Mustafa Shakur, PG: We can't say enough about him. In a camp where team play was almost an afterthought, Shakur did great work in getting and keeping everyone involved. He passed the basketball with precision and savvy. Then, he raised the level of his offensive game and was a reliable scorer, especially off the bounce with his jumpshot. No one in the country is as good as Shakur at getting others shots, except LeBron James.
Kendrick Perkins, C: There's no question he was the most frustrated person in the building with the pace of the all-star game. Perkins did his best to hustle up and down the court and work on defense. However, late in the fourth quarter of the all-star game when a teammate shot a contested (and finally rejected) layup instead of passing it to him for the open jam; he had to work to keep his composure. To his credit, he did but he was visibly frustrated with his lack of touches.
Like we said the day before, barring an improvement in his athleticism, it's going to be tough for him to go to the league out of high school. However, those in the building for the all-star game didn't get to see his low-post game and what makes him a top notch player in this class.
James Lang, C: The 300-plus pounder hustled each play, every day. He raised his stock about as much as one guy could in a short period of time. The beauty of James is that he's more mobile than one would expect a guy his size to be. And, in the paint guys simply peel off of him. Big-time prospect.
Josh Smith, SF: At 6-9, your natural inclination is to say he's a four man. Wrong. Smith is an ultra-athletic wing player who ranks as one of the very best prospects in a loaded Class of 2004. In fact, we'd have a hard time picking too many guys in the Class of 2003 over him in a pickup game (actually, there's just one we'd take ahead of him and you know who that is). Smith is a star in the making, no doubt. He has the total package on offense and defense and the lefty's stroke is sweet with range.
Quote of the Summer: A local newspaper ran into Mustafa Shakur and asked him his thoughts on LeBron James. Here's what Mustafa, the ultimate competitor had to say: "I give him his respect but I never met him or played against him and I don't want his autograph." If you didn't know, Shakur is all business.
Big Ten Commitment
Brian Randle, injured for most of the Nike Camp, committed to Illinois today per our sources. Randle just missed making our mid-summer Top 50, joins a class that already includes Warren Carter and Richard McBride. The Illini were at ABCD Camp recruiting Charlie Villanueva, another big time 2003 target of theirs.
NOTES – Some say the celebrity status is starting to get to LeBron James. However, he was at the gym at 8:30 a.m. shooting jumpers with one hand. While we liked the effort, we were a little surprised to see him in a T-Shirt bearing the inscription "King James, 23." That's the first time we've seen an article of clothing tailored to a high school senior though someone did mention Jason Kidd shirts were once a hot item in the Bay area back in the day. …
Brian Butch skipped out on ABCD Camp due to an injured back, adidas officials reported. … Michael Jones said that Maryland remained the school to beat for his services. … Junior Randolph Morris missed the all-star game with a bruised knee.
From the recruiting trail and gossip department, we offer the following juicy piece of information. We are hearing from reliable sources that Duke is thinking about offering wing guard Shannon Brown a scholarship. Apparently, he really impressed a fella named Krzyzewski at Nike Camp. Stay tuned on that one. …
From the fashion department: LeBron James showed up to the evening all-star games at adidas sporting a pair of Nike's. That's not going to make the adidas brass happy. Remember, this happened once earlier in the week already. …
NC State sent its entire recruiting staff to watch Shakur today. Villanova sent Joe Jones and Jay Wright while Arizona countered with Rodney Tension and Josh Pastner. Syracuse was represented by Mike Hopkins and we believe Jim Calhoun carried the banner for UConn. …
Mr. Consistency: Plenty of guys impressed us this week, but one thing that stood out was the play of shooting guard Artie Bowers. The pride of the First State scored and was efficient. With little fanfare, save our articles, Bowers is stringing together a super summer run.
Mr. Improvement: Don't say we're shocked but we were definitely surprised to see the improvement in the perimeter game of point guard Aaron Brooks. His jumper was bad a year ago. Now, it's one of his best weapons. He deserves tons of credit for erasing the kinks in his stroke and turning a weakness into an obvious strength. Yes, you can consider this an apology for leaving him out of last week's mid-summer Top 50.
That's it from New Jersey. Next up is the Peach Jam where coverage begins July 13!