The third day of the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament was an odd one. At least half of the scouts, GM's and executives took off for Memphis after yesterday, leaving between 25-50 NBA personnel, many frustrated players, agents and European scouts who could only wonder out loud in every audible conversation what the hell happened to Portsmouth? As always, I was not about to let that discourage me from making the most of this event. I still managed to have lots of fun, talk to a ton of people, learn a lot about the draft, and discuss many of the pressing issues that will be openly discussed amongst everyone in the business over the next 2 Â½ months.
There were a lot of interesting things to talk about, and many different people available to discuss all the different angles involved from all sides possible.
The topic of what to do with Portsmouth to make it relevant again was thrown back and forth all day long as well and always produced a lot of interesting opinions. We'll probably write a separate article regarding what people here think went wrong and maybe what could be done to fix it in the future, so stay tuned for that. Just to clarify, DVD's of all the game were made and I am certain that the NBA teams will review them carefully to see what they missed out on. The practices in Memphis probably weren't being recorded, so I guess the teams did what they needed to do. Guys like Danny Ainge
and Mitch Kupchak
were still here for most of the day, but many other recognizable faces were gone.
The last topic that was on everyone's mind was sparked by Brandon Bowman
's decision to "test the waters" and enter the NBA draft. It has now become to norm for junior NCAA players to enter the draft and use up their use it or lose it draft card that has proven to be very valuable to some in regards to learning about their strengths and weaknesses, playing against great competition in Chicago, and seeing what they need to do to improve their draft stock for the following year. The problem is, everyone is doing it now, so the Chicago field will be crowded with talented juniors who have absolutely no intention of staying in the draft, essentially squeezing out seniors and 1983 Europeans for whom this is their last chance to try and prove that they can make the league. This is a waste of time for NBA teams, and not really fair to the seniors who deserve a shot to show their skills, even if they are a little less talented than the underclassmen who are declaring. You would think that Portsmouth might be able to fill that gap, but a reasonable solution to keep everyone happy has not been brought up yet. Many are hoping that this issue gets resolved this summer in the new CBA discussions. In the meantime, expect some talented juniors to be left off the Chicago list in favor of some more deserving seniors. That won't be the case for all of them, though. The 20+ rule which appears to be a done deal from what people are saying is going to make things even more complicated for the NCAA seniors.
Back to the camp itself. Obviously there was a lot of stuff on people's minds today, but there was some basketball being played in-between as well.
The first game pitted Beach
Barton Ford and Tidewater Sealants, and it was a very good first game that came down to one last shot at the very end. Tidewater ended up coming out on top, outscoring Beach Barton 91 to 88. The losers were led by Jackie Manuel
and Ronnie Price
and they played their final game. The winners were led by Jawad Williams
and they'll be playing in the consolation game tomorrow afternoon. Jawad Williams, North Carolina
As we mentioned yesterday, Jawad had a terrible game in his first outing at Portsmouth and really needed to have a good showing in order to salvage something from this camp and not hurt himself by showing up. He probably accomplished that today, and his place in Chicago should be secure as long as he does OK tomorrow (if anyone will be watching). Jawad obviously realized the urgency of the situation and came out extremely aggressive from the very start. This time a lot of his shots were falling for him at the beginning, which opened up his game to show the scouts the other versatile parts that made him an intriguing prospect to begin with. He was putting the ball on the floor a lot (his biggest weakness I think besides his tendency to coast) and looked pretty good for the most part while doing so. A nice pull-up mid-range jumper off the dribble showed me something that I hadn't seen much of at UNC before, and made me a little bit more optimistic about his chances to make the conversion to the 3 at the next level. His defense was terrific as usual, and it was very fun to see him and Jackie Manuel
