- Joel Francisco
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HILLSBORO, Ore. -- It was a painful day for USA Basketball until the East squad put a hurting on All-Asia on Friday at the Nike Global Challenge. Prior to the East team victory, USA Midwest lost a tough one to Senegal and USA West/South was throttled by a well-structured and talented Brazilian team.
Although there were some outstanding performances by Harrison Barnes (Ames, Iowa) Kyrie Irving (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick) and Tristan Thompson (Ontario, Canada/Findlay Prep [Henderson, Nev.]), PG Josh Selby (Baltimore/Lake Clifton) was a cut above the rest. He dominated the opposition with his strength and scoring prowess. In addition, he did a surprisingly good job of setting up his teammates.
While Selby was lighting up the scoreboard, C.J. Leslie (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God) made quite a statement on why he should be considered one of the elite prospects around the country. His bounce and tenacity are on a different level than his peers'. Not only can he play above the rim on a consistent basis, he showed with every possession that he can play with purpose as well.
Selby is considered one of the most prolific scorers in the nation, and his performance in Team USA East's victory over All-Asia only further proved that point. He can score in just about every imaginable way. He is tough to stop off the dribble due to his tight handle, and he has the physical strength to ward off pesky defenders. His jump shot is quite good beyond the stripe and he has a tremendous floater to boot. Although he does have a tendency to play too fast and hunt for his shot, he demonstrated the savvy to locate open teammates. In the first quarter alone he handed out four assists on alley-oops to Roscoe Smith (Baltimore/Oak Hill Academy [Mouth of Wilson, Va.]) and Will Barton (Baltimore/Brewster Academy [Wolfeboro, N.H.]). Selby can play either guard position, but he is best suited as a scoring threat. He plays hard on every possession and should be a college standout the moment he steps on campus.
If there is a bouncier 4-man in the country than Leslie -- although 6-foot-9 Perry Jones (Duncanville, Texas) might have an argument -- I would be shocked. Leslie wasn't seen much during the summer circuit, but he put on an explosive, acrobatic show that was pretty much peerless. Whether it was attacking the rim in the half-court set or catapulting in transition, his effort was awe-inspiring. His skills are limited outside of five feet, but he has a pretty nifty spin move that is cat quick. He gets up twice before most get up once while trying to finish in the paint area, and he has terrific hands. He needs to improve his range on his jump shot at the elbow, but the upside is definitely there. Overall, Leslie has the potential to be a terrific player at the next level. If he can improve his skills, his ceiling is quite high because his effort at both ends is outstanding.
Making a big impression
Team Senegal may have had the most impressive player the first day of the Nike Global Challenge. In Senegal's upset win over Team USA Midwest, 6-8 Papa Samba Ndao (Guediawaye, Senegal/Montverde Academy [Fla.]) displayed the kind of skill, savvy and elite athleticism that may translate into an NBA contract someday. His length and athleticism were off the charts, and he can knock down the 3-point shot on a regular basis.
Although Team USA Midwest lost a heartbreaker to Team Senegal on a last-second shot, Harrison Barnes and Jereme Richmond (Waukegan, Ill.) exhibited exceptional basketball savvy and skill at the wing position. They both possess smooth pull-ups off the bounce, and while Barnes is more of an innate scorer, Richmond's passing ability is high-level.
Pressey on point
Phil Pressey (Dallas/Episcopal School) has impressive speed and quickness at both ends of the floor, but his decision-making was erratic, to say the least. He continually overpenetrated and left his feet while passing. Due to his size (5-9) he needs to use better judgment while driving the lane and not try to produce the spectacular play on every possession.
Power in the post
High-major programs looking for a blue-collar 4/5 should look no further than 6-7 Tony Mitchell (Grand Prairie, Texas/Living Faith Christian). He isn't a quick jumper, but he has a knack for rebounding and creating havoc in the paint area.
Team Canada has a trio of American cagers who played well in 6-1 junior Myck Kabongo (Toronto/St. Benedict's [Newark, N.J.], 6-9 Tristan Thompson (Findlay Prep/Henderson, Nev.) and 6-2 Marquette-bound Junior Cadougan. Kabongo has a tremendous burst in transition, but his jump shot needs an overhaul. Thompson played his most inspired game of the summer. Cadougan, on the other hand, can get to the basket utilizing his thick frame and savvy.
South American excellence
Brazil sliced Team USA West/South to ribbons with its half-court execution. The Brazilians can really light it up beyond the arc, and they have a high-major point guard in 6-0 Raul Togni Neto (Belo Horizonte) and a 5-man with an enormous upside in 6-10 Lucas Riva Amarante Nogueira (Rio de Janeiro). Neto is very quick with the ball, and his savvy for the point guard position is peerless. Nogueira possesses a tremendous wing span and can affect the game at both ends due to his length and exceptional timing.
Staying the course
Despite getting blown out, 6-4 Kendall Marshall (Arlington, Va./Bishop O'Connell) and 6-5 Jelan Kendrick (College Park, Ga./Westlake) competed at a high level. Marshall is the best passing point guard in the class of 2010 while Kendrick can score in a variety of ways, especially in the mid-range area.
East Coast beast
USA East received standout performances from 6-2 Kyrie Irving, 6-5 Will Barton and 6-8 Tobias Harris (Dix Hill, N.Y./Half Hollow Hills West). Irving and Barton hooked up many times in transition (usually of the spectacular variety), while Harris continued to demonstrate why he should be considered a top-15 talent in the ESPNU 100.
Joel Francisco covers basketball recruiting for Scouts Inc.