So are hundreds of college basketball coaches and more than a dozen NBA scouts, who converged this weekend on the Nike Global Challenge to evaluate tomorrow’s stars.
Here’s a look at some key storylines from the three-day event held at lovely Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va. and the not-as-lovely D.C. Armory.
CAL’S BEEN BUSY: After coaching the Dominican Republic within one win of an Olympic berth before Thursday’s loss to Team USA in Las Vegas, Kentucky coach John Calipari was at the event Friday and Saturday to watch several Kentucky targets, including 2013 shooting guard James Young of Troy, Mich., and 2014 Canadian wing Andrew Wiggins (pictured), who may or may not reclassify to 2013. Calipari also tripped up to the Reebok Breakout Challenge in Philadelphia on Friday night to watch the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, two of the top players in 2013. If Kentucky ends up landing all four of these players – and especially if the 6-7 Wiggins reclassifies to 2013 and picks Kentucky – look out, because those are some very bad boys.
COACH K GETTING “COOLER” WITH RECRUITS: As I pointed out in this story, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim were just about the only major coaches not in attendance because they were busy coaching Team USA. Yet that hasn’t stopped Coach K from staying in touch via text with top recruits such as 6-8 California forward Marcus Lee, who says Coach K is getting “cooler” because of his association with LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.
WHO’S WHO OF COACHES: When Wiggins, Indiana commit Trey Lyles and Canada played the USA East team in a thriller Saturday at Episcopal, virtually every major college coach in the land was packed inside the gym: Calipari, Bill Self of Kansas, Tom Izzo of Michigan State, Roy Williams of North Carolina, Tom Crean of Indiana, Jim Calhoun of Connecticut, Sean Miller of Arizona, Ben Howland of UCLA, Anthony Grant of Alabama, John Groce of Illinois, Jamie Dixon of Pittsburgh, Buzz Williams of Marquette, Dana Altman of Oregon, Mike Rice of Rutgers, Kevin Willard of Seton Hall and many, many more.
CANADA RISING: Young was named U.S. MVP after going off for 29 points, including 5-of-10 from the arc, as Team USA Midwest won the championship Sunday with a 100-86 victory over Canada at the D.C. Armory. Wiggins had 24 points and seven rebounds in a losing effort, but it’s clear that Canada will be a force to be reckoned with going forward. The Canadians went 3-1 at the event, with victories over a tough USA East team, Brazil and China. In an exclusive interview Saturday, Wiggins told me he likes the idea of a U-23 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and said Canada could compete for a gold medal. “We can win it all,” said Wiggins, who would be 21 in 2016.
TOP 5 AMERICAN PLAYERS:
1. James Young, 6-6 SG, 2013, Troy (MI): Young went off for 23 of his game-high 29 points in the championship win over Canada, when he made 5-of-10 3-pointers. He averaged 18.5 points for the event. Schools he’s considering: Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio State, Michigan State. NBA scout quote: “Talented, great in the open floor, good at making plays for other people. He’s a big guard. I think he’s got a real chance because he can play in an up-tempo system, can get in the lane, I think he knows what he wants to do with the ball. He’s got to become a better shooter, but he can get in the lane and make plays. He’s good.”
2. Troy Williams, 6-6 SF, 2013, Oak Hill Academy (VA): A high-flying athletic freak, Williams became an instant YouTube sensation at the event when he dunked on a Chinese player. You can see the dunk here. Although his USA East squad lost to Canada and Brazil, it finished strong with a win over Lithuania in the fifth-place game in which Williams scored 14 points. He averaged 19.8 points for the tournament. He is considering attending school at either Louisville or Alabama with his best friend, point guard Anthony “Cat” Barber, which you can read more about here. Schools he’s considering: Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisville, Alabama, Georgetown, South Carolina, Arkansas. NBA scout quote: ”With Wiggins, probably arguably the second-best athlete here. Great up-and-down. Reminds me of Shawn Marion. Great athlete, great in transition. Needs to work on his shooting. Good individual defender. Great at attacking the rim, tremendous athlete.’
