Nike Hoop Summit collides with Portsmouth…again

Nike Hoop Summit collides with Portsmouth…again
Feb 05, 2006, 04:55 am
For the second straight year, the Nike Hoop Summit will be conducted at the same exact time as the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament.

The Nike Hoop Summit is “the country's premiere annual basketball game featuring America's top senior boy high school players taking on a World Select Team comprised of the world's top players 19-years-old or younger.” The game itself will be help on April 8th at 4 PM eastern time. Practices for both the high school seniors and international players will be conducted starting on Monday the 3rd in Memphis.

The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament is one of only two official NBA pre-draft camps, traditionally held in the weekend following the NCAA final four in Portsmouth, Virginia. The organizers attempt to assemble the 64 best NCAA senior draft prospects in the country for an 8 team, 11 game tournament held over a four day period, this time from April 5th to April 8th.

According to the official website: “At first glance, the venerable Portsmouth Invitational Tournament is a showcase for senior college basketball players to display their talents and abilities before general managers and scouts from NBA teams… it is a priceless opportunity to impress not only the assembled basketball intelligentsia of the NBA with literally hundreds of years of expertise in assessing talent, but their counterparts who are trying to find players to populate the top leagues in Europe.”

Last year’s PIT looked like it had the potential to be one of the best in quite some time. Players such as Luther Head, Jason Maxiell, Daniel Ewing, Eddie Basden, Rawle Marshall, Taylor Coppenrath and Jawad Williams initially committed to playing at the event. As the date got closer, though, more and more players began to pull their name out, until out of the list above, only Williams, Coppenrath and Maxiell were left out of the “marquee names”.

Maxiell ended up helping his stock out tremendously at the camp by completely dominating the competition and showing skills few knew he had playing in Cincinnati’s system. He ended up being the first Portsmouth participant to be drafted in the 1st round in quite some time. Not everyone in attendance got to witness the entire show, as by the 2nd day many GM’s and scouts began to trickle out of the gym and make their way to Memphis where the Nike Hoop Summit was having private practices and scrimmages. By the last day, the area holding all the NBA people was almost completely deserted. One scout I spoke with at the time justified it by saying: “I can see these NCAA guys all year long and in private workouts…with the international kids it’s just not the same…who knows when they will ever be over in the States right under our noses again?”

The ironic thing is, the Hoop Summit International roster never really panned out. While the initial roster had extremely intriguing players like Nemanja Aleksandrov, Marco Belinelli, Ian Mahinmi and others on it; the final roster ended up being a bit of a dud, with only one or two longshot potential future first rounders in Greek Dusan Sakota or Turkish Semih Erden. The high school roster was excellent, highlighted by eventual lottery pick Martell Webster, but almost all of the top talent showed its stuff numerous times in the high school all-star games and practices preceding the event, as well as during the season where they were scouted heavily.

So this year it appears that scouts and GMs will have a similar dilemma…do they stay at Portsmouth and try and find the next Jason Maxiell, Willie Green or Flip Murray, or do they go see what the Nike Hoop Summit has in store for them?

Thankfully for Portsmouth, the situation is quite different than it was last year. For one, an age limit is now in place, meaning that even if guys like Greg Oden or Brandan Wright are in attendance in Memphis, they’ll still have to go through a year of college first before they are draft eligible. With the International roster things are a bit different considering that it’s made up of “the world's top players 19-years-old or younger,” meaning technically some of the players may end up being draft-eligible. Looking at the list of players who might be realistically selected, only a few interesting names pop out as far as this year’s draft is concerned. Keep in mind that this game is held in the middle of the European season, which means that the most interesting prospects will almost certainly not be allowed to attend by their teams.

Nemanja Aleksandrov could be the headliner here, as he should be right in the midst of his recovery process from a torn ACL that kept him out of the entire season so far, as well as last year’s Hoop Summit. I spoke to his agent David Bauman who said that he has indeed been contacted by representatives of the Nike Hoop Summit, and even though no final decision has been made, they think that for him to come back in early April might be “a little big aggressive”. For those wondering what is going on with Nemanja Aleksandrov these days, Bauman says he is “practicing everyday, looking great, and will sign with a team in Yugoslavia sometime next week.” Bauman also mentioned that Nemanja worked out amongst other players at a public gym in front of Minnesota and Seattle representatives recently, is shooting the ball extremely well as of late, and will be coming to the States in late February for a final checkup with their doctor.

