Instead of seeking the spotlight his first three years of high school, Irving went about the business of putting himself in position to be an elite player. Those who knew him best and were closest to him saw it coming. Irving, to his credit, was content to let it happen naturally, on his timetable.
Irving's time is now. After a scintillating performance at the 7th annual Eddie Griffin Challenge, he's ready for the next step.
Last summer, Irving made his first foray into the camp scene. From his debut at the NBA Camp on through the LeBron Skills Academy, he was new to the process. Unlike most of his peers, Irving didn't attend many exposure camps or seek the bright glare of the spotlight. He's progressed on a yearly basis and now he's a full fledged star; an impact recruit of sizable proportions.
Since the summer, Irving's game has gotten tighter. The things he was good at, he now seems to have an even better grasp of. When it comes to passing, scoring and directing a team, this is arguably the top guard in the country and he's not done improving.
Here are Sunday's notes, directly from the pad. "Strong with the ball … wow. … Took a charge … makes everyone better … ability to make tough plays look easy … jumper! … athleticism showing … tried to blitz him, gathered himself, carved up defenders … plays through contact on drives … patience, poise … sees floor … confidence is coming, beginning to believe he's a star. … needs to get comfortable delivering the knockout punch; he will."
Irving's 19 point (8-14 FG), 12 assist, four rebound and six turnover game propelled New Jersey past Philadelphia 111-103 and gave the Jersey crew a 2-1 win in the challenge.
The all-star setting has not been one Irving is comfortable in. However, by the time the McDonald's game rolls around, look for him to be entirely adjusted to the spotlight and the magnitude of the stage.
It's his next step.
Derrick Williams, C: The Richmond Spiders have themselves an enforcer. Nice kid, mean game. He's strong enough to be an imposing figure, rebounds his area and convinced us he's tough enough to take the air out of the ball.
Shondell Stewart, SG: Minus the jump shot, he draws from the Shelvin Mack school of attacking, strong bodied late bloomers. Loved his attacking style and toughness to the rim. Wants high-majors to recruit him.
Myck Kabongo, PG: This guy is tough to guard because of the speed. He had some turnovers but we'd swear it because guys weren't ready for his passes. Showed the floater, more confidence in his jumper and flashed the smile.
Derrick Randall, C: Finished what they tossed him and pulled down seven rebounds. Like the progress and he's developing a presence. He was hands down the best shot blocker at the event and swatted six shots. He doesn't try to anything he's outside of his comfort zone and plays his role.
John Johnson, CG: One of those guys who doesn't care who he's playing against because he's coming hard. Goes right at shot blockers, gets to the rim as needed. Didn't take many, but he's a long-range threat. Pittsburgh will know how to deploy him.
Amile Jefferson, F: Unassuming standout is one of the up and coming stat stuffers. He had 5 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks. When he was on the court things ran through him. We were aggressive with his rating this summer and think there's every reason he can deliver on the ranking.
Ryan Arcidiacono, PG: It took him a while to get it revved up but by the second half he was playing his game. You can tell he knows how to run a team, has good speed, vision and a respectable perimeter game. He's got a rep as a winner and there's reason to think he'll be on the Big East radar all season long.
Kyree Wooten, SG: The Strawberry Mansion product is a finisher. Has to ramp up his overall skill level but he's going to put a hurting on guys as a slasher in attack mode.
LINESCORE PHILLY (82): Amile Jefferson 5, Derrick Stewart 5, Malik Garner 16, Brendan Kilpatrick 4, Kyree Wooten 17, Ryan Arcidiacono 13, Karron Davis 4, Montana Mayfield 6, Josh Heylinger 15, Maurice Watson 6.
Toughest bucket of the day belonged to Tyrek Duren who drove Irving to the rim and scored. Irving did his job, Duren made a great play. … Devon Collier is an underrated passer. The bulky knee braces are gone and he's feeling healthy again. … Ron Roberts straddles the mid-to-high fence. Even though it's not his setting his play inside and on the glass was solid. …
St. Joe's commitment C.J. Aiken has always been a huge upside guy. Live athlete, can run. If he puts it together lookout. … Dion Waiters is in good shape and when it comes to dealing for a hoop, scoring isn't a problem. … Garland, Waiters and Chennault combined for 46 points. … DeShawn Minnis from the 2012 Philly team is a new name to research from the combo guard slot. …
2011 small forward Jaylen Bond has to add strength. There's a potential high-major player in his frame, especially if he can prove himself a threat behind the arc. … 2012's Josh Heylinger is an energy guy who can play in traffic. … Aaron Brown is one of the hardest playing guys out there. … Edwin's style is perfect for this setting; he gets up and down. … Liked
Arcidiacono has offers from St. Joe's and Rutgers. … Derrick Randall lists St. John's, Rutgers, St. Joe's, Virginia Tech and Providence. … Shondell Stewart is waiting on the Big East. Rutgers, Seton Hall, Virginia Tech and Providence have shown interest. …