Nike Hoop Summit Report (Day Two)

Nike Hoop Summit Report (Day Two)
Apr 11, 2008, 03:01 am
Nike Hoop Summit Report, Day One

Our second day at the Nike Hoop Summit was just as interesting as the first, with many NBA scouts still in attendance. Some of the NBA decision-makers left for Portsmouth after yesterday, and many from Portsmouth will be arriving here in Portland tomorrow. The focus from many teams in attendance seems to revolve around the big men on the international squad this year. Samardo Samuels, Serge Ibaka, Alexis Ajinca, Boban Marjanovic and Tim Olbrecht have all drawn attention in some way or another this week.

The day kicked off at 9:30 am at the Rose Garden right in Portland, where the aforementioned group of NBA scouts gathered to take in the lone international practice for the day. The practices for the World Select team so far have mainly focused on teaching concepts such as zone defense and half-court offense, and the scouts all seemed to agree that some up-tempo basketball would have gone a long way in showcasing the talent of the draft prospects on the team. Unfortunately, the international team’s night scrimmage was closed to both us and the scouts.

As mentioned yesterday, Samuels, Ajinca, and Ibaka all looked promising at times. This is somewhat encouraging in the case of Ajinca, who looked fairly inconsistent throughout the practice sessions last seasons, and has struggled to gain consistent rotation time with his club team overseas.

Another interesting center on the squad comes in the form of Serbian monster Boban Marjanovic, a 7’3” monster who both Jonathan Givony and Luis Fernandez wrote about in detail last summer. Though not a great athlete, Marjanovic has a good wingspan and a strong frame, and gets up and down the court fairly well for such a big player. Offensively, he has huge hands which have no problem handling passes from driving guards inside, and he shows nice touch near the basket, making it hard for any defender to stop him if given the right position to finish. We haven’t seen him do much with his back to the basket yet, but he did knock in a pair of hook shots in practice today. Another surprising wrinkle could be added to his game in the form of a jump-shot with a little work. When inside the free throw line, Marjanovic tends to catch the ball and quickly push it towards the basket, but he shows very nice form on his jumper when shooting around before and after practice, and his range extends all the way out to the three point line. At this point he would have to be wide open to have a chance at getting this shot off in a game, but this could develop into a solid weapon for the giant in the future.

The Serbian big has some work to do to work his way into the first round in the future. His size actually hurts him at times when it comes to man to man post defense. This results from him playing too upright, making it easier for smaller players that just use their leverage to back him down. Still, his long arms give him a chance to contest many shots at the rim. The big also must continue to get stronger and become more comfortable with his massive size on the court. For now, Marjanovic will still probably carry the label of ‘project big man,’ but he has tools that give him the upside to someday land in the first round.

Another prospect who displayed nice tools today was Lithuanian point guard Zygimantas Janavicius. He has great size for a point guard prospect, measuring in at 6’5” with a solid 176 pound frame. The 1989 born guard shows very good quickness with the ball and appears at his best in transition, where he finishes well and can set up his teammates successfully as well. The quickness translates to good penetrating ability in the half-court, but he must mature with his decision-making before we can legitimately discuss an NBA future. Janavicius seems to prefer the flashy pass to the fundamental play at this point, and this will certainly cost his team a couple possessions in the game on Sunday. Shooting is another area that must be looked at for the Lithuanian guard. He’ll knock down a mid-ranger off the dribble from time to time, but his mechanics need work and his shooting from beyond the three point line leaves a lot to be desired. Despite his weaknesses, Janavicius certainly has the upside to someday make it to the NBA.

The World Select team features four players opting to attend college in the United States, and today another one of these prospects managed to stand out at times despite the slow pace of practice. Canadian guard Devoe Joseph made a name for himself at the Under 19 Championships last August, and the scoring guard will head to Minnesota to play for Tubby Smith and the Gophers next season. At a first glance, Devoe appears under-developed physically compared to many college-bound players, but also ranks as the youngest player on this international squad by a good margin. The Juan Dixon comparisons might become common for the Canadian in the future given his ability to light it up from long range. Like Dixon, Joseph lacks the size and build you’d like to see from an NBA shooting guard. Still, he has displayed smooth athleticism and above average ball-handling on his few drives to the hoop throughout the practices. Considering his age, the talented guard will likely develop further physically, and a few more inches of growth would greatly increase his interest from NBA scouts. Devoe Joseph will certainly contribute during his freshman season with the Gophers, and has a chance to be a big-time scorer at some point during his college career.

After observing the activities at the Rose Garden during the morning, Blazers Director of NBA Scouting Mike Born was nice enough to drop me off near the Blazers practice facility, where the high school team assembled to practice in the evening. A couple interesting story-lines surround Team USA without even looking at it from a basketball perspective. Jrue Holiday, Drew Gordon, Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee will all head to UCLA next fall, and are teamed together for the first time on the U.S. team. Shooting guard Demar DeRozan will head to cross-town rival USC, where he said he looked forward to a rivalry with the 4 UCLA players in attendance. Tyreke Evans is another player to watch on this squad. The highest ranked player yet to commit, rumors lately have pointed towards the talented guard attending Memphis. For the TrueHoop readers out there, William Wesley will likely be in attendance for the game Saturday.

The Junior Select team practice was a nice change of pace from the world team practice in the morning. The players spent the first half-hour or so warming up with stretches and basic drills, and spent the remainder of practice scrimmaging a group of local players from colleges around the Portland area. The team scrimmaged three times for ten minutes per session and a five minute break in between.

Guard Jrue Holiday stood out again today as he’s done many times in the past with his well-rounded skills that constant allow him to make plays. On a roster with a handful of other play-making guards, it’s particularly impressive that Holiday starts at the point considering he could play off the ball just as effectively. The UCLA bound senior had his passing skills on full display today, and showed ridiculously nice form on his jumper. When you look at the balance of his base, his point of release, and the rotation on the ball, it’s hard to find anything to criticize about the way he shoots the ball. The same could be said for his defensive stance, though he may not have the ideal quickness laterally to lock down quicker guards at the NBA level. Holiday may not be the best pure athlete when it comes to run/jump explosiveness, but he shows great control of his body which allows for difficult finishes driving to the hoop in traffic.

Shooting guard Demar DeRozan also appeared quite intriguing at first glance. During warm-ups it’s hard not to notice his frame and build, and he shows very smooth but explosive athletic ability on the court. With well developed ball-handling skills and a supremely explosive first step, DeRozan can penetrate to the basket at will. He appeared to be quite unselfish for a high school shooting guard at times today, drawing the defense on multiple occasions and then kicking the ball back to the open shooter on the perimeter. The talented guard didn’t shoot many long range shots today, but shows good elevation and a high release point when shooting the ball. When watching DeRozan, it becomes clear that he has spent a great deal of time modeling his game after Kobe Bryant. It will be interesting to see if DeRozan’s full array of tools are on display during the game on Saturday.

Uncommitted guard Tyreke Evans also showed excellent scoring tools during practice. A slashing threat off the dribble, Evans finishes very effectively at the rim, and shows excellent range on his jumper as well. Often labeled a shoot-first player, the guard did show solid passing ability on a few drives today, though he’s a long way from being labeled a point guard. At his size, it will be important for Evans to show more point guard skills to the NBA scouts who will critique his game throughout next season. With his knack for putting the ball in the hoop, Tyreke Evans will likely emerge as an elite scorer at the college level, wherever he decides to enroll this fall.

We will continue to look at the rosters of both teams tomorrow, when the U.S. team will hold two practices and the World Select team holds their final practice before the game on Saturday.

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