The 6-foot-10 2008 center that played meekly in the morning looked like a lion Saturday night. Kadji, a native of France, found himself matched up with the talented and angular Eloy Vargas in the camp's night cap. The contrasting approaches – Kadji cut from the Nazr Mohammed mold; Vargas a Chris Bosh-type – made for quite the stylistic encounter.
Kadji's personal growth in span of 8 hours was impressive. He showed Vargas a pair of legit post moves and sizzled a post pass right past him to a cutting teammate. He dunked one in traffic and when it was over likely surprised himself as much as he did the onlookers. His Saturday effort raised his personal bar and created a different set of expectations from where he began the day. Now, it's up to him to consistently crank up his game to that same level of play.
Kadji's eye-opening evolution should serve notice to himself that if he learns to run the floor harder, not coast through stretches and keep the same approach as he used in final contest that the game of basketball can be rewarding for him.
Vargas, a pre-season Scout.com Top 50 prospect, had his moments during his trio of games as well. He also should have left the camp with a better understanding of where he can improve. Armed with range on his jumper, Vargas often settles for the perimeter attempts. Lacking interior muscle he neglects his role as a rebounder. Strength will help him improve in both areas. Having said that, he is without a doubt one of the best shot blocking forwards in the Class of 2008.
Dante Anderson vs. Shaquille Johnson – These two AAU backcourt mates would have preferred not to square off against each other; they're simply too good of friends to wage war on the court. However, when their camp teams were slated to match up, the inevitable happened and it was kind of fun.
The game brought out the competitiveness in each. While neither Anderson nor Johnson shot the ball to their capabilities from the outside and each left balls on the rim, they found ways to stand out.
Johnson cranked it up defensively, got some steals and used excellent body control to convert a series of tough finishes. His defense on Anderson set the tone for the match up early.
Anderson seemed to be caught a little off guard by his running mate's defensive pressure. With Johnson on him he showcased a burst to the hoop that served notice: he's not just a shooter, he can get to the rim too.
The game, while maybe uncomfortable at the outset, allowed the two talented guards to push each other and that made for a great evaluation of Johnson, the combo guard and Anderson, the shooting guard.
Ray Willis, SF – Here's a new name to get familiar with. This guy is all arms and potential. The most impressive part of his game came when in the same quarter he boarded a traffic rebound over Vargas then picked him at the other end. A small forward with mid-range he's a candidate to eventually play his way into a big league.
Luke Luocks, PG – With his head on a swivel he was the creator of the day. This guy has the game of a high level player provided two things happen: 1) he needs to improve his quickness and 2) he becomes a little more aggressive on offense. Why? One player astutely pointed out that because he's such a good passer everyone plays him that way. This is one of those cases where being a little more selfish with his chances could actually help himself and others.
Dago Pena, SF – At first glance, facially he reminds you of Evan Burns. This guy too has game. An instinctive player, Pena doesn't need the basketball to make an impact. He's going to be a very good rebounder for his size, feels comfortable inside the line and has a nice overall feel. He'll start off as mid-major priority and go from there.
Nick Calathes, PG – Always his harshest critic, Calathes couldn't purchase a bucket in the first game before settling in during his second contest. Few love ball the way Calathes does and to come out in this setting where others are trying to earn scholarships and play unselfishly is all you need to know about him. As the day continued he found his rhythm and this turned out to be a fun event for one of the nation's best committed guards.
Chandler Parsons, SF – There's a certain calming effect that happens when he catches and releases the basketball. You think all of his shots are going in. Already committed, this was a fun day for him too and he looked like the same guy he was in late July which is a good thing.
Ben Eblen, PG – Couldn't play in the 2009-10 group on Sunday so he was mixed in with the older crew and this guy is a player. He's got a Timmy Smith approach to the game, is a tough, acrobatic finisher and has a presence at the point. He's 5-11 which isn't ideal unless you're trying to win the Bob Cousy Award! This guy is a player!
Rihard Kuksiks had a rough morning. The Florida Air wing, who has become quite the under the radar target, injured his ankle 30 seconds into his first game. St. John's and Virginia Tech were slated to come see him Monday afternoon. Duke and Kansas have him as backup targets in case either one does not land Kyle Singler. …
Justin Watkins, a small forward and 2008 prospect, was probably the most impressive athlete of the day. An injury not only didn't sideline him but it balanced him out and from the moment he got off the floor he started banging home some jump shots. With development through the year he'll be a guy some mid-majors eyeball. … Vargas had an interesting day match up-wise as he ran through a gauntlet of good players. Willis and Kadji each gave him different looks in the post. …
Adam Pegg, a 2008 center, is an aggressive post player albeit a tad mechanical. He's a D-I guy at the low or possibly mid-major level, especially if he can add just a dose of athleticism to his game. … Michael Gordy is a 2008 PG with a stocky build, talent and communication skills. Division I prospect. …
Michael Morrison is the 3rd in his family from the Lakewood area. He's a 6-foot-7 power forward with a live body and mid-major potential. … Fred Brown is talented as a combo guard. The first thing Bob Huggins will do with him is work on shot selection and valuing the basketball. …Junior wing Justin Morin has a chance to be a Division I player especially since he's one tough customer on the wing. …
Eloy Vargas has been seen by North Carolina in the last month and more interest is coming from Clemson, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Florida, Florida State and Wichita State. … Shaquille Johnson has an offer from Dayton and a former AAU teammate already with the Flyers. Missouri, Illinois, Virginia Tech and Florida have shown interest. …
Penn State is ahead of the curve with Ray Willis at least they almost were. So far the Nittany Lions are the only team to try and attempt to see him. Unfortunately when they couldn't get into a locked gym there was no workout. …
NEXT UP – Members of the Class of 2009 and 2010 square off Sunday in camp which utilizes the same format it did for the juniors and seniors.