Adidas Nations Tournament: High School Prospects

Adidas Nations Tournament: High School Prospects
Aug 24, 2009, 12:23 am
Scouting reports of the top high school prospects (2010 and 2011) seen at the Adidas Nations tournament in Dallas earlier this month.

Marquis Teague, 6-2, Point Guard, Pike High School, 2011

Currently the #1 rated point guard in the 2011 class, Marquis Teague (#6 Scout, #2 Rivals, #4 ESPN) was the main engine running his US team in the Adidas Nations tournament.

Extremely fast, shifty and explosive in the open floor, Teague is a terrific athlete who gets to almost anywhere he wants on the court, particularly in transition. He’s also an excellent ball-handler on top of that, looking extremely fluid and highly capable of changing speeds and directions on the fly, which makes him even more difficult to stay in front of. He’s got great natural instincts as a lead guard and shows flashes of potential on the pick and roll and drive and dish, but still has quite a few issues to work through, which isn’t a shock considering his age.

Teague is much more of a scorer than a distributor at this point, but is very much prone to pounding the ball and looking for his own shot, often to the detriment of his teammates. He has a little bit too much flash to his game at this point, often appearing more concerned with making himself look good than trying to make the correct basketball play. He forces the issue on a regular basis, driving head-first straight into the teeth of the defense, only passing the ball when he’s absolutely exhausted all other options.

More concerning was the body language Teague showed at times, particularly when faced with adversity. He didn’t appreciate the tough, physical defense that the South American team (particularly Christian Cortes) was playing on him, and seemed to completely lose his cool. When scored on, he made it a point to try and “get back” at his matchup with a little mano a mano, and then proceeded to visibly pout when things didn’t go his way. Interestingly enough, this is almost the exact criticism we often heard about his brother Jeff (drafted by the Atlanta Hawks) throughout the draft process this summer.

Teague can make shots from the perimeter, but he sports a fairly ugly, flat-footed jumper not all that unlike his brother’s. He can defend exceptionally well when he puts his mind to it, moving his feet swiftly with his terrific lateral quickness, and absolutely smothering opponents with his length.

All in all, Teague is clearly an elite-level talent who has quite a few things he needs to iron out before he can reach his full potential. Players with his natural speed and shot-creating ability are about as rare as you’ll find, and are extremely coveted in today’s NBA thanks to the rule-changes regarding hand-checking. Teague has a chance to develop into an even better prospect than his brother when it’s all said and done, as he appears to be light years ahead of where Jeff was at the same age. We’ll have to see over the next few years how much his weaknesses are due to his age, and how much they are just things teams will have to accept as being part of the overall package.

LeBryan Nash, 6-7, SF/PF, Lincoln High School, 2011

”Artest” as he was affectionately coined by the NBA scouts in attendance here in Dallas, no player showed better long-term potential than the extremely impressive forward LeBryan Nash (#11 Scout, #5 Rivals, #10 ESPN).

Put together like an NFL linebacker, with a great frame, long arms and excellent hands, Nash was pretty much an unstoppable force when he decided to take the ball to the rack. He has an amazing knack for creating his own shot, regularly handing the ball coast to coast, and being almost unstoppable as a slasher in the half-court as well. A good (but still improvable) ball-handler, Nash can create with either hand and is just far too strong and explosive for most defenders at this level to stay in front of. He has excellent footwork and is extremely aggressive, having no problems whatsoever spinning into the lane and then finishing through contact with his NBA-caliber body, often drawing a foul in the process.

Nash also showed a solid perimeter jumper, making a number of 3-pointers and pull-ups from mid-range, even if he sometimes has a tendency to shoot the ball on the way down. His jumper is normally fairly streaky, so improving this part of his game could be a major development moving forward. He can also use his big body to post his man up inside, even if he looked more interested in facing up from the perimeter.

As a defender and rebounder is where Nash might have the most potential, as beyond his outstanding physical tools, he’s also an extremely tough player who isn’t afraid to mix things up inside. He was productive on this front in Dallas, but should be able to improve considerably in these areas under the right college coach, which would make him a very interesting all-around player.

Watching Nash play, it’s hard not to wonder if we’re looking at a future star in the making. There was some talk about amongst the scouts about his attitude and whether that might be an issue down the road, which is something we’ll have to study more in the future. He did look very comfortable playing in his hometown of Dallas, and was clearly the most impressive prospect we saw at this event. He could be a power forward at the college level if his team needed him to, but his long-term future is clearly at the 3.

Rakeem Christmas, 6-9, PF/C, Academy of New Church, 2011

A consensus top-5 recruit in the 2011 high school class, it’s easy to get enamored with Rakeem Christmas’ (#5 Scout, #4 Rivals, #7 ESPN) upside. He passes the look test and then some on first glance, showing decent size, a good frame, long arms and downright freakish athleticism. Christmas (no relation to ex-Temple swingman Dionte Christmas) jumps out of the gym, runs the floor like a deer, and is extremely quick off his feet.

Offensively, Christmas is extremely limited at this point, which probably isn’t a huge surprise considering the stage of development he’s currently at. He gets most of his offense by running the court in transition, presenting himself at the rim for easy finishes, and crashing the offensive glass. On the block, he has very little in the ways of footwork or post-moves, and doesn’t seem to be all that interested in scoring actually. Disinterested is a word that seems to come up a little more than you’d hope when it comes to Christmas, as he doesn’t always seem to be competing all that hard, looking fairly apathetic at times and not really putting his terrific tools to good use.

Defensively, Christmas has huge potential, and he already can be very effective as both a shot-blocker and man to man defender when he puts his mind to it. His length and terrific leaping ability allows him to establish himself as a major presence rotating from the weak-side, and we saw him send back quite a few shots while watching him play, sometimes in emphatic fashion. His lack of strength makes it difficult for him to avoid being posted up by stronger big men, but his length and lateral quickness can be extremely bothersome, leaving a lot of room for optimism in this regard as his frame continues to fill out. He can already step out and hedge screens on the perimeter quite effectively, which is a nice asset to have from your big man.

Christmas is someone that obviously jumps off the page immediately right now thanks to the undeniable potential he possesses, mostly thanks to his terrific physical attributes. He’s still got quite a ways to go obviously, though, especially in terms of the effort level he displays.

Rodney Hood, 6-7, Small Forward, Meridian High School, 2011

Although he was nowhere near as polished as most of the other high school prospects in attendance, there was still a lot to like about the long-term potential that Rodney Hood (#28 Scout, #91 Rivals, #40 ESPN) displayed.

Showing good size for a wing player at around 6-7, with a terrific wingspan, a nice frame and solid athleticism, Hood clearly has ample physical tools. He’s a heady, unselfish player who made some very smart passes, especially on the pick and roll, and also knocked down a couple of pretty mid-range and long-range jumpers, even off the dribble at times. He can get to the rim, but doesn’t have much of a left hand, and seemed to struggle finishing through contact due to his lack of strength. He seems to have a nice feel for the game, though, and appeared to be a good teammate.

Hood is a raw player all in all, as his ball-handling skills are still a work in progress, his shot a bit streaky, and he goes through long stretches of unproductiveness, looking too passive trying to make his presence felt on the court. Regardless, he’s an interesting guy to keep tabs on in the future.

Kevin Ware, 6-4, Shooting Guard, Rockdale County High School, 2011

A player with clear-cut strengths and weaknesses, Kevin Ware (#34 Scout, #22 Rivals, #28 ESPN) started off this camp in rocky fashion, but eventually settled into his role. Ware is a 6-3 wing (although he’s oddly listed as a point guard by some services) player with tremendous length and athleticism, showing a great first step, excellent quickness, and the ability to play above the rim.

He was most useful at this camp on the defensive end, where he brought a frenetic energy that really sparked his teammates and gave his team a big lift. Ware puts great pressure on the ball and is extremely intense trying to shut down his man. He plays extremely hard and is ultra-aggressive all in all, which can clearly work to his detriment at times, particularly on the offensive end.

Ware is an extremely poor shooter at this stage, but you would never guess that based on some of the shots he took. Early in the camp, he insisted on heaving up brick after brick, almost damaging the backboard in the process on a few attempts. Not the world’s greatest ball-handler, Ware can regardless get to the rim thanks to his tremendous first step, although he doesn’t have much of a mid-range game and can eventually get out of control. Ware has a raw all-around game, but clearly has a lot of upside, as he still has plenty of time to round out his offensive arsenal, and always has his tremendous natural tools and terrific defensive ability to fall back on.

Jared Sullinger, 6-8, PF/C, Northland High School, 2010

After thoroughly evaluating him last summer, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of new information to add to Sullinger’s (#4 Scout, #3 Rivals, #2 ESPN) profile one year later. He’s still the same extremely intelligent, ultra-productive big man, showing amazing hands in the low-post and some of the best rebounding skills we’ve seen at this level. Sullinger was a man in the paint throughout the Adidas Nations camp, establishing deep position in the paint time after time, and showing great wherewithal operating inside and finding ways to create shots for himself with his amazing touch, often through contact. He’s truly a natural scorer with his back to the basket, which is quite a rarity at this level, as well as in the NCAA.

