Assessing notable college and prep players on display in Las Vegas
Twenty college players scrimmaged against NBA stars at the USA Basketball trials
Butler's Shelvin Mack, Duke's Kyle Singler and FSU's Chris Singleton impressed
The Fab 48 and Super 64 tournaments featured some of the nation's top prep stars
LAS VEGAS -- You know what they say: What happens in Vegas takes two columns to cover.
As I told you in part one yesterday, I spent three days last week in Sin City, where three basketball events were taking place. The first two were grassroots tournaments: the Adidas Super 64 and the Fab 48. The third was the USA Basketball trials for the national team comprised of NBA players that will play in the World Championships in Turkey this summer.
My interest in the USA trials centered on the group of 20 college players who were brought in as a permanent scout team. The folks at USA Basketball only permitted the media to watch the college kids scrimmage against the pros for 30 minutes per day, but several dozen NBA scouts and executives were permitted to watch all of the action. So at the end of my visit, I asked one of those scouts to give me his unvarnished, anonymous assessment of a few of the collegians he watched. Here's what he had to say about ...
Lavoy Allen, 6-foot-9 senior forward, Temple: "He has good size and he'll rebound and get slams, but I don't know how tough he is. If he were tougher, he would be an NBA player, but I have to watch him more to gauge how tough he is. At the college level he can do some things, but a guy that size has to be pretty tough when it comes to rebounding."
Jimmer Fredette, 6-2 senior guard, BYU: "He had his moments, though he was a little up and down. He handled pressure a little better than I thought, and I saw him have one decent spurt. I think he'll play in the league because he can really shoot the ball. I like his nose for it."
Scotty Hopson, 6-7 junior forward, Tennessee: "This guy is one of the biggest enigmas out there. It's like a guy who walks up to the plate and just won't swing the bat. He'll get to spots on the floor but won't shoot it, or he'll turn down stuff. I watched him at Tennessee and he's scoring eight or nine points. I'm thinking this guy should be getting 18. He's talented but he just doesn't let it go."
Scoop Jardine, 6-2 junior guard, Syracuse: "He's going to have to be a Doug Overton type of guy. He'll never wow you. The strength of his game is that he's savvy. I could see why someone would say he was a little underwhelming, but he's got a lot of moxie to his game. He's not that athletic, so he doesn't look great in that kind of setting."
Shelvin Mack, 6-3 junior guard, Butler: "He's one of the guys who kind of surprised me. I didn't think he could play point guard, but he did a better job than I thought handling the ball. He's strong, he can make shots, and he did some good things while playing outside of Butler's system. I think he can be an NBA player, and I didn't think that going into the summer."
John Shurna, 6-9 junior forward, Northwestern: "He's a good college player, but he was just physically mismatched."
Kyle Singler, 6-8 senior forward, Duke: "I'm a big Singler fan. He's just a basketball player. You can just put him out on the floor and he'll figure things out. I don't think he's quite as good as Shane Battier because he doesn't shoot the ball like that, but he can get more done in other areas than Battier. If he becomes a better shooter, he has a chance to be a really good pro."
Chris Singleton, 6-9 junior forward, Florida State: "He's probably the best defender in college basketball. I think he's a little more athletic version of James Posey. He steals, blocks, rebounds, he can guard three positions. I really like him."
Nolan Smith, 6-2 senior guard, Duke: "You know he can make shots, but he handled the ball against pressure pretty well. I think he's an NBA player because when he gets there, he'll figure it out. The problem is he's too small to play two-guard in the NBA, so he'll have to be a point. But with Kyrie Irving coming in next year, he won't have much chance to do that. Someone will draft him and just say he's a guard, and let him figure it out from there."
Trey Thompkins, 6-9 junior forward, Georgia: "He grew on me. He's a poor man's Antoine Walker. He's not athletic, but he's a little bigger than I thought. He held his own inside defensively, he made threes and he can pass the ball. He was a pleasant surprise."
Kemba Walker, 6-1 junior guard, UConn: "He has good quickness and speed, but he just turns it over too much. He's too erratic. That was the problem with UConn's team last year was that he and [Jerome] Dyson turned it over too much and didn't value the ball enough."
July represents the heart of the summer evaluation period, during which college coaches are permitted to watch high school players compete in various camps and grassroots tournaments around the country. Before I offer you my take on some of the best high schoolers in Vegas last week, let me offer a couple of swing thoughts.
In the first place, keep in mind that I had not seen any of these guys play before. It is very, very difficult to properly evaluate a player based on one or two viewings -- especially in late July, when they are so physically and mentally drained from a long month of two or three games per day that it's nearly impossible to be at their best.
Also, while several of the top seniors were playing in Orlando at the AAU National Championships last week, the consensus from what I saw and heard is that the junior class is far superior to the seniors. Not only that, but the Class of 2012 has lots of really good big men, which will give the college game a badly-needed influx (at least for a year, anyway). One major head coach told me that by his math, there are 27 high-major big men in the junior class, as opposed to just 11 in the Class of 2012.
So consider what follows as more impressions than proper evaluations. Still, I know what I saw:
Two teams I saw play two full games (including once against each other) were the New England Playaz and the San Diego-based Dream Vision. New England featured the one player I saw in Vegas who appeared to be the most ready to have an immediate impact at the collegiate level: Alex Murphy, a 6-9 rising junior at St. Mark's School in Southborough, Mass. Murphy is a very skilled three-man in the Mike Dunleavy/Mike Miller mold, but what I liked most is that he wasn't afraid to mix it up in the paint and finish around the rim. There are other players in his class that have more pro potential, but Murphy is extremely polished for a player so young. He is considering a bunch of schools, but Duke must be pursuing him hard because Mike Krzyzewski followed a long day coaching his USA Basketball guys by taking in the same game I was watching -- not so he could watch Murphy, but so Murphy could see Coach K watching him. That's how all this works.
Murphy's teammate (both high school and summertime), Kaleb Tarczewski, was likewise impressive. He is a bouncy, agile 7-foot center who is entering his junior year. I had been told by several recruiting experts and college coaches to check out New England so I could see those two, but another player I hadn't heard about who jumped out at me was Markus Kennedy, who is a 6-10 forward and a rising senior. Kennedy is, shall we say, a mite prodigious around the waistline, but he had terrific footwork and drew a ton of fouls on Dream Vision. I later learned that Kennedy has committed to play for Villanova. That should help 'Nova escape the label that big men need not apply.