Ante Tomic from KK Zagreb is another potential candidate, but his team will be playing their last game of the season in the Adriatic League on that day, with other dates in the Croatian league shortly after, and they probably will not be interested in letting their starting center go chase an NBA contract. Getting Yi Jianlian would be a huge coup (he played in the game two years ago but is still eligible age-wise), but the committee will have to go through plenty of red-tape in China to accomplish that. Ukrainian giant Roman Gumenyuk is an option if his team does not make the playoffs in Serbia. Craig Miller of USA Basketball did not sound too concerned saying that they “are way ahead of schedule this year in regards to the International players and have already been talking with the right people to get some very good players in.” History has shown us that even players who don’t have the biggest names can come in and help their stock tremendously. An almost previously unknown Dirk Nowitzki exploding for 33 points a few years back and riding that momentum all the way into the NBA draft lottery is a great example of that. Tony Parker is another.

The talented 1988 International class might end up being the place that the organizers look to bring in talented players that might be able to get away with leaving their teams in Europe for a week. Alexis Ajinca, Ludovic Vaty and Antoine Diot (1989) are three intriguing young French prospects playing for legendary talent hotbed INSEP in Paris who could get a look. Super talented Italian Danillo Gallinari or Armani Milano, Victor Claver of Pamesa Valencia and another Chinese prospect, Yi Li (1987), are a few others.

The 2004 Hoop Summit, conducted during Final Four weekend in San Antonio that year, featured outstanding talent both on the domestic and international side with top prospects such as Andrea Bargnani, Yi Jianlian, Roko Leni-Ukic and Sergio Rodriguez just to name a few. If the USA Basketball committee and FIBA are able to bring in anything remotely resembling the terrific bunch they did two years ago, the game will bring in scouts and GMs by the horde. The biggest question is, will they be allowed to attend the more interesting practice sessions beforehand?

New rules set by the NBA in conjunction with the NBA age-limit state that NBA personnel are not allowed to watch high school players practice. From speaking with the NBA’s Scouting Service, this could end up being an issue for scouts trying to decide which game to attend. Craig Miller, Assistant Executive Director of Communications at USA Basketball had a definitive answer for us: “It’s our understanding that NBA scouts can attend the Nike Hoop Summit game, but will not be allowed to attend practices involving high school players. They will be allowed to scout the practices of the World Team, though.” When asked how many practices there might be, he said that is not set in stone at this point, but we can expect “7-8 practices from Monday [the 3rd] to Friday [the 7th].” Considering that Portsmouth only kicks off on the evening of the 5th (a Wednesday), that should allow scouts and GMs enough time to bounce back and forth between both events to get their fix.

Regardless of what happens, Portsmouth should be in good shape as far as the presence of the NBA goes. As always, players that decide not to attend the camp will put themselves in danger of not being invited to Chicago if there are too many underclassmen competing with them. Ryan Blake, assistant director of NBA scouting, says that is something players need to keep in mind: “we’ve seen a trend lately of players not accepting their invites to Portsmouth that end up not making it to Chicago…We’re expecting a rush of underclassmen to enter this draft, particularly from the junior ranks, and there is a good chance that teams will want to see the underclassmen in Chicago rather than the seniors who had a chance to showcase their skills in Portmsouth…If teams want to see a player play in a setting like this, then that is not something that could end up hurting you.”

DraftExpress will be present at the event once again this year to provide our regular in-depth coverage, this time with multiple staff members on hand. From what we are hearing from some of the seniors, invites for Portsmouth are already starting to go out. Stay tuned as we continue to assemble our list, or drop us a line if you know about a player that has already been invited. We'll be chiming in in the next few weeks to talk about prospects we think deserve consideration or discuss certain prospects who probably think they don't need to go, but might want to reconsider.

*Clarification*: The first edition of this article mentioned Nemanja Aleksandrov working out for Minnesota and Seattle recently. There was a bit of a misunderstanding on my end as while he did indeed work out in front of representatives from both teams, it was not in a private setting but rather at a public gym in Zeleznik that Nemanja frequents among many other basketball players.

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