Sullinger’s conditioning looks a lot better than it did a year ago, but there is still more work to be done on his body. Considering that he’ll always be a below the rim type of player, it’s imperative that he gets himself into the best shape possible in order to maximize his athletic potential.

On the offensive glass is where Sullinger may have made the strongest impression at this camp. He was absolutely ferocious moving opponents around with his strong body, and shows great timing going after loose balls, using his smarts more so than his leaping ability to come up with extra possessions. With that said, he did surprise us at times with his ability to get off the ground and hammer home some emphatic put-back dunks.

Sullinger didn’t show much of a face-up game, but to his credit, he really didn’t have to with how poor his team’s spacing was and how much of an advantage he enjoyed in the low post. His free throws weren’t really falling for him at a great rate, which is probably a sign that he needs to continue to work on his jump-shot. Defensively, there will be some adjustments he needs to make once he gets to college, but considering the effort level and basketball IQ he shows, that shouldn’t be that much of an issue.

Sullinger is going to be a fantastic addition to Ohio State’s lineup, but it’s still a little too early to gauge how good of an NBA prospect he is, since he doesn’t possess the same blend of size, athleticism and upside you typically look for in a top-5 type recruit. Some will compare him to Lonny Baxter and some will say he’s the next Paul Millsap. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Joshua Smith, 6-9, Center, Kentwood High School, 2010

Not much has changed since the last time we evaluated Joshua Smith (#8 Scout, #19 Rivals, #10 ESPN) in the summer of 2008. He’s still the same undersized and extremely overweight center (probably more-so now), displaying flashes of great talent from time to time, but also leaving a lot to be desired in regards to his approach to the game.

Smith put in a pretty lackluster effort in most of the games we got to see him play this summer (in Las Vegas, at the Adidas Nations camp, and at the Elite 24 scrimmage). He struggles to get up and down the floor, and barely puts any effort in whatsoever into things like boxing out his opponent for rebounds, setting screens, or attempting to step out and hedge a screen guarding the pick and roll. There were far too many possessions we saw this summer where he just flat out looked lazy.

Offensively, he’s capable of establishing position inside the paint at will, and has terrific hands, agile feet and outstanding touch to go along with that, but he is often ignored by his teammates (excluding Tony Wroten) at the high school level and doesn’t seem to really mind that from what we saw.

Smith appears to play below the rim, but he actually gets off the ground fairly quickly, looking very natural operating on the block. The fact that he can move so well despite the fact that he’s carrying an extra 30-40 pounds tells you quite a bit about the natural talent he possesses. Outside of his ability to score inside, though, Smith doesn’t seem to have progressed on some other key areas, mainly his face-up game, his free throw shooting, his left hand, and his fundamentals on defense.

For now, Smith remains a big-time talent with some major question marks surrounding him, leading many casual observers to throw out comparisons to Mike Sweetney. Right now most indications are that Smith is leaning towards committing to Ben Howland and UCLA, which would probably be the best possible thing for him considering the things he needs to work on. Lorenzo Romar and Washington reportedly aren’t far behind though.

Ryan Harrow, 5-11, Point Guard, George Walton Comprehensive H. S., 2010
Committed to N.C. State

Harrow (#28 Scout, #24 Rivals, #48 ESPN) came into the Adidas Nations camp billed as one of the top point guards in the 2010 class, but he was not quite able to justify that with the way he played.

Harrow is a small and extremely skinny point guard with tremendous athleticism. He’s extremely quick and explosive, which at times works to his detriment. He appears to be more of a scorer than a distributor from what we could tell, looking for any opportunity possible to clear out his teammates and go one on one by himself. Harrow had major issues trying to organize his team in the half-court, pounding the ball incessantly and making some truly baffling plays. He tried to get flashy at all the wrong times, leaving a distinct impression that he was far more interested in making a big play than making the right one.

Offensively, Harrow can get to the rim very effectively thanks to his extremely quick first step, but he has problems finishing at the basket at times due to his lack of size and strength. He showed some ability to knock down floaters in the lane, but will need to continue to work on his mid-range game if he wants to be effective as a scorer at the college level. Harrow made the occasional spot-up 3-pointer, but looked very streaky all in all as a perimeter shooter, looking very limited in this regard at times. Defensively, Harrow has quick hands and can put solid pressure on the ball, but his size will always be a major concern.

Harrow is committed to N.C. State, and has a chance to develop into a solid ACC point guard if he learns how to slow down and rounds out his all-around game. Players with his quickness can be quite an asset in today’s basketball, he just needs to gain more experience and learn how to use his athleticism more effectively.

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