go at it on both ends of the court for once while neither of them were cutting each other any slack. Jawad was so intent on taking things into his own hands today and overcoming how bad his team sucked, in order to win another game and gain more exposure for himself, that he even started taking the ball up the floor as if he's a PG and running the offense from the perimeter by himself. This was a big surprise to me, and kind of showed that Jawad does have a little bit of fire in him if you get him riled up enough to the point that he will decide to take matters into his own hands. He finished the game with 20 points, 12 rebounds and the win. His outside shot wasn't really falling for him today (0-3 3P) but besides that Jawad did everything humanly possible to help himself out. Jackie Manuel, North Carolina
After looking like Jason Richards
on on the offensive end at times yesterday, it wasn't really surprising to see Manuel come down to earth a bit today. He was again handling the ball quite a bit for his team, and looking pretty damn good while doing so considering how bad I thought his handle was before. His shot is going to need some major refinement, his release point is very inconsistent and he struggles with it badly whether he's open or not. His athletic ability was once again on full display when finishing an alleyoop, soaring for rebounds and playing terrific defense. Manuel finished with 14 points (3-7 FG, 8-8 FT) and 10 rebounds and secured a spot on my All Portsmouth team, despite losing twice and getting sent home after today.Ronnie Price, Utah Valley State
We talked about Ronnie Price
as a possible sleeper prospect a couple of months ago, and after a somewhat shaky first game where things weren't going very well for him as he was forced to play the 2 mostly next to TJ Sorrentine
, Price today came to life and showed that he's a pretty interesting prospect despite the fact that he plays for a very small school. Being the Man at a tiny school as far as the NCAA powerhouses are concerned is not a great way to develop into an excellent point guard, and you could tell that it will take Price a little while until he fully adjusts to having some decent teammates next to him that will help carry the offensive load. Today he showed everyone in the building that he is a very athletic, physical and talented guard that has to be considered when you're talking about college players for the next level. He has a very nice stroke from outside--even if it wasn't consistently falling for him in this tournament, excellent speed in the open floor, good tools to play defense on most PG's, and he showed some nice sparks of potential at the PG spot that may lead someone to believe that he has what it takes to make the transition in the NBA. Today and yesterday he showed that when it really counts he can hit the outside shot, as in both games he hit big shots at the end to help his team rally and make things interesting at the end. His line would have been a lot better if a couple of open shots he took from outside wouldn't have rimmed out, but all in all he left a favorable impression on people who are just now starting to get familiar with his game. He reminds me a bit of Ricky Minard from last year, minus an inch or two but with more meat on his body. I was and still am a big fan of Minard so obviously that's a compliment.
The second game matched up Holiday Inn Portsmouth and Norfolk Sports Club. This was a high scoring affair that featured a lot of up and down play, and was much welcomed by the large Portsmouth crowd that showed up. The Dajuan Wagner Award
Our daily award goes out to a true Wagner clone, David Logan
from Indianapolis, the Division II player of the year. Logan might be too good (no sarcasm at all) to win this award here actually, he's an incredible athlete who flies up and down the floor and soars off the ground to throw down rim rattling dunks, despite being pretty small and skinny even for a PG. He's a terrific scorer who can get his shot off basically whenever he pleases, and is capable of putting up points in bundles (16 points in the first half to go along with 0 assists). Therefore, I'd call Logan a Rich Man's Dajuan Wagner
actually, because he is so damn good at what he does, especially when it comes to shooting, as much as his Portsmouth teammates might hate him for it. The thing to keep in mind here is that Logan is a Divison I caliber player that could have been terrific on many strong NCAA teams, he just had some grade problems so he ended up going to Division II. That meant that he was always going to be the best player on the floor for his team, and for them to win Logan had to score 25+ every night, no if's and's or but's. Tonight Logan finished with 23 points in 22 minutes. What was strange was that for large stretches of the game the coach decided to go with Logan at the point and Fili Rivera, a very pure playmaking PG, at the 2. That made very little sense considering their strengths and weaknesses, but that was what ended up happening. Rivera still managed to end up with 8 assists, despite looking a bit confused and lost a bit out there at times, but in my opinion will still get a shot to show off his stuff at Chicago based on the goods he delivered all year long and the incredible speed in which he gets up and down the floor. He's clearly a player that needs to be put in charge of a well designed system and have the ball in his hands in order to make his presence felt on the game. The last thing anyone would call what happened out there at Portsmouth is a well designed system, but I'm not sure how much of that was Rivera's fault. Jeremiah Massey, Kansas State
