USA Festival: Day One

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The 2007 USA Basketball Men's Youth Development Festival kicked off today with team practices, a skill session and a competitive round of 3-on-3. With a number of the class of 2008's top players in attendance, the competition heated up early and continued into the evening scrimmages.

Tyreke Evans, SG – Not too long ago, Evans held the top spot in the rankings, but last July Greg Monroe snatched it from him. If today's play was any indication of what's to come, Evans is attempting to get it back. The 6-foot-5 wing went to work off the dribble, draining jumper after jumper with defenders draped in his face. In the 3-on-3 competition Evans, who was teamed with Devin Ebanks and Brennan Cougil, man handled defenders, including super sophomore Lance Stephenson.

During the scrimmage session, Evans put on a show scoring on four consecutive possessions. He started it off by hitting a step back three, before making three strong moves to the hoop. His body control is great, especially around the basket and he's capable of changing his shot on the way to the rim. Although his shot selection is questionable at times, he's one of the most talented members of the 2008 class, and he looks to be making a push at just the right time.

Big Day For Ebanks
Devin Ebanks, SF – Fresh off a commitment to Indiana, Ebanks looked the best we've seen him all spring. Although he did most of his work from the perimeter, the Oakdale (Conn.) St. Thomas More standout did take smaller defenders inside and showed he's capable of crafty finishes around the rim. At 6-foot-8 he's a walking match up problem. Throw in his length and shooting ability and we see Ebanks as a Rudy Gay type player.

Drew Gordon, PF – When a guy comes out and strokes a pair of right hand jump-hooks and then a few possessions later turns to his left and drains it as well, you take notice. The 6-foot-9, 237-pounder is still a tad raw offensively, but he's made drastic improvements and has added some post moves to his resume. With a reputation of just being a defensive presence, his improved offensive game certainly enhances his player's card and should result in a push in the rankings.

Lee Shines On Day One
Malcolm Lee, PG – At first glance, one would think Lee is a straight wing, but the 6-foot-4 slender guard is actually an elite lead man. His quickness allows him to blow by defenders, he makes good decisions with the ball and he's deadly from downtown. What impressed us the most about the Riverside (Calif.) North standout was his ability to lock up on defense. He matched up with a number of different guys throughout the day, but his best performance was shutting down Ebanks in a 3-on-3 contest.

Korie Lucious, PG – Playing with the slick FIBA basketballs didn't have any affect on Lucious' jump shot. The 5-foot-11 lead man was money from deep during the 3-on-3 competition. During the scrimmage, Lucious showed a quick first step and got around Jerime Anderson at will. The Michigan State commit doesn't get enough credit these days; he's playing good basketball and is a quality point guard.

Jamil Wilson, PF/SF – Coming off an impressive spring that launched him into the recruiting world and to the top of the 2009 class, Wilson played the part of a top 10 prospect on Thursday. Sprinkle in a few three-pointers, with an ability to run the floor and make athletic moves around the basket, and we have ourselves quite a player. While he seems to be playing on the wing some, he's still not ready to defend one, as Evans gave him the business on four straight possessions during the evening scrimmages.

Cousins Slams It Home
DeMarcus Cousins, C – After watching this 6-foot-10, 252-pound specimen a few weeks ago, we came away with an impression that he was lazy and often times took too many deep jump shots. While at times that might be the case, today he was a much different player. His size and strength caused problems for virtually every post player that tried to guard him. His face-up jumpers are consistent out to 15-feet and his go-to move is the jump hook over his left shoulder. To take the next step, he must continue to put forth these type of efforts and stay under control, as he has a tendency to force the issue at times.

Dexter Strickland, SG – Normally the Elizabeth (NJ) St. Patrick standout plays off the ball, but today he clocked some minutes at the point and he handled himself well. While we aren't ready to call him a legit combo guard yet, he does have some combo skills and is capable of getting a team in an offense. During the scrimmages he had his jumper flowing, as he hit a few threes and an off the dribble pull-up from 15-feet.

Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan and Roy Williams have put in calls to Dexter Strickland recently. Villanova, Louisville, Indiana, Miami-FL, Rutgers and Ohio State are also showing interest.

Al-Farouq Aminu confirmed that he is down to North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. He visited Florida a few weeks ago, and has decided to eliminate them from contention.

Jamil Wilson is getting heavy interest from Wisconsin, DePaul, Marquette, Minnesota, Texas, Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State and Ohio State.

The U.S. players have been split up into three teams (Red, White and Blue). The fourth team is made of international players from Brazil. Friday and Saturday each team will play each other. Saturday evening the four team tournament will begin and will conclude Sunday morning. The U.S. teams are listed below.

Red Team: Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, Devin Ebanks, Drew Gordon, Leslie McDonald, Lance Stephenson, Jordan Theodore, Erving Walker, Willie Warren and Tony Woods.

White Team: Isaiah Armwood, Tyreke Evans, Ferrakohn Hall, Korie Lucious, Greg Monroe, Reeves Nelson, Deshawn Painter, Andy Poling, Travis Releford and Dexter Stricklad.

Blue Team: Jerime Anderson, Brennan Cougill, DeMarcus Cousins, Jrue Holiday, Scotty Hopson, Malcolm Lee, Delvon Roe, J.T. Thompson, Storm Warren and Jamil Wilson.

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