Lebron James stars at Chicago Summer Classic
Write it down: Lebron James will never wear a Tar Heel uniform. I know, I know, that's probably not exactly something you (Tar Heel fans) wanted to hear; however, that statement isn't a result of James not liking the UNC program or the UNC staff not liking James. Simply put, this kid is too good, as in "straight-to-the-NBA" too good.
James' Northeast Ohio Shooting Stars were a last minute, surprise entry in the Chicago Summer Classic, organized by Mac Irvin and hosted at Loyola University's Lakeshore Campus this past weekend. It wasn't until about 2:30 on Friday afternoon that I found out I was going to have the opportunity to observe the top rising junior in the country, starting at 8:00 Saturday morning.
When watching James play, it's not easy to pick out weaknesses in his game. By the same token, it's not easy to specify what to like best about him. Is it his body? At 16 years old, he was a man among boys playing in the 17 and under division, and has a body as good as or comparable to many NBA 2-guards right now. Is it his athleticism? He's fast from end to end with or without the ball in his hands and can leap with the best of them. Maybe it's his shooting. James probably shot near 50% from the 3 point line in the three games I observed, both off the dribble and catching and shooting.
Obviously, the list of James' strengths is long. He handles it as well as just about any point guard, and played a lot of point for his team this weekend. James showed great court vision, and was very unselfish. He looked to set up teammates often, especially early in games. In the first game of the day on Saturday, James was definitely close to a triple double, although I didn't take stats.
Many times when watching a younger player, it will be apparent that he is just that, young. Sometimes kids need to learn how to play the game; the subtleties. Not Lebron James. As young as he is, he has a great feel for the game, and rarely made bad decisions. Another common problem with young players is defense, especially when he has a reputation as James does. Again, not with Lebron James. He was good for two or three steals every game. He was assigned to guard the opposition's best, often switching to the hot player on the opposing team. Oh, by the way, he took one of the handful of charges I saw all weekend.
I've probably raved enough about Lebron James, but let me add one more thing. Since I've been watching high school hoops on a national level, which includes the class of 2001 and younger, I haven't seen a better player. James is better than any player who currently isn't enrolled in college, in my opinion.
And that's all it is, my opinion, just as my original statement about James never wearing a UNC uniform was just my opinion. I didn't even bother to talk with James over the weekend about his recruitment because after I saw him play, I don't see any way he attends college. He's just too good.
Adrian Hill and Will McGinley were nice compliments to Lebron James for the Ohio Shooting Stars. Hill with his athleticism and hard work on the boards, and McGinley with his outside shooting.
The Illinois Fire don't have the offensive firepower that they did last year, but Sean Dockery is still their floorleader and playmaker. Dockery wasn't hitting from the outside while I was watching him, but he was, as always, very active on defense and set up his teammates well on offense. As far as his recruitment, I don't think it's a given that Dockery ends up at Duke, as he still likes Illinois and Florida an awful lot.
A couple of Dockery's Fire teammates who impressed this weekend were Melvin Buckley with his deadly outside shot and rising junior Florentino Valencia, a fundamentally sound, hard working player who can also step out to the perimeter and take bigger players off the dribble.
Dee Brown of the Illinois Gold might have looked the best of any point guard over the weekend. In a Friday night game, he shot about 7 of 9 from 3-point range. Brown also showed good quickness and court vision and was impressive penetrating and finishing around the basket to go along with his steady outside shot.
Marcus White and Elliot Poole were also impressive for the Gold. White is a slender 6-8 athlete who excels at running the floor and using his athleticism to finish well inside. He rebounds well on both ends. Poole is a banger at 6-7. He fights for position inside and uses his strength to overpower the opposition.
Taurean "Tack" Minor is a rising junior with a lot of potential. Playing with the Houston HAAY Select, Minor, standing at maybe 5'10", threw down some impressive dunks in warmups. During the game, he showed great quickness and ball handling in trying to take the ball to the hoop. Minor does have a lot to learn, as he played out of control at times and made questionable decisions. His outside shot also leaves a lot to be desired at this point, but he didn't shoot it much because he can take pretty much anyone off the dribble. If Minor improves on his weaknesses, his athleticism will take him a long way.