March 26, 2007

Day two at the McDonald's practices

Louisville, Ky.-Both the East and the West squad spent more time scrimmaging five-on-five during the second day of practice at the McDonald's All American Game. Here are some observations on the 24 participants along with comments by Nick Calathes and Derrick Rose on how they would handle the situation if their future head coach left for another coaching position.

What if Billy Donovan goes to Kentucky?

"I'll leave with him," said five-star Gator signee Nick Calathes. "He is a great coach and I want to play for him. I'd like to stay in Florida. My family is there and I'm a Gator. I honestly don't think he will leave, though."

Calathes said he hasn't spoken with Coach Donovan about the situation but will address the situation with him after Florida's season ends.

Calathes' desire to play with Coach Donovan is so strong, he wouldn't even wait to see who Florida hired as head coach if they did have to replace Donovan.

"I do not want to play for a coach who hasn't seen me," he added. "I wouldn't even wait to see who they hired. Coach Donovan first saw me play when I was 11 years old, and that is who I want to play for."

So what if John Calipari goes to Kentucky?

"I hope he doesn't," said five-star Tigers signee Derrick Rose. "Then I would have to do the recruiting thing all over again. I'd have to look at Memphis and decide if I still want to go there because they still have a good team. Or do I follow Coach Calipari. Or do I go somewhere else. I would have to reconsider everything."

East practice

According to one of the East coaches, his squad is well aware that they are considered the underdog in Wednesday night's match up. Expect the O.J. Mayo led team to play with a chip on its shoulder just like the underdog West team did last year when they beat the favored East squad. In fact, this same East coach said Mayo had the team gathered around him this morning before practice getting them focused for the upset bid.

O.J. Mayo- He has brought a serious, physical brand of basketball to the practice court. With his superior strength, he can get separation practically at will, and he has been shooting the ball with a feathery touch. You get the feeling that he absolutely relishes the position he is in as leader of the underdog squad.

Donte Green- He has handled the ball very well in the open court and made some great passes, but hasn't made as big a splash with his scoring. Much thinner than the other big men on the East, he has spent most of his time away from the paint.

Austin Freeman- This lethal scorer has the potential to put up big points from the perimeter along with Mayo. He quietly goes about his business, but surprises opponents with his athleticism and knack for scoring.

Nick Calathes- Calathes looks every bit of 6-foot-5 and he has also begun to fill out with some muscle mass. He hasn't been as sharp offensively as he is capable of being, but he has been impressive defensively. He is quicker laterally than most give him credit for being, and he excels at making plays as a help defender.

Kosta Koufos- He continues to shoot the ball well and will certainly force the big men from the West to come away from the basket to guard him.

Patrick Patterson- It has been fun watching Patterson, J.J. Hickson and Gani Lawal go at it around the basket. All three are aggressive athletes with a knack at getting to the ball. Patterson's most impressive play of the day was a defensive rotation out of the lane to block a Chris Wright three-point attempt. Patterson mixes his athleticism with intelligent play.

J.J. Hickson- He has an NBA ready body right now. He looks every bit of 6-foot-9 and is noticeably taller than Patterson and Lawal. He has been a force around the basket as a finisher and rebounder. It will be interesting to see if he and Kevin Love match up during the game.

Jonny Flynn- Again, his on-the-ball defense has been fantastic. He gave Mayo fits today. Flynn also played under control on offense and had a number of nice kick out passes after penetrating the lane.

Gani Lawal- He continues to play aggressively and has been quick off the floor. One of the hardest workers out here, he still has work to do in regards to expanding his offensive repertoire.

Corey Stokes- One of the best shooters in the event, Stokes knows how to get open without the ball and then scores it with an almost effortless release. He's not as athletic as most of the players around him, but he uses his physical strength and intelligence to hold his own defensively.

Nolan Smith- Smith has always been the type of combo guard to blend into whatever role his team has needed. Here he has played primarily off the ball with handlers like Mayo, Flynn and Calathes around him.

Chris Wright- In the freelance nature of the offense and with bigger players who are as quick as him, Wright hasn't lit it up from outside like he is capable of doing. He has had success, however, with some sharp floaters in the lane and has set up scorers with some penetration.

West practice

Michael Beasley- He did less talking and more playing today and that served Beasley quite well. None of the forwards are as explosive and skilled with the basketball in the open court. He has the vision to make the pass early and also the body control to make plays late. Beasley had several fantastic finishes and passes after weaving through traffic in the open court. Perhaps his best play of the practice was when he stripped the speedy Jai Lucas of the ball in the open court.

Eric Gordon- He participated during some of the scrimmage portion of practice, but still seemed to be favoring his hamstring. During shooting drills, he put on a show with his effortless shooting stroke. It was a rarity if his ball hit the rim. He gets my nod as the best pure shooter in the event.

Derrick Rose- He had a solid practice but did not assert himself like he did yesterday. As stated many times before, he plays with a gear of athleticism that few point guards possess. Like Beasley, Rose is a passer who has the vision to make the play early and the athleticism to also make it late.

Kyle Singler- He continues to impress with his defense. He has guarded Jerryd Bayless better than any of the guards on the West team. Such a complete player, there is hardly a play on the court that Singler can't make.

Kevin Love- He played with a little more energy today, but the length of Cole Aldrich seems to be bothering him a little. But the big man might also be laying in the weeds, waiting for the bright lights on Wednesday night. Love just doesn't have the athleticism to walk out on the court and dominate unless he plays with an energetic edge.

Jerryd Bayless- He was the most dynamic player for the West in Monday's practice. He ferociously attacked the basket and hit pull up jumpers. Like Mayo, he looks like he wants to make a statement this week.

James Harden- Does this guy have NBA shooting guard written all over him or what? Harden, like Freeman, is a smooth player who lets the game come to him. He has both shot the ball and passed it well during the week. He also has the length to make plays around the basket in a similar fashion to Singler.

James Anderson- A talented player with a knack at enhancing court chemistry, Anderson has blended in with the West squad. He doesn't require a lot of shots and there is not a lot of flash to his game. With players of this caliber, Anderson makes his presence felt mainly with timely hustle plays on defense and athletic finishes in transition.

Blake Griffin- Built like a brick, Griffin thrives on the physical play that he and Beasley have engaged in during practice. In the open court he will surprise you with his athleticism, and Griffin is always going to be tough around the basket.

Cole Aldrich- Aldrich is shooting the ball with confidence and hit a couple over Love. His length has been a factor on defense as well. It will be interesting to see how he keeps up with the pace that the West guards are certain to set in the game Wednesday night.

Taylor King- He struggled to knock down shots in today's practice. The defense of Harden might have been part of the reason. King did get out in transition to get some buckets.

Jai Lucas- Offensively Lucas matched Rose's speed today and worked himself open for several of his patented floaters. As has been noted with Lucas, the faster the pace, the better player he is. The wings on the West team need to trust Lucas and Rose to get them the ball and space out to the corners instead of constricting the court by gravitating to the ball.



 

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