SNOW: USA Basketball Day One

COLORADO SPRINGS - USA Basketball kicked off their U-17 tryouts on Sunday with some of the elite prospects in the country. It was a long day for most, but Caleb Swanigan, Jayson Tatum, and Henry Ellenson all stood out.

Class of 2015

Caleb Swanigan, C – A lot of the players seemed a bit jet lagged and wore down as the practice went on, but Swanigan wasn’t one of them. The big man was running the floor as well as anybody and competing. Swanigan scored it well down low, hit a few shots from the mid-range, and then controlled the glass as well. Swanigan isn’t the most athletic big guy here by a wide margin, but he competed very well and used his strength down low.

Henry Ellenson, PF/C – There might not be a more skilled big in the country than Ellenson. He put that elite skill on display all night on Thursday. Ellenson was hitting threes, scoring off the dribble, and then also did a solid job of rebounding and competing down low. Ellenson has a unique game, and he was able to make it work at a high level both in drills and during the live portions of the practice.

Eric Davis, SG – Davis looked very comfortable shooting the basketball, and he was hitting most everything he shot. Also Davis handled the ball well and competed on the defensive end. While some seemed to slow down as the practice kept going, Davis stayed strong. He pushed the pace and made a few good looks in transition, but it was his scoring that really stood out.

Daniel Giddens, C – It was a very impressive day for Giddens who showed off his impressive size and athleticism, but more than anything proved to be an excellent passer. Giddens’ offensive game has been a work in progress, and it is becoming to really shine through. He struggles to score with his back to the basket, but Giddens hit a running hook and a few mid-range shots while also passing the ball very well out of the post. As always he rebounded and defended, so it was a balanced and impressive day for Giddens.

D.J. Williams, SF – The Illinois pledge had a very solid day. He got into the mid-range and made shots, looked assertive, defended well on the wing, and looked to have improved his handle some. At times during the high school and AAU season, Williams has looked passive but that was definitely not the case today. Williams has a world of talent, and he put some of it on display on a big stage here.

Thomas Bryant, C – It looked like the day of travel and altitude got to Bryant at the end, but before that point he was excellent. Bryant is one of the biggest players at the entire camp, and he threw his weight around allowing him to score down low and also he controlled the glass. Bryant is still working his way into ideal shape after an injury slowed him during the spring, but he is looking good, is playing athletic, and showing a bit more of an ability to score on the low block.

Class of 2016

Jayson Tatum, SF – Arguably the top performer all evening long was Tatum. He struggled with his first shot, but after that airball he absolutely turned it up and dominated. Tatum scored in the mid-post, pushed the ball and finished in transition, and then also was excellent on the glass. Tatum keeps getting stronger and more athletic, and showed why he is currently the No. 1 player in the class.

Mustapha Heron, SF – Heron is just a beast going to the rim. A physically strong wing, Heron played through contact and was able to finish as well as anybody. The future Pittsburgh Panther was tremendous on defense as well showing versatility and quick feet. Very few players play harder than Heron, and he brought that injury with his continued skill improvement.

Derryck Thornton, PG – The officials were letting the guys play physical defense, and given that Thornton still is working on his strength at times that worked against him. Still he showed off his excellent floor vision and good quickness getting into the lane. Thornton also was fairly consistent with his jumper and looked the part of a high level point guard.

Kobi Simmons, PG/SG – This kid can flat out score the basketball at an elite level. During the drills his floater was clearly the tops of the guard group, and then when they went live he kept on going. Simmons played both on and off the ball, and from either spot he was effective. In catch and shoot situations he especially good and then created off the bounce with his quick first step as well.

Harry Giles, PF – Giles keeps on improving and looking closer to 100 percent. He showed flashes last week at the Peach Jam, and did the same on Thursday night at USA Basketball. He handled the ball well and made good decisions on the break, and then rebounded it and blocked a few shots as well. Giles is still working himself the entire way back, but he is darn close right now and the elite natural talent is continuing to come through.

V.J. King, SG/SF – It was a bit of an inconsistent spring and summer for King, but he played very well on Thursday evening. King was at his best shooting the ball from the mid-range and out, but also he got to the rim on a few different occasions. King is continuing to get better on defense and showed a good amount of attention to detail on that end. Overall King played well, and showed his elite ability to score the ball.

Tyus Battle, SF/SG – Battle started off a bit slow with his jumper, but then things picked up in a big way. He hit a few deep jumpers, and then began really turning it up. Battle got on the glass and converted a few offensive rebounds for buckets, slashed to the rim, and then scored in the mid-range. It was a good finish to a strong day for Battle.

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