2015 Nike Basketball Academy Recap


SANTA MONICA, Ca. – Day II of the first-ever Nike Basketball Academy is a wrap after Saturday night’s action.

Camp staffers, current and former NBA players, NBA scouts (including some general managers and scouting directors) and an assortment of Internet recruiting analysts got their first looks at the 53 current high school players and 26 college players in the event that is an offshoot of the camp formerly known as the “LeBron James Skills Academy”.

Full disclaimer: I’m one of the individuals invited to help “evaluate” the athletes for Nike’s grassroots wing during the competition that concludes Monday night.

Besides on-court drills, practices and scrimmages Saturday, both the college and high school players also participated in half-hour video sessions with current NBA players that were tailored to their “positions”, with Nike endorsers Trey Burke (Utah Jazz) providing analysis of his game video with “point guards”, Paul George (Indiana Pacers) for the “wings” and DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers) for “posts”.

From my perspective, some of the impressive college players Saturday – in both drills and scrimmages – included Kris Dunn (who’ll be a junior guard at Providence in the coming season); Ben Simmons (the consensus 2014-15 national high school Player of the Year who will be a 6-foot-9 freshman at LSU); Buddy Hield (the Big 12 Conference’s 2014-15 Player of the Year at Oklahoma); and Kyle Wiltjer (the West Coast Conference’s Newcomer of the Year last season at Gonzaga).

Among the high school players who did nice jobs Saturday – again, from my point of view – were guards De’Aaron Fox (Cypress, TX/Cypress Lakes) and Malik Monk (Bentonville, AR/Bentonville) and post Omari Spellman (Granby, MA/The MacDuffie School), from the Class of 2016; and forwards Billy Preston (Dallas/Prime Academy) and Michael Porter (Columbia, MO/Tolton Catholic).

This is certain:

The Nike Basketball Academy is providing an up-close-and-personal look at a lot of likely 2015-16 preseason college All-Americans.

After Sunday’s second full day of workouts, drills and scrimmages, it remained apparent that it’s going to be difficult to find a better point guard on the college level than Kris Dunn, who will be a junior at Providence in the coming season.

Dunn – from the perspective of the camp coaches as well as the NBA scouts and general managers watching from court-side seating – was clearly the top individual standout on both Saturday and Sunday.

Dunn – a likely have been a first-round selection in last week’s NBA draft if he had bailed on college after his sophomore season – didn’t participate in Sunday night’s scrimmage and will not participate in drills, either, the rest of the way because of an already inflamed left elbow that was aggravated during a scrum for a loose ball Sunday afternoon.

And seniors-to-be in forward Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga) and George Niang (Iowa State) and guards Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia) and Buddy Hield (Oklahoma) have all demonstrated some All-American “chops” via both their effort, skill and production.

And it wouldn’t surprise me much at all of Damian Jones of Vanderbilt is a consensus choice as the best “center-type” by March. He, too, may have been a first-round choice last week if he had bypassed his junior season for the Commodores.

Among the 50-plus players with high school eligibility in the camp, juniors-to-be Wendall Carter (Atlanta Pace Academy) and Jarred Vanderbilt (Houston Victory Prep) – members of the USA 16-under team that won gold medals in Argentina earlier this month – also continued to be among the camp standouts.

Full disclaimer: I’m one of the individuals invited to help “evaluate” the athletes for Nike’s grassroots wing during the competition that concludes Monday night.