AKRON, Ohio – After attending the four June positional camps with NBA All-Stars and Nike signature talent Deron Williams (point guards), Paul Pierce (shooting guards), Vince Carter (swingmen) and Amare Stoudemire (frontcourt players), invited high school players came together for the LeBron James Skills Academy. The campers formed eight teams and prepared for tournament play at week's end at the King City Classic.
The teams put into play what they picked up from the skill sessions by scrimmaging at the end of each day in order to build chemistry for the upcoming tournament games.
Who stood out in those scrimmages are an elite collection of the best prospects in high school basketball.
CLASS OF 2010
Harrison Barnes (6-8 SF/Ames, Iowa)
– He makes the most actual basketball plays and nobody was close to touching his production. Started with a low-post seal for a hoop and rang up three jumpers driving from his right to the elbow. In the second scrimmage, he out-rebounded everybody on the offensive boards and hurt them from 17-feet with the jumper when they went under screens. He matched up with DeShaun Thomas for a stretch and the two traded baskets at one point, with Barnes netting a corner three and another pull-up at the elbow. The top-of-the-class talent kept his reputation up.
Josh Selby (6-3 CG/Baltimore, Md./Lake Clifton) – In attack-mode here, he pushed it on the break and leveraged himself to score with a bump off 6-9 Okaro White’s challenge. He drove right past a same-sized defender and went straight to the hoop with his left against a smaller one. Played to his caliber as one of the top scoring guards in the country.
Cameron Wright (6-3 SG/Cleveland, Ohio/Benedictine) – Got into a rhythm when he sank a three before the break in action, then came back with a hard pull-up and knocked down another three-pointer from the wing. Racked up a bunch of dunks when he got ahead of the pack. Former Ohio State verbal had good confidence and delivered to set himself up for rest of camp.
Isiah Epps (6-1 PG/Chatham, Va./Hargrave Military Academy) – The showing he had at NBA Camp didn’t look like a one-time thing. He started with a 3-pointer from the wing on the secondary break, dropped in another from the corner, stroked an open 17-footer, and felt good enough to fade away on another beyond the arc. Pittsburgh commit is making a run up the list of top point guards in his class.
CJ Leslie (6-8 CF/Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) – One of the top inside-out players in the country showed off his versatility throughout the run. He went in the paint with an up-and-under against a shorter Jason Morris and then threw some ball fakes on the baseline when the same-sized but wider DaJuan Coleman was on him. Defensively, he stuck his nose in when he scrapped for a jump ball with 6-8 Terrance Jones.
DeShaun Thomas (6-8 CF/Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers) – Had his motor going as he ran the floor for finishes in transition and rebounded a ton. During the brief matchup with Barnes, he created separation for a corner 3-pointer. Ohio State commit had the early look of people forgetting about how much he brings to the court.
Adreian Payne (6-10 C/Dayton, Ohio/Jefferson) – It was a mismatch he would be expected to win so you credit him with more than controlling his area by punching a pair of shots right back at 6-9 Alex Kirk and soaring above all for rebounds with his great length.
Phil Pressey (5-10 PG/Dallas, Texas/Episcopal) – Danced along the baseline as he found seams and delivered a handful of bounce passes to Payne and his other inside players. It was a preview of what was to come in Cleveland as they made the run to the tournament final.
CLASS OF 2011
Rakeem Christmas (6-9 PF/Philadelphia, Pa./North Catholic) – Flashed his explosiveness when he pinned one of 7-footer Meyers Leonard’s shots off the board. On the offensive end, Leonard tied him up on a shot attempt but he recovered and scored going right through him and leaving Leonard backpeddling and looking up at the net.
Johnny O’Bryant (6-8 PF/Cleveland, Miss./Eastside) – With an up-and-down circus going on, a solid entry pass would look big-time from anybody. For a guy his size, it was a sign of his coordination and instincts that helps make him a top prospect in his class when combined with his speed and power. Against Tobias Harris defensively, he faced a tough cover that tested his will but he kept on playing equally aggressive on both ends.
Jamal Branch (6-3 PG/Arlington, Texas/Grace Prep) – Shined with a real impressive stretch where he read a side pick-and-roll for an assist, stepped into a 3-pointer the next time down and then stripped quick guard Gary Franklin on a drive. Committed to Texas A&M.
Myck Kabongo (6-2 PG/Newark, N.J./St. Benedict’s) – Took command of his team leading the break and hit a run of 3-pointers that picked everybody’s intensity up. Committed to Texas.
For the teams we didn’t catch, word around the gym was Marquis Teague (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike), Jared Sullinger (Columbus, Ohio/Northland) and Juwan Staten (Dayton, Ohio/Thurgood Marshall) led their team while Roscoe Smith (Mouth of Wilson, Va./Oak Hill Academy), Kendall Marshall (Arlington, Va./Bishop O’Connell), Mike Shaw (Chicago, Ill./De La Salle) and Jereme Richmond (Waukegan, Ill.) led theirs.
Twenty of the top college basketball players went through workouts this week as well and they had some words of advice for the high school guys…
“Instead of just tightening up the strengths of your games, definitely work on your weaknesses more because they’ll be exposed more than you think.” -Al-Farouq Aminu (Atlanta, Ga./Norcross/Georgia Tech)
“Stop trying to be so cool to the point where you’re blocking out what’s going on in drills. Be respectful of the coaches and have good character. Talent can only take you so far.” -Pat Christopher (Compton, Calif./Dominguez/California)
“Keep your emotions in check. People can take who you are out of context just by showing bad facial expressions after a certain call and when things go wrong.” -Willie Warren (Fort Worth, Texas/North Crowley/Oklahoma)
Seven high school coaches were among the instructors; Kevin Boyle (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick), DeRon Carbajal (Fresno, Calif./Buchanan), Lorenzo Hands (Palm Beach Lakes, Fla.), Herman Harried (Baltimore, Md./Lake Clifton), Norm Persin (Oak Hill, Ohio), Don Showalter (Wellman, Iowa/Mid-Prairie) and Sean O’Toole (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius).