O.J. Mayo and Corey Stokes Vs. Nick Calathes and Kosta Koufos
While these games were merely meant to allow players to get loose and get a grasp for playing with others who may not have necessarily been familiar with each other from the AAU circuit (playing for different sneaker companies), games quickly became awfully competitive, specifically the matchup that pegged Nick Calathes and Kosta Koufos versus O.J. Mayo and Corey Stokes. Obviously the duo of Mayo and Stokes was at a huge size disadvantage, standing 65 respectively and having to go up against the 65 Calathes and 71 Koufos. The size mismatches on both sides did not stop these four for playing with a fire that you would more likely see in an NCAA practice, however.
From the beginning, it was clear that these four players were going noticeably harder than any other players in the 2 on 2 drills. Whether it was the fact that they were excited for the opportunity to play versus players they may not have played against or we were just seeing these players exert their fullest competitive instincts was unbeknownst, but these four clearly had it out for each other. Quickly words were exchanged between Mayo and the squad of Koufos and Calathes, primarily due to questionable foul calls on both sides. The two teams continued to go back and forth for two games, with Koufos and Calathes emerging as narrow victors in both games. At the conclusion of each game, Mayo showed his displeasure in losing by slamming the ball on the floor and looking visibly upset in defeat.
In the games, Mayo showed his competitive drive by going hard on each and every play. This seemed to pick up the intensity of the game on both sides, as Koufos and Calathes then began going much harder. Mayo shot the lights out of the ball, hitting numerous NBA three pointers and beautiful fade-away jump shots out of the post. His partner Stokes, one of the deadliest shooters in the class of 2007, converted countless tough jump shots over the 71 Koufos, leaving many fans nodding their heads in the quick release three pointers and turnaround jumpers that he was hitting over the Greek giant.
The victorious team of Calathes and Koufos ran the pick and roll remarkably well, with Calathes making all of the right reads each time he came off of a screen. He was able to use his deceptive quickness and hesitation moves to get to the rim on Mayo, utilizing shot fakes to ensure he was able to get the ball up over the more athletic Huntington star. His teammate Koufos used his size advantage to its fullest potential, posting on Stokes at every available opportunity and scoring via his soft touch around the rim. While these were just two on two games and nothing to get overly excited about, it was awfully pleasing to see these players go so hard this early in the week.
Individual Player Breakdowns
O.J. Mayo, 65, 210 lbs, PG/SG, Signed with USC
Mayo was downright amazing in the four on four drills, running point guard the entire time and playing set up man to teammates Gani Lawal and J.J. Hickson. His outstanding court vision was exhibited through his numerous no look passes in traffic and remarkable left handed passes off the dribble. As the games became closer, the Huntington star began to take over scoring as well, hitting countless three pointers and displaying the competitive instinct that the great ones have. There was little more that Mayo could have done on day one on the floor, besides beating Koufos and Calathes in two on two.
Kosta Koufos, 71, 240 lbs, PF/C, Signed with Ohio State
Just like Mayo, Koufos was outstanding on the first day of practices, despite the fact that his high school season just came to a conclusion two days earlier. In the final game of four on four, he hit 4 three pointers and displayed the outstanding potential that everyone has seen in him as a pick and pop threat. He did struggle defensively a bit guarding athletic posts such as J.J. Hickson and Gani Lawal, but will have defensive dynamos Othello Hunter and Dallas Lauderdale to help him once he hits Ohio State. It was truly a sight to see a seven footer shooting the ball the way Kosta did, as one observer sitting near me whom had never seen him play previously told me: This kid plays like hes 66, but hes biggest guy out there! I cant believe what Im seeing.
Nick Calathes, 65, 190 lbs, PG, Signed with Florida
Calathes was solid Sunday with his heady and crafty play, doing all of the things that coaches love on the floor to make up for his lack of outstanding athleticism. He did a good job handling the ball, despite the immense ball pressure that was put on him by Mayo on the day. The basketball IQ and intangibles that he possesses are truly special, and it is clear that he was taught the fundamentals of the game at a very young age. Nick struggled a bit defensively on the day against more athletic guards and was a bit shaky from beyond the three point arc, but was able to consistently lead his team to victory through his cerebral play.
Donte Greene, 69, 210 lbs, SF/PF, Signed with Syracuse
As ridiculous as this may sound, Greene resembled a bit of a poor mans Kevin Durant on Sunday. He put the ball on the floor, shot the three pointer, and used his outstanding length and athleticism on both ends of the floor. While he is about an inch shorter and not the deadly shooter that KD was at this stage, the similarities in their games are definitely evident. The Baltimore native used his deceptive athleticism to block numerous shots in the paint against stronger post players, and was able to take opposing big men out to the wing and score on the perimeter against the more traditional posts. He is certainly a name that draft fans should keep etched in their heads, as many feel that he has a great chance of being a one and done player once he hits Syracuse.
