Burlison on Shoe Camp Counselors

The lure for most who watched the adidas and Nike Camps were the highly-touted high school players in attendance. But for NBA talent evaluators, it was the college standouts who served as counselors and worked out in their off hours, like UCLA's Darren Collison. Scout.com's Frank Burlison reviews...

Making stops at the adidas Superstar and Nike All-America Camps recently served the primary purpose of getting up-close and extended looks at many of the better high school basketball players in the country, especially within the classes of 2007 and '08.


But another reason for anyone who covers college basketball for a newspaper or Internet site to hit both camps on an annual basis is the presence of the college players who serve as "counselors" at the camps – although the primary lure for them is the opportunity to participate in drills and "mini-games" with their peers while being watched by NBA talent evaluators and decision makers.


Watching those drills and scrimmages served a couple of purposes within themselves: 1) It helped provide more insight into the best teams and players on the college level next season, and, 2) helped create a better feel for how the 2007 NBA Draft is already shaping up.


Here are some of the college players who made the biggest impressions, on NBA-types and me alike:


At adidas (Suwanee, Ga.) . . .


*Joakim Noah: I'd left for Indianapolis and the Nike Camp before the University of Florida's Final Four MVP began working out.


But those on NBA payrolls who watched him continued to be knocked out by his work ethic, his speed and quickness and – especially – his passing, both off the dribble (in half-court and in transition) and out of the high and low posts.


He also looked stronger in the upper body and was able to dunk or score at the rim most shot attempts he took in crowds.


Assuming Greg Oden has recovered fully from his wrist surgery and is in the draft pool next spring, Noah – going on the assumption that he'll bypass a fourth season in Gainesville – should be considered the front-runner to be the No. 2 choice in the 2007 Draft.


*Darren Collison: Teammate and classmate Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was the UCLA sophomore-to-be the NBA evaluators figured they'd be paying most attention to.


Since he's right at 6-6 and still has a ways to go before he's the kind of ball-handler and jump-shooter he needs to be to compete as primarily a perimeter  player on the NBA level, it's difficult to gauge where he might project in next June's draft. He'll most certainly be among the best forwards on the college level next season, though.


But Collison is the guy most scouts came away saying "he sure has improved a lot since last season".


The 6-footer has gained almost 15 pounds in the past year, has become a much more consistent jump shooter from mid to long range and could be one of the best on-ball defenders in the country this season. And that's a big reason why the Bruins shouldn't be counted out as a strong Final Four contender, even with the losses of starters Jordan Farmar, Cedric Bozeman and Ryan Hollins.


*Jason Smith: There was enough interest in the 7-footer during his sophomore season at Colorado State that he could have probably landed somewhere in the mid 20s in the past draft.


And it was easy to see while watching him in Suwanee. He's an impressive physical specimen, runs more than well enough and seems to have enough skill to play away from the basket extensively as a power forward/four man.


There has been some question about his assertiveness but he went a ways in answering those concerns, scouts say, by holding up very well against Noah, at both ends of the floor, during scrimmages.


*Darian Townes: Like his Arkansas teammate and classmate (they'll be juniors next season) Charles Thomas did at Nike Camp, Townes demonstrated why Ronnie Brewer was far from the only NBA prospects playing for the Hogs last season.


Others at adidas included Marcus Williams of Arizona (scouts admire his ball-handling and scoring ability but feel he isn't an upper-tier athlete and must become a more committed defender), Trent Plaisted of BYU (they think he has a chance down the road but weren't nearly as enamored with him as they were Noah, of course, and Smith and Townes), Mario Chalmers and Brandon Rush of Kansas, Coleman Collins of Virginia Tech (he helped his stock), Curtis Jerrells of Baylor (he was one of the better guards there), Bobby Brown of Cal State Fullerton (who didn't make much of an impact on scouts during his stint at the Pre-Draft Camp in Orlando), Coby Karl of Boise State (he'll have a tremendous senior season with a much-buffed body) and Chris Lofton of Tennessee (not surprisingly, he was considered easily the best jump shooter there).


In Indianapolis . . .


The only real disappointment among the Nike Camp counselors was that Duke sophomore-to-be Josh McRoberts wasn't able to work out because of a mild injury suffered during a camp at Duke the week before.


But as many as a dozen of the 30 counselors who did participate in drills and scrimmages run by Herb Livesy and Tates Locke could be first-round selections next June, if each is in the draft pool.


The consensus of opinion was that Al Thornton (Florida State), Ronald Steele (Alabama), Al Horford (Florida) and D.J. White (Indiana) to strengthen or solidify their draft status.


At right at 290 pounds (apparently 35 and change less than he weighed in when his team lost to UCLA in the Final Four), Glen Davis of LSU looked as "sleek" as it will ever be possible for Davis to look.


But he's still much closer to 6-7 than he is his listed 6-9 and he still needs space or an angle to score against taller defenders. He is still nothing close to an explosive jumper inside the lane.


But Horford and White are, although nothing quite along the lines of Sean Williams of Boston College, who demonstrated why there isn't a big guy in the country who gets off the floor as quickly as he can.


Horford's teammates and classmates Corey Brewer and Taurean Green, along with senior-to-be Chris Richard (he was listed at 255 pounds and looked all of it), were also among the counselors and also served to remind us why Florida made toast of the Final Four field.


Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame in April, 2005, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.frankhoops.com

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