In the past the Skills Academy have run in early July prior to the July evaluation periods. But this year, Nike pushed it back and used it as the event to culminate their summer.
The action started on Monday and ran through Wednesday evening with 60 high school and 19 college players. Each morning, campers would participate in an off the court workout, which was followed by an afternoon skills session.
Then at night campers would gather at The Jet Center, an airport hangar turned Nike museum, and play a series of games in front of a host of NBA executives, which included a handful of General Managers.
Trevon Duval holds court
Heading into the Nike Skills Academy, Trevon Duval, a 6-foot-3 long-armed lead guard, was regarded as the top point guard prospect in the 2017 class.
By the time camp was over early Thursday morning that notion hadn’t changed.
Duval was northing short of fantastic during the first two days. He was as aggressive as I’ve seen him and it was evident that he was playing with a chip on his shoulder. Duval has an explosive first step and an extra burst that his peers don’t have. Combine that type of speed with his tricky ball handling and aggressive nature and he lived in the paint.
Perhaps what stood out the most about his play was the way he ran his camp team and facilitated the offense. Using his terrific floor vision, Duval consistently created quality shot opportunities for his teammates. To go with his distributing, Duval certainly scored when he needed to. He’s arguably the best layup maker in high school hoops, as he makes tough, high glass finishes look easy.
NOTES FROM THE HIGH SCHOOL CAMPERS
- Alexander Mamukelashvili, who recently came to the United States from Italy, made his national debut at the Nike Skills Academy. A 6-foot-9 forward, Mamukelashvili will play his senior season at Montverde (Fla.) Academy. Mamukelashvili played with good energy on both ends of the floor. He ran rim to rim, flashed a nice set of hands and looked to face up defenders for jumpers or drives. At this stage, Mamukelashvili isn’t a known commodity, but he’s sure to attract a wide range of college interest.
- After some off the court issues and inconsistent play, Zach Brown, a 7-foot prospect out of Miami, fell from Scout’s top 100. But it appears he’s more than earned his way back in when the player rankings are updated post-July. Brown was aggressive at camp and used his size and length to his advantage in the post. Brown was active on the glass, especially on the offensive end, and did a good job of fighting for good position, sealing off defenders and finishing with powerful dunks in the paint.
- Arizona native Alex Barcello has quietly had a very good spring and summer. The 6-foot guard had a strong showing at the Nike Skills Academy and shot the ball particularly well. Playing on a camp team that featured Duval, Barcello was used both on and off the ball and was effective in either role. He’s a tough, hardnosed and competitive kid that should score a bunch of points in college. Barcello’s list of schools include Arizona, Stanford, Georgia Tech, Baylor, Butler, Indiana, Michigan State, Creighton and St. Mary's.
- At this point it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Collin Sexton’s name listed as a top performer at an event. He’s been consistent with his effort and performances throughout the spring and summer. Sexton led his camp team to the championship and was impressive in the finale. His aggressive style of play is effective and he’s doing a good job of merging his natural scoring ability with his ever-improving ability to run a team. Sexton has a long list of schools including Alabama, Arizona, Oklahoma State and others Nike/Jon Lopez
NOTES FROM THE COLLEGE CAMPERS
- Iowa State guard Monte Morris impressed as much as any college camper at the Nike Skills Academy. Morris was a key factor to the Cyclones team last season, but his role will be even more escalated when the ball tips in November. Morris did a good job of playing at a good pace and showed an impressive ability to change speeds, play under control and get into the lane. Morris is a nifty finisher at the basket and that was on display, as was his vision and passing.
- On the second day of camp Malcolm Hill, a senior-to-be at Illinois, couldn’t be stopped. A handful of defenders lined up against the 6-foot-6, powerfully built wing, but the result was the same. Hill was in a zone, especially from the mid-range area, where he connected on seven pull-ups and step backs during the scrimmages. Hill also worked in a handful of three-pointers and aggressively pursued rebounds on the offensive end. Hill looks primed for a big season in Champaign.
- Much like Hill, the expectations for Chris Boucher’s senior season at Oregon were raised after his play at the Nike Skills Academy. The 6’9 post player not only ran rim to rim and used his bouncy athleticism to block shots, finish above the rim and rebound, but he also showed off his jump shot. Now at times, especially on the first day, he forced tough, off balance threes, but as the camp wore on his shot selection got better and his percentage did as well. On the final day he made multiple threes, plus a mid-range jump.
- Arguably the best shooter at camp was Valparaiso forward Alec Peters. He shot the ball over 43-percent from behind the arc last season and he appeared to have shot the ball at a better clip than that through three days at The Jet Center. Peters has a pretty looking stroke with good shot mechanics. He has a quick trigger, good range and impressive accuracy. But he didn’t impress with just his shot making, Peters is tough, competitive and will mix it up inside.
- Fresh off a National Championship with Villanova, Josh Hart played with supreme confidence at the Nike Skills Academy. The 6-foot-5 wing appeared to have bulked up some, as he looks strong and chiseled. He was aggressive on offense and shot the ball well from both mid-range and three. Hart was also effective with his drives, scored the ball well through contact and did a good job of reeling in rebounds.