- Joel Francisco
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Hillsboro, Ore. -- Although there were only eight teams slated for the second annual Nike Global Challenge there was a bevy of talent on hand at Liberty high school. After USA 1 opened up a 14-5 lead early on in the first quarter behind 6-10 senior Demarcus Cousins, USA 2 would dominate -- behind the scintillating play of eventual MVP 6-2 senior Avery Bradley -- the rest of the championship game and eventually pull away for a 117-104 victory.
Bradley would pour in 25 points to lead the way, but USA 2 also received stellar performances form CO-MVP 6-3 Abdul Gaddy (12 pts and 7 assists) and wiry junior Roscoe Smith (22-points). Cousins would lead USA 1 with 29 points, while 6-8 senior Alex Oriakhi tossed in 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Avery Bradley (6-3, 175)
Senior, Tacoma, Wash./ Bellarmine Prep
Bradley was projected as a high-major prospect coming out of the regular season, but after his stellar performance during the summer evaluation period, not to mention the Nike Global Challenge, he must be considered a certain McDonalds All-American. He was fantastic throughout the weekend; Bradley was arguably the most consistent and explosive prospect. He is a superior athlete with extraordinary lateral quickness and leaping ability. He has a terrific first step to the basket and can either stop on a dime and nail the midrange pull-up or elevate amongst the bigs for the dramatic dunk.
He is one of those unusual prospects who could excel in either a motion offense or an up-tempo transition style. He has become deadly with his pull-up but he has become very sound as a catch-n-shoot type as well. Another area he has improved is his ability to separate himself from defenders. He has a swift crossover and he has added a hesitation move that keeps defenders on their heels. Although he is a scorer in every sense of the word, he delivered some of the niftiest passes, especially in transition.
In addition to his outstanding offensive repertoire, he is equally as good on the defensive end. He can anticipate in the passing lanes as well as anybody and his man-up defense is simply the best in the country. He defended some of the best guards in the country -- 5-7 junior Phil Pressey, 5-10 senior Tommy Mason-Griffin and 6-3 senior John Wall come immediately to mind -- and came out on top on most possessions.
John Wall (6-3, 185)
Senior, Raleigh, NC/ Word of God
Wall was inconsistent throughout the first two games, but really picked up his intensity in the fifth-place game. He had moments of brilliance in the first two games with his incredible burst in transition and dazzling passing skills. But, for the most part, he struggled working with Gary Franklin and failed to get into the flow of the game. Wall definitely needs the ball in his hands because he struggles moving without if.
He may push the ball quicker in transition than any point guard on a college roster. He can change speeds and directions as well as any guard I've seen in recent memory on this level. He is a true point guard who has excellent vision and delivered some of the most spectacular passes of the event. In addition to his passing ability, he can finish with the best in the country -- including his patented left-handed dunk in traffic.
Despite all the superlatives, Wall has some areas that need polishing, most notably his outside shooting. His jump shot has improved over the past year and is pretty solid in the midrange area, but for the most part it's very inconsistent. Secondly, his decision-making can get troublesome at times. He forces the issue most of the time and needs to hone his game-management ability.
Alex Oriakhi (6-9, 225)
Senior, Tilton, NH/ Tilton School
Oriakhi started off slow at this event but gained considerable momentum as the tournament progressed. He has a terrific frame with extremely long arms and he is well put-together for someone his age. He runs well in transition and is fully capable of catching lobs for the strong finish. His broad shoulders allow him to initiate contact in the paint and he's blessed with very strong hands. He has solid bounce around the basket, and despite his large physique, he springs up quickly off his second jump. His back-to-the-basket game was quite solid. He showed nice fundamentals with his footwork in the paint; he converted a number of solid finishes with both hands . In addition to his ability to finish with either hand, he possesses a solid up-and-under move. Overall, Oriakhi is a beast inside who should have a stellar career at UConn.
