Recruits at LeBron Academy

A couple of UCLA recruits do well in the first day of the LeBron James Skills Academy at the University of Akron with three UCLA coaches looking on. The Bruins are out looking for bigs in the classes of 2008 and 2009...

The Nike All-American Camp is no longer, being replaced by the LeBron James Skills Academy, which is essentially the same thing as the camp, just with a major Nike endorser's name on it and being moved to his hometown.

There are 70 campers here at the University of Akron for the Academy, and probably the biggest collection of talent of any of the three concurrent events (including the Adidas It Takes 5ive in Cincinnati and the Reebok U camp in Philadelphia).

UCLA assistant Scott Duncan was at the Academy as UCLA's representative here early Saturday, and then Head Coach Ben Howland and assistant Donnie Daniels drove from the Adidas It Takes 5ive Classic to arrive later.

In the University of Akron's gym, there are two games going on simultaneously next to each other, so you have the capability of watching both games at the same time. Most of the time there were players of interest to UCLA in both games, so the UCLA coaches were able to watch both.

UCLA-committed Drew Gordon, the 6-9 senior post from San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty, is in attendance but not playing, still recovering from his broken hand.

Here's a rundown of the guys we know UCLA is watching closely:

Hollis Thompson, the 6-6 junior wing from Los Angeles Loyola, had one very good game and one average one. But, he did enough in his first game to get college coaches talking about him. He hit a couple of threes and a soft mid-ranger with his very quick release, made a number of very good passes in the half-court and in transition, and created some turnovers. In this environment, when players are mainly looking for their own shot, Thompson stood out as the guy who was actually passing and moving and making the extra pass. Hopefully, this summer, with this being Thompson's first experience playing at events at this level, he won't get infected with the me-first approach. What's most interesting about Thompson is, with his length, he has a chance to be a very good defender and can easily stay in front of typical two guards – giving him the potential versatility in college to play either the two or the three, so it could make sense for UCLA to make him a top priority.

Jeremy Tyler, the 6-9 sophomore center from San Diego (Calif.) High, definitely had a day with two different results. In his first game of the day, he struggled a bit, mostly playing against a very physical Michael Dunigan, the 6-9 senior center from Chicago (Ill.) Farragut. Dunigan got in Tyler's head a bit, and the young post spent most of the game flustered – and close to getting a T for talking. There was also a moment when he got in a mini-argument with his own teammate. We've seen this from Tyler before, where he gets emotionally wound up and it affects his play. In his second game of the day, however, he was very impressive, going against Demarcus Cousins, considered one of the best post players nationally in the class of 2009. Tyler did it both inside and outside, stepping out to 15 feet and hitting a couple of nice jumpshots, and then spinning on Cousins in the post to score with his left. He also finished well inside, catching and going up quickly for some strong dunks. Tyler is young, so we expect him to get his emotions in control as he matures. His second game was probably another coming-out party for him in front of many college coaches that hadn't seen him yet.

Travis Wear and David Wear, the 6-9 juniors from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, were also a little inconsistent, but showed generally they're stepping up to the talent level and playing physically and aggressively. Again, you'd like to see them playing in the post but they're playing as wings in this camp.

Michael Dunigan, the 6-9 senior center, is obviously someone that Howland would like – a big, physical body. Dunigan is also pretty athletic, and has skills inside. UCLA assistant Scott Duncan watched Dunigan go up against Jeremy Tyler in the first game of the day, then Howland and Daniels watched Dunigan in his second game. Among the centers in the 2008 class still available outside of the west, Dunigan is the most obvious guy that UCLA would want, and it's just a matter if Dunigan will be interested in the Bruins.

Ralph Sampson, 6-10 senior center from Huntsville (Ala.) Butler, looked over-matched in his first game and then better in his second. It's not necessarily that Sampson appears over-matched physically, but in this first day he was passive and didn't assert himself. He did show a good shot-blocking ability, and rebounded a couple of balls in traffic, but he struggled to finish underneath the basket, not going up strong enough, and fumbled a couple of balls. Sampson will probably have to show far more in the next couple of days – and in July – if UCLA is going to recruit him.

Xavier Gibson, the 6-9 senior center from Dothan (Ala.) Northview, apparently is a good student and someone UCLA might recruit. Gibson is a bit slender in his shoulders, but he's added good weight in the last year. He has good length and athleticism and a nice touch on the ball. He's been out since February with a broken hand and is getting back into the swing of summer ball. Scout.com's #54-ranked player in the nation for 2008, Gibson has interest from Florida State, Georgia Tech, and some interest from Florida and North Carolina, but we don't believe anyone's offered him yet due to his injury.

Jordan Hamilton, the 6-6 small forward from Compton (Calif.) Dominguez, went up against DeRozan in his first game, and did pretty well. Hamilton's issue offensively is shot selection and ball-handling, and he took a couple of bad shots and over-handled the ball at times, which is the nature of these camps. But he also buried a nice three in rhythm in the corner, and drove the lane to dish to a teammate. There's so much potential here with Hamilton; if he could just play more within the flow of the game and not try to force getting his own he'd have a chance to be a very elite prospect.

Daniel Orton, the 6-9 junior center from Oklahoma City (Okla.) Bishop McGuinness, is someone who has shown a bit of interest in UCLA. He's a big-bodied kid, weighing probably 260 and strong, but nimble. He did well with LeBron James guarding him for a while (LeBron played with the campers for a game in the night session). He's considered one of the five best center prospects in the class of 2009 nationally and has offers from Kansas, Florida and more, so UCLA would be a longshot.

Demarcus Cousins, the 6-9 junior center from Birmingham (Ala.) Erwin, is considered a top 10 player in the class of 2009 and has also occasionally shown interest in UCLA, but the Bruins getting seriously involved is probably another longshot.

Other Players of Interest:

Demar DeRozan, the 6-6 senior forward from Compton (Calif.) High who is a soft verbal to USC, was very impressive in his first game of the day, hitting his outside jumper under control while looking quick and agile off the dribble. In his second game, LeBron James himself played with DeRozan's team and DeRozan kind of deferred to one of the best players on the planet. It's funny, too, a player like DeRozan, who looks big physically as a prospect, looks young and small standing next to the huge James. DeRozan did enough in his first game to create a good buzz, and prove that he's worthy of the high rankings he's generated since April – and probably kick up more interest from some more elite high majors nationally.

D.J. Seeley, the 6-3 senior guard from Modesto (Calif.) Christian who is committed to Cal, sat out his first game with what looked like a sprained ankle, but then played in his team's second game, and did well. He smoothly hit a couple of jumpers after being fed the ball by LeBron, and made a couple of nice passes to set up teammates himself.

John Riek, 7-0 junior center, Centereach (New York) Our Savior New American, is probably the best prospect at the camp. He's big, long and athletic, and has an unusually good feel for the game. He was plucking rebounds over the top of some of the most well-known post recruits in the country, and also catching the ball in the post and converting on nice turn-and-banks. He's originally from the Sudan, and no one knows how old he is, and he won't do interviews at this event.

Other west coasters participating:

Brad Tinsley, 6-4 senior guard, Oregon City (Ore.) High, Cal showing some interest
Mike Harthun, 6-2 senior guard, Medford (Ore.) South Medford
Andy Brown, 6-7 junior post, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
Matt Simpkins, 6-8 post (class to still be determined), Berkeley (Calif.) High


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