Massey was responsible for two of the best dunks we've seen in this camp so far, both high flying and incredibly emphatic to absolutely posterize the poor Mustafa Al-Sayyad. There isn't a quicker PF at Portsmouth frankly, and Massey makes life very hard on whoever is trying to guard him. The problem is that he's a 6-6 PF, with almost no perimeter skills that would lead you to believe that he has what it takes to move down a position in the NBA. He would be a terrific player in Europe I would imagine, and should be worth keeping track of to see how his outside game develops. Mustafa Al-Sayyad, Fresno State
Al-Sayyad did more than just got posterized by Massey, he also showed off some very interesting skills that lead you to believe that he might be one of the more intriguing big men at this camp when it comes to pure potential. He's got good size, a nice body, and very good athletic ability which allows him to get up high and challenge many shots, but he is seriously lacking in the polished skills department. He tries to block every shot, jump aimlessly at every rebound instead of boxing out and establishing position, and appears to have no range outside of 5 feet. His offensive game is very limited at the moment, and he appears to be somewhat mechanical on top of that. He's only been playing the game for five years now, but as Ryan Blake said in our interview last week, he's someone that NBA teams should certainly keep track of.Willie Jenkins, Tennessee Tech
Another nice surprise that emerged from this camp was the 6-6, 220 pound Jenkins, who decided to take a different route to impress the scouts. Jenkins was his team's utility guy today. He did a little bit of everything, scoring some points, rebounding, making great passes, playing tough defense and generally just showing a good attitude whenever he stepped on to the court. His outside shot wasn't really falling for him today, but from what we saw in warm-ups and based on the statistical production on his career so far, he appears to own a pretty nice stroke from behind the arc. Jenkins wasn't forcing anything and from what we've learned so from Portsmouth is that that is unfortunately not a great way to stand out here. In spite of that, though, I think he still did enough to earn another look though from what he showed. Quotes from after the gameJonathan Givony
: Willie, you showed a little bit of everything today. Just all kinds of skills. Was that what you were trying to show?Willie Jenkins
: I just wanted to play a complete game today. I needed to show that I can play the 2, maybe a little bit of the point, so I just needed to show that I can do everything. Tomorrow when my shot's going to be fallingwatch out. Jonathan Givony
: It seems like there has been a little bit of selfish play at this camp here sometimes, I'm not sure but it seems that some players think that might be the only way to put up numbers. Do you think that you moving the ball around more might have hurt you a little?Willie Jenkins
: That's not my game man, I'm not a ballhog type guy. I know I can score, so I just tried to get everyone the ball, put it in a good spot for them to score and hopefully end up looking good myself in the process. I hope it worked (laughs)Jonathan Givony
: I think it did. What was the main thing you need to show the scouts that you can do, something that they may not know about you?Willie Jenkins
: Probably that I can create my own shot off the dribble. My outside shot wasn't falling for me tonight, I wasn't really forcing it, but I was more concerned with putting the ball on the floor and making things happen. Either for myself or for others. Jonathan Givony
: How are you feeling about yourself right now? Being from Tennessee Tech and all, you're going up against guys here from programs with some serious hype. Willie Jenkins
: Oh I never had any doubt in myself, I know I can play with anyone in the country. I played at UMass for two years so I've gone up against a lot of these schools before. I know what it takes, I work hard,tomorrow I'm planning on putting on a big show. Jonathan Givony
: Alright Willie, I'm looking forward to it.
