How strong are the 2014 World squad’s chances of pulling a third consecutive win Saturday night in the Rose Garden?
I would say “darn strong”, based upon what I observed in three days’ worth of the respective teams practices (including a Team USA scrimmage vs. a group of former college players Thursday night in the Portland Trail Blazers’ training facility) I watched.
Those chances would be significant if only because of the presence on the World team of three players that were together with all 11 Team USA players during the McDonald’s All-American Game festivities last week in Chicago.
Point guard Emmanuel Mudiay (Dallas Prime Prep), power forward Trey Lyles (Indianapolis Tech) and center Karl Towns (Metuchen, NJ, St. Joseph) – born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Canada and the Dominican Republic, respectively – are going to be difficult entities for the USA team to cope with Saturday night.
No matter what you may have heard or read differently, elsewhere, the Southern Methodist University-bound Mudiay is the best point guard prospect in the high school class of 2014.
He has dominated the proceedings during the World practices this week in the same fashion that Germany’s Dennis Schroeder did a year before going for 18 points and six assists in his team’s 112-98 victory over USA Select.
Lyles isn’t the explosive vertical athlete that his USA counterparts (Cliff Alexander and Reid Travis) are but his feel for the position and effort are second to none.
Towns, scheduled to join Lyles in University of Kentucky uniforms next season, has play harder and with more purpose in the World Select practice than at any other time that I watched him over the past year – including during this event a year ago, as well as the NBPA Top 100 Camp last June in Charlottesville, Va.
His head-up confrontations with the two USA Selections centers ranked ahead of him – Jahlil Okafor (Chicago Whitney Young) and Myles Turner (Euless, TX, Trinity) – by most high school talent evaluators should be dandies Saturday night.
At least three other World Select players that may currently be “unknowns” to most of the USA Select squad players aren’t going to have that status very long Saturday night.
Six-foot-10 Nikola Jokic (Serbia) was every bit as impressive as Mudiay in the three World Select practices I watched.
Because of his multitude of skills and his physical dimensions, he will be an extremely difficult player to match up with for any frontcourt player USA Select Coach Mike Jones (Hyattsville, MD, DeMatha) assigns to him Saturday night.
Another 6-10 (give or take) player, Clint Capela (Switzerland), has underdeveloped offensive skills but will be the best runner (relative to size) and shot blocker in the game.
And the youngest Nike Hoop Summit participant – 6-6 Sviatoslav Mykhailuk (Ukraine) doesn’t turn 17 until June 10 – has been more than just one of the two best jump shooters (with Jokic) in World Select workouts: He has terrific handling and passing skills and has a feel for the game well beyond his chronological age.
The most impressive players for the USA Select squad (from my perspective, at least; a lot of the 100-plus NBA employees watching tended to agree) during its Thursday night scrimmage were the Duke-bound Okafor, future Stanford Cardinal Travis and 6-6 Theo Pinson (a North Carolina signee from Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, NC).
The game is scheduled to tip off at 4 o’clock (Pacific Time) late Saturday afternoon and will be televised by one of those entities from the “ESPN Family of Networks” with one of the best business, Fran Fraschilla, adding able in-game analysis.