game, but had a double-double at the half, including a camp-high eight offensive boards.
Sebastian Telfair, PG, East: The Coney Islander had 27 points and four assists to lead his team. He was an efficient 10-16 from the floor and 3-5 from deep. The "A" game was cooking in this one as the East guards clearly got the better of their West Coast counterparts.
D.J. White, PF, South: His game is multi-faceted and it showed. White had 16 points and eight rebounds and was a factor from the opening minutes. He played with energy and made himself some face-ups. From a scouting perspective, all his damage came from the right side of the court, but he was getting it done. His defensive effort made buckets tough to come by for Kalen Grimes and Co. inside.
Shaun Livingston, PG, North: His size, length and shot-making abilities are terrific. He did things in the halfcourt and transition. The shot blocker ran at him and he simply went high off glass. He found guys to the tune of six assists and had 17 points and eight rebounds. Others might have bigger names, but this looks like the top PG prospect in the land at this juncture.
Joe Crawford, SG, North: The Michigan native had a terrific first half before Tyler Smith stepped up the defense on him in the second. Crawford's stature as a prospect keeps rising in our mind. His ability to elevate and hit the mid-range jumper with ease is a huge asset.
*In the morning skills drills, Jawann McClellan and Crawford did nice jobs scoring against other wing players.
*At the point guard skills station, Shaun Livingston's length, height and creativity made him the best guard scorer. The coaches thought Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar did well in that respect too.
*We keep harping on this, but James Gist's offense is coming around. He is trying, and making, hook shots while rejecting shots and rebounding like he always does.
*Kalen Grimes loves to overpower guys in the post, but we'd like to see him develop a go-to post move to make it easier on himself.
A thing of beauty? The result of a Bryce Taylor three-point attempt.
*Darius Washington had 15 points and played a lot at the point on day one.
*The power of Randolph Morris was on display when he rammed home a dunk that shifted the backboard off center by about a foot.
*Tim Duncan likes the left block, D.J. White loves the right block. He took all of his post shots from that position on the floor today.
Inside The Numbers:
DeMarcus Nelson attempted 29 shots in his first game. The next most shots attempted in the opening session was Mike Williams, who had 17. Williams made 14 of his 17 shots, Nelson made just 11 of his 29.
*Livingston and Nelson tied for the most assists with six each.
The first session was a bit of a rough one for Jordan Farmar as the UCLA guard had eight turnovers to go with five assists.
*Dayshaun Wright had 21 for the East. He converted seven of his nine field goal attempts and also had 13 boards in a great effort.
*The North's Drew Neitzel and Ron Coleman combined to shoot 2-for-15 from the field.
*Russell Robinson is looking for an answer to the attitude after going 0-for-3 from the field.
News & Notes:
*Junior power forward Richard Hendrix made his first airplane flight this week. That's right, his first trip on a plane is to Colorado Springs and yes, he was nervous. Hendrix lists Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi State, North Carolina and Oklahoma.
*West winger Dorell Wright is headed to South Kent Prep next season.