LeBron Skills Academy – Day 1 Notes

Mitch McGary made his mark on day one of the LeBron James Skills Academy. Meanwhile on the high school side of things Michigan targets Kevon Looney, Diamond Stone, and Jalen Brunson all had their moments. That and word on other Michigan targets inside.

High School Player Workout

Jalen Brunson vs. Eric Davis - In a match-up of Michigan backcourt targets (one offered and one not) in the morning session, the biggest takeaway was Brunson’s defense.  While Davis has the advantage in length (6-3 with a 77.5-inch wing span vs. 6-1.5 with a 75-inch wingspan,) Brunson has the advantage in weight (182 lbs. vs. 167 lbs.), quickness, and strength.  That was evident when Brunson consistently beat Davis to the spot.  It became clear that Davis would need the ball screen to get by Brunson, but that too sometimes proved ineffective.  One notable example came when Brunson fought through a screen at the top of the key to cut off the lane, Davis then attempted to crossover behind his back to his left, but Brunson recovered to cut that off as well to force Davis to give up the ball.  Davis’ best looks came when simply pulling up and shooting over his shorter opponent.  He attempted a few of them, but none fell.

Jaylen Johnson The rising senior’s ability to put it on the deck at 6-9, 206 lbs. continues to earn him notice. Where the Ypsilanti star sometimes gets muscled around on the block, he can take advantage of those same defenders by drawing them away from the basket and/or beating them down the floor.  He did both in the span of a minute.  First he squared up his defender from three, drove the lane, and finished with a finger roll a few feet from the cup.  A few plays later he grabbed a rebound on the other end, drove the length of the court, then found Cliff Alexander wide open under the rim after drawing the defense.  His game is Kevon Looney-like.  Looney is definitely the superior shooter, dribbler, and rebounder, but Johnson has shown that there isn’t a cavernous gap between the two (and that includes in a head to head match-up in Ft. Wayne a few months ago).

Luke Kennard The Franklin, Ohio star did what he always does… knocked down open looks from deep.  He wasn’t quite as proficient in doing so as we’ve seen him be on other occasions, but he still good enough for opponents to know they needed to try to run him off the three-point line.  That’s where Kennard’s game continues to grow.  One of his most impressive plays came when an opponent closed out on him in the corner causing him to put in on the floor.  Kennard then finished the play with a baseline floater from 15-feet.

Kevon Looney – The first shot I saw him take was a three off of a baseline out-of-bounds play.  After inbounding the ball Looney sprinted to the right corner and canned a three.  That is but one of the areas of growth the five-star forward has seen in his game this summer. “Over the past three or four months I’ve become a better catch-and-shoot shooter,” said Looney.  “I’ve been working on my ball-handling a lot, and I got stronger.  I’ve gained about 10-15 pounds since the end of the high school season.  The extra brawn has made an already outstanding rebounder that much tougher to keep off the glass.  His effectiveness is part effort, part physical talent, and part excellent anticipatory skills.  On the recruiting front Looney still maintains a top ten that includes Michigan.  That list will be chopped in half at the end of the month.  At one point it appeared that a visit would be one of the prerequisites to making the cut.  Stay tuned to GoBlueWolverine for more on that in the coming days.

Diamond Stone The 6-10, 240-pounder is an eraser in the middle.  He blocked numerous shots on the day and altered a number of others.  That he shed 20-plus pounds is evident in his increased energy and bounce.  It’s an effect similar to that which was experienced by Mitch McGary for Michigan when he shed weight last year.  Coincidentally Stone has been picking McGary’s brain while in Las Vegas about tweaking his game, recruiting, and Michigan.  To be clear, Stone is FAR from trimming his list, and Michigan (or any other school) hasn't been anointed an early favorite.  His queries about Michigan are simply part of his effort to gather more information.  That said, the Wolverines definitely benefitted from McGary’s emergence late last season and Stone still raves about his visit to Ann Arbor last year.  We’ll have more on Stone in the coming days as well.

Other notes – The two remaining Michigan targets were fairly quiet. Kameron Chatman will be more of a focus on day two of our coverage.  I just didn’t witness the Long Beach Poly star do much on day one.  Meanwhile it was a tough shooting day for top Michigan target Devin Booker. However if history is an indicator the Moss Point Mississippi star will warm up on day two.

College Player Workout

Mitch McGary – “The Monster” looks like a million bucks – figuratively and literally.  The sophomore power forward checked in at a toned 6-10.5, 266-lbs. with an 83.5-inch wingspan.  His activity level stayed consistently high at times he seemed to catch his opponents off guard with better than expected lateral agility bounce.  That certainly seemed to be the case with Jakarr Sampson.  McGary was guarding the St. John’s sophomore on the elbow, slid his feet to his left as Sampson attempted to drive by, and then rejected the shot attempt.  One of the biggest question marks about the Wolverines’ big man heading into next season is can he guard the four-spot.  Through day one at LeBron the big fella looked like he’ll be able to do just that more often than critics expect.  McGary finished the day off with a strong showing versus Marquette’s Jamil Wilson.  While his overall activity level on both ends continued to stand out, his 11-point barrage over a couple of minutes was the true highlight.  The run started off with a pick& roll clinic.  On three occasions McGary lost Wilson after setting a solid screen and diving to the basket for a bucket.  When Wilson finally decided to stay with him, McGary stuck a three.  A couple of possessions later he caught the ball on the right elbow, pivoted to face the rim, then calmly stuck a jumper over Wilson’s outstretched arm.  The only bad mark on McGary’s report card came when he attempted a heat check three toward the end of the game. The big fella dribbled into a jumper a full step beyond the three-point line.  It was an air-ball, but after everything else he did in the game, you’ll give him that one.

Glenn Robinson III didn’t make the splash that McGary did in the limited action we saw him in, but we’ll catch him more on day two.  Robinson’s official measurements were 6-6.5, 211-lbs., with an 81-inch wingspan.

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