Hoop Summit: World Team Storylines

TIGARD, Ore. -- Intense practices at the Nike Hoop Summit tipped off this week. What are the biggest storylines and topics through the first few days of practice?

Is Skal the best player?

One of the biggest topics and debates surrounding high school hoops pertains to who sits atop the pole position in the 2015 class. Many have touted Ben Simmons as that guy. Others have gone with Jaylen Brown. But Skal Labissiere is firmly in the conversation and that became evident to me in December when I watched him go for 30+ points on Oak Hill. On Tuesday at the Nike Hoop Summit practices, Labissiere only cemented his name in that conversation. He was on top of his game and facing stiff competition in Thon Maker, Cheick Diallo and Tai Wynyard in the post. Labissiere showed a lot of promise on the offensive end. He made a number of mid-range and turnaround jump shots and a showed great touch. His skill level is very good for his size. At 6-foot-11, Labissiere has a 7’0 ½” wingspan and a standing reach of 9’0 1/2”. By NBA standards that reach for his size is just OK, but his upside is tracking higher than the others in this class. To go with his offensive tools, Labissiere is turning into a good shot blocker, as he’s relatively quick off his feet and has good timing and instincts.

Mussini is a talented, available option

An intriguing lead guard prospect, Federico Mussini, of Italy, told Scout at the Nike Hoop Summit that he’s “50-50” on coming to the United States for college basketball. He will have the opportunity to stay in Italy and play professionally. While he declined to name schools recruiting him, sources told Scout that Gonzaga, St. John’s and Davidson are among the schools involved. I suspect others will attempt to get in the mix as well. On the court, Mussini is intriguing. Although he’s small (6-foot) and very thin, Mussini has impressive speed, handles the ball well and is a talented passer. He’s also a good shooter that consistently made shots from mid-range and three during the World Team's practices.

Wynyard can fill a role

Wynyard will fill a role at Kentucky (Ken Nowaczyk/USA Basketball)
With the way John Calipari and Kentucky have recruited lately, expectations for nearly every freshman that lands in Lexington are high, whether it’s fair or not. Enter New Zealand native Tai Wynyard, a 2016 prospect that committed to Kentucky in January. To date, not much is known about Wynyard and Hoop Summit was my first viewing of him. At 6-foot-9, Wynyard has a stocky, thick frame. He’s a below the rim guy that lacks explosion from an athleticism standpoint. Where Wynyard brings value is as an area rebounder that can play physical inside. His hands are adequate and he’s able to make a jump hook over his left shoulder. He’s not going to make the same impact at Kentucky as some of their elite post talents of recent years, but he can play spotty minutes as a freshman and will carve out of a nice role for them in time.

Diallo working on in-home visits

The MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game is gearing up to make his college decision. According to a source close to Diallo, he’s planning to conduct in-home visits with Bill Self, John Calipari and Chris Mullin next week. Iowa State wasn’t able to schedule one next week due to a conflict, but the Cyclones and Pittsburgh are expected to meet with him before he makes his choice. Diallo is looking to make his choice by the end of the month.

Murray raises play

Jamal Murray, a 6-foot-4 guard out of Canada, raised his level of play at the Nike Hoop Summit and honestly it shouldn’t be a surprise. It seems like Murray always ramps up his effort when he participates in these types of events. He drew rave reviews at Basketball Without Borders in February. Through a couple of the World Team practices at the Nike Hoop Summit, Murray has been the best guard prospect. Murray is versatile and can spend time both on and off the ball. He’s a threat to make jump shots, but also has developed a consistent runner. He competed on both ends, played unselfish and showed he could pass as well. On the recruiting front, Murray admitted that he’s not sure whether he will reclassify to the 2015 class or stay in 2015. “It’s even,” he said. “It’s a toss up. I’m not even hiding anything because I don’t know myself.” Murray mentioned Oregon, Illinois, Michigan State, Indiana and Missouri as the schools currently involved in his recruitment.

Breaking down Simmons

Ben Simmons has been up and down here at the Nike Hoop Summit. On Tuesday, he looked visibly tired and not dialed in, which is to be expected considering he went straight from McDonald's to the Dick's National Tournament and now out here. On Wednesday, he performed better. At 6-foot-9, 240-pounds, Simmons is an interesting and intriguing prospect when it comes to his long term potential. It's clear he wants to play on the perimeter, and he's a very gifted, unselfish passer, as well as a good ball handler for his size. He’s also very good in transition, where he can make plays for himself and others. With all that said, one NBA scout told me on Wednesday that he would wind up playing the stretch power forward position in the league and I completely agree. Among his other strengths is his rebounding, scoring in transition and playing through contact. The next steps in his development is improving his scoring. At times in the half court set it can be difficult for him because he lacks a perimeter shot and very rarely looks to score on the block. With all that said, he’s a very good prospect that will likely spend just one year in college before heading off to the NBA.

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