Commentary

What we learned from Jordan Brand

Originally Published: April 17, 2011
By Paul Biancardi | ESPN Recruiting

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Jordan Brand Classic held its 10th annual event in Michael Jordan's home state of North Carolina and it seemed fitting that future Tar Heel James McAdoo (Norfolk, Va./Norfolk) earned co-MVP honors with Anthony Davis (Chicago, Ill./Perspectives Charter). McAdoo finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds in 27 minutes to lead the East team over the West, 113-109.

The four-day event was more than just basketball practices and games. The group spent a lot of time together, including a visit to the ESPNU studios, a visit and basketball clinic at the Presbyterian Hemby Children's Hospital, team awards dinner at Bank of America Stadium, tour of the Joe Gibbs Racing Garage, team practices at the Charlotte Convention Center and a video game challenge.

Here is a look at a few things we learned from this event.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Davis
Kelly Kline/Getty ImagesAnthony Davis is the No. 1 player in the 2011 class.

Davis, Rivers, Gilchrist are special
All three were No. 1 in the ESPNU 100 at one point. A year ago, the basketball world did not know who Davis was until Nike EYBL scout Carton DeBose discovered him.

"He was playing in a basketball league where there were about 20 people at his games -- five of them were his relatives," said DeBose. "I was really intrigued and the more I kept going back to see him, the more impressed I became."

The future Kentucy Wildcat finished his prep career with 29 points and 14 rebounds on his way to earning co-MVP honors. Bottom line: if you are good the market will sort you out.

For Austin Rivers (Winter Park, Fla./Winter Park), being known was not that hard, especially when you are the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. At an early age, Austin was putting up big numbers on opponents and continued to improve each and every season. He led Winter Park High School to back-to-back state championships and his advanced offensive skill set and competitive drive set him apart from his peers.The Blue Devils are getting a gifted player.

Michael Gilchrist (Somerdale, N.J./St. Patrick) dominated his age group for years with his athletic ability, toughness and scoring. When he steps on the court, there is a very good chance his team is going to win. Folks in Kentucky are going to love Gilchrist's passion and winning ways.

McAdoo's bright future
In his final two games of his prep career, McAdoo was co-MVP of the McDonald's Game and Jordan Brand Classic -- two of the biggest and brightest all-star games in the world of high school basketball. The best way to describe his game is to say he is very effective and efficient with his skills, athletic ability and basketball IQ. He is a scoring forward who finds different ways to put the ball in the basket. He runs the floor well, beats others bigs for lay-ups, uses his face-up game, which stretches out to the 3-point line. However, he does most of his damage in the paint with his scoring, rebounding and shot blocking. With Tyler Zelle and John Henson returning to UNC, McAdoo does not need to be the man, but in time he should take over that role.

Wroten Jr. on the money
Tony Wroten Jr. (Renton, Wash./Garfield) has been a standout since he stepped out on the floor. As a sophomore he made it into our Terrific 25 and was having a brilliant career before he tore his ACL in his junior year. However, the injury wasn't all bad.

[+] EnlargeTony Wroten Jr
Ned Dishman/Getty ImagesTony Wroten Jr. is headed to Washington next year.

"Before the injury I really didn't take the game seriously, being away from it made me realize how much I missed it and how much it means to me," said Wroten. "Now every time I step out on the court it is important."

Wroten Jr. played with off-the-charts passion, finished above the rim with authority on the break and attacked the basket with quick, powerful slashes at the Jordan Brand Classic. He also hit his open shots and demonstrated the vision and passing that makes him special.

Wroten handed out 10 assists during the game and at one point, analyst Jay Bilas called him "the best passer in the game." As he works on his jump shot, the Washington Huskies have a terrific point guard coming in next season.

Deep threats
Neither team shot the ball very well from behind the arc, but after evaluating and studying their skills over the years, you can see these five will be good 3-point shooters and stretch out the defense at the next level.

Jabari Brown (Oakland, Calif./Oakland) is going to help Oregon immediately with his ability to open up the floor on offense with his deadly longrange game and scoring from the free throw line

Bradley Beal (St. Louis, Mo./Chaminade) is a natural shooter with outstanding shot preparation and he's always adding weapons to his game. If the game is on the line and the Gators need a 3, Beal will be the man.

Kyle Wiltjer (Portland, Ore./Jesuit), the skilled Canadian, will be trailing the break next year at Kentucky draining 3s and playing in many pick-and-pop actions as he brings opposing bigs away from the basket.

Rivers has NBA range and the proper swagger to make them from deep. His longrange touch is streaky now, but when he gets on a roll he can change the outcome of a game quickly. Look for Rivers, who invests time into his game, to improve in that area over time.

P.J. Hairston (Greensboro, N.C./Hargrave Military Academy) has range and accuracy with the size at 6-foot-6 to see over defenses. He can break open a game with consecutive 3s and every time he lets it go, you think its going in.

Great players and great people
For most of these high-level players, it was their third or fourth different coach in the last month. After finishing the regular season with their respective high school coach they have played in various games such as Nike Hoop Summit and McDonald's All-American Game. During practices the players were focused and paying attention to the coaches' instructions from a mental standpoint. The players were trying to pick up the concepts that the coaches were implementing from a strategic standpoint. When they scrimmaged, the level of intensity was consistent.

"Overall, as a group they were very coachable. In the last month they have heard many different voices and have listened well," said Don Showalter who was coaching the East squad in the Jordan game and was on hand observing at the McDonald's game and Hoop Summit.

The players also spent time visiting a local hospital, signing autographs and taking pictures with all who requested.

Paul Biancardi, who has been a head coach and assistant on NCAA tournament teams, is the national director of basketball recruiting. He is also one the voters for the McDonald's All-American Game and Gatorade Player of the Year. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.

Paul Biancardi

Basketball Recruiting