CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The 22nd National Basketball Players Association Top 100 Camp wrapped up its first complete day of on-court action Wednesday night in the University of Virginia’s John Paul Jones Arena.
And only two of the camp’s 10 teams, the “Rockets” and “Knicks”, came out of Wednesday with 2-0 records after two rounds of play.
The Rockets and Knicks are not slated to play in the “regular season” portion of the schedule but could meet in playoff action that begins Saturday morning and is a wrap later in the evening.
“Point guard-types” Tremont Waters (Kent, CT, South Kent Prep) and Jaylen Hands (Balboa in San Diego this past season but likely to be at another program as a senior) shared the playmaking duties for the Rockets and their respective performances consistently bordered on, and often landed smack in the middle of, the terrific.
The 5-foot-10 Waters averaged 11.0 points (hitting three of five attempts from behind the arc) while being credited with a Wednesday camp-best 16 assists and just three turnovers.
The 6-3 Hands (who “committed” to UCLA more than a year ago) wasn’t quite as secure with the ball (nine turnovers) and missed on all four of his 3-point attempts. But he averaged 11.0 points and 5.5 assists in wins over the Warriors (60-48) and 76ers (75-67).
Their exact positioning might be debated within the category but most who follow and attempt to plac high school players within the context of “national ratings” would no doubt agree that Hands and Waters are each among the 10 best “point guard” prospects in the Class of 2017.
The Knicks got double-figure scoring from 6-9, three-time camp veteran Matur Maker (Orangewood Academy in Ontario, Canada), at 11.0; 6-1 Davion Mitchell (Hinesville, GA, Liberty Country), at 12.0 and 6-3 David Beatty (Newark, NJ, St. Benedict’s), at 10.0.
Mitchell is committed to Auburn and Maker’s brother (Thon Maker) could be selected in the first round of the June 23 NBA Draft.
His Wednesday numbers (6.0 points and 6.0 rebounds) were well short of mind-boggling but, in stretches of his team’s win 58-56 win over the Lakers on Wednesday afternoon, 6-9 Daniel Gafford (El Dorado in Arkansas) looked like the Knicks’ best prospect via his quick-jumping and aggressive work in and around the lane at both ends of the floor.
I watched eight of the 10 teams play Wednesday, from start to finish, in one of their two games.
The only teams I missed in that “opening tip to final buzzer”-mode were the Spurs and Celtics.
I’ll see each of those during the first sessions of games (2 and 3:30) on Thursday afternoon and then start doubling- and tripling-up on teams over the final two and a half days of play.
What follows are another six players (I could go a lot deeper, I suppose, if I were willing to sacrifice a hunk of the very little Zzzzzs’ time I could squeeze in very early Thursday morning) that impressed me in various degrees on Wednesday:
*Zion Williamson (Miami Heat/Spartanburg, SC, Day School) and Romeo Langford (Lakers/New Albany, IN, New Albany): Each impressed me enough when I watched them on the spring adidas circuit (in Suwanee, GA) to consider them two of the five-best prospects in the Class of 2018.
And, although they didn’t convert with near the greatest of ease that they demonstrated in Georgia, each looked on target to finish the summer among the five or so best I’ll see in the class this summer.
The 6-6, 225-pound (give or take) and left-handed Williamson didn’t hit a shot from beyond 15 or-so feet away in his team’s 71-66 decision over the Bulls in the afternoon.
But he did score 17 points (six of 11 from the field and five of six free throws) and also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. From the elbows to the short corners he’s been overwhelming for high school competition to try to deal with.
The 6-5 Langford missed each of his four attempts from behind the arc in his team’s 58-56 loss to the Knicks but did score 19 points, grab eight rebounds and block four shots.
He could prove to be the best “shooting guard” prospect in the camp, regardless of class, by Saturday night.
*Donnie Tillman (Lakers/Henderson, NV, Findlay Prep): Some may label him a “wing” and, at about 6-6, others may suggest he’s an “undersized power forward”.
Whatever you want to call him, he’s quite the productive performer, as he demonstrated during the Pangos All-American Camp two weeks ago in Southern California and as he did Wednesday afternoon while scoring 10 points and grabbing 13 rebounds against the Knicks.
*Raiquan Gray (Bulls/Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Dillard): I’ve thought that Gray (listed at 6-8 and 259 pounds) was an exceptional passer since I first watched him play for his high school team last December in Las Vegas during the Tarkanian Classic.
He looked every bit of that while playing for the Florida Vipers on the Under Armour Association circuit in the spring and during the Pangos All-American Camp.
And that was the case, too, on Wednesday when he averaged 5.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals as the Bulls split games with the Heat (falling 71-66) and the Spurs (prevailing 89-84).
*Chol Marial (Bucks/Cheshire, CT, Academy): Marial (looking all of, and then some, the 7-1 he’s listed) continues to rise – pun very much intended – to the level of competition he’s presented with, from the 16s division (with the Connecticut Basketball Club) on the Under Armour circuit in the spring to the Nike Elite 100 in St. Louis last week and then into Charlottesville.
Marial (Class of 2019) was credited with 16 points, four rebounds and a blocked shot in a game I didn’t see in the afternoon (a 64-61 loss to the 76ers) and with two points, four rebounds and three blocked shots in a game I did watch Wednesday night (a 69-66 loss to the Warriors).
The members of the crew who keep the statistics at this event are more than able but Marial seemed to have blocked at least six shots – and “altered” just as many – Wednesday night. Heck, I counted three blocks on one Warriors’ possession.
If you can get into the building on Thursday at 6 p.m. (and you have to be an NBPA Top 100 staff member, a credential “media” representative or a “family” member of one of the players to do so), focus on Court 2, where the Bucks are scheduled to play the Celtics.
That’s where a possible head-up showdown could take place between Marial and 6-10 Charles Bassey (San Antonio St. Anthony). Bassey is the consensus No. 1 prospect in their class.
*Paul Scruggs (Warriors/Indianapolis Southport): Seeing the 6-3 Scruggs listed as a “shooting guard” on a lot of Internet “recruiting” sites over the better part of the past two years has bewildered me.
For one thing, he’s not anything approaching an “exceptional” jump shooter right now – especially from long distance (he missed all four of his attempts from behind the arc Wednesday).
For a second thing, every time I’ve watched him with the Indy Hoosiers (Under Armour) he’s been the squad’s “primary ball-handler/playmaker”. From my perspective, that’s a pretty good job description for a “point guard”.
He averaged 8.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and just 1.5 turnovers in the Warriors’ games with the Rockets (a 60-48 loss) and Bucks (a 69-66 win; I watched that one) Wednesday.
The other “point guard-types” on his squad, Jalek Felton and Courtney Ramey, combined for 12 assists and 17 turnovers on Wednesday.