This weekend I watched the 2009 Nike Hoop Summit All-Star Game. Usually I avoid all-star games like the plague.
There is usually no intensity except on the offensive end of the floor. No defense. No real caring who wins and loses.
They just bug me. I guess it’s the basketball purist in me.
However, this game was a little different. It was a game between the top high school seniors in the USA versus a world team composed of players from all over the world. The world team had players from Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.
Many of the players on the world team play professionally overseas.
The USA team had players from all over the country.
There was definite competition in this game. I guess when USA is across the chest, things pick up on both sides.
Also, the teams had a week to practice together which makes a huge difference. This is the 12th game in the series which is sponsored by USA Basketball. The USA won nine of the previous 11 games.
Many players who are now playing in the NBA have played in the series, such as Nowitzki, Durant, JR Smith, Josh Smith, Parker, Hansbrough and Lawson have all represented the USA or the world.
There were a number of fine players—many who have NBA potential—on both teams.
Every NBA team had scouts there to watch the practices of the World team and the game. I’m sure they were impressed by some of them.
I’d like to put my opinion out there on the players.
John Wall, a 6'2" guard from Raleigh, was probably the most impressive player on the USA team and, really, in the whole game. He's very athletic, very explosive and unbelievably quick. He even talks quickly.
I was also impressed with his effort on defense and his desire to pass the ball. Wall has not decided on a school yet but, don’t worry, he has the pick of any and all.
He would be a great replacement for Lawson at UNC when Lawson goes to the NBA. However, I am not sure what kind of a shooter he is. He hardly took any outside shots. He just drove by people to the hoop even when against a zone.
Avery Bradley, another 6'2" guard, has committed to Texas. Avery, from Tacoma, Washington, is another very athletic player. He took it to the basket well and shot it off the dribble. He even did some playmaking though he’s known as an off-guard.
He showed me enough skills and an attitude to share, that it would not surprise me if he ends up as a point. Surprisingly, as good as he was on offense, his effort on defense was even more impressive. He will guard and likes to—he takes pride in his defense.
Mike Moser, a 6'8" forward out of Portland, has committed to UCLA and was another player who gave a good effort on defense as well as sharing the ball. He didn’t get a lot of chances to show his offense, but he’s athletic and plays hard. Moser should be a good fit for Howland.
John Henson, a 6'9" forward from Tampa, committed to UNC and reminded me immediately of former-Tar Heel, Brandon Wright.
He's very thin.
Compared to him, Reggie Miller looks like LeBron James. He has to get stronger or he might break.
Still, he is very quick off his feet and can get up. He has very long arms and has some stuff around the hoop. He has a good little left handed jump hook (he’s a lefty like Wright). A definite prospect, Henson has to get stronger.
Xavier Henry is a lefty, 6'6" wing player from Oklahoma City. He was mainly a spot-up shooter against the World team’s constant zone. So, he showed some range and appeared to be pretty athletic.
His dad, Carl, played at KU and in the NBA briefly before heading overseas.
Henry has not committed.
There were two inside players or, at least, they should be. It's strange that neither one introduced themselves as centers.
This gives you an idea of their mentality. First is Renaldo Sidney. He is 6'10" and too heavy. Sidney is from Los Angeles and has committed to USC. I am sure with a little time with Tim Floyd, he will lose some of that baby fat.
The other is Demarcus Cousins. He is 6'11" and also too heavy. Cousins is from Mobile and has recently committed to go with Coach Cal at Kentucky.
Neither got to show a lot of offense versus the zone.
It was disappointing that neither big guy did a lot on the boards. The World team dominated the boards, especially the offensive glass. The impressive thing about both of these big guys was the way they passed.
Both are excellent passers. It was a bit unusual for young big guys. I have always felt that if a player can pass, he probably knows how to play.
Speaking of passers, Abdul Gaddy, a 6'3" point guard committed to Washington and is one of the best. Gaddy, who is from Tacoma, was a teammate of Avery Bradley before Bradley left his senior year to go to Findley Prep in Las Vegas.
Gaddy is a true point guard. A very clever passer, he only took a couple of shots but looks like a decent shooter. He did not get a great deal of time due to the play of Bradley and Wall. I would like to see his intensity pick up.
