USA Festival: Courtside Report

SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Some of the nation's top high schoolers are on the campus of San Diego State University this week for the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival, which is now a part of the International Sports Invitational. IC correspondent Monte Macias provides an in-depth report on the UNC recruits in attendance ...

Darrell Arthur

Tues. 6/7/05 – USA White 112, China 59

The first thing that struck me about Arthur was his frame. He's 6-9 and has a long, lean build with broad shoulders. He's already somewhat filled out, but there's room to add even more muscle. He's very similar physically to Jawad Williams, with the kind of frame he can build on.

Arthur was active defensively, with his long arms in the passing lanes every time down. He grabbed a handful of boards by crashing hard, but failed to box out a number of times. It never became a problem against the rail-thin Chinese front line, but it's something he'll need to work on.

Offensively, Arthur came into his own as the game went on. He opened with a baseline jumper from 17' which went about 19'. But the form was textbook with a high release point, so I wrote it off to jitters. He proved me right soon after, with a pure looking three-pointer from 23'. Most of his offensive production, however, came in the paint. He was always in the mix on the boards, getting a number of put-backs and tips. He also showed the ability to make the right pass, on the break as well as within the offense.

Others of note: Although Greg Oden played predictably well, the gym was buzzing about the two 2007 players on the floor. F Kyle Singler shot lights-out, putting up 20 pts. on 7-9 shooting in only 15 mins. F Bill Walker put on his show from the inside, rather than the outside. I counted eight monster dunks, including one from the dotted line over two helpless defenders and one stunned teammate. I have never seen any human that high in the air.

Wed. 6/8/05 – USA White 105, Canada 69

Arthur was all over the passing lanes once again, and wound up with three steals to go with countless deflections. He played good position defense against a Canadian front line that was much bigger and better than the Chinese team's; and he challenged shots from the wing with abandon. He didn't have any blocks, but he did alter or bother quite a few attempts.

On the offensive end, he once again showed good form on his jumper, and canned a few from mid-range. He also showed he could create his own shot, when he drove his man into the paint, spun around and knocked down the fade-away – again, very reminiscent of Jawad Williams.

Others of note: F Paul Harris took over the game early. He did whatever he wanted on the court – buckets, boards, defense. He reminds me of P.J. Tucker but with a quicker dribble… PG Scottie Reynolds showed great energy on both ends of the floor, setting up his teammates for shots, and spurring the break with his steals. Very vocal, a good floor general… Canadian PG Junior Cadougan has held his own thus far against the likes of DJ Augustin, Michael Conley, and Javaris Crittenton. The amazing thing is that he's only fourteen years old.

Arthur Postgame Quotes

Which schools are you still considering?
Arthur: I'm wide open right now. I could go anywhere, I'm not sure yet.

There are rumors that some Midwest schools are leading at this time, is that true?
Arthur: You could say the Big 12 is leading right now, but I'm wide open.

What's your timeframe to narrow that decision down a bit?
Arthur: I'd probably say the fall. I'd like to narrow it down by then. [I'll take my visits to Oklahoma, Texas and North Carolina] in the fall.

You seem to have both PF and WF skills right now – which position do you plan to play in college?
Arthur: Any position at all. Whatever they ask me to do, I'll do.


Tues. 6/7/05 – USA Red 82, Canada 64

Bryan Davis is 6-8 and a fairly solid 228 lbs. He seems to carry his weight in his lower body to some degree. If Darrell Arthur is built like Jawad, then Davis is built more like Marvin Williams. He uses that lower body strength to bang inside and mix it up on the glass.

Davis' offensive game seemed a bit frustrated by Canada's height, and their tightly packed zone. He got all of his points on put-backs in the paint, where his toughness and persistence paid off. What he lacks in finesse he makes up for in tenacity. His best plays were the instinctive ones around the glass; but on plays when he had time to think, he floundered. He struggled when trying to create his own shot, and had the ball easily knocked away or taken from him.

The frustration surfaced little by little and he showed himself to be a fairly emotional player, for better or worse. He encouraged his teammates to hustle and get after it on defense, but also frowned and got angry when he was substituted for. After he missed a bad shot on one end, he came down on the other end and compounded it with a silly goaltending violation.

Davis played only 8 minutes due to foul trouble, but still managed to put up 12 points and 4 boards.

Others of note: G Gerald Henderson, Jr. is a very composed, very economical player. One of those who lets the game come to him. He was happy orchestrating from the wing, but still managed to quietly lead the way with 15 points. What he did showcase was his exceptional defensive intensity and footwork… F Damion James was in the middle of every play, a true stat-sheet stuffer.

Wed. 6/8/05 – USA Red 107, China 70

Davis was again bothered by a zone defense. He never seemed to get into a flow, with two defenders always hanging on him. It was very tough for him to get loose in the post and manufacture his own shot, and he rarely even had good enough position to enable an entry pass. He did manage to get some put-backs, and continued to be aggressive rebounding, leading the pack with 8 boards. From the free-throw line, he was only 1-4.

