What we learned from LeBron Academy
Here's a look at some things that stood out during the week at the LeBron James Skills Academy.
No shortage in athletic ability
Players at every position from point guard to center play above the rim, recover from mistakes, rebound and defend -- with limited technique. The challenge for today's players is to put in the time to have their skills catch up to their athletic ability in order to be a complete and special player.
SF Shaquille Johnson (Alpharetta, Ga./Milton) and PF Aaron Gordon (San Jose, Calif./Archbishop Mitty) were the most athletic players. Johnson plays above the rim like it is a Nerf hoop on his bedroom door, including head-level dunks over, around or through defenders. He had some Vince Carter-type finishes at times and clearly appeared to lead the academy in dunks. Gordon, who is drawing comparisons to Blake Griffin, has a great motor and dunks at every given opportunity with power and flare. He even went 360 degrees on a fast break and finished it with ease.
Other big-time athletes in attendance include Alex Poythress (Clarksville, Tenn./Northeast), Arnaud Moto (Alexandria, Va./Episcopal), Savon Goodman (Philadelphia/Academy of New Church), Justin Anderson (Montross, Va./Montrose Christian) and Anthony Bennett (Brampton, Canada/Findlay Prep).
Production is more important
Potential and upside are the most overused words when coaches and scouts talk about players. There needs to be a bigger emphasis on production and consistency! At times, players seem to get a pass for lack of production because of their potential or upside.
True PGs are born, not converted Most combo guards are shooting guards who can help at the point, and can do this only when they have other high-level players on the floor with them to relieve some of the stress. There is not a leadership or court-vision drill to become an elite point guard, and you can throw out size in most cases. However, point guards are more equipped to move to the shooting guard position, if they can shoot/score.
While it's possible to turn a point guard into a shooting guard, it's nearly impossible to turn a shooting guard into an elite point guard on the college level. Shooting guards are wired differently. Naturally, they look to score first rather than get others involved.
If a school needs a true point guard and a combo guard commits first, it better still sign a true point guard. Furthermore, if a school has only one scholarship, it should be patient and continue to beat the bushes, because the point guard position on the college level is too important and the stakes are far too high.
Beyond his years
Class of 2014 prospect Wayne Selden (Boston/The Tilton School) has a grown man's game. He is a strong, physical, athletic SG who attacks the rim and scores through contact regularly.
Applying what you have learned
We noticed that many players were taking what they learned in the drills and immediately applying it during the games. From better shot preparation, to boxing out, to closing out, to new moves -- it was great to see these young players attempting to improve right away.
Playing to the crowd
The players took notice of the college coaches filling the Rhodes Center at the University of Akron on Day 3. Although the players had been working hard, the energy level seemed to go to the next level. Committed players wanted to show they are worthy and uncommitted players wanted to impress and pick up offers.
Reese on the verge
J-Mychal Reese (Bryan, Texas/Bryan) is close to being an elite point guard. The talented lefty seems to refuse to verbally communicate with his teammates and take charge of his team, which is a trait all great point guards must possess. If he adds this to his game, watch out!
Shooting guard Gary Harris (Indianapolis/Hamilton Southeastern) plays on both ends of the floor. He gets to the rim on the break and knocks down midrange pull-ups as well as his share of open 3s. Defensively, he pressures the ball, helps and recovers.
Battle for No. 1
Jabari Parker (Chicago/Simeon) and Julius Randle (Dallas/Prestonwood Christian Academy) are neck and neck for the top spot in the Class of 2013. Parker is Mr. All-Around and Randle is simply a relentless beast!
Allerik Freeman (Charlotte/Olympic) is the perfect example of a combination guard. He can excel at a high level on or off the ball and has a really sweet midrange game. Freeman has great court vision and command of the ball, and he attacks with a purpose and with great pace.
Not much back-to-the-basket scoring
While it seems stretch power forwards are becoming much more popular, they better work to develop some low-post moves. All they need is a move and countermove from each block, and then they need to perfect it. This applies to perimeter players, as well. Players should build their game from the inside out.
Reggie Rankin was an assistant coach at seven schools for 13 seasons, most recently at Dayton. He played at Ohio University from 1986 to 1990 and was a first-team All-MAC selection his senior season. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.
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