Jordan Classic: Practice Report

CHARLOTTE --- North Carolina commits P.J. Hairston and James McAdoo took the courts in Charlotte for the first time Thursday morning at the opening practice at the Jordan Brand Classic.

After running through drills and plays for the first hour and a half of practice, the East squad played an intrasquad scrimmage for the final 15 to 20 minutes.

With Shannon Scott (illness) and Quincy Miller (knee) unavailable, the East squad was forced to play a four-on-four, halfcourt scrimmage with one player subbing in.

The Blue Team featured Michael Gilchrist, Rakeem Christmas, Michael Carter-Williams, Mike Gbinije and Marquis Teague. The White Team was comprised of Hairston, McAdoo, Austin Rivers and Khem Birch.

While the format was unconventional and games only went to five points apiece -- with the Blue Team winning all three -- the intensity level was high and observers got a glimpse of several interesting matchups.


Of all the players on the floor Thursday morning, McAdoo's game seemed the least suited for the quirks of the scrimmages.

Due to the halfcourt rules, the power forward from Norfolk, Va. was forced to play almost exclusively in the post -- an area he's still working to expand.

McAdoo looked a little uncomfortable with his interior moves and struggled to finish in the paint, getting himself off balance several times and rimming out jumpers as a result. He also had the ball stripped from him a couple times when he put it on the floor.

"Guys are just so much taller and longer these days so you've really just got to work on being fundamental and having good moves and stuff like that," McAdoo said. "That's one thing I'm trying to focus on -- just trying to get a clear path to the basket and then just working on my moves and different options I can take to the next level."

McAdoo said after practice that the release points on shots he normally takes when facing up are different when he has his back to the basket -- which is an adjustment he'll have to make.

"That's something I've really got to develop in practice," McAdoo said. "Hopefully I'll have it by the time I step on campus in Chapel Hill."

Making things tougher for McAdoo, the halfcourt setup kept him from using his athleticism to get easy baskets in transition. During the drills portion of the morning practice, McAdoo was arguably the most impressive big man in the open court, running the floor and finishing gracefully with either hand. In the scrimmages, that skill wasn't allowed to shine.

McAdoo also faced several unconventional matchups during the scrimmages. Over the course of three games, McAdoo guarded and was guarded by a 6-foot-9 center in Christmas, a 6-foot-6 small forward in Gbinije and a 6-foot-5 shooting guard in Carter-Williams.

Constantly seeing different looks defensively didn't allow McAdoo to get into a rhythm.

The main positive for McAdoo was that his frame is looking bigger and stronger than ever. Against a legit center in Christmas, McAdoo was able to hold his own physically and get garbage baskets and a few tough rebounds.

If one or two of his shots in the lane had been able to fall, the scrimmages likely would've gone much better for McAdoo. Either way, he's an elite prospect and 15 minutes of halfcourt basketball doesn't change that.

Defender's Take on McAdoo

What makes him dangerous?
"His size and athleticism. … He can jump and he's kind of strong and athletic for his size." -- Michael Gbinije

How do you try to stop him?
"You just try to limit him inside and try to make him settle on jumpshots really because he's kind of streaky with the jumpshots. Just try to keep him away from the basket." -- Michael Gbinije


Whether he meant to or not, Hairston summed up his performance perfectly on Thursday morning when he was asked about how he's improved in the last year.

"Truthfully, before I went up to Hargrave, I don't know that I'd be in (the Jordan Brand Classic)," he said. "When I went to Hargrave I was playing at almost 240 pounds. I was slow. Now I'm at about 216-217. I'm feeling lighter. I'm feeling great."

While Hairston didn't dominate in the scrimmages on Thursday, his newly found athleticism definitely stood out early during the drills. Aside from simply moving up and down the floor faster, Hairston showed an improved bounce.

Early in warm-ups the East squad trainer had players do a 360-degree turn in the air off a vertical jump. Hairston and Rivers did this drill side by side and Hairston was arguably more explosive than Rivers.

Hairston also finished with dunks in the full-court drills, even when he was off balance.

"A year ago I probably just would've laid it up because a year ago I probably couldn't have gotten off the floor as quick as I can now," Hairston said. "But now I was in the dunk contest and all that -- just making it look easy."

In the scrimmage Hairston established his perimeter shot, knocking down a couple three pointers early. But when he tried to show off his mid-range game, he struggled against the length of Carter-Williams.

"There was one time where I went past him and shot it and he kind of blocked it from behind me," Hairston said. "He's just a real long, athletic kid. He has a great jumpshot and I think he's going to be a key player at Syracuse."

Defensively, Hairston matched up with Gilchrist, who was perhaps the best player on the East squad on Thursday morning. Hairston was able to stick with Gilchrist but the Kentucky commit knocked down several tough jumpers and muscled in a few shots in the lane.

"You have to sit down on him because he'll raise up easy," Hairston said of Gilchrist. "You saw out here a couple times when I sat down on him and he still hit tough shots. If it's good defense but better offense, there's nothing you can say."

Despite just being a glorified pick-up game, Hairston pointed out how seriously the players were taking the game.

"The intensity is always going to be fine," Hairston said. "You had two Kentucky players, two North Carolina players, two Duke players and two Syracuse players on the team. Of course the talent was going to be crazy and the intensity was going to be wild because everybody wanted to win."

Overall, Hairston said he felt good about his performance in the scrimmages.

"My ball handling was fine. My three-point shooting was good," he said. "It's just the little things is what I need to do. The things I've been working on like ball handling and defense -- I think all that will be fine. I just need to work on moving without the ball."

Defender's Take on Hairston

How do you try to stop Hairston?
"Definitely just trying to take away his shot. If he has an open look, he's a great shooter and it's pretty much going in. If he does shoot, I just try to put my hand straight in his face to take away his vision to the basket and I just try to make him put it on the floor and make decisions without shooting the ball. That's what I mostly try to do." -- Michael Carter-Williams

You guarded him at the Global Challenge, what did you pull from that when guarding him today?
"Everybody knows that he's a great shooter and he can score the ball. So I just like to see what he likes to do when he has the ball so the next time I play him I can use that to guard him as best I can." -- Michael Carter-Williams

The 2011 Jordan Brand Classic tips-off at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte on Saturday at 8 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN2. Tickets are available at the box office or through Ticketmaster.

P.J. Hairston Profile
James McAdoo Profile

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