While Bob Flynn from Baltimore (MD) Cardinal Gibbons led his East squad through a spirited, and very physical, series of drills and scrimmaging that gave the players a chance to show their stuff, the West had a different approach. Coach A.D. Burtschi from Putnam City (OK) High chose to spend nearly half of the allotted practice time focusing on installing a few inbounds plays and free throw shooting to the obvious chagrin of players and onlookers.
With the dunk and three point contests coming this evening and a closed scrimmage left before Wednesday night’s main event, this is as good a time as any to break down each players performance so far.
Corey Brewer, 6-8 WG/WF (FLORIDA)- The slender Brewer has been feast or famine on the offensive end. His three’s seem to end up as either airballs or swishes and he has converted on difficult drives while missing several chippies. He caught a little flack in some circles for his inclusion but he’s proved he belongs on this stage and will only get better as he gains strength.
J.R. Smith (UNC), 6-5 WG- Smith has been a highlight waiting to happen virtually every time he gets his hands on the ball. He has showed time and again that he has DEEP range on his pretty high arching jump shot and his above the rim antics are second to none. His shot selection is a bit questionable at times and he needs to continue to add to his hoops IQ but he’s turned a lot of heads.
D.J. White, 6-8 BF (INDIANA)- Simply one of the top performers in Oklahoma City, White has been awesome on both ends. He fights for loose balls with passion, explodes to the tin with authority and has range on his shot to 15 feet. He’s one of the most ready to contribute on the next level players on either roster.
Rajon Rondo, 6-1 PG (KENTUCKY)- Rondo has an ability to finish in traffic that is truly a gift for a player his size. He has superior body control and makes good decisions with the ball. He’s given Sebastian Telfair all he wants and more whenever they have been matched up.
Dwight Howard, 6-10 BF (NBA)- Big Dwight looks to be very motivated by recent talk suggesting he isn’t the clear cut choice as the best big man prospect in 2004. He has dominated anybody who gets in his way and possesses several League worthy scoring tools. Just in case people had forgotten the type of abuse he can inflict when he’s played man up, he’s certainly reminded them.
Randolph Morris, 6-10 C (undecided)- The McDonald’s practices haven’t been particularly kind to Morris. He’s looked a step slow and has struggled when forced to play man to man defense against other premier big men. He attacks the rim powerfully and has soft touch when he concentrates but a case of fumbleitis has been messing with his game.
Rudy Gay, 6-8 WF (UCONN)- Josh Smith came in with all of the hype and the label of potential lotto pick, but it is Gay who has truly impressed. He’s strong and athletic towards the rim, shoots well and is a very underrated passer. His off the bounce game isn’t quite where it is going to be, but Gay has the potential to be a star as soon as he diversifies his game off the bounce.
Al Jefferson, 6-9 BF (ARKANSAS)- Playing against good competition for the first time since last summer Jefferson has been impressive. He’s transformed his body and is a bull in the paint while maintaining a great feel for scoring on jump shots out to 15 feet. He’s lighter off his feet than ever before and one of the most fundamentally sound big men in the class.
Sebastian Telfair, 6-0 PG (LOUISVILLE)- With rumors swirling that Bassy is bound for the L, the way he has played hasn’t shut any of them down. He is shooting a lot of pull up jump shots and playing inspired defense. It is hard to watch and not think he is playing for draft position at this point.
Darius Washington, 6-0 PG (MEMPHIS)- As long as D-Wash stays under control he is very effective. He can score off the bounce or from deep and is doing an adequate job running the team when given the chance. He’s a very competitive kid and it has showed every minute he is on the court.
Mike Williams, 6-7 BF (TEXAS)- Listed at 6-9, Williams is 6-7 tops and brings his lunch pail to work. He isn’t the quickest or most athletic guy out there but is willing to outwork and outsmart his opponents. He isn’t near as dominant as he was a few years ago, but he is still good enough to warrant plenty of early playing time next year.
Josh Smith, 6-8 WF (NBA)- This will be Smith’s third all-star game so he is officially on the NBA market which means he has a lot to play for. There is no questioning his athletic ability and he has three point range, but Smith has been somewhat exposed so far. Other than one nifty drive, he has struggled to take anybody off of the dribble and he really needs to develop a mid range game. He’s going to get drafted, but whoever takes him is going to need to be patient with him.