Taylor Coppenrath, Vermont
For the second straight day, Coppenrath had a nice line but didn't really do all that much to erase the doubts people have about his ability to play the PF position in the NBA. He might be lacking the athletic ability needed to make up for a lack of size or strength, and it took him an awful lot of time to make up his mind regarding what he wanted to do once he got the ball in the high or low post. It would have been nice to see him take some more shots from the perimeter, but Coppenrath isn't really the type of guy to force things just to impress people it seems. He's a smart and crafty player who almost always gets his points no matter what, but he did not help himself much with the way he's played at Portsmouth so far, getting outplayed by both Maxiell and Homan in head to head matchups. He'll have one last shot to impress the scouts tomorrow. Quotes from after the gameJonathan Givony
: Hey Taylor, tough losshow did you feel about the way you played today?Taylor Coppenrath
: Uhh, I played alright. I think I may have taken a couple more shots than I usually do. It was kind of toughWe got blocked a couple of times. We were trying to get up and down the floor a little more, I was maybe holding on to the ball too much and that really didn't work out too well, but there's plenty to work on for our next game. We still have another game tomorrow so we'll see what happens tomorrow. Jonathan Givony
: I didn't see the boxscore yet, but it kind of seems like even when you're not having a great game you always find a way to get your 20 and 10 or 20 and 8 regardless. How do you manage to do that?Taylor Coppenrath
: I just try to put myself in the best position possible. When the shot goes up or somebody drops off I try to get to the weakside and look for an easy putback, just try go get position down lowI think I made a couple of good moves there, try to run the floor a little bitget some easy layups, So you know when I get the opportunities I just try to make them count, I usually get them to go down. Tonight I took a few more shotsbut you know, some went down, but I missed a couple of easy ones as well. Jonathan Givony
: Do you think you showed enough in your two games here to get invited to Chicago?Taylor Coppenrath
: I don't know, I think so. I think I did some good things against the competition out here. Points and rebounds, couple of steals, couple of assists, I tried to limit my turnovers soI think they may have wanted me to shoot a little more from outside, but you know if I'm open from outside I'll take it, but I just tried to take the ball to the basket and hopefully good things will happen. Jonathan Givony
: Do you see yourself as more of a 3 or a 4 in the NBA?Taylor Coppenrath
: Probably more of a 4, but I'll definitely have to be able to shoot from outside. Jonathan Givony
: Any idea what you measured out at here?Taylor Coppenrath
: 6-9. 6-8 Â¾ is my true height so about 6-9 with shoes on or something. Jonathan Givony
: Did you ever feel any doubts about whether or not you should have come to Portsmouth? With all the people pulling out and allis it kind of frustrating looking at where all the scouts are supposed to be and noticing that there's basically nobody here?Taylor Coppenrath
: I still feel good about it. I think it was a good decision to come, just do what I personally can. Scouts have seen me all year, I think they know what my game is about. They're still here, some of them at least. I think that this weekend, no matter what happens, I improved myself. I think I did more for myself by being invited and coming rather than being invited and not showing up at all. Jonathan Givony
: Any thoughts on the fact that most of the top scouts, GM's and executives are in Memphis right now checking out a bunch of borderline first round high schoolers and 18 year old Europeans who might become prospects in a couple of years, instead of being here watching the seniors like you? Does that make you angry at all?Taylor Coppenrath
: No. If they want to go thereI'm just hoping to get invited to some team, a camp, Chicago, the draft, just try and prove as much as possible, from now until then. Show how much I've improved and see what happens then. Jonathan Givony
: Thanks a lot Taylor. Best of luck.
Jared Homan, Iowa State
The best player on the floor today, on either team, Homan continued to impress with the way he played on both ends of the court and basically did everything he could to show that he could be a solid rotation player in the NBA on the right team. Homan was extremely active in today's game, using his big body and broad shoulders to muscle his man on both offense and defense and showing a lot of skills that could make him extremely intriguing to certain teams in the NBA. He did a great job on the glass, scored a lot of points by taking good shots from different spots inside the arc, knocked down a couple of mid-range jumpers, showed a nice hook shot, blocked Taylor Coppenrath
a couple of times inside the paint and played very solid defense using his accurate lateral movement. He's a smart, confident and extremely aggressive player, and he continued to show that he is very deserving of being on the 2nd round of our mock draft and even bumped himself up a couple of notches on his way to Chicago. Quotes from after the gameJonathan Givony
: Great game tonight Jared, how are you feeling right now?Jared Homan
: I feel good, its great to get a win and play well. Everyone is getting some solid looks out there and playing well together. We're playing pretty good as a team and we've only been together for like two days. Jonathan Givony
: Anything specific you were trying to show today? It seems like you had a very well rounded game. Jared Homan
: I'm not really trying to show anything, I'm just trying to stick to my game. Bang, be physical and play hard, that's all I'm trying to do. Jonathan Givony
: Do you think you're more of a power forward or a center in the NBA?Jared Homan
: I'd like to think that I can play either, I just like to be physical and bang and if they put me at PF or at C I'll do either. Jonathan Givony
: You had some pretty nasty blocks on Coppenrath today, had do you think he's feeling about that right now?Jared Homan
: (laughs) He's got kind of an awkward shot where he brings the ball up behind his back so its kind of easy to block, but he's a good player. Jonathan Givony
: Thanks for your time Jared. Best of luck tomorrow. When's your next game?Jared Homan
: Thanks. 7:30 tomorrow.
