LONG BEACH, CA – The three days and one night of the Nations Showcase put some of the better high school and college players from the United States at front and center – and some players from Australia should have taken some bows for their nifty performances as well.
In the championship final August 6 evening at Long Beach City College, the USA 2014 Red squad – which had lost by 14 points to USA 2013 Blue during pool play the previous day – won a rematch, 86-84.
Six-foot-eight junior Noah Vonleh sent to the game into overtime with a dunk in the final seconds, then pulled out the victory with a 3-pointer from beyond the key after a penetration pass from Emmanuel Mudiay.
Vonleh and Mudiay were the two-best players in most of the six games they played for the Don MacLean –coached squad.
But, of course, they were far from the only elite-level players on display.
Here my choices for the top prep players at the event, beginning with the player who was far and away the key performer over the four days:
*Noah Vonleh (New Hampton School in New Hampton, NH) was far and away the best player in the event, mopping up seemingly every missed shot with 15 feet of him while scoring – from the perimeter or inside the lane – with absurd ease.
The only nit-pick aimed his way? It’s that he hunted shots a bit too frequently.
The rest of my Top 10 choices as those who played the best in Garden Grove (at the Next Level Sports Complex) over three days and then at LBCC . . .
*Emmanuel Mudiay (6-3/Arlington, TX/Grace Prep) left this event as top challenge to Tyus Jones (Apple Valley, MN) as the top point guard prospect in the Class of 2014.
He’s strong – physically and with the ball – and has improved his jump shot considerably over the course of a year. He was far and away the best point guard at the event, in either 2013 or 2014.
*Rashad Vaughn (6-4/Minneapolis Robbinsdale-Cooper/USA 2014 Red) was as good of a “pure jump shooter” as there was over the course of the event. He’s tremendous of the catch but deceptively good as a dribble-penetrator as well. He should be considered among the Top 20 prospects in the class, regardless of position.
*Devin Williams (6-8/Montverde, FL, Montverde Academy/USA 2013 Blue) struggled a bit, offensively, during the adidas Super 64 in Las Vegas. But he was a dominant low-post presence in this event, crushing people in the lane and around the baseline. He actually hit a handful of mid-range jumpers, as well. A Top 10 power forward prospect in the national senior class, for sure.
*Jermaine Lawrence (6-8/Sparta, NJ, Pope John XXIII/USA 2013 Blue) was so outstanding on the first weekend of June during the Pangos All-American Camp in Long Beach. And he was just as good in this event, demonstrating the power and rebounding mentality to be a super “4” on the highest level of major college hoops but skill, with the ball and as a jump shooter, to excel as a “wing”, as well.
*Craig Victor (6-8/New Orleans St. Augustine/USA 2014 Blue) once more showed why he is rightfully rated among the very best power forward prospects his class has to offer. A forceful rebounder with a dependable mid-range also part of his arsenal.
*Trey Lyles (6-8/Indianapolis Tech/USA 2014 Blue) is among the very best “pick and pop 4s” in the high school hoops, regardless of class. He was also among prolific rebounders the entire long weekend here as well.
*Kasey Hill (6-2/Montverde, FL, Montverde Academy/USA 2013 Red) his team was upset by the Australians in the first game of the event and didn’t advance to the championship semifinals. But he was mostly exceptional, displaying his usual wicked crossover and ability to snake to the rim at full speed. He is among Andrew Harrison’s prime challengers for the best point guard in the class tag.
*Ben Simmons (6-8/Team Australia) drew a lot of raves from NBA talent evaluators, many of which were watching him for the first time. The left-handed, soon-to-be sophomore (he turned 16 less than two weeks ago) has to be considered one of the best high school-aged forwards – anywhere in the world.
*Dante Exum (6-4/Team Australia) would be considered among the best point guards, regardless of class, if were a high school player in the U.S. He is a Class of 2014 member, so he may not make his U.S. college debut until the 2014-15 season. He recently turned 17.
As for the college players (there were about 30 of them) who worked out at the event for the first three days, the five who impressed me most were (alphabetically): Steven Adams (6-10/Pittsburgh), Isaiah Austin (7-0/Baylor), Willie Cauley (6-10/Kentucky), Ray McCallum Jr. (6-2/Detroit) and Nate Wolters (6-3/South Dakota State).
Adams, Austin and Cauley will be freshmen; McCallum a junior and Wolters a senior.