CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Not surprisingly in the least, the first two days of the 22nd NBPA Top 100 camp have produced multiple standouts.
And, during Thursday’s 10 games, two guys stood taller than anyone else among the 100-plus players in the camp that again being held in the University of Virginia’s John Paul Jones Arena.
It was during two of those games that Charles Bassey (San Antonio, TX, St. Anthony) turned in a couple of performances that succinctly drove home why he is the top-ranked player in the national Class of 2019.
The 6-foot-10 Bassey – who migrated to the U.S. from Nigeria late last summer – was credited with 12 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots in 22 minutes of the Celtics’ 64-59 win over the Knicks Thursday afternoon.
But that was just the appetizer to what was going to be a delectable entree he prepared for those in the building a few hours later.
Playing against the Bucks, and often matched another of the country’s-best-in-2019 in seven-footer Chol Marial (Cheshire, CT, Academy), Bassey had a whole lot of former and current NBA players at courtside abuzz with his performance during the Celtics’ 82-69 win.
Marial made things difficult at times for Bassey, especially early.
His block of a Bassey shot attempt was of the flabbergasting variety – as Marial was swatting leather, it appeared as if his right elbow was parallel to mid-square on the backboard.
All of the head-shaking highlights the rest of the way, though, were provided by Bassey, who was credited with 17 points (including a 3 from out top), 12 rebounds and three assists.
He was credited with a blocked shot but we’ll forgive the capable stats crew for that oversight. He may have had as many as three.
Bassey held up quite well during the Pangos All-American Camp in Southern California two weekends ago against the likes of DeAndre Ayton and Billy Preston from the Class of 2017.
With two more days of similar efforts here (the camp wraps up Saturday night) and a strong performance on the travel ball and camp circuit in July and early August, Bassey could be the considered as good a prospect as there is in high school hoops – regardless of grade level.
The second top-tier effort – at least in games that I watched enough of – turned in Thursday was that of Zion Williamson during the Heat’s 91-89 overtime win against the Rockets in the final game of the evening.
The 6-6 Williamson (Spartanburg, SC, Day School) could come out of the summer as the top challenger to Marvin Bagley III (Chatsworth, CA, Sierra) for the claim of being the top player and prospect in the Class of 2018.
His numbers might have been pedestrian (six points, four rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots) earlier in the day during his team’s 88-66 win over the 76ers – which I didn’t watch.
But the numbers (a game-high 20 points, on eight of nine from the field, including a 3; six rebounds, two assists and a steal) were top-notch Thursday night against the Rockets, in a game decided by his free throws with 2.4 seconds to go in OT.
Because of their combination of size, strength and skill, Bassey (about 220 pounds or) and Williamson (225ish) are, in all likelihood, the two toughest individual matchups in the camp.
A couple of Bassey’s Celtics’ teammates also turned in noteworthy performances on Thursday.
Evan Battey (2017/Villa Park High in SoCal) had a couple of them as the 275-poundish Battey averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds in the games with the Knicks and Bucks.
And one of the best 2017 guards in the West, the 6-4 and left-handed Christian Popoola Jr. (Las Vegas Bishop Gorman), got to pretty much anywhere he wanted to go with the ball in his hands Thursday night.
Popoola, a terrific student, scored 21 points – all of those coming in the first three quarters – while hitting seven of nine shots from the floor (including three of four from behind the arc).
Malik Williams (Indianapolis Snider) also helped his “recruiting stock” on Thursday in front of the dozens of “recruiting media-types” on hand and in the stands or on the floor.
The 6-foot-10 Williams helped Williamson and the rest of the Heat go 2-0 Thursday while averaging 8.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals.
And the camp picked up another of the best point guards in the Class of 2017 when Isaiah Washington (St. Raymond’s in the Bronx) joined the 76ers on Thursday.
Washington, who arrived late because he was finishing finals at St. Raymond, was a Top 30 Camp All-Star selection during the Pangos All-American Camp in Norwalk, CA, two weeks ago.
And he showed why Thursday, averaging 5.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.5 steals.