J.J. Hickson, 69, 240 lbs., PF, Signed with North Carolina State
Having not seen Hickson since the Reebok Big Time in late July, it was surprising to see how much the athletic big man has expanded his game offensively in the past 8 months. Once considered a player who could only score from 8 feet and in, the Georgia native showed the ability to score also when facing the basket Sunday. He was able to convert on numerous 12-15 foot jump shots, while also utilizing his athleticism down low on the blocks. The N.C. State signee finished everything inside, running the pick and roll to perfection with O.J. Mayo. If Hickson is able to continue to improve at this rate, he will certainly be able to fit right in the rotation of the outstanding Wolfpack frontline of Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley next season.
The West team did not have as much competitive action going on, even though they did do a bit of five on five scrimmaging. Coach Taylor had more of a laid back atmosphere in his practice, looking to put in some basic offensive sets and out of bounds plays for his squad. The West team will start the terrific lineup of Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon, Kyle Singler, Michael Beasley, and Kevin Love. Here is a look at some of the more interesting names from the West unit:
Michael Beasley, 69, 240 lbs, PF, Signed with Kansas State
Beasley showed off his freakish athleticism in the three on two, two on one drills where he threw the ball off of the glass to himself for an amazing dunk over an unsuspecting teammate. He coasted a bit through some of the drills, but his remarkable skill set was on center stage on Sunday. Coach Taylor was forced to motivate Mike at times when he began to play lackadaisically, which is when the Notre Dame Prep forward started to turn it on. He hit a few NBA three pointers, put the ball on the floor well, and glided through the air like a 757 when going to the rim. While he may not have been the most productive player on the floor for his team in day one, he certainly left many in attendance drooling at the potential player he can be by the time it is all said and done.
Derrick Rose, 63, 185 lbs., PG, Signed with Memphis
The Chicago product put on a show early on in the fast break drills, showing off his excellent athleticism by throwing down some absolutely ferocious dunks. He did a great job of running his team in the five on five scrimmage, getting to the rim whenever he wanted and assuring that all of his teammates received an adequate amount of touches. Rose shot the ball a bit better from the perimeter as well, although his mechanics could still certainly use some refinement. Obviously he knows this however, as he was seen still shooting jumpers on the floor long after the majority of his teammates had already went back to the locker room to change.
Kevin Love, 610, 255 lbs, PF/C, Signed with UCLA
Love played his atypical game in the practice session, throwing outstanding outlet passes and being a downright bull inside. He was outstanding rebounding the ball and starting the break, while also knocking down a few perimeter jump shots. Kevin struggled a bit defensively on Cole Aldrich, who was absolutely on fire. Nothing new came out of Love Sunday, although he did look even trimmer then the last time we saw him play last month, versus Kyle Singler.
Kyle Singler, 68, 210 lbs, SF, Signed with Duke
Singler showed off his remarkable touch early in the day, knocking down multiple contested perimeter jumpers off of the glass. His smooth and cerebral style of play makes up for his lack of athleticism, allowing him to score against his more physically gifted counterparts. While Kyle did not stand out in any particular facet of the game Sunday, he was one of the most consistent players who we saw throughout the practice sessions.
Eric Gordon, 64, 212 lbs., PG/SG, Signed with Indiana
E.J. did not play much of the day, due to an injury that he sustained in an Indiana high school game. He did go through the 5-on-0 drills, and showed the incredible explosiveness that has been driving his game for years now. What was quite evident however, was that Gordon had grown since the Big Time in July. He now appears to be a legitimate 64 in shoes, which will bode for him greatly when it comes time for him to bolt to the NBA given his lack of a true position.
Jerryd Bayless, 63, 200 lbs, PG/SG, Signed with Arizona
The Arizona combo guard put his athleticism on display from the second practice started, throwing down some breathtaking dunks in the opening drills. His leaping ability is awfully reminiscent of current Philadelphia 76er and former McDonalds All American Louis Williams. Bayless was great shooting the ball from the perimeter, hitting numerous guarded three pointers with his ability to simply outjump smaller defenders with his incredible elevation on his jumper. He did not have the opportunity to play much point guard on the day however, so we did not have the chance to judge how well his transition to playmaker is coming along.
Cole Aldrich, 611, 250 lbs., C, Signed with Kansas
Aldrich was one of the bigger surprises on day one, seemingly converting at least 80% of the shots that he put up from the field. He boasts a soft touch inside, while also knocking down multiple 15-18 foot jump shots on the day. The Minnesota native finished some surprisingly athletic conversions inside, given his immense size. If he is able to continue playing like this, he will certainly be able to help the Jayhawks out next year as a freshman, given the possibility of them losing Julian Wright and/or Darrell Arthur to the NBA.