Harrison Barnes (6-5, 195)
Junior, Ames, Iowa
Barnes may be the most promising 2-guard in the Class of 2010. There is no wasted motion to his game and his skills and athleticism are at the highest level. He possesses the prototypical frame for the 2-guard slot with long arms and overall great length that he uses well on the glass and the defensive end. Barnes is one of the smoothest shooters around; he has a feathery touch out beyond the 3-point line. He is equally good in a catch-n-shoot situation or off the bounce. He moves well without the ball and finds space to get his shot off. His handle is solid, although he could improve finishing with his left hand. His biggest asset may be his pull-up game; he is extremely good in the elbow area of the floor where he rises up and floats over the extended reach of the defender to get his shot off. In addition to all his skills, he isn't afraid to mix it up in the paint. In fact, he was one of the better rebounders of the event.
Tommy Mason-Griffin (5-10, 200)
Senior, Mouth of Wilson, VA./ Oak Hill Academy
Mason-Griffin had a solid outing at the Nike Global Challenge. Although he has a questionable upside due to his stocky frame, his game has certainly progressed from a year ago. He has developed into a true point guard and an exceptional passer both in transition and the half-court set. In transition, he possesses an extremely crisp two-handed chest pass and his vision is excellent. He has solid speed in the open court, but what makes him so difficult to stop is his chiseled physique that allows him to ward off defenders. He has a prolific crossover move that leaves defenders on their heels and he can deliver a pin-point pass in traffic. In addition, his jump shot is very solid out to the stripe, especially his pull-up at the elbow. How his body develops in the coming years remains to be seen, but he is certainly a high-level point guard.
Demarcus Cousins (6-10, 265)
Senior, Mobile, Ala./ Le Flore
Cousins is the most skilled big man in the country. There isn't really much he can't do on a basketball court. He possesses a very mature frame for his age and at this level he strictly over powers his opponents. He is a solid athlete who runs decent but doesn't possess a whole lot of pop in his legs. However, he does have an enormous amount of savvy and skill that make up for his lack of elite athleticism. He has a very versatile game and can hurt his opponents inside or out. He is very adept at taking his opponents off the bounce or he can use his strength and thick frame to dominate inside. He makes up for his lack of bounce by initiating contact and his skill is extraordinary. He can use either hand in the post and he possesses a variety of ways to score. His jump shot extends out to the stripe and his release, although a tad unorthodox, is rather smooth. Cousins is a unique talent and if he puts his mind to it and plays with intensity his future is bright.
Jordan Hamilton (6-7, 220)
Senior, Compton, Calif./ Dominguez
Despite Hamilton's shortcomings -- he has a tendency to hunt shots and lose his composure -- he is one of the most gifted scorers in the country. There isn't a 3-man in the nation with Hamilton's scoring skills. His 3-point shot is tight when he is balanced, but there are times he struggles coming to a jump stop and/or he fades away on his release. In the open court, his handle is very good and he has an innate ability to get to the basket. He shows flashes now and again of his passing ability; he delivered some of the sweetest assists throughout this event. In addition to his scoring prowess and dexterity on the offensive end, he is one of the nastiest rebounders in the game. He isn't afraid to get dirty in the paint area and there are many times he'll lead the break after grabbing a defensive rebound. Hamilton may struggle guarding at the next level due to his lack of elite athleticism. Still, he loves to compete.
John Henson (6-9, 190)
Senior, Round Rock, Texas
Henson continues to demonstrate why he may have the brightest future of all the bigs in the Class of 2009. He runs very well, gets off the floor extremely quick and his length is amazing. He is a hybrid 4-man who has an arsenal at his disposal either out on the perimeter or in the paint area. He has a soft shooting touch out to the stripe and an unblockable left-handed jump hook. He has a very slight frame that hindered his effectiveness at times while operating in the paint. Still, one scout called him is a cross between current NBA players Brandon Wright and Lamarcus Aldridge. Defensively, his timing is excellent -- he swatted away a number of shots -- and he covers a whole lot of ground very quickly. Henson is a unique talent who needs to gain weight and strength to reach his considerable upside.
Abdul Gaddy (6-3, 175)
Senior, Tacoma, Wash./ Bellarmine Prep
There are few guards on any level who can match Gaddy's savvy and overall approach to the game. He isn't blessed with exceptional speed or quickness, but he has a variety of speeds to his game and a clever handle. There were times at this event when the opponent's quickness got to him and he became uncharacteristically turnover prone. However, because of his stoic demeanor, his mistakes were few and far between. Gaddy is a gifted passer who always has his head up and his passes are always on the money, especially in transition. His jump shot, which is more like a set shot, is a tad mechanical, but it's surprisingly consistent. Despite the high arc he gets on his shot, it has a soft landing. Gaddy is the quintessential point guard for the next level with a high basketball IQ. He won't wow you with athleticism, but he'll grow on you because of his tremendous savvy for the game and deceptively quick handle.
