Beltway well represented in Cleveland
CLEVELAND -- The majority of the players from the LeBron James U.S. Skills Academy arrived at Cleveland State University's beautiful Wolstein Center for the King City Classic. The Classic consisted of a number of highly competitive games in front of college coaches for the first time during the four-day camp. There were many great performances but none better than SG Will Barton (Baltimore/Lake Clifton). A talented scorer, Barton battled SF Ralston Turner (Muscle Shoals, Ala.) and SG Roscoe Smith (Baltimore/Oak Hill Academy (Va.)). Those three players put on a clinic on how to knock down jumpers from behind the arc and finish in the lane with acrobatic layups in traffic. Dwight Powell (Melrose, Mass./IMG Academy) was a mobile and skilled post with 3-point range showed great versatility, and extra long and athletic forward Adreian Payne (Dayton, Ohio/Jefferson) displayed his underrated skill-set by hitting midrange jumpers and a 3 as he competed for rebounds with rising junior sensation Rakeem Christmas (Philadelphia/North Catholic) in a game that had multiple possessions played above the rim. The King City Classic had exciting plays in every game, as these players displayed talent, skill and elite athletic ability.
Barton simply finds a way to put the ball in the basket. When he rebounds in transition, he can score by going coast-to-coast. He sprints the outside lane, and can get to the rim and finish with his length and athletic ability. Barton has the ability to hang and twist in the lane and the concentration and touch to score around multiple defenders. He loves to drive hard to his left and spin back right before he elevates over the defender. He is thin as spaghetti at 161 pounds. Still, Barton is wiry strong and competes on every possession. He is a rhythm 3-point shooter, and has an excellent midrange game. He must get stronger and add weight before he can take on the physical play of college basketball. Barton plays with urgency and confidence, and will excite the fans at Memphis, where he is verbally committed, with his ability to change the scoreboard.
Surprise playerThe 6-foot-10 Powell was impressive shooting the perimeter jumper on Wednesday. He has excellent shot preparation with a smooth release and follow through. He knocks down midrange shots and open 3s with ease. Powell plays with urgency, competes and is extremely mobile. He runs the floor with long strides, and can sprint the outside lane for spot-up jumpers or run to the rim. He is a scoring threat at all three areas of the fast-break offense. He is a matchup nightmare because he will post smaller defenders and pull less mobile posts to the perimeter. He would be an excellent pick-and-pop player. Powell needs to get more done on the glass because he has the size, length and athletic ability to be a better rebounder than he showed. Defensively, Powell is solid. He understands how to pressure the ball by using his length, and he is a good help defender. He does a good job staying in a stance with his hands active. Powell must add strength, but his skill and upside make him an attractive 2010 prospect.
Smith is a smooth jump shooter with 3-point range. He can also knock down one or two-dribble pull-ups. He has good length, and can shoot over smaller defenders with ease. He has a good looking stroke on spot-ups in transition, deep in the corners or in the open area on dribble penetration. His trigger is quick, and he has confidence in his jumper. Smith can get on a role and hit three or four in row. He uses a shot-fake to raise the defender off the ground and set up his pull-up. He has trouble finishing at the rim at times because of his lack of strength. He must work to improve his scoring moves off the bounce, especially going to his left. Overall, Smith has excellent shooting skills and good upside.
Class of 2010 power forward Payne displayed the ability to shoot the high-post jumper, and even extended his range to the arc a few times on Wednesday. At 6-9, Payne has a smooth release and follow through as he elevates over defenders. He made a living at the free-throw line in the King City Classic. He posted up strong and rebounded in traffic for some timely putbacks on the offensive end of the floor. Payne must add strength, but his length allowed him to be an excellent shot-blocker. Payne's great athletic ability made up for defensive mistakes. He must work to become more consistent and continue to learn the game, but Payne has great raw talent and upside.
Rising senior Jamail Jones (Stone Mountain, Ga./Green Forest Christian) is a strong athlete that can knock down open shots. At 6-6 and 200 pounds, Jones has great size for a wing. He can hit 3s off the catch and in transition. He spaces himself on the side of dribble penetration in the half court. Jones has a nice floater that he likes to shoot going to his left. He has good concentration and touch as he hangs in the air. Jones is a good ball handler and passer with the ability to kick to the open man if he draws a second defender. He has good, not great, athletic ability, and must work on his scoring moves off the dribble. He is aggressive, competes and usually finds a way to be productive.
Another strong and physical wing in the Class of 2010 is Turner, who does a good job on the offensive glass but could be a better defensive rebounder. He has a terrific midrange game with comfortable and consistent range to about 18 feet, but he can knock down the open 3 off the catch or dribble with enough time and space. Turner is a good on-ball defender. He manages to get a couple on-ball shot blocks. He has the type of game that would fit well into a system with a defined role.
Tennessee commit Josh Selby (Baltimore/Lake Clifton) is one of the most aggressive scoring point guards in the country. On Wednesday, he finished above the rim with authority in transition, got in the lane to score on acrobatic layups and handed off assists to wide-open post players. He competes and plays with toughness and never allows his defender to relax. He can knock down the deep 3s. When he gets into a flow, he can rip off four or five baskets in a row, all in different ways. He tends to overpenetrate at times, which can lead to turnovers. Still, this young guard has the talent and potential to be a major factor for the Vols right away.
2010 PF CJ Leslie (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God Academy) plays with great energy and passion. He is a quick, super-athletic, live body, who loves to finish above the rim in transition. He runs the floor like a deer, and simply plays harder than his opponents most of the time. His skill needs immediate attention, but he scores in the lane with a jump hook over his left shoulder, and uses his quickness on the right block for a baseline spin move. Leslie dunks on any clear paths to the rim. He is an excellent shot-blocker on the ball or coming from the weak-side, and he hits the glass on both ends. He seems to get a tip-in basket in the book every game. If he can improve his skill and pair it with his athletic ability and high energy style of play, Leslie's game has vast potential. Leslie is intriguing, and one to watch as he continues to develop.
Reggie Rankin covers basketball recruiting for ESPN Scouts Inc.