Kosta Koufos Interview
DraftExpress: Glenoak had a bit of an early departure in the state tournament this year, losing in the final four after many had picked you to win the state championship. You had an outstanding year however finishing second for Mr. Basketball in Ohio. How do you think your season went individually?
Koufos: I thought I played pretty well. Obviously I felt like I could have played better. My goal this year was to try to make everyone around me better, which I feel like I did a pretty good job with. We took Glenoak to their first final four appearance in school history. I felt pretty comfortable with my season personally, and couldnt be more happy with the rest of my team.
DraftExpress: Given Ohio States final four run, there is a incredible likelihood that Greg Oden declares for the NBA Draft and the strong possibility of Mike Conley Jr. declaring for the draft, you could possibly have a much larger role next year at Ohio State. Say Greg is gone .what do you see your role being next year at Ohio State?
Koufos: I mean, Greg Oden and Mike Conley are great players, and Coach Matta was really fortunate to recruit such great players. Ive just gotta do my best and whatever position he wants me to play, I just have to work on and hopefully we can win another national championship.
DraftExpress: Tell me a bit about the role that Coach Matta has specifically told you that youre going to play as a Buckeye. Are you going to be more of a pick and pop guy, or more of a traditional low post center?
Koufos: More of an in and out guy. If I see mismatches that are going to utilize me that way. If I have a smaller guy on me, Im going to take him down low and vice versa. Im just going to try to cause mismatch problems in the college game.
DraftExpress: So Ohio State will probably run some high low schemes with you in the high post and Othello Hunter down low?
Koufos: I dont know. Were going to be running the four out, one in most likely. Its a great offense and Coach Matta is a great coach, so Im really looking forward to seeing what the college game is like.
DraftExpress: Tell me about your plans for the summer?
Koufos: Well, Im playing in the McDonalds Game and then the Jordan Classic. Then Im going to do training with a couple of pro players like LeBron. Then Im going to Greece to play with the 20 and under national team, and hopefully work my way up to the senior team.
DraftExpress: Now are you going to be with Greece for the U-21 World Championships as well?
Koufos: Coach Yannakis came over and saw me play. The head coach of the Greek National Team came over and saw me play. You cant jump. Im an 18 year old right now and you cant jump all the way up to 21 and over. Youve gotta be able to prove yourself, so I think Ive got a pretty good chance of making it.
DraftExpress: So then this summer you will be playing with the Greek Under 18 National Team?
Koufos: Yes sir.
DraftExpress: Have you had the chance to meet any of your prospective teammates on the Greek National Team?
Koufos: No sir. I just read up on them, on the players on the Greek national team. Im just going to go over there and try to make as many friends as possible.
DraftExpress: Now once youre done with your time in Greece, are you going to head down to Ohio State early to try to get in the last session of summer school and begin training down there?
Koufos: Well in June Ill probably go to Ohio State just to get a feel for it first and then Ill go to Greece. Ill probably be back in late in late August or so, and Ill just go down there and start training.
Jerryd Bayless Interview
DraftExpress: Youre a guy whose played both the point and shooting guard positions throughout your high school career. What position are you going to play next year at Arizona?
Bayless: Coach Olson said that Im going to be playing a little bit of both. Just whatever the team needs out of me. If the team needs a little more of a scorer, theyll put me at the two. If they need me to get the ball around, theyll put me at the one. He definitely said though that hes going to be playing me at both.
DraftExpress: Do you have any preference personally as to what position youll play?
Bayless: Not really. Im comfortable with both. It just depends on the situation and what I want to run at the time.
DraftExpress: Now you committed early to Arizona, de-committed to Arizona, before eventually deciding to sign with them. Can you tell me a little about what was going on in your mind around that time?
Bayless: I just wasnt comfortable at that time. I was comfortable at first and then the more I thought it over, I became uncomfortable and told them that I wanted to rethink it over. They supported me with that and stayed with me, which is why I decided to recommit to Arizona.
DraftExpress: What would you personally say that the strengths of your game are?
Bayless: My ability to score and my athleticism are probably my biggest strengths.
DraftExpress: Now what aspects of your game do you think you really need to improve on, before you can make it to the next level?
Bayless: Definitely my rebounding. Thats the biggest thing that I want to improve on. I think Ive improved on my point guard skills a lot within the last year or so, so the main thing that I want to improve on for the next level is definitely my rebounding.
DraftExpress: Can you tell me what its like being a guy who has consistently scored 30 plus points per game throughout your high school career to have to come off the bench in this game? You have Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon, Kyle Singler, Michael Beasley, and Kevin Love starting is it going to be kind of tough for you coming off the bench?
Bayless: Im just going to go out there and play. I might not start I probably wont start. I mean, its the McDonalds All American Game. Im just going to go out there and play my game and hopefully everything goes well.