The 9 o'clock game was a blowout once again. Norfolk Naval won by 34 last night, and tonight they got blown out by 33 by Portsmouth Sports Club. This was a fairly competitive blowout, though, there was no real garbage time and everyone kept playing as if it was close. Mindaugas Katelynas, UT-Chattanooga
Katelynas really intrigued yesterday with the way he played, and today he continued right where he left off and had yet another terrific game for himself, despite the fact that none of his teammates could get anything going. He was matched up with Chuck Hayes
for big parts of the night, one of the best defenders in the NCAA, and he still managed to get his points in a variety of ways, basically being the only reason many of the scouts, agents, and crowd stayed even when his team was losing by 30+. Yesterday when I told some people that I thought he has a decent shot at getting drafted they thought I was going a bit overboard, now I'm starting to wonder whether he might be able to sneak into the first round if he keeps playing like this in Chicago
The name Kirilenko came up in conversations around him 3-4 times today, once from an agent, once from a coach, once from a writer who emailed me, and once when I was trying to think if he would be the most athletic European player in the NBA right off the bat (I actually think he would). That's should he make it of course. Katelynas showed off a couple of new tricks in his arsenal, including a nice turnaround jumpshot, a decent mid-range J and some pretty good defense as well. Once he got into the passing lanes to come up with a steal and then breakaway from everyone else using his speed, bringing the crowd to its feet with a fantastic dunk. Another time he elevated to block a shot and then just accelerated and beat everyone else down the floor, catching the ball and then coming up with yet another fantastic dunk that made the crowd very happy. Besides that he showed that his handle still needs some work, its not terrible but you can tell that he's been played strictly in the post for the last 4 years. No sign of three point range either today, he tried to hit the three twice and wasn't very close on either try. I refuse to believe that there is a Lithuanian out there who isn't a dead-eye shooter, but Katelynas wants to prove me wrong I suppose. What really makes him an intriguing prospect is that not only is he a freak athlete, but he uses his athleticism to the fullest; skying for rebounds, running the floor like a madman, often being one step quicker on the defensive end (although he needs work here, especially on the perimeter), but still playing within himself and not forcing anything crazy. He's a team player that doesn't mind making the extra pass and is always there to set a solid pick. He may not have been the best player at the camp so far (although he's not far behind) but he is certainly the most intriguing in terms of what he brings to the table. He looked a little bit overwhelmed after the game, as he had a huge crowd of kids looking for autographs, girls looking to get a picture of him, drooling agents handing out business cards, etc. He may have to get used to it, though, and I'm not sure he'll be complaining about it anytime soon. He's really opened up some eyes with the way he's played over the past few days. While most of the GM's and scouts are in Memphis checking out 18 and 19 year old Europeans, I seriously doubt any of them have the kind of upside that Katelynas does right now. Aaron Miles, Kansas
I am really starting to worry about Miles a bit. Not only am I the only one who appears to think that he has any shot at making the league next year, but he is giving his doubters more and more ammo every single time he plays. Miles just absolutely refuses to look for a shot for himself, and since none of his teammates except Katelynas were doing anything, he ended up looking horrible as well. One time the shot clock was running down and someone passed him the ball and screamed for him to shoot, even though it didn't look like he wanted to he hit the three with a hand in his face, but then proceeded to do nothing offensively for the rest of the game. An interesting sequence happened when he went to the scorers table to wait on getting subbed back into the game. Miles was about a foot away from me standing at half-court, and he was acting like an assistant coach for the entire time; warning his teammates of picks that were coming on, urging his guys to get a stop, informing them of who the open man was, etc. I thought he may have been overdoing it a bit at first, but his teammates definitely respond. With that said, Miles hasn't helped himself a whole lot at this camp so far. His numbers just aren't there and when his team gets blown out by 30+ with him at the helm (even though he's splitting time evenly with Taron Downey) that doesn't speak too highly in his favor. He needs to do something tomorrow.
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If you would like to watch and judge for yourself who the most impressive players were at the Portsmouth invitational tournament, go to http://accurecruit.com. They have all the games online for viewing. The quality of this service is outstanding, you get a crystal clear picture from the best angle possible. These are the same DVD's that NBA teams will be watching when they sit down to evaluate the tournament. There are also many other games online to view, including Martell Webster, Andray Blatche and many others. We'll be using this service extensively in the next couple of months as well, as they are constantly adding games to their database.