Forwards Jones, Mitchell making noise
AKRON, Ohio -- On Day 2 of the LeBron James Skills Academy Monday, the morning session consisted of three-on-three play with an emphasis on passing, screening, cutting and penetrating to create offensive opportunities for teammates. Also, defensive recovering techniques like closeouts and defending the dribble were demonstrated and drilled. The inside players worked on back-to-the-basket moves and post defense. Monday afternoon, they players performed a number of competitive shooting drills. Players worked on shooting off the catch, dribble and on the move from different areas of the floor. The night session featured some extremely competitive scrimmages in which power forward/center Perry Jones (Duncanville, Texas) was impressive with his ability to handle the ball and finish above the rim with authority. Strong and physical combination forward Tony Mitchell (Grand Prairie, Texas/ Living Faith Christian) was terrific at getting to the basket off the dribble and finishing through contact.
Jones looked and played the part of an athletic and skilled post player. He ran the floor with long strides, and scored by simply beating the opposing post to the rim. He is rebounded well on both ends, and showed the ability to start the break with a bust-out dribble. At 6-foot-10 with an 86-inch wingspan, he power dunks all drop-off passes created by guard penetration near the rim. He is wiry strong at 220 pounds with great perimeter ball skills. Jones, a Baylor commit, can face and drive both ways. He has a nice midrange jumper off the catch, and makes one or two-dribble pullups look smooth and easy, but he must work to add a back-to-the-basket game to take advantage of size mismatches. On defense, he is good at blocking shots with his great length and timing. At times, Jones takes plays off and seems to loose interest. Still, when he's active and motivated he can be unstoppable. Jones has huge upside and should be an impact player at Baylor if he continues to improve.
Mitchel has a big-time body, and is as strong and physical as any player I watched compete Monday. He is effective from 12 feet inward offensively. He has good ballhandling skills at 6-foot-7, and can beat most forwards to the rim and finish through contact. Monday, he attacked the glass on both ends of the floor, but especially on the offensive boards. He rebounded over and around opponents for tip-ins, and started fast breaks with his defensive rebounds. Mitchell, a Kansas State commit, was quick to the ball and finished drop-off passes above the rim with ease. His jump shot needs immediate attention to take his game to the next level. He shoots flat footed and has a low release, but overall Mitchell competed, and got attention because of his effort, energy and physical play on both ends of the floor. He also has the size and athletic ability to defend both forward positions.
Pressey on point
Class of 2010 point guard Phil Pressey (Dallas/Episcopal) made excellent decisions Monday night on the fast break. He pushed the ball with great pace while staying under control. He penetrated and kicked to sharp-shooting camp teammate Russell Byrd (Fort Wayne, Ind./Blackhawk Christian; committed to Michigan State) for wide-open 3s, or attacked the rim and dropped off to a cutting post when the second defender stopped his forward progress.
2011 prospect Marquis Teague (Indianapolis/Pike) was a terror in the open court Monday. He attacked the rim on crossover and hesitation dribbles, and finished through contact. He can knock down pullups in the lane when he can't get all the way to the rack, and he has a sweet floater that he lofts over outstretched hands with excellent touch. Teague is an explosive scoring point guard who demonstrated the ability to run an offense.
On the defensive
Athletic and rangy forward Okaro White (Clearwater, Fla.; committed to Florida State) is on of the best defensive players in the Class of 2010. He has great timing as a shot-blocker, quick hands and terrific lateral speed. He does a great job moving his feet to take away baseline drives. White, at 6-foot-8, is active, quick to the ball and has the ability to defend at almost any position on the floor. White must add strength, and his defense is ahead of his offense. Still, his upside is tremendous.
In addition to Byrd, there where other guards draining 3s Monday. Trevor Cooney (Wilmington, Del./Sanford), Andre Dawkins (Chesapeake, Va./Atlantic Shores; committed to Duke) and Reggie Bullock (Kinston, N.C./Kinston; committed to North Carolina) all have great size, big-time strokes, deep range and quick triggers.
2011 point guard Myck Kabongo (Newark, N.J./St. Benedict's) was impressive Monday. Kabongo's jumper was as good as I have seen it. His shot preparation was great as he knocked open threes, one-dribble pullups and floaters. Kabongo, a Texas commit, is lightning quick and plays with great energy on both ends of the floor, and he displayed leadership in the drills sessions as well. If Kabongo becomes a consistent shooter, watch out!
Barnes coming up big
The No. 1 ranked player in the 2010 ESPNU 100, Harrison Barnes (Ames, Iowa), had some dominant possessions. He displayed all-around scoring ability. He knocked down open 3s, attacked the lane, finished through contact and hit the mid-range pullup. Barnes is a silky-smooth player. He doesn't waste motion or energy. He never lets the defense speed him up. He simply takes his time, makes scoring plays repeatedly and competes on both ends of the floor. Barnes may not be flashy, but he's productive.
Reggie Rankin covers basketball recruiting for ESPN Scouts Inc.
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