NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Parker Jackson-Cartwright couldn’t have had a more discerning audience sitting along one of the baselines for his opening game of the LeBron James Skills Academy Sunday afternoon in Rancho High’s main gymnasium.
The cozy gathering was made up of NBA standouts/2012 Olympians Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers, Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks and the man himself.
And the diminutive (5-foot-8ish and maybe 140 pounds) junior-to-be from Loyola High in Los Angeles dominated things much in the fashion that the man the camp is named for did during many of the 2012 NBA playoff games for Miami – minus a foot and 120 pounds or so, of course.
PJC picked the dribble of one of the nation’s two or three best 2012 point guards – Anthony Barber (Hampton, VA) – three times in the second and shanghaied a pass while pacing “Duke” past “North Carolina” in double overtime, 92-88.
Another terrific player from the Class of 2014 – many would suggest the terrific junior-to-be – sent the game to the first overtime for Duke.
Six-foot-seven Andrew Wiggins of Duke (Toronto by way of Huntington Prep in West Virginia) missed a rushed 3-point attempt in an effort to tie the score in the late going of regulation.
But he ran down the rebound, took one dribble and launched another attempt from the left wing and well behind the arc.
And the shot – and it was a legit jump shot; there was nothing “desperation” about it at all – swished at the buzzer.
PJC and Wiggins – clearly two of the five best prospects among the 80 or so players in camp, regardless of class affiliation – led Duke, which has another dynamic junior-to-be in 6-7 Kevon Looney (Milwaukee Hamilton), past Kentucky in its second game later Sunday evening.
Other Sunday standouts included:
*Wesley Clark (6-0/Romulus, MI). If not for the presence of the wily wizard from SoCal, Clark would have been the most impressive of the point-guard “types” in action Sunday.
After watching him play for The Family during the final weekend of Nike Elite Youth Basketball League action in Hayward, CA, on Memorial Weekend, I couldn’t understand why most of the national recruiting “gurus” (of sort) weren’t raving about him as much as I was.
That will no longer be the case after his efforts for “Michigan State” Sunday.
Clark got the ball into the lane – and to shooters, including his The Family running mate James Young (the left-hander 6-7 who is likely the best two-guard prospect in the Class of 2013) – with comical ease Sunday.
It’s hard to imagine that a lot of Big Ten coaches aren’t going to figure out that Clark is among the best of the senior-to-be PGs when they and 100s of other recruiters beginning filing into gymnasiums for the Wednesday night (5 p.m., local time) for the start of the first of three NCAA “live” evaluation periods this month.
*His tendency to double-pump on drives or “stand around on the perimeter” too much can be nit-picked to death, as can his often lack of attention to defensive details.
Just don’t try to sell be on the proposition that there is another member of the Class of 2013 who is on the same level as both a short- and long-term prospect as 6-8 Julius Randle (Plano, TX).
*Kuran Iverson (West Hartford, CT, Northwest Catholic) has comparable skills as Randle – minus, of course, some 30 or so pounds.
Iverson, who – at times – looked like the best prospect at the NBA Players Association Top 100 Camp last month at the University of Virginia, is a marvelous jump shooter with a tendency to use that aspect of his game as a safety net of sorts.
Translated: He’ll “settle” for deep jumpers for stretches of games.
But, like Randle, he can beat any defender off the dribble – going right or left – to get into the lane at will and delivers passes right into teammates hands, when and where they need to be delivered.
*There wasn’t anyone who played any harder at the NBA Players Association Camp than 6-5 Davon Reed (Princeton, NJ, Princeton Day).
And that’s been the case over the first three days at Rancho High, as well.
But Reed has also been knocking in jump shots (mostly off the catch on Sunday, via passes from PGs Barber and Shelton Mitchell (Waxhaw, NC, Cuthbertson) at a nifty rate over the past three days.
*There were only three or four players in the camp that I had not watched in one venue or another since April.
One of those was among the players that impressed me most on Sunday.
And that was 6-8 Austin Nichols (Eads, TN, Briarcrest Christian).
Nichols seemed to get more aggressive – and gain confidence exponentially – with each passing day, capped by solid efforts in both games for PFJ- and Wiggins-led Duke.
He is about as refined, offensively, as any post player in the camp.
Frank Burlison is one of the most respected basketball writers and basketball talent evaluators in the world. He’s an original (1978) member of the McDonald’s All-American Selection/Advisory Committee and was inducted into the United States Basketball Writers’ Association Hall of Fame during the 2005 Final Four in St. Louis. You can catch his writing, player evaluations and comments on the sport – on all levels – at www.BurlisonOnBasketball.com and via his Twitter account – FrankieBur. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org