College Basketball

LeBron James Skills Academy 2014: Top Recruits, Highlights and Analysis

LeBron James attends the LeBron James Skills Academy Thursday, July 10, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
John Locher/Associated Press
Steven CookContributor IIIJuly 11, 2014

Updates from Saturday, July 12

The final day of the Skills Academy allowed prospects to make on final impression on scouts as the college counselors took center stage. Jonathan Givony of Draft Express passed along a photo of the scrimmage:

As has been the case throughout the camp, Wisconsin's Sam Dekker stood out as the most impressive college player in Las Vegas. Givony and John Lucas were quick to heap praise on the junior:

On the high school end, Rocherster, New York power forward Thomas Bryant was a standout. His ability to shoot from mid-range and protect the rim on the defensive end drew comparisons to Serge Ibaka.

Jerry Meyer of 247Sports noted the attention the 16-year-old was receiving from some college scouts.

247Sports lists Kansas, Missouri and Syracuse as possible landing spots for the athletic forward. After his performance in this showcase, the recruiting battle should only get more heated going forward.

Updates from Friday, July 11

Day 3 at the Skills Academy was unfortunately cut short on Friday due to a power outage, per Joseph Duruaku of goazcats.com:

However, the shortage of power didn't mean there was a shortage of standout performances in the earlier sessions of the day. Many college and high school prospects continued to build on the success they've had this weekend competing against their peers.

LSU commit Ben Simmons was as sensational as expected. As Joey Velasquez of Mid Major Hoops Report notes, he has demonstrated a strong understanding of how to use his frame against strong competition:

Speaking of competition, Eric Bossi of Rivals, commented on the talent at the camp and highlighted Antonio Blakeney of Sarasota, Florida as someone who stood out to him:

But it wasn't all good news for those trying to make a name for themselves on Friday. Nevada-based prospect Troy Brown was having a good day before succumbing to an injury that is likely to keep him out of the rest of camp.

Original Text

LeBron James has engulfed the world of sports in a frenzy over where he'll take his talents next NBA season, but The King is still ringing in his early July nights like he usually does—playing with the nation's best high school and college players at his annual LeBron James Skills Academy.

The 29-year-old's summer skills event has become one of the top events for elite young basketball players. Many prospects that have come through the ranks in James' camp now play alongside him in the NBA, as scouts and college coaches galore flock to Las Vegas for the marquee event.

This year, there's a wealth of high school talent in Las Vegas to put their abilities on display for the many elite college basketball coaches in attendance. Just as well, a hand-picked list of college studs are also looking to make noise for NBA scouts in the crowd.

On top of that, there's the opportunity to meet and play against the best player in the world. James' looming decision hasn't kept him from playing pick-up ball with the prospects. 

Here's a breakdown of every player taking the court at the LeBron James Skills Academy and a closer look at the top standouts.

2014 LeBron James Skills Academy: High-School Prospects
High-School PlayerHigh-School Player
Xavier Simpson, GTrevon Duval, G
Kenny Williams, GJalen Coleman, G
Prince Ali, GMontaque Gill-Caesar, F
Isaiah Briscoe, GKJ Lawson, F
Trey Lowe, GDillon Brooks, F
Malik Beasley, GDedric Lawson, F
Thomas Bryant, FMakol Mawien, F
Ted Kapita, FHenry Ellenson, F
Daniel Giddens, CJessie Govan, C
Levan Alston, GCassius Winston, G
Charles Matthews, GAaron Holiday, G
Malachi Richardson, GMalik Monk, G
Miles Bridges, FJake Lindsey, G
Tres Tinkle, FTerance Mann, F/G
Eric Davis, GV.J. King, F
Marcus Derrickson, FCody Riley, F
Deyonta Davis, FAaron Falzon, F
Caleb Swanigan, FIvan Rabb, F
Djery Baptiste, CTyler Davis, C
Grant Troutt, GDe'Aaron Fox, G
Jalen Brunson, GBryant Crawford, G
Kevaughn Allen, GAntonio Blakeney, G
Matt McQuaid, GJamal Murray, G
Jayson Tatum, G/FEd Morrow, F
Mickey Mitchell, FMarques Bolden, C
Omari Spellman, FD.J. Williams, F
Doral Moore, CBen Simmons, F
Stephen Zimmerman, CZach Brown, C
A.J. Harris, GStevie Thompson, G
Shake Milton, GMalik Newman, G
Austin Grandstaff, GDejounte Murray, G
Haanif Cheatham, GTroy Brown, G
King McClure, GRex Pflueger, G
A.J. Turner, GBrian Bowen, G
Noah Dickerson, FEsa Ahmad, F
D.J. Hogg, FDeAndre Ayton, C
Cheick Diallo, CJeremy Miller, C
Dewan Huell, FMoustapha Diagne, F/C
Schnider Herard, C
NikeEyb.com
2014 LeBron James Skills Academy: College Prospects
College PlayerCollege Player
Isaiah Taylor, TexasBuddy Hield, Oklahoma
Darrun Hilliard, VillanovaD.J. Newbill, Penn State
Kevin Pangos, GonzagaTerry Rozier, Louisville
Juwan Staten, West VirginiaJoe Young, Oregon
Ron Baker, Wichita StateAnthony Brown, Stanford
Perry Ellis, KansasTreveon Graham, VCU
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, ArizonaVincent Hunter, UTEP
Jarrell Martin, LSUJordan Mickey, LSU
Georges Niang, Iowa StateKelly Oubre, Kansas
R.J. Hunter, Georgia StateMichael Qualls, Arkansas
Dez Wells, MarylandDeion Wright, Utah
Marcus Foster, Kansas StateSam Dekker, Wisconsin
Stanley Johnson, ArizonaBobby Portis, Arkansas
Aaron White, Iowa
NikeEyb.com

