McCallum's athleticism a revelation
Here are the five things I'll take away from Wednesday night's McDonald's All-American Game in Columbus Ohio:
1. Ray McCallum is a better athlete than anyone thought
The Detroit product's athletic ability was evident throughout the weekend -- it certainly showed in the dunk contest and the way he played in practices and scrimmages. McCallum (Detroit/Country Day) is a really bouncy point guard with explosive ability. This is an elite class of point guards, but outside of Josh Selby (Baltimore), Kyrie Irving (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick) and Brandon Knight (Coral Springs, Fla./Pine Crest), McCallum could be the most talented point guard in the nation.
On another note, I'm hearing that McCallum has narrowed his college choices to Detroit and Arizona. Could you imagine the impact he'd have playing for his father -- Ray McCallum Sr. -- in the Horizon League? Wow!
2. Brandon Knight is not a natural point guard
All the buzz has Knight heading to Kentucky. If that happens and Eric Bledsoe leaves for the pros, it will be interesting to see what UK does with Knight. He can play the point and certainly can guard it, but he's not an instinctive point. He's aggressive enough for the dribble-drive system, but he might just be more comfortable off the ball (keep in mind, John Wall often played at the 2 position for UK this past season). In fact, I think that Knight -- who could be the top perimeter scorer in this class, as he showed on Wednesday night -- isn't the only point guard in the class who might not have a true point guard's skill set. Selby, a nonstop attacker, is not really a true lead guard.
3. Patric Young is a grown man
Patric Young is a grown man. Young (Jacksonville, Fla./The Providence School) runs the floor with an active motor. He will be a very impactful college player and has the chance to be a pro. He's kind of like a more athletic Buck Williams. The Florida recruit is the second-best rebounder in this class -- next to Jared Sullinger (Columbus, Ohio/Northland). He'll be a great fit in Florida's frenetic system. You can be the ultimate role player inside. A team won't have to run a play for him and he can still get a double-double. Coaches love guys who can be productive without being an offensive focal point, and Young falls into that category.
4. Jared Sullinger will have no problems compensating for his lack of athletic ability
No one has ever doubted Sullinger's skills. He has the best hands, feet and feel for the game of any player in this class, and it's not even close. At the college level, he has a chance to be an All-American from day one at Ohio State. He's not a great athlete, but that's the only thing that's missing from his package. People fixate on Sullinger's marginal athletic ability, but they shouldn't. Most coaches would rather have a guy who can play than an athlete who is still developing. The common thought is that you can't teach athleticism. Well, you'd have a hard time teaching a big man the kind of skills Sullinger possess. There are plenty of productive guys in the pros -- such as Kevin Love and Elton Brand (both former McDonald's All-Americans) -- who aren't great athletes. Sullinger can play.
5. Fabricio Melo and Josh Smith are heading in opposite directions
Melo (Weston, Fla./The Sagemont School), a Syracuse recruit, was the only traditional center in this game. He is ready to be an impact college center, and that fact has a lot to do with his commitment to conditioning. Melo is running the court better, and he's more bouncy. Last year at this time, if he didn't get the board in his first jump, his second jump wasn't high or explosive. Now he's blocking shots and running the floor to finish fast breaks. He looks great.
Smith (Covington, Wash./Kentwood) checked in well over 300 pounds, and it showed. In fairness, he missed some time with injury, which has a lot to do with his weight fluctuation. When Smith gets to UCLA, the staff needs to get Smith a nutritionist and start working him. He has to get down to 280 or 290 to be productive in Year 1. He has to be able to move effectively on both ends of the court -- especially on the defense -- to be a key player for the Bruins. That said, we still love his low-post skills and rebounding ability.
John Stovall is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He has worked as part owner and director of scouting for Prep Spotlight Scouting Service and magazine for 15 years.
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