DeShaun Thomas (6-6, 210)
Junior, Fort Wayne, Ind./ Bishop Luers
Thomas was simply a warrior the entire weekend at the Nike Global Challenge. A couple of weeks ago at the Main Event (Las Vegas) he simply became too perimeter oriented, launching a bevy of ill-advised 3s. However, at this event he found his niche as a face-up 4-man. He battled relentlessly inside and converted on a consistent basis despite being undersized. He utilized his terrific frame -- with broad shoulders and a lengthy wing span -- to score creatively around taller opponents; he uses the rim well to ward off taller defenders. In addition to his success in the paint, he was tough to stop off the bounce. He has a strong first step to the basket and very strong hands. He has a tendency to force the action; he drove to the basket numerous times with his head down. Although Thomas didn't take as many jump shots, his shot looked smooth. When he is on balance and doesn't fade away, his shot is pretty consistent.
Roscoe Smith (6-7, 180)
Junior, Baltimore, Md./ Walbrook
Smith possesses all the physical tools to be an elite wing-type at the high-major level. He has a willowy frame with long arms and possesses elite athleticism. He is exceptional in the open court, utilizing his length, quickness, and bounce to produce some of the more spectacular finishes. In the half-court set, he has a very quick first step to the basket and he's one of the better slashers I've seen this evaluation period -- he maneuvers his wiry frame well while floating in the air to finish amongst the bigs. His jump shot is solid out to the stripe and he has a very smooth release, but he doesn't get much lift on his shot. To reach his potential, Smith needs to work on developing a midrange game. He is very productive in transition and launching 3s; but in order for him to maximize his potential a midrange pull-up at the elbow and emphasis on tightening up his handle in the half-court set are essential.
Royce White (6-7, 215)
Senior, Minneapolis, Minn./ De La Salle
White didn't receive a whole lot of notoriety this weekend, but he was very consistent at both ends of the court. He is an undersized 4-man who can score in a variety of ways and his fundamentals are solid. He can scores effectively from the perimeter and in the paint area. He has a smooth jump shot out to the stripe and his release appears to be tight. The most productive part of his game is his ability to put the ball on the floor. He is deceptively quick and possesses a tremendous knack to score off the bounce. He can use either hand equally well or he as the ability to hang in the air to adjust to the defense. His footwork is fundamentally sound in the paint area and there isn't any wasted motion to his game. His handle is tight both in transition and in the half court set -- he has the ability to separate himself from defenders with relative ease. Defensively he has the lateral quickness and toughness to guard the 3 or the 4 despite being undersized.
The two most disappointing prospects at the event were seniors 6-10 Daniel Orton (Oklahoma City, Okla./ Bishop McGuinness) and 6-9 Wally Judge Jr. (Jacksonville, Fl./ Arlington Country Day).
Orton is a multi-dimensional big with an intriguing skill set. He can step out beyond the stripe to stroke the jump shot or use his strong physique inside to over-power opponents. He's an excellent passer and can be a superb shot-blocker. However, despite his immense talent, he was lackadaisical throughout the event and played with little passion.
On the other hand, Judge played hard at both ends, but struggled to convert inside on a number of occasions. He didn't adapt to the size at this event and continually tried to go over the top of the competition, resulting in getting his shot attempts blocked numerous times.
• Dion Waiters, a 6-2 senior out of Philadelphia, Pa./ Roman Catholic, is extremely strong off the dribble and can get his shot at any time, but he was a tad selfish with his decision-making. In addition, his pull-up jump shot at the elbow is very good, but overall his shot tends to fall apart once he ventures out to 3-point range.
• One of the most versatile 4-men in the country is 6-8 senior Milton Jennings (Summerville, SC/ Pinewood Prep). He has a smooth-looking stroke (would excel in a pick-n-pop situation) as well as a solid face-up game for the next level; however, he was soft finishing around the basket and needs to get much more physical to play in the ACC a year from now.