Leslie McDonald was another USA player. McDonald, 6'4" from Memphis, has committed to UNC. He had one explosive dunk. He's an athletic wing player. I did not get a feel for his shooting ability.
Similarly, Mason Plumlee, 6'10" and committed to Duke, did not get to play a lot. Looks like he has some skill, but he needs to get stronger.
The World Team
The World’s backcourt people were all pretty non-descript. They all had a lot of trouble versus the quickness of USA’s guards on both ends. They say Edwin Jackson, a 6'3" point from France, is the next Tony Parker.
I did not see that at all.
I thought he really struggled. The other back court players were Matias Nocedal, 6'3" from Argentina. He’s no Ginobili.
Nick Pappas, 6'4" and from Greece, was clever but again the quickness bothered him. Mateo Gaynor, 6'6" and also from Argentina, had his moments but he’s no Manu.
Mamadou Samb, 6'9" from Senegal, is very athletic. He's a rebounder and shot-blocker while quick off his feet. It looks like he’s limited offensively, but you have to look at him as a prospect.
Almost the exact same thing could be said about Kevin Seraphin, 6'9" from France. Another very athletic rebounder and shot-blocker, though I think he has more offense to his game than Samb. He's also a prospect.
Zhang Dayu, 7'0" from China, described himself as a center but much preferred to be outside. He has a nice touch up to 18-20 feet. Dayu is not very physical but still is a prospect.
The three best players for the World were Tomislav Zubcic, 6'11" from Croatia, Donatas Motiejunas, 7"0" from Lithuania, and Milan Macvan, 6'8" from Serbia.
I think all three have NBA potential.
Zubcic is very skilled for as tall and young as he is. They used him to bring the ball up for much of the game. I don’t think he’s a knock-down shooter, but he’s skilled. He's got a little of Tayshaun Prince to him.
Built a lot like Tayshaun, which is not a great thing, but it hasn’t hurt Prince a great deal. He is a right hander as opposed to Prince.
Motiejunas was very impressive, especially in the second half. Though he can play inside, he too prefers to be out on the perimeter. He's a nice shooter if he has time. Another thin guy, he did not mind mixing it up some.
At times, he reminded me of Tony Kukoc (good), other times of Darko Milicic (not so good). Clever around the basket, he used is left hand well but don’t get too excited. He’s left handed. But I think that’s an advantage.
Left handers seem to get away with more stuff around the hoop. Like I said, he can step out too. A definite prospect, both are for the NBA and the weight room.
Lastly was Macvan. He's a really a good player. A 6'8" player around 250 lbs. or better. He knows how to play and dominated the first half. In fact, he kept the World in the game. He drove some and can hit from 20 feet. He's very physical and used his body well. He can also pass and look to pass.
He reminded me of Brian Cardinal physically. Maybe it was because of his lack of hair. However, he’s much more skilled than Brian. He has a very mature game as a definite prospect.
Three things I noticed about the World team: One, they had to play zone. They could not guard the USA man-for-man especially on the perimeter. That will not help these players, if and/or when they get to the NBA.
Secondly, most all of them want to spot up, get their feet set and fire. None were very good off the dribble. Those two things tell me that they have all played a lot of zon and faced a lot of zones.
Three, even though they were comparable in age to the USA guys, you could tell they have more mature games. That's not to say better, but more mature.
The USA led 70-61 after three quarters but got smoked in the fourth and ended up losing by about 10.
They gave up a lot of free throws down the stretch as they tried to catch up. The lack of rebounding by the USA finally caught up with them in the fourth. The World dominated inside while USA dominated the perimeter.
It came down to: if USA could cause turnovers and get out and run, they were good. If the World didn’t turn it over, got shots and then dominated the offensive boards, they were good.
This was a competitive game.
A couple of the USA players didn’t go all-out, but for the most part, guys played with pride and determination. The World team was definitely pumped about beating the USA and you could see the disappointment in the USA players.
This was not a typical All-Star game. It was enjoyable, though my team lost.
If anybody else saw the game, I would like to hear how they liked it and their evaluations.