After spending a few days in Cincinnati for the Adidas Takes 5ive tournament, it was on to Akron for the inaugural LeBron James Skills Academy to take in Sunday and Monday action. Essentially, the LeBron Academy is the same Nike camp that we’ve seen in previous summers save for a few major differences. With just 80 or so players invited, the competition and talent level was exceptional and the LeBron camp was the bringing together of kids who competed at four separate positional academies. Oh, one other small thing, LeBron himself was on hand to join in on some games with the high school and college players in attendance.
While the total number of prospects was fairly limited, the quality of player in attendance was so exceptional that there was no shortage of high profile coaches. Representing Kansas at various times were Bill Self and assistant Kurtis Townsend. Here’s a look at the performance of some of the guys they might have been eyeballing or were at least listing the Jayhawks..
POTENTIAL KANSAS TARGETS AT LEBRON
Xavier Henry - There isn’t any question who the Jayhawks #1 target in the class of 2009 is and the 6-6 wing lefty from Oklahoma City didn’t lack for attention from Self and Townsend. Hampered a bit by a wrist injury suffered while taking a nasty Saturday evening spill, Henry coasted at times during camp. He played some point, hit his fair share of tough jumpers and made an effort to attack more off the dribble. Even though it wasn’t one of his best ever performances, his talent is without question and he remains a legit contender for the #1 ranking in his class.
Willie Warren - During the first round of games on Sunday, Warren wasn’t passing up any shots. Often playing the point, he would dribble right up the floor and launch a deep jumper or a contested shot off the dribble without making a single pass. The display prompted one coach watching nearby to mention that Warren did pass the ball, but only to the rim. After that, though, it was a completely different and much more disciplined Warren who took the court. He looked to get to the rim a little more to take advantage of his strength and explosion, he got others involved and even hit some catch and shoot jumpers curling off of picks.
Greg Monroe - It was a typical Greg Monroe outing. He did just enough to show why he’s considered the top prospect in the class of 2008 but sometimes left you wanting more. Matched up with 7-2 giant John Riek, Monroe used his quickness and ball handling to drive from the top of the key and he also mixed in a few tough turnarounds. Other times, he was nearly invisible and settled for 15-17 foot jumpers or forced passes through traffic. Monroe says he’s hoping to have his list cut to five by the end of August and he said that waiting until the spring to decide is still a possibility.
Daniel Orton - At times, Orton looked like the most dominant young big man in the building. At others, he tried to play like a 6-9, 260 plus pound, shooting guard who settled for 17-20 foot jumpers. For the most part he was excellent and looked terrific banging with big strong guys like Louisville bound Samardo Samuels. His enormous hands allow him to snare rebounds that he’s just barely able to contact and he’s a terrific passer out of double teams or dumping the ball into the low post from the free throw line area.
Rodney Williams - Often relying on his athleticism, the junior to be from just outside of Minneapolis looked timid at times. At others, he launched threes and drove down the lane looking to dunk on much bigger players. A late addition to the camp, Williams always shows you flashes of his future potential and he’s going to be fine as he continues to add strength to his slender frame and play with more confidence.
Rotnei Clarke - Poll any audience watching the 6-0 shooter from Oklahoma and you’re going to get a wildly varying set of opinions. Some are adamant that there isn’t a better shooter, while others insist that he’s much more of a volume shooter who will struggle against bigger and faster athletes if he goes to a high level program. Playing more off the ball than on, he hit on some pretty threes but it was a running floater from the free throw line that was his prettiest move of the camp.
Scott Suggs - Exactly how involved Kansas is with Suggs is up for debate. Both Self and Townsend spent some time watching him and he continues to list them along with schools like Illinois, Missouri, Washington, St. Louis and others. After early struggles, Suggs got more aggressive on offense Monday and hit some sweet pull-up jumpers. He chose to play fundamentally sound basketball and shared the ball most of the time which ended up biting him because he rarely got the ball back from his teammates. A tall wing with a nice handle, he does have some struggles defensively against stronger wings because of his lack of strength.
Jordan Hamilton - One of the top wings in the class of 2009, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see KU at least take a look. A connection to Kansas exists because Hamilton’s older brother was coached by Townsend during his time at Miami. A strong, athletic, and attacking wing, Hamilton can stroke it from deep or off the dribble. He was one of the top scorers in camp and Texas is rumored to be the early leader.
Matt Simpkins - He probably isn’t a major target at this point, but there have been some talks between the 6-8 combo forward from California and the Kansas staff. A long and explosive athlete, Simpkins often scored at will on the low blocks and from mid-range. He’s lacking in the strength department, has a few academic question marks and is prone to playing out of control, but there’s no denying his physical ability. His out front releasing jumper is surprisingly effective and he’s very dangerous shooting jump hooks with either hand. Simpkins is a bit of a wild card who schools have been slow to come around on, but he’s playing so well during the last month that he’s going to get some long looks during July.