3. Marcus Lee, 6-8 PF, 2013, Antioch (CA) Deer Valley: The best interior player at the event, Lee impressed coaches right out of the gate with his hustle and energy for USA West, which finished third. He led the camp with 3.0 blocks per game and averaged 8.8 rebounds. Schools he’s considering: Cal, Washington, Duke, North Carolina Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville. NBA scout quote: ”Best interior player here. Great feel for the game. Needs to get stronger. I’d like to see him be a little more assertive from 15 feet, take that jump shot. He definitely changes everything around the rim. Great passer, great feel.”
4. Nick King, 6-7 SF, 2013, Memphis (TN) East: A hard-charging athletic lefthanded wing, King came up big in the final against Canada, scoring 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting and adding 10 rebounds for USA Midwest. He averaged 18.3 points and 8.8 rebounds over the weekend. Schools he’s considering: Memphis, Texas, Vanderbilt, Tennessee.
5. Theo Pinson, 6-5 SF, 2014, Greensboro (NC) Wesleyan Christian: Playing for USA East, Pinson came up big down the stretch against Lithuania in the fifth-place game and finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. He averaged 15.0 points and 7.3 boards for the event. An athletic wing, he can create his own shot, get into the lane and score through contact. Schools he’s considering: Indiana, Louisville, Georgetown, Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Florida State, Florida, Tennessee, Baylor, Wake Forest
Ten to watch: Rondae Jefferson, Nigel Williams Goss (committed to Washington), Kyle Washington, Bobby Portis (committed to Arkansas), Sindarious Thornwell, Wes Clark, Anthony “Cat” Barber, Kuran Iverson, Beejay Anya, Wayne Selden
TOP 5 INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS:
1. Andrew Wiggins, 6-7 SF, 2014, Huntington (WV) Prep : The top overall prospect at the event, Wiggins hails from Canada. He is a future NBA lottery pick in either 2014 or 2015 , depending on whether he reclassifies to 2013 from 2014. Wiggins averaged 19.7 points and 7.0 rebounds but did not play particularly well in the final, when he went 10-for-21 for 23 points as Canada lost to USA Midwest. Schools he’s considering: Kentucky, Florida State, North Carolina, Duke, Syracuse. NBA scout quote: “He’s the best player here, obviously. Got the best pro potential. Athlete, can score in a number of ways, quick off his feet. Showed a little post-up game, but he’s got the most upside of anybody here and it’s not even close.”
2. Trey Lyles, 6-8 PF, 2014, Indianapolis Arsenal Tech: Born to American parents in Canada, Lyles was awesome in his first game, going for 27 points and 11 boards in a win over Brazil. He never quite measured up to that performance again but was impressive overall, averaging 21.0 points and 9.0 rebounds. Schools: Committed to Indiana. NBA scout quote: “Nice player, athlete, mobile, strong, skilled. Can put it on the floor, can play inside and out.”
3. Gao Shang, 6-7 SG/SF: A native of China and the most prolific scorer at the tournament, Gao averaged 27.3 points while shooting 17 of 40 (43 percent) from the arc. Other than a 10-point outing against Canada, he scored 35, 35 and 29 in three games. NBA scout quote: “Best shooter here without a doubt. Has an ability to put it on the floor, but every teams tried to stop him. But the guy can absolutely shoot the ball and shoot the ball all over the court.”
4. Tyler Ennis, 6-3 PG, 2013, St. Benedict’s Prep (NJ): Another Canada resident, Ennis was the best point guard at the camp along with Cat Barber, although Nigel Williams-Goss and Wes Clark also played well. Ennis is a smart, heady, prototypical point guard who looks to set up his teammates but can also score when needed. He averaged 11.3 points and 3.8 rebounds. Schools he’s considering: Syracuse, Louisville, Illiinois. NBA scout quote: “Tough kid, combo guard. Can get in the lane, makes plays for others. Got a great pace to the game. Hopefully, as he develops he can become even more of a point guard.”
5. Lucas Dias Silva, 6-9, F: Brazil’s best prospect, Dias Silva averaged 10.3 points and 7.8 rebounds for a team that lost the third-place game to USA West. NBA scout quote: “Skilled big man, has the abilty to go inside and out.”
Four to watch: Derek Reese (Puerto Rico), Justas Tamulis (Lithuania), Deryk Evandro Ramos (Brazil), Xavier Rathan-Mayes (Canada) .
Photo courtesy of Position Sports