Day Two: Future 'Hawks Team Up

After a get to know you session Sunday afternoon the East and West squads got together for their second practice on Monday morning. Practicing on separate courts, each team spent a little more time going over their offensive and defensive sets, running drills and getting in some scrimmage time.<br>

Just like the day before, future Kansas Jayhawks Mario Chalmers, Micah Downs and Julian Wright had an opportunity to develop some chemistry. During the West squad’s practice they found themselves running together during three on three, four on four and five on five drills. As a result the trio has started to develop a nice feel for each other’s game and appear to be quite comfortable on the court together.

CHALMERS, DOWNS AND WRIGHT’S MONDAY MORNING

Mario Chalmers - It isn’t surprising that Chalmers has had little trouble blending in with his teammates and experiencing success during workouts. Guards tend to have an easier time blending into an All-Star setting because they get the ball more often and that certainly isn’t hurting Chalmers in South Bend.

What helps Chalmers even more is that perhaps his greatest strength is his ability to improvise under duress. He’s very light on his feet which allow him to change directions quickly and weave his way through traffic. Creating opportunities for himself has been no problem and he’s certainly capable of creating for others. That said, Chalmers can be a little careless with the ball. He tends to throw a lot of one handed passes, has forced a few lobs and needs to become a little stronger with his left hand.

During the practice he was noticeably looking for Downs and Wright -- and they both returned the favor -- and hooked each of his buddies up with lobs. He’s gotten the best of Byron Eaton by a pretty fair margin and he’s doing it all on a tweaked ankle. His instincts are underrated and maybe his best play of the day came on a fast break where he leapt over Jon Brockman, grabbed an offensive rebound and dropped off a no look bounce pass to a trailing Amir Johnson for a jam. Chalmers will take part in this evening’s three point contest.

Micah Downs - Although he has added strength, Downs still needs to add more muscle and because of that he’s struggled at times. His strength is driving the baseline where he’s able to use the backboard to help shield off defenders and finish with either hands. There have been plenty of Mike Dunleavy Jr. comparisons used to describe Downs game and perhaps his understanding of how to effectively work the baseline off either wing is the most similar aspect of their games. He has run into trouble when driving down the middle of the lane because he tends to bury his head into his shoulder and doesn’t see weak side defenders who stick in hands to strip the ball. On the defensive end he found himself lined up across with scoring machine Monta Ellis almost the entire day and did a nice job of keeping Ellis in front of him. Nobody is going to stop Ellis from getting his, but it was encouraging to see the bigger Downs keeping a lightning quick guard in front of him.

Downs runs the court very well and isn’t afraid to get inside to mix it up for offensive rebounds but has been on and off with his jump shot. Once he gets his feet set and squares up to the basket he’s a pure shooter, but defenders can bump him just enough that it disturbs his footwork and causes him to rush things a little bit. From time to time his release point appears to be a little low on his jumper too.

Odds are that he’ll have some ups and downs as a freshman but most of those will be related to strength and consistency issues. He’s a very talented kid who has plenty of room left to expand his game. Downs has been experiencing some soreness in his knees but is still planning to take part in this evening’s dunk contest.

Julian Wright - You don’t have to watch for very long to notice that West coach Al Rhodes is having a lot of fun coaching “Jules”. He pays close attention while being instructed, isn’t afraid to ask for clarification and is a very hard worker during drills. He’s having a lot of fun out there and his enthusiasm rubs off on those around him.

His versatility hasn’t gone unused and that means he’s guarded every position on the floor at one time or another and has played in four different spots on the offensive end. His ability to handle the ball and pass allows him to play a bit of a point forward role but he has forced a few high risk passes -- mostly while trying to find teammates for lobs --and has to be a little more careful against smaller players with quick hands. Of anybody who has tried to stop Tyler Hansbrough from bulldozing his way around the paint Wright has had the most success during practices largely due to his length and quickness.

This evening Wright is going to participate in the dunk contest and it will be interesting to see if he ditches the Reebok Pumps provided by the folks at Mickey D’s. Wright is not happy with how they feel on his feet and removed them as quickly as possible at the end of practice before playfully kicking them off the court.

MORE NOTES FROM MONDAY

On Monday the crowd of NBA executives swelled to between 50-60 player personnel types looking to get a read on the participants. More than likely they have to have been frustrated while watching the East team go through practices on Sunday and Monday. Rather than get out and run or scrimmage, the East has spent a majority of their time going over the offense, going over drills and even doing conditioning runs that you usually see during high school tryouts….It will be interesting to see if the lack of opportunity to grow familiar with each other in any kind of extended scrimmage setting will hurt the East when the square off with the West on Wednesday evening….

On Sunday future Washington Husky -- if he doesn’t declare for the NBA first -- Martell Webster wasn’t passing up many shots and he didn’t change his style on Monday. He hasn’t been selfish, but at the same time he’s not being overly generous and will take as many shots as he’s allowed to take. He’s got a big time body, deep range and rebounds well but his first step and explosiveness are questionable from an NBA standpoint….Louis Williams is notorious for his explosiveness and it isn’t any secret that he’s eyeing a jump to the NBA so it has been interesting watching as the East’s practice style has left him relatively shackled. To his credit he hasn’t gotten out of control or forced many shots out of frustration….His basketball IQ needs some work, but Gerald Green did well for himself by picking up his activity level and looking to crash the boards when the opportunity presented itself. His jumper has been on and off but his athleticism is always on and he’s got to be the co-favorite along with Williams in this evening’s dunk contest. Green did miss a dunk on one lob today, but he probably deserves a little slack for that considering he hit his left cheek on the lower left corner of the backboard during the attempt….

Luke Zeller arrived today and seemed to blend in well with the West. The 6-10 big man is an outstanding shooter and has to be feeling pretty good after canning a 40 footer at the buzzer on Saturday night to deliver an Indiana State Championship….Brandon Costner looks like he was born to play in N.C. State’s system. The 6-8 BF has a high basketball IQ, works the boards and is a very dangerous shooter from the three point line.


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