Jordan Farmar, 6-2 PG (UCLA)- Farmar brings a Chris Paul type presence to the court and everything about him screams leader. Teammates migrate towards him on and off the court and he makes fantastic decisions while forcing opponents to respect his offensive capabilities. He’s also shown surprising explosiveness off the dribble and isn’t afraid to attack the cup.
Malik Hairston, 6-5 WG (Undecided)- No particular aspect of Hairston’s game really jumps out at you because he is so effective in every area. He’s got a tremendous feel for the game and always seems to find himself in the right place at the right time. Malik makes shots when he needs to, passes, defends and boards extremely well for a wing. Whoever gets him is going to be very happy.
Arron Afflalo, 6-4 WG (UCLA)- Make no mistake about it, Afflalo is looking to get his on the court. He is a strong and rugged wing who can post up or score from the outside. Although he isn’t a particularly creative ball handler, his strength allows him to get to the basket and finish with contact.
LaMarcus Aldridge, 6-11 BF (TEXAS)- Sorry Texas fans, it is looking more and more like Aldridge will never make it to campus. He’s been one of the five most impressive players in Oklahoma City and has played with a passion never seen before. He’s terrific motoring up and down the court and has developed a half hook and an up and under move that are legitimate NBA scoring moves.
Shaun Livingston, 6-6 PG (DUKE)- At times the best point guard in the class of 2004 has looked disinterested if not downright bored, then he makes a play that just leaves you shaking your head. His stop and go move is absolutely unstoppable and his length disguises just how explosive and quick he is. Buzz is that he is a top five pick if he comes out right now and it only takes a couple of plays per day for him to show why he is so highly regarded.
Jawann McClellan, 6-5 WG (ARIZONA)- Much like Hairston, McClellan is just so solid in every aspect of the game. He is willing to play his role and steps up when he is needed for a big score or rebound. He’s happy to play defense and that is something that will most certainly be welcomed when he arrives in Tucson. He has a great personality off of the court and is one of most well liked players in town.
DeMarcus Nelson, 6-3 WG (DUKE)- Marky has done what he has always done, use his strength and bounce to get to the rim and score. He’s a remarkable rebounder for his size and his jump shot is much more consistent. He could stand to tighten up his handle a little bit, but he is going to be an excellent fit in Durham.
Marvin Williams, Jr., 6-9 WF/BF (UNC)- Williams play at the Roundball Classic last week caused a tremendous NBA buzz, but he doesn’t carry himself like somebody who really wants the NBA right now. Other than a few flashes of brilliance he has been eerily quiet. As solid as he is on the court, Marvin is an absolute treat away from the hardwood and has an engaging personality.
Daniel Gibson, 6-2 PG/WG (TEXAS)- Gibson is one of those kids who is so smooth that it becomes difficult to determine when he is playing hard and when he isn’t. He is at his best when he gets to spend stretches off the ball where his mid range scoring brilliance can be a major help. When he handles the ball on the point he is confident and makes sure his teammates are where they need to be. Nothing spectacular, just solid.
Robert Swift, 6-11 C (USC)- Swift is just another big man who is more than likely playing for draft position and he has been very impressive. He’s bouncy around the bucket, has tremendous timing and unlike most other young big men Swift knows how to avoid foul trouble and is a fundamentally sound shot blocker. He’s a hard worker and easy to like but will need to quicken his shot release.
Joe Crawford, 6-4 WG (KENTUCKY)- Maybe he hasn’t recovered from an exhausting state title run, but Crawford has been surprisingly quiet. His shots aren’t falling with regularity so he can’t free up space for his explosive drives to the basket. He’s proven though, so a few subpar days after a long season shouldn’t be any cause for concern.
Glen Davis, 6-7 BF (LSU)- Davis has been an interesting player to watch in Oklahoma City. He’s a little shorter than advertised and has really struggled to score against long and athletic players like Swift and Aldridge but his go-go attitude still allows him to accomplish things around the basket. He’s a powerhouse at 330 pounds but you have to wonder if an when he will ponder a return to the gridiron.