 

Top Recruits

Cheick Diallo

This year's Skills Academy is flooded with elite high school talent, but few have turned more heads in Las Vegas than Cheick Diallo.

The Centereach, New York, native ranks as the sixth-best player in the nation and the No. 2 power forward nationally, per 247Sports. He's maintained the most interest in Kansas and Kentucky, although Iowa State, Pittsburgh and St. John's are in the mix.

The 6'9" forward uses his athletic skill set to mismatch defenders in the post, and former coach John Lucas was captivated by his motor:

Bill Self, John Calipari and other top coaches were keeping an eye on Diallo throughout Thursday's action in Vegas.

Among them was St. John's head coach Steve Lavin, who 247Sports' Andrew Slater said has Diallo at the top of his wish list:

With the size to make a quick transition to the college game and the developing skills to make a quick jump to the NBA, there's little doubt that Diallo will emerge as one of the top players out of the 2014 Skills Academy. 

Diallo has made it on the short list of top players in the 2015 class, and so far in Las Vegas he has only further proven his ability.

 

Jayson Tatum

Jayson Tatum is yet another top prospect at the Skills Academy that will have his pick of elite schools, and he's showing why.

Tatum is a 6'8", 190-pound shooting guard who uses his lanky frame to separate from defenders and get to the basket. He's crisp with the ball, cutting in and out of lanes and freeing up space for teammates. 

ESPN's Jeff Goodman circled Tatum as his favorite player at the camp:

Include CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello among those enamored with Tatum's game:

Jason Scheer of WildcatAuthority.com was the next to notice Tatum's dominance:

The 16-year-old out of St. Louis still has a way to go, as the class of 2016 product has another year before closing in on his decision. 

Still, 247Sports ranks Tatum as the third-best prospect overall in his class and the second-best shooting guard nationally. He's being pursued by Kansas, Kentucky, Florida and Duke, among others. 

He had quite the contingent watching him play on Thursday, as Slater observed:

With the skills to make an impact at the 2 and the versatility and size to dominate at the 3, Tatum will likely translate into a player flexible enough to play multiple positions on the perimeter. But once he finds his spot, Tatum will quickly become one of the nation's best players wherever he lands in college. 

 

Ivan Rabb

Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

National powerhouses are lining up like crazy to get a glimpse of Ivan Rabb at the LeBron James Skills Academy.

The 6'10", 198-pound power forward still has some growing to do, but he checked out as the No. 2 prospect nationally by 247Sports. Arizona and North Carolina are the favorites for his services, per 247Sports' Crystal Ball

Although he has some physical maturing to do, Rabb's talent with the basketball is undeniable. He's menacing around the rim, uses his athleticism to squeeze in and out of tight spaces and often outworks his opponent on both sides of the ball.

Slater noticed some of the nation's top coaches taking in his play:

Borzello noticed a complete performance from the youngster:

Undersized big men can struggle with the step up to the college ranks, but Rabb should have no such trouble. He's tall enough to sky over defenders to finish and knows how to make up for his lack of strength with tactical post moves.

Being under 200 pounds and a post player doesn't seem to translate, but Rabb is one of the lone exceptions. He's one of the top players in his class and has proven so in Las Vegas. 

 

Note: Roster information courtesy of Nike Elite Youth Basketball.

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