5 Things We Learned from the 2012 Nike Hoop Summit
The Nike Hoop Summit is the best collection of basketball talent offered on the planet. Every year, Nike brings the top under-19 players in the world together to play an international exhibition pitting American players against the rest of the world.
The 2012 edition was no different as players like Shabazz Muhammad, Nerlens Noel, Anthony Bennett, Kyle Anderson, Kaleb Tarczewski, Andrew Wiggins and Leo Westermann took the floor at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon.
The World team jumped out to a quick lead thanks to a few electric moments from Wiggins in the first quarter and eventually staved off a late charge by the U.S., winning 84-75.
So what can we take away from this showcase? What USA players gave us something to look forward to next year? What international player played himself into a contract a la Bismack Biyombo last year?
Let's take a look, shall we?
Shabazz Muhammad Is Impossible to Ignore
From the opening tip it was impossible to take your eyes off of Muhammad. From the tip he displayed his tireless work on the offensive end, getting himself to the line, finishing at the rim and stepping away to show some range.
With the international atmosphere of the game, Muhammad played some time at the high post early and slid effortlessly into that role. No matter where he was, Muhammad found a way to get the ball and put it in the basket.
The Naismith High School Player of the Year, Muhammad finished with a Hoop Summit-record 35 points to go with nine rebounds and two assists.
Muhammad is set to make a decision about next season on April 11 and will choose between Duke, Kentucky and UCLA.
Andrew Wiggins Might Be the Best Prospect in the World
At just 17 years old, Wiggins was far and away the youngest player on the floor but at times he looked like the most talented. Right off the bat Wiggins showed his touch in the lane and his range en route to six points in the first quarter as the World team jumped out to an early lead.
Wiggins continued to kill the U.S. throughout the game, finishing with 20 points and seven rebounds. He displayed his basketball IQ all night and scored both inside and out.
A 6'6" forward from Huntington Prep (W.Va.), Wiggins is currently the top-rated prospect in the class of 2014 but at times it looked as though he could be the best under-19 player in the world. He currently has offers from North Carolina, Kentucky, Florida State and West Virginia.
Kyle Anderson Has the Most Diverse Skill Set in the Country
Anderson has affectionately been nicknamed "slow mo" due to his smooth style of play and long strides. At times it looks like he isn't going full speed but then suddenly he is at the rim finishing the play.
The UCLA-bound Anderson is one of the most unique players in the country because he does not have a true position. At 6'8" he has the size to play four positions and has been projected to play the point at UCLA.
Anderson used his length on several occasions to draw fouls or take advantage of smaller defenders. At one point, Anderson actually pulled up and buried a jumper over Aleksander Cvetkovic while the defender was playing good on-ball defense.
Anderson chipped in on offense, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds; his presence was most felt from an energy standpoint by grabbing offensive boards and taking two charges in last five minutes of the game.
Wang Zhelin and Leo Westermann Need to Come State-Side ASAP
The World team is tough to evaluate because most of those players are already professionals and are under contract overseas. Two of these players are Wang Zhelin of China and Leo Westermann of France and both players were hard to take your eyes off at all times.
Zhelin is a seven-footer from China who has incredible defensive timing and displayed it multiple times in the first half. The most notable instance came during the second quarter when Zhelin denied Gary Harris' dunk attempt then blocked Archie Goodwin seconds later.
Zhelin finished with 19 points and eight rebounds and displayed his ability to score both inside and out.
Zhelin currently plays for Fujian XX in the Chinese Basketball Association and will be a member of the 2012 Chinese Olympic team.
Westermann is a 6'7" point guard who plays for the same pro team, ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne, that Tony Parker co-owns. Westermann displayed a diverse skill set, hitting the three and facilitating the World team's offense.
Neither player currently has plans to play in the NBA but they would both be welcome additions to our league.
The World Is Catching Up to the United States
It was apparent from the beginning that the World team was much better prepared for this game than the Americans were. Their offense was fluid, their press break was nearly flawless and the ability of their players from top to bottom was of the highest quality.
Between Wiggins, Zhelin, Westermann, Dario Saric, Anthony Bennett and Aleksander Cvetkovic the World team gave the U.S. all that it could handle and then some. There were several NBA-ready players on that team who showed the maturity and discipline that proved to be the difference in the game.
The international game has been getting more competitive in recent years and this game was simply a microcosm of that fact. This particular World team used their experience and quality to knock off a very talented U.S. team.
In the end a dagger three from Bennett buried the United States, but the comeback the U.S. put together made this game compelling until the final whistle.
The 2012 Nike Hoop Summit was once again an awesome collection of talent in which we got to see the future stars of the NBA and Olympics battle it out. Did we see the next Derrick Rose or Kevin Garnett? Maybe the next Dirk Nowitzki or Tony Parker?
Only time will tell.