adidas Nations: Day One Notebook

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. - adidas Nations tipped off in Southern California on Friday evening, and while the U.S. Team Lillard squad had plenty of well established prospects, 2017 combo guard Renathan Ona Embo of Team Africa showed he belongs as well.

Ona Embo showing progress

Representing Team Africa in adidas Nations is Renathan Ona Embo, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound combo guard who has been in America roughly one year now.

The France native played last season at Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep, mostly playing off the ball while Derryck Thornton, Jr. ran the show.

Ona Embo has since transferred to San Diego Balboa Prep and reclassified from 2016 to 2017, where he actually belongs given he's just 15 years old.

On Friday against the U.S. Lillard squad, Ona Embo showed that his jumper has made progress over the last year, while he also did a nice job looking for teammates.

He already had the size, athleticism, toughness and versatility of a high major guard, but he's focused on improving on the ball and with his jumper.

"I've worked on my shot a lot," Ona Embo said. "I spent my whole summer working on it. I've also worked on my ball handling and my position.

"Last year I played the two at Findlay but I'm a point guard. I've played point guard my whole life but now I'm learning how to be a point guard at the highest level. I'm trying to make good decisions for my teammates and defend all the time."

While Ona Embo doesn't currently have any offers, he's heard from California, UCLA and Arizona State.

Right now he's just enjoying getting familiar with the college game.

"I just like college basketball," he said. "I don't have a favorite school; I just like watching college basketball."

Other U.S. Lillard vs. Africa Standouts

  • 2016 hybrid forward Braxton Blackwell had a productive game for the U.S. squad, efficiently scoring around the basket and making some terrific passes to teammates from inside the paint. He's a versatile forward that plays hard and finds ways to impact the game whether or not he's scoring.

  • Thon Maker, a 2016 center, was the best player on the court, playing hard as always, finishing well above the rim and attacking the glass. With his size, length, athleticism and motor, Maker is dangerous in transition.

  • Mario Kegler is a 2016 combo forward that was best around the basket on Friday evening. He played hard, got after it in transition and did a nice job on the glass.

  • While he hit a couple three-pointers, 2016 point guard and UCLA commit Lonzo Ball was at his best passing and rebounding. He was constantly hunting for defensive rebounds so he could use his signature outlet pass to find open teammates down the floor.

  • 2016 point guard Dennis Smith is a ridiculous combination, of handle, athleticism and vision for the position and used those tools to take defenders off the dribble and find teammates.

  • It was an excellent defensive effort for 2016 center De'Ron Davis, who blocked shots and didn't give opponents an inch of breathing room inside.

  • The African squad has a 2016 power forward in Mamadi Diakite that is a big time athlete at about 6-foot-9. He's definitely raw, but his size, length and athleticism make him a very good rebounder.

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