Day One, adidas ABCD Camp
While it's fresh in our memory, let's talk about the difference between the Nike and adidas camps. Forget the talent comparison because no matter how you elect to observe it, the Class of 2003 is down. However, each shoe outfit elects to showcase players in dramatically different ways, each unique to the camp.
At Nike, structure is the norm. There's a four-pass rule that is strictly enforced. Now, let's not kid ourselves, offense is the catch phrase but the rule at least gets kids thinking about the half court sets. Sure, things can get frenetic, but for the most part, it's an orderly evaluation of players.
Head east to adidas ABCD Camp and things begin to open up. There is no four-pass rule and in turn, this camp can look like a track meet in a hurry. If you cut from the up-tempo mold, then ABCD will suit you. On Wednesday, there were plenty of Carl Lewis' at Fairleigh Dickinson University, the site of the camp.
Ivan Harris, PF: He's building on a terrific performance at USA Basketball. Harris' overall skill level, desire to rebound, touch from the perimeter and consistent play are the main reasons he's being mentioned as one of the top power forwards in the nation.
Aaron Brooks, PG: Once we re-work those mid-summer rankings, Brooks is a pretty good bet to be in the mix. Last year we loved his defensive tenacity but wondered about his jumper. Well, turns out Brooks solved that problem by dramatically improving his perimeter game. Love him.
Charlie Villanueva, SF: Had a pretty good day. He connected on some jumpers, bumped into some rebounds and generally made his presence felt. Like Luol Deng and Ndudi Ebi, we want to see the best that Charlie has to offer.
Olu Famutimi, SF: Man, he looks a little better each time out. Again, we were taken by how his offensive game is developing. His jumper looked very good today and he's still hanging around the rim making those highlight reel finishes.
Kendrick Perkins, C: He looks to be in very good, not great shape and that's good news considering we were wondering just how he would approach the summer scene. The jump hook and soft hands are still there. In the post, he's too much for the high school kids (except maybe James Lang) to handle. Love him as a college prospect, but straight to the NBA? Not sure if he's that kind of an athlete.
Mustafa Shakur, PG: We've got a lot of question marks about the Class of 2003 point guard situation. However, it appears as though Mustafa is ready to assume the leadership position as the top-ranked point man in the class. He's the total package from a size, scoring and ball handling perspective.
Lorenzo Thompson, PF: We still think he's a mid-major guy but were taken at how much better his post offense looked today than it did at USA Basketball Camp a week ago.
Earl Smith, Jr., SF: He's continuing to make believers out of a lot of folks and his recruitment is going to get interesting. This is a young man who simply gets a lot out of his game.
James Lang, C: When this camp is over, Lang might just be the guy who elevates himself further up the charts than any of his peers. He's too big to handle down low, even for a giant like junior Glen Davis. He's so athletic for being 6-10 and 300-plus pounds. Yet, he's very skilled. He'll be the No. 1 target for a number of programs by the end of the week if he continues his pace.
Quinton "Pooh" Day, PG: Love him. Thankfully, some PGs are starting to emerge to keep guys like Shakur, Chris Paul and some others company. Day is fast, real fast. The lefty made shots today, showed he's smart and has skills.
Bobby Nash, SG-SF: This young man is just so poised and things seemingly come very easy to the Hawaiian product. He has range, savvy and there's just something innate about him that lets you know he's a player.
Dameon Mason, SF: On Wednesday, we learned that this young man is very athletic and at the same time, has a pretty good basketball sense. Can't wait to see more.
Chris Taft, C-PF: In the two games we observed, we saw the somewhat dominant Chris Taft and also the passive Taft. The dominant Taft stretches out to finish plays ala Eddie Griffin. He runs the floor, uses his athleticism and convinces you he's a player. Chris just needs to replicate those performances and be consistent.
Artie Bowers, SG: Death, taxes and Artie Bowers getting a minimum 15 points a game: those are the only sure things we know of these days. In all seriousness, Bowers has strung together some fine summer outings.
Regis Koundjia, SF: The fastest man in the gym, no doubt. The LSU-bound winger goes coast to coast like he's traversing the Atlantic in the Concorde. Guard him in the open court? Yeah right.
Dwight Howard, C: Apparently, he's shown more skill than the last time we saw him at NC State's team camp. Howard is chasing rebounds, blocking shots and dunking enough that he's one of the first guys people mention when talking about kid who are having a good event.
DePree Fletcher, PG: You are going to hear about all kinds of players in this class, but one you may not have heard much about is Fletcher. The fast point guard had a nice day today and he did it by tossing some nifty passes and hitting his jumpers, especially his 3s.
Cedric "The Entertainer" Jackson, CG: Jim Salmon mentioned him to me a few months ago and he's everything the Tim Thomas AAU coach said he was. Cedric is a combo who plays very fast and he's good at what he does: making plays in the open court.
Marvin Williams, PF: You've gotta love it when you see a young big man you like for the first time. He's active and tough and we'll be watching him closely again.
Randolph Morris, C-PF: This has to be one of the better stories of the year. Morris had a hard time catching and shooting the basketball a year ago. The advances he's made in his game are tremendous. His offensive repertoire is pretty polished for a kid his age. He's got himself a little hook shot and a much improved touch.
Darius Washington, PG: We heard that a few days ago, he gave Sebastian Telfair a handful and that makes sense considering how gifted an offensive player he is. What we saw in him today was a point guard who is willingly and successfully developing his craft. He'll slip into scoring guard mode every now and then but he definitely can run the show.
Taurean Green, PG: Like Washington, he's an emerging Florida-based leader. We loved how he can create shots for himself and more importantly, others. Has a terrific stroke to 3-point land.
LeBron James Update: The injured super start continued his summer tour. Today, he left Nike Camp and showed up – posse included – at ABCD. James was decked out in a Memphis jersey with Dajuan Wagner's name and number on the back. That's cool, but it's not the kicker. Attached to his feet was a pair of Nike sneakers, not exactly what the adidas brass probably had in mind when they invited him to town.
NOTES – Injured power forward Leon Powe said he likes Kansas, Maryland, North Carolina and California. He's sure the Golden Bears have offered but not so positive about the others. … Oregon State loves Westchester High forward Scott Cutley. … Lanny Smith said that Texas leads Oklahoma, Houston and TCU. One problem: Smith doesn't think the Longhorns have offered just yet. Our sources tell us that UT likes Smith a lot but no offer has been made. …
Hassan Fofana's school list is incredibly long, considering where many of his peers are. Fofana lists Ohio State, Maryland, Purdue, Wake Forest, Boston College, UMass, Clemson, Stanford, Virginia, Kansas and Utah. Whew. … We hear Michigan may move of center Courtney Sims after his impressive Nike performance. … Nick Stiggers, a center, committed today to Southern Cal. … Speaking of commitments, we keep hearing a rumor that Daon Merritt might be close to committing to Pittsburgh and holding a camp presser for the media. … Brandon Bass, one of our favorite players in the class, loses his effectiveness when he ventures to the perimeter. …
Ricky Lucas, a small forward, lists Rutgers (offer), UConn, George Washington (offer), Penn State, Kent State (offer) and Kansas State. … Recruitniks, get it right, Vincent Camper is a point guard. "My heart is at the point [position]," Camper said. "That's what I do." The Los Angeles native now living in the deep south, lists Oklahoma, UCLA, UConn, Mississippi and Mississippi State but isn't sure who has offered. … Skip Prosser was front and center for Will Sheridan's afternoon game. …