MDAA Practice Report: Day Two

OKLAHOMA CITY-- Duke signee DeMarcus Nelson continued to display his offensive prowess and future Blue Devil point guard Shaun Livingston finally showed flashes of brilliance today during the second day of practice at Oklahoma City University in preparation for the McDonald's All-American Game on Wednesday.

From the start of the West team's practice, Shaun Livingston was much more active and it showed during shooting drills, as the 6-foot-7, 175-pounder connected on ten straight shots, which were primarily deep two-pointers, but also included a few three-pointers.

Yet during the first part of his team's intra-squad scrimmage, Livingston started slow in his match up vs. Jordan Farmar (UCLA) and really didn't do much either offensively or defensively.

In the second part of the scrimmage, Livingston finally asserted his leadership and started bringing the ball up the court. He scored a quick layup to get going and steadily picked up his game, scoring another layup in transition on the next possession.

"He sees the court real well and has a great handle on the ball," said Joe Crawford (Kentucky). "He's got a very high basketball IQ."

After the back-to-back layups, Livingston's play of the day came in transition, when he caught the ball on the left wing and simply glided to the hoop for a rim-rattling slam-dunk.

He followed that up with a steal and effortless length of the court outlet pass to LaMarcus Aldridge (Texas) who threw a pass to Crawford that was subsequently fumbled away out-of-bounds.

"Shaun's not a selfish guy," said Glen "Big Baby" Davis (Louisiana State). "He's a passer and a pure point guard. If he has to score, he will. He's a great team leader and great with the ball.

"I love him. He gives me the ball every time I ask for it. So there's no problem with him trying to score all the time. I really don't get along with scorers."

Several plays later, Livingston grabbed a rebound and started a fastbreak that led to a three-pointer by Daniel Gibson (Texas) in the scrimmage's final minutes.

"Shaun is a great player," said Detroit Renaissance's Malik Hairston (undecided). "He's athletic, smart and has a great feel for the game."

Afterwards, Livingston admitted the combination of oversized shoes and playing on a team peppered with ball-handlers had taken a toll on his play yesterday.

"Sometimes, you might not always get what you want," said Livingston. "You might go from being the first option and getting the ball every time to not getting it as much.

"Yesterday, I just worried about it too much. Today, I just played, ran the court and had a different mindset."

Playing in a different pair of shoes also seemed to help Livingston.

"I got some smaller shoes," said Livingston. "My real size is 14, which I had yesterday, but these are 13s, but I'm waiting until Tuesday to get my 12 _s."

Still, Livingston indicated the oversized shoes left their mark on his feet.

"Both of my big toes are bruised and I got big old creases all over them," he said.

Because Livingston wasn't on his team during today's scrimmage, fellow Duke recruit DeMarcus Nelson had a chance to observe from the sideline.

"He looked real good today," said Nelson. "He started off slow yesterday, but picked it up towards the end, so that just carried over for today. He came out playing real good defense, getting teammates involved and also had a couple of buckets."

After outplaying Joe Crawford yesterday, Nelson was again outstanding today, muscling his way to the hoop and raining in several mid to three-point range shots.

"What else can you say about him? said Glen "Big Baby" Davis. "He's strictly a scorer and a wonderful guy. He just goes to the rim hard and is a strong two-guard."

In the scrimmage, Nelson got his first points on a high-arching floater over LaMarcus Aldridge. A couple of possessions later, Arron Afflalo (UCLA) hit him for a layup in which he bulldozed his way into the lane.

"He's similar to me," said Joe Crawford. "He's strong and likes to penetrate and is a scorer. He's got a nice game."

After a defensive rebound, Nelson started a fastbreak and found a streaking Afflalo for a three-pointer. On the next West possession, following a missed free throw by Marvin Williams Jr. (North Carolina), Nelson slipped into the lane and snatched the offensive board, then fed Robert Swift (USC) for a dunk.

"DeMarcus is just a warrior," said Howard. "He can get out there and do anything on the court. He plays hard."

Nelson, however, was torched the following possession by Daniel Gibson for a three-pointer, which was started by a Livingston rebound. His last basket of the scrimmage came on an uncontested, fastbreak layup.

As he signed an autograph for a lone Duke fan after practice, Nelson credited his steady play this week to being focused.

"Players separate themselves on a level like this by doing the little things," said Nelson. "Like running the court hard, knocking down the shots they get and being unselfish and getting teammates involved, so when it's your turn to get the ball back for a wide open look, they'll do the same for you."

"Playing hard makes all the difference. Sometimes we get to this point and take a play off or kind of go through the motions. Just trying to be consistent is the main thing."

The third and final practice before Wednesday's McDonald All-American Game is Tuesday morning. TDD will once again be on hand.


*- Even more NBA faces poured in to watch today's practice. One scout estimated there were some 40 NBA personnel in attendance.

*- Living up to his legendary gym rat reputation, Larry Bird was the first person in the stands today and one of the last NBA gurus to leave. *- Boston Celtics executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge was at practice today as was San Antonio Spur scout Danny Ferry and Chicago Bulls scout B.J. Armstrong.

*- The West team's Robert Swift proved that a nice showing yesterday was no fluke today, single-handily dominating the inside during his team's scrimmage. The 6-foot-11, 245-pounder from Bakersfield (Calif.) High School had several rim-rattling slams and pinned a shot of Glen "Big Baby" Davis on the backboard to the gasp of several NBA types. Because of his ability to finish with a flurry inside and his better than expected post defense, Swift reminds some of former Minnesota standout Joel Przybilla, drafted No. 9 overall in 2000, now playing for the Atlanta Hawks. Swift could be playing his way into a mid to late first-round pick.

*- After a lackluster performance yesterday, the East team's Josh Smith (Indiana) played better today, slicing to the basket with grace and connecting on a few mid-range jumpers. The 6-foot-9, 215-pounder's NBA stock is still down some for the week, but got a fair amount of attention today.

*- J.R. Smith (North Carolina) had another good practice shooting the ball, blistering the nets with a three-point barrage. His NBA range has teammates, coaches and scouts drooling, but also scratching their heads at times. Said one NBA scout: "Out of all the guys, he might be the best perimeter shooter, but his shot selection is well… questionable."

*- Playing in front of a large group of NBA scouts for the first time since he's been here, LaMarcus Aldridge missed a lot of shots from within five feet early and was never a factor in the West team's scrimmage. Despite the 7-foot, 235-pounder's as good as advertised performance yesterday, the consensus of NBA scouts is that he is too inconsistent to declare for the NBA and should instead head to Austin.

*- Speaking of Aldridge, getting punched on by Detroit Renaissance's Malik Hairston during that same scrimmage didn't help him either. On the play, the 6-foot-6 Hairston caught the ball, then darted past his defender into the lane and unloaded all over Aldridge, an encore performance to his sickening slam over Glen "Big Baby" Davis yesterday.

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