It was on defense that he made his presence known in this game. He was very, very active, coming up with a couple of steals and even drawing a bone-crunching charge at one point. He used his long arms to bother a number of shots, and swung for the fences more than once. It finally paid off in the 4th quarter when he sized up a lazy floater and sent it rocketing off the glass and back out towards mid-court. I thought he had popped the ball or maybe cracked the glass, but both turned out OK to my surprise.

Others of note: Deaquan Cook scored 25 points in 23 minutes, and had a determined look in his eye that wasn't there yesterday… F Stanley Robinson went flying out of the gates, dunking, hitting threes, and picking off passes, all before I could open my bag of chips. And I heard later he did it on a swollen foot… G Jon Scheyer is anything but shy. Only, he's shooting 29% from the field and 12% from three-point land so far during the two games. It's a matter of time before they start falling… F Damion James had the line of the day, when PG D.J. Augustin fouled out. Assuming their coach hadn't noticed, James yelled from the court, "That's five, coach!! That's five on DJ!! We're gonna need a guard!!" Not sure why, but I laughed for about a minute.

Davis Postgame Quotes

Which schools are you still considering?
Davis: UNC, UConn, Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas, and Georgia Tech.

There are rumors that the in-state schools are leading the pack – is that true?
Davis: No. That's never been the case. There's no leader right now. I'm wide open, for sure.

What's your timeframe to narrow that down?
Davis: I want to take some trips in the fall to maybe watch some football games and see the campuses. But I don't know whether I'll commit in the fall or the spring, yet.

That block you had in the 4th quarter – were you surprised that the ball didn't pop or the glass didn't crack?
Davis: [laughing] No, no. I knew it would be all right.


Tues. 6/7/05 – USA Blue did not play

Wed. 6/8/05 – USA Blue 118, New Zealand 57

Ellington was laid back and let the game come to him in much the same way that Henderson, Jr. did. He scored quietly, effectively directed the team, and set the tone defensively. It wasn't an attention-grabbing performance, which is why his final line required a double-take: 20 points on 9-16 shooting, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 steals, and 0 turnovers … all in 19 minutes. Granted, New Zealand will battle China for the cellar here, but that kind of production is so efficient it's scary.

Ellington showed a feathery soft release, and looked confident burying the mid-range jumpers he took. He missed on both of his three-point tries, but his form looked fluid, and promising. At 6-4 and 190 lbs, he was deceptively strong when driving the lane, though he had a tough time finishing around the rim today.

He got a good amount of time running the point, and was effective doing so. He ran their zone-offense set confidently, directing teammates and making crisp passes with a purpose. When they had opportunities to run, he orchestrated the break nicely and got the ball to the wings in a good place to finish.

Ellington's defensive footwork and intensity was what stood out most today. He gets after it, and is the kind of defender who takes every matchup as a personal challenge.

Others of note: F/C Robin Lopez played a little more aggressive and more polished than his twin brother F/C Brook Lopez, so far… OJ Mayo doesn't miss when he's open, and he has that air about him that only the best ones have.

Ellington Postgame Quotes

Do you find players going at you harder now that you've committed to UNC?
Ellington: Not really. Guys are always coming at me hard, no matter what, so I haven't noticed anything too different… yet. [smile]

What position and role do you expect to have at UNC as a freshman?
Ellington: All guard spots. And I expect to contribute right away. Just whatever I can do to contribute in any way… whatever's asked.

What has Roy Williams and his staff told you to work on between now and when you enroll?
Ellington: He hasn't talked to me about that yet. But just myself, I know I need to work on my strength. Just getting stronger is probably the main thing right now.

Some analysts have you ranked as the #1 WG in the nation – do you agree?
Ellington: Nah, I don't pay too much attention to that. It's all just opinions, and everybody's got opinions. You can't let that play a part.

With Gerald Henderson, Jr. headed to Duke, are you looking forward to that first matchup?
Ellington: [lights up like a X-mas tree] Oh yeah. It's gonna be a whole lot of fun. [more smiles] Being best friends and all, it's gonna be real competitive, I can tell you that! I'm looking forward to it.


Wed. 6/8/05 – USA Blue 118, New Zealand 57

Thaddeus Young is quite an athlete, and quite a basketball player. He displayed a good stroke from three-point land, nailing his only attempt. He has excellent footwork with his post-moves, is very swift and agile on the wing, and has an overall knack for putting the ball in the hole. Young has a nose for the ball combined with a strong work ethic inside.

He seems to not be sure of his formal position yet, so he just does some of everything. He's the best kind of "tweener" – the kind that can fill any gap a team may have.

He rattled off 16 points in the first half; but then he tweaked his knee early in the 3rd quarter, and didn't return. On a fast break, dribbling at full speed, he attempted a spin move near the hoop and planted awkwardly. He hobbled off without help, and watched the rest of the game with bags of ice on his knee. Hopefully for Thaddeus' sake, it's nothing serious.

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