McDonald’s Monday: East Practice

CHICAGO — McDonald’s All-American practices kicked off on Monday, with the East and West teams squaring off in various intra-squad drills and modified scrimmages. I focused on the East squad and observed their work closely.

Briscoe makes impression

You generally expect any McDonald’s All-American to perform well, but thus far Kentucky signee Isaiah Briscoe (pictured above) has been better than good. A combo guard who has played on the ball during practice, Briscoe consistently has made plays for himself and others.

What separates him from the other guards is the wiggle in his game. Briscoe changes directions on the move, can switch hands to elude a shotblocker at the rim and frequently alters his speed. All that makes him difficult for opponents to time, and though not the fastest guy around he’s able to generate offense.

Briscoe also has knocked down some jump shots off the dribble, though he has been less accurate from long range. Becoming more consistent from deep will be key as he embarks upon his career in Lexington and beyond.

Still, though, the story here has been that his No. 18 ranking may be low. If he’s truly going to excel as a scorer and a playmaker, he could emerge as the next perimeter surprise — at least, as much as that’s possible for a prep All-American — for John Calipari.

More Notable Perfomers

Ben Simmons — A contender for the top spot in the senior class, Simmons has been outstanding in an all-around sense. No, the southpaw still hasn’t solved his three-point shot, but his release here actually looks good, with nice arch, and he’s connecting on a solid percentage. More to the point, however, he’s rebounding, passing very crisply, handling securely, scoring anywhere from the rim to 15 feet and even blocking shots from behind. Simmons may be a touch more explosive since last summer, and he clearly has gotten the better of the 1-on-1 battles versus Jaylen Brown when those two have matched up.

Antonio Blakeney — Blakeney’s leaping ability has impressed. Always a smooth pull-up jump shooter who’s at his best in transition, he’s elevating better than ever and looks SEC-ready with his offensive game. The LSU signee will team with Simmons for the Tigers and should help sustain the momentum the program has generated.

Diamond Stone — Practice has underscored how Stone is effective and how he can improve. The big man and recent Maryland commitment uses his solid frame to establish deep post position and deliver via jump hooks. He has worked hard to make his left hand viable in traffic, and the results should become evident early in College Park.

Stone possesses commendable versatility

Stone also knocks in facing jump shots and blocks some shots on defense. To further boost his stock in the minds of NBA scouts, he’ll need to prove he possesses the lift and the craft to finish in traffic. He has eaten a few shots here that he appeared he would finish, and as such that’s an area for him to address over the next six months. That aside, he has reinforced his reputation as a top-10 national prospect.

Thomas Bryant — The unsigned senior center doesn’t get outworked by anyone. Bryant has thrown elbows, caught elbows in the face, scrapped against Stone, Cheick Diallo and others, and kept on going. He remains more mechanical than would be ideal, but he has used every bit of his 6-10 frame and has been productive based purely on size and effort. He needs to improve his offensive skills, but expect Bryant to continue to be successful as an enforcer in college, wherever he ends up.

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