Three U of L players shine at adidas Nations

LONG BEACH, California -- College basketball season is quickly approaching and this past week, three of Louisville's most important players for the 2014-15 season took part in the annual adidas Nations global basketball experience.

The event matches up elite high school basketball players from around the world in a tournament-style setting -- including Louisville commit Deng Adel -- but the camp is also unique because current highly-regarded college basketball players act as camp counselors to the high school guys while also playing in college counselor games in front of NBA scouts.

The counselor games are very intense, as the NBA scouts and the pros playing with the college guys like Kyle Lowry, Arron Afflalo and former NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady help elevate the level of play.

For the three Cardinals in attendance, senior guard Chris Jones, junior forward Montrezl Harrell and sophomore guard Terry Rozier, the experience was worthwhile.

"It's been a great experience for me. Just out here working with a lot of great people, a lot of great guys," Harrell said. "These people out here, they really know what they're talking about. They're there. They know what NBA scouts are looking for. Just to have an opportunity to be out here and work and get better is a great opportunity."

Harrell was fortunate enough to have Rozier on his team and the duo made for a devastating combination at the camp. Jones might have been on a different team in camp than his Louisville teammates -- filled with mostly UCLA and Kansas players -- but he also had positive moments during camp.

"Me and Terry are on the same team. We have a lot of chemistry that's already there coming from school and we're just instilling it in our team," Harrell said. "And Chris is having a good camp as well. We played against him the first game and he really played well."

One of the major talks of the camp has been the emergence of Rozier this summer. After a strong outing at the LeBron James Skills Academy, Rozier is carrying over his good summer to adidas Nations and he credits part of his development to just staying more aggressive.

"Just being more of a point guard, being aggressive. I know I didn't have a lot of turnovers last year but it's because I wasn't aggressive. A lot of people really don't know that," Rozier said. "I wasn't really aggressive like I know I can. I'm going to start off as a two-guard, but in our system, one and two are basically the same thing. Going off of a lot of screens."

Harrell also believes Rozier has been aggressive, but he also had rave reviews of the sophomore guard's work ethic since the end of last season.

"He's worked so hard. I feel he's going to have a really great year," Harrell said of Rozier.

"He works; he works. As soon as the season was over, he took a couple of days off and he went to work. He's done a lot of different things to help his game. When you have a guard on your team that works just as hard as you do, you feed off of it."

One of the areas Rozier has looked really strong with is his ever-developing mid-range game. At adidas Nations, Rozier was lethal coming off of high ball screens, as he nailed pull-up jumpers, dropped in floaters and stopped on a dime to make some tough shots look easy.

"Big men, they can't move their feet as fast, so they try back up. And it messes with their head. They don't know if you're going to stop, do a floater. So I just worked on that pull-up when going downhill," Rozier said.

Part of Rozier's aggressiveness also comes from adding weight this offseason by staying in the weight room. Now that he's added a few pounds, Terry believes he can play through more contact at the rim.

"I've added some pounds. I'm almost 190 now, I weighed 176 after the season, so that's a given," Rozier said. "We go harder than we ever did [in the weight room last year]. I remember last summer we didn't go this hard. But we're in the ACC, we have to step up, man. But we're doing a good job. We had an optional week this week, but we had a lot of guys in there."

Rozier isn't the only Cardinal that has been working hard in the weight room. Entering his final season of college basketball, Jones looks noticeably leaner than he did last season and it's helped him reach a new gear in open-floor situations.

Part of the reason Jones has lost weight came from a challenge from head coach Rick Pitino to improve his diet this offseason.

"I think I've been lifting and staying away from fried food and candy. Coach P put me on a little diet," Jones said. "He challenged me to stay away from fried food and candy, so I did that and I feel better playing right now."

So what has Jones been eating with his new diet? A smiling Jones gave a ringing endorsement to a couple of his new favorite spots to eat.

"I just fell in love with Subway and Quizno's. They've been helping my diet so far," Jones said.

The focus for Harrell this summer hasn't been as much with the weight room but more to do with his skill level as he enters his junior season. With NBA scouts watching his every move as a potential first-round pick next season, Harrell has been in the gym putting up jumpers. Although he didn't shoot the ball particularly well this week, Montrezl is remaining patient with his jumper and cautions that it's a work-in-progress.

"I've been working on it very hard. It hasn't fallen for me these last few days but that's when you have to go back to the basics. That's when you go back to the things you do well," Harrell said. "I'm not out here to showcase my jumper and show that I can hit shots. That will be brought along during the season. That just comes with time and work. I'm not really out here to showcase my jumper. I'm just out here looking to play hard, run the floor, finish, anything that I can do to improve my game."

While the jumper hasn't fallen for Harrell, he's also been working a bit on his ball handling to take slower big men off-the-dribble during the college season. At adidas Nations, Harrell had a few aggressive takes from the elbow that resulted in finishes in traffic.

"I would say ball handling [is something I'm working on]," Harrell said. "I had a couple times where I had pick-and-pop and drove it to the basket really hard and got the bucket. Just different things that make me better and also make our team better."

Through all of the hard work this offseason Harrell, Jones and Rozier know they will be counted on to be leaders for a Louisville team losing four-year guys like Luke Hancock and Russ Smith. Pitino has named co-captains for the upcoming season, but all three players view themselves as leaders on a team that has so many young players entering the season.

"It's going to be tough, we're losing guys that have been there for four years. But it's something that we're going over now. Taking that leadership role," Smith said. "There's really no captains. We named captains, two co-captains on the team. I'm not listed as a captain but I want to take on that leadership role because I feel like a lot of guys will listen to me and there's a lot of young guys I want to take under my wing and help out."

Cardinal Authority Top Stories