• Mike Moser, a 6-7 wing-type out of Portland, Ore./ Grant, reminds me of a young James Posey. His jump shot is a work in progress, but he's a terrific defender who can guard all three perimeter positions. In addition, despite his slight frame, he turned out to be one of the better rebounders at the event.
• In the championship game, 6-6 junior Reggie Bullock (Kinston, NC) demonstrated why UNC offered during his sophomore campaign—his jump shot is smooth and overall he's one of the better natural scorers I've seen this past recruiting circuit.
• Before getting injured, 6-4 junior Kendall Marshall (Arlington, Va./ Bishop O'Connell) was arguably the finest passer in the event—his vision is impeccable.
• Rodney Williams Jr., a 6-5 2-guard out of New Hope, Minn./ Robbinsdale Cooper, is reminiscent of former Kansas standout Brandon Rush. Although his jump shot needs to tighten up (low release resulting in a flat trajectory), he is quite springy both in transition and while hitting the offensive glass.
• Duke commit 6-10 Mason Plumlee (Arden, NC/Christ School) had some impressive sequences off the bounce, but he struggled mightily to convert baskets while taking contact. Once he gets stronger and becomes more physical he should become a solid contributor for the Blue Devils.
• He is multi-skilled and overall a very promising talent for the next level, but 6-7 senior Jamil Wilson (Racine, Wis./ Horlick) plays way too soft at this stage of his career to reach his potential.
• He needs to polish up his decision-making (takes too many ill-advised jump shots and can be turnover prone), but 6-1 junior Gary Franklin (Santa Ana, Calif. / Mater Dei) is one of the more deadly catch-n-shoot types in the country. When he is on balance his shot is tight, especially off the bounce.
• Aaron Dotson, a 6-3 senior out of Seattle/ Rainier Beach, struggled with his handle and made some careless passes throughout the event. He is a solid 2-guard with an improved jump shot, but he is best suited for a motion offense because he lacks the quickness and skill to separate himself from defenders.
• Super sophomore Michael Gilchrist, a 6-5 combo-guard out of Elizabeth, NJ/ St. Patrick, failed to find any kind of offensive rhythm throughout the weekend, but he certainly displayed the skill and savvy to be a devastating defender down the road.
• Jereme Richmond, a 6-7 junior wing-type out of Waukegan, Ill., has all the necessary tools and athleticism to be special at the next level. He has a great feel for the game and a feathery touch from the stripe, but his effort level was troublesome at this event.
• After a lackluster effort in his previous two games, 6-9 junior Jeremy Tyler (San Diego, Calif.) put together an outstanding performance in his final game. He finished consistently around the basket despite contact, ran hard in transition, and had one of the shots of the tournament—an extended finger roll floater from about 10-feet from the basket.
• One of the more intriguing bigs in the event was 6-11 Aziz Ndiaye of Senegal. He'll play for College of Southern Idaho before moving onto the next level. His post moves are slow-developing, but he has a huge frame as well as a fairly efficient jump hook from either side of the block.
• The best-looking prospect for Lithuania was 6-9 Mindaugas Kuzminskas. He has that prototypical wing-type frame and the skills to boot. He has a feathery touch out to the stripe and has the ability to take defenders off the bounce and finish with either hand.
• One of the better shooters in the event was 6-1 combo-guard Raymond Cintron Cortez of Puerto Rico. He isn't overly quick but he utilizes the pump fake very well and his shot is smooth.
• FMP-Serbia 4-man Nikola Markovic put together a terrific performance throughout the weekend. This 6-8 versatile prospect is very skilled in the post; however, what makes him so difficult to stop is his consistent 3-point shot and innate ability to break down defenders off the bounce.
• Team Canada had a host of outstanding talent including 6-5 Mangisto Arop. Arop has extraordinary length and athleticism and his skill set is solid as well. His 3-point shot is consistent and he attacks the basket with reckless abandon.
Joel Francisco is a recruiting coordinator for ESPN Scouts Inc. He has been a high school basketball scout for 15 years, has written for Hoopscoop magazine and Basketball Times and organized "So-Cal's Finest," his own scouting service.
Avery Bradley's stellar summer continued at the Nike Global Challenge, writes Joel Francisco.