McD: Day 1 Practice Report

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Future Tar Heel teammates J.R. Smith and Marvin Williams Jr. took another step towards Chapel Hill on Sunday with the first of three practices at Oklahoma City University in preparation for Wednesday's McDonald's All-American Game.

Smith is on the post-heavy East team, while Williams is on the guard-laden West team. With practices divided up by teams today, neither signee played with or against each other.

However, each team not only went through routine drills, but also held their own intra-squad scrimmage.

Despite his 6-foot-9, 220-pound frame, Williams struggled some and was a non-factor most of his team's scrimmage, probably slowing, if not halting completely, his recent straight-to-the-NBA buzz.

The Bremerton (Wash.) High School standout was paired against bruising 6-foot-8, 325-pound Glenn "Big Baby" Davis (Louisiana State) most of the scrimmage and played well against him defensively, but rarely contributed on the offensive end.

He grabbed a few rebounds, but got very few looks offensively and even when he did, his shots looked to be rushed.

Nonetheless, afterwards, Williams was upbeat about his performance.

"It was good conditioning," said Williams. "I think I did all right."

While Williams fizzled, Smith sizzled, despite a slow start.

He missed a pair of three-pointers in full-court, three-on-three drills, but looked to finally get loose some in a four-on-four, half-court scrimmage.

The 6-foot-6, 220-pounder pulled down a rebound and then proceeded to hit a fadeaway three-pointer over the outstretched reach of 6-foot-9 Rudy Gay (Connecticut).

After briefly running through their offense, the East team scrimmaged against themselves for nearly 30 minutes.

During the scrimmage, Smith found himself guarding NBA-bound point guard Sebastian Telfair in transition a few times and fared well in those situations.

Smith's first shot of the scrimmage was a fadeaway three-pointer over 6-foot-9, 215-pound Josh Smith (Indiana) that he missed.

After being subbed out, Smith walked over to get a drink of water and as he did, repeatedly shook his head in dismay.

"When we first started, I was shaky and worried about how I was going to do," said Smith. "I just wasn't in a rhythm."

Yet upon returning to the scrimmage, Smith was seemingly re-energized.

First, he hit a 13-foot jumper in transition and a few plays later, he came up with a steal that he dropped off to trailing NBA lottery pick Dwight Howard for a one-handed slam.

"I felt like I did well distributing the ball," said Smith. "We've got a big team, so I was really concentrating on get the ball inside."

On the next East possession, Telfair threw an alley-oop to Smith, but the pass was off some and he missed the dunk short. He recovered nicely and scored a driving layup a few plays later.

After a halftime of sorts, Telfair and Smith finally hooked up on that alley-oop with a nasty one-handed jam over two players, one of which was Corey Brewer (Florida).

Moments later, following a block by Howard, Smith leaked out for an easy dunk in transition.

"I felt a lot more comfortable once we started running up and down," said Smith. "And then it just started flowing."

After practice though was when Smith really showed off his athleticism, as he prepared for Monday night's McDonald's slam dunk contest.

"I've got a few tricks up my sleeve," said Smith. "It's going to be crazy, but it won't be that way to start off."

That may be so, but Inside Carolina caught Smith working on a twisting, behind-the-back windmill dunk as well as measuring off the free throw line.

"Y'all just have to wait and see," said Smith, with a grin.


Countless NBA personnel were in attendance during the practice, including Larry Bird of the Indiana Pacers, who is the team's President of Basketball Operations…Howard was impressive as usual, blocking shots to start the fastbreak, ran the court well and finished strong inside. He is definitely the game's most NBA-ready player, but Arkansas signee Al Jefferson's ability to score down low definitely turned some heads…Telfair put on an absolute clinic at times today, routinely knocking down three-pointers, breaking down the defense and finding open teammates. Just in case the 6-foot, 165-pounder wasn't a top 20 pick before today, one NBA scout believes he is now a lock for the top 15…Perhaps just as impressive was potentially NBA-bound 7-foot, 235-pound LaMarcus Aldridge (Texas) of the undersized West team. He absolutely dominated his team's first 30-minutes scrimmage, dunking at least four times. Said Aldridge on his performance today: "I didn't play too good. I didn't get a chance to show my face up game."…Shaun Livingston (Duke) of the West team looked very tentative at times and was virtually invisible at times during his team's scrimmage. "My feet hurt. These new Iverson's (Reebok shoes) were killing me. I feel like I got a whole bunch of blisters on my feet."…One of the best match-ups of the day was DeMarcus Nelson (Duke) and Joe Crawford (Kentucky) squaring off in the West team's scrimmage. Both are physical guards, but Nelson appeared to win this battle, knocking down several three-pointers in transition, but did get burned by Crawford for a three-point play on an aggressive move to the hoop.

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