Nike Hoop Summit Day One (International Practices)
Each year since its inception, the Nike Hoop Summit has assembled some of the top prospects in international basketball in one convenient location for a week of practice in preparation for a game against the best and brightest of American high school basketball.
With representatives from ten different countries, this year's crop of talent may lack a prospect who clearly factors into next year's lottery like last seasons' did in Donatas Motiejunas, but is talented nonetheless and looking to take home a victory of their American counterparts for the second straight year. Notable players such as Jonas Valanciunas were unable to attend because of their ongoing domestic seasons, often due to playing important roles for their respective clubs, but this group certainly has plenty of talent on it and will be monitored closely by NBA teams.
Featuring a roster with a handful of near seven-footers and quite a bit a size on the perimeter as well, this year's team should present a unique challenge for the high school team. With outrageously productive junior players in Enes Kanter, Dejan Musli and Nikola Mirotic , two McDonald's All-Americans of Canadian origin in Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, this group has a good amount of size, talent and experience.
With a few practice sessions already under their belts in the confines of the Trail Blazers practice facility, we had a chance to take in the team's evening session on Wednesday. Already over some of the early jitters, jet lag, and language hurdles that often plague these practices, the team was able to get up and down for over an hour today.
Head Coach Rob Beveridge (fresh of a NBL Championship with the Perth Wildcats) began practice with full court shooting drills, followed by static stretching, which provided an interesting contrast to the dynamic warm-ups employed at the McDonald's practices just a week ago. Giving the players a chance to get shots up, Beveridge's clear focus today was zone offense, as the team spent nearly three-quarters of their allotted two hour timeframe working on that situation alone.
Spending some time giving specific instructions in a half court setting, Beveridge let the players compete and make some mistakes. Maximizing their limited time in the gym by making adjustments and correcting his players on the fly, we were able to take in quite a bit of semi-live action today as the staff refined some of their sets. Though the team appeared sloppy at times and didn't always get every drill right away, they looked a bit better than they did early in the week from what one scout told us.
Though he's not an elite athlete, Kanter's skill level is evident in settings like these. He's relentless in his pursuit of the ball off the rim, and has simply fantastic hands. One of the more interesting storylines of the Hoop Summit will be Kanter's impending matchup with McDonald's All-American Game MVP Jared Sullinger. Neither will wow anyone with their pure explosiveness, but both are highly skilled competitors who play the game like veterans.
Showing range, albeit inconsistently, out past the NCAA three point line, Mirotic won't blow you away with athleticism, but is a capable scorer with good touch. He's improved his ability to finish with his left hand around the rim and is obviously working on his perimeter repertoire.
-As has been the case in past seasons, the international roster featured a late addition in the form of 7'0 Angolan Youngster Yanick Moreira. He didn't participate in any of the drills today, spending most of practice standing off the court by himself.
-Jason Cadee, who hails from the same school that produced Andrew Bogut, The Australian Institute of Sport, is a coach's dream. Vocal and demonstrative when running his team, Cadee is an extension of Beveridge on the floor. His skinny frame limits his impact as a scorer, but he's a good player to have in an All-Star setting because of his willingness to share the ball and court vision.
-Mael Lebrun had a quiet day, deferring to his teammates after missing a couple of perimeter jumpers. A solid athlete hailing from Euroleague participant Orleans, he played low-mistake basketball for most of practice and seemed eager to make the extra pass and do some of the little things to help his team score.
-FMP Zeleznik center Dejan Musli didn't have an easy go of things on Wednesday. Matched up with Enes Kanter, Musli, the tallest and longest player in attendance this week, had no problem getting his hook shot off with his ridiculous length, but just couldn't get anything to fall. He appears to have lost some weight from the last time we saw him, but still doesn't have the polish that we saw from the likes of Mirotic.
-Duje Dukan showed an outstanding shooting stroke. His catch and shoot ability will be a major asset to him at Wisconsin at some point down the road.
*All heights with shoes.