INDIANAPOLIS – The presence of two other athletic apparel company- (as opposed to just "shoe") sponsored national July invitation-only high school basketball camps unquestionably has diluted the talent one used to be able to find at any session of a Nike All-America Camp.
At least Thursday afternoon, though, the camp had the high-profile coaches' market cornered.
Split between the two sets of bleachers facing the two games that were being played simultaneously were the head honchos from eight of the past nine NCAA champions – Lute Olson (Arizona, 1997), Tubby Smith (Kentucky, '98), Jim Calhoun (Connecticut, '99 and 2004), Tom Izzo (Michigan State, 2000), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke, '01), Gary Williams (Maryland, '02) and Roy Williams (North Carolina, last season).
And, if you want to believe the majority of preseason prognostications you'll be reading in the fall and winter, the coach of the 2006 national champion – either Calhoun or Krzyzewski – was in the IUPUI gymnasium, too.
OK, with that out of the way, on to some comments about the players those and the other dozens of coaches, NBA scouts and media representatives were watching in the building that afternoon and later that evening:
*If you're a basketball connoisseur beyond the age of, say, 45 (my right hand is extended upward), the idea of seeing Jordan and West in the same backcourt can be filed under the hoops fantasy category.
Well, if you were in the IUPUI gym Thursday, that fantasy was fulfilled – sort of, at least.
Michael Jordan and Jerry West apparently weren't in the bleachers but two of their sons were on the floor, and sharing the same backcourt, twice Thursday.
Jeffrey Jordan, who will be a junior at Loyola Academy in Highland Park, Ill., and Jonnie West, scheduled to start his senior year at Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, are teammates on the camp team "Illinois".
The Nike administrators had the solid sense to issue Jordan and West uniforms No.'s 32 and 50 respectively, instead of the 23 and 44 that their fathers wore en route to basketball immortality.
Let's don't humor ourselves into thinking that they would be among the 120 or so players in the camp without their bloodlines.
But they both have reasonable basketball skill and didn't do anything to make an observer exclaim "What in the heck are they doing here?" during their Thursday evening game against a Michigan State team that had another son of a famous basketball dad – Jai Lucas.
The son of John Lucas, former standout player and former NBA coach, and brother of another John Lucas (a starting guard for the past two seasons at Oklahoma State), the youngest Lucas is one of the better point guard prospects in the national class of 2007 and attends Bellaire High in Houston.
*Based on the games I watched Thursday, at least, Oregon State looks to be one of the best "teams" assembled for any of the high profile (Nike, adidas and Reebok) camps this week.
I've got a hunch that after Saturday night's all-star games (the first a Nike Camp All-America Camp has had, by the way, since 1997, I'll have three Oregon State players – guards Jerryd Bayless and Ramar Smith, and post player Brandan Wright, rated among my Top 10 prospects in the camp.
The 6-foot-3 Bayless (Phoenix, Ariz., St. Mary's) should solidify his status as one of the five best players in the Class of 2007 by Saturday night, if that isn't already case.
His play Thursday night was as spectacular as it was rock solid. Unlike the couple of times I watched him in Las Vegas in April (and, apparently, the way he played at times during the NBA Players Association Camp last month in Richmond, Va.), Bayless rarely forced a shot or attempted an ill-advised pass. He had all the appearances of a true "point guard" and not just a guy with admirable skill who was spending too much time, to his team's detriment, by trying to overly exhibit those skills.
More than one of the most famous coaches in the gym thought Bayless was the best player on display Thursday.
It was the first time I've had the opportunity to spy Smith (6-3, Detroit Martin Luther King High) and it very apparent why the likes of Calhoun, Izzo and Tom Amaker (Michigan) were very interested bleacher sitters during his games. He seems to be able to score at will, via drives or jumpers, and is a better passer than I'd been led to believe, too.
The slender (195 pounds are stretched over his 6-10 frame) Wright was the most spectacular post player on display Thursday. The Brentwood Academy (Brentwood, Tenn.) senior-to-be seems every bit as raw, offensively, as he was when I watched him during a Nike-game against Mater Dei in Southern California last January.
But he's also a runner, shot blocker and rebounder with few peers anywhere on the high school scene. As you might expect, Smith, Krzyzewski and Roy Williams (Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina are considered his "leaders"), as well as Bruce Pearl of Tennessee, were easy to pick out watching his games.
Elected to the USBWA Hall of Fame in April, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's National Basketball Expert and also covers college basketball for the Long Beach (CA) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at email@example.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.frankhoops.com