July 7, 2008

Lebron James Skills Academy: day one

AKRON, Ohio- The second annual LeBron James Academy got under way on Sunday afternoon with 75 of the top players in the country in attendance. With good competition all day long it was John Henson who ended up stealing the show with his signature performance of the summer.

Making his case

For over a year we have been looking for someone to take the reins in the 2009 class and assert himself as the premier player around, and at least for one day John Henson did just that. The 6-foot-10 North Carolina commitment was the most dominant player all day long.

In his first game, Henson unofficially blocked eight shots and also used his athleticism and length to be a force on the offensive end, then in the evening he put it all together. In one impressive stretch during Henson's second game he blocked a shot, corralled the rebound, went the length of the floor on the dribble, crossed over a defender, and then was fouled going to the rim where he made his free throws.

Though Henson doesn't appear to be a physically strong player, he showed that he plays tougher than he looks. When matched up with Georgetown commitment DaShonte Riley, Henson finished over Riley drawing contact on a pair of occasions. Really there was nothing Riley, or any other defender in the gym was able to do on Sunday to stop Henson from dominating.

Barnes proves his worth

The rapid assent of Harrison Barnes continued again on Sunday afternoon. Spring boarding off an excellent Nike Hoop Jamboree performance and a solid showing at the NBA Players Association Camp, the silky smooth 6-foot-5 wing from Iowa put his entire skill package on display in the opening game of the camp.

When a defender was playing off of him, Barnes simply rose up and fired from deep. With his picture perfect release Barnes was nearly perfect from the outside. As he began making shots, he was crowded and took his man off the bounce to the rim.

Even though Barnes was scoring at will, he didn't force the action and also did the little things. A good athlete, Barnes attacked the glass and also played solid defense. Overall his performance was the biggest factor in his team's win.

Thomas plays well and clarifies his recruitment

Ever since word of DeShaun Thomas' commitment to Ohio State began to leak out last June, a cloud of intrigue has surrounded the five-star wing. The soft spoken Thomas mostly declines to speak about his recruitment, but on Sunday he left no doubt in how he is feeling.

When asked to describe his recruitment, Thomas said, "I'm staying with Ohio State." Thomas was recruited to Ohio State by then assistant John Groce. Since then Groce has departed for the head job at Ohio University, but Thomas says that had no ill effect on his choice, and that he was happy for Groce.

As for his play on the floor, Thomas looked far more motivated than he has at times this spring. The 6-foot-6 and 208 pounder used his strength to really attack the glass. Because his team only has seven players, Thomas often was playing the power forward position, and he excelled in that role despite being undersized.

Along with scoring inside off of put backs and cleaning the glass on the defensive end, Thomas hit a few perimeter jumpers. He still went almost exclusively to his left, and struggled at times defensively, but overall it was one of Thomas' best performances of the summer.

Other notable performances

The dunk of the day might have come from John Wall. The nation's number one player crossed over his man at the top of the key drove the right lane and took off from two steps inside the free throw line. Once airborne Wall got his head even with the rim and threw it down with unreal force. It was a dunk where if you were in the gym you heard it, and even if it wasn't seen by all, everyone knew it had to be impressive.

After getting cut from USA 18 and under team, Ari Stewart rebounded with one of his best games that he has played this summer. Showing a lot of aggression, Stewart hit deep threes, shots in the mid-range, and also finished down low with his explosive athleticism. Overall it was a good bounce back day for Stewart.

Lakeem Jackson was a late invitee to the camp, but he more than proved his worth. The burly 6-foot-5 wing was a force on the interior and was able to score in a variety of ways.

One player who really stepped up his game on Sunday was class of 2010 prospect Jason Morris. The ultra athletic 6-foot-4 wing showed off his usual explosion, but also he mixed in some perimeter jumpers and even scored off the dribble. When his game all comes together he is very fun to watch.

In terms of an impressive long term prospect, James McAdoo definitely fits the bill. The rising sophomore is one of the youngest players at the camp, but he more than belongs. At 6-foot-8 with soft hands and great ability to run the floor and finish, McAdoo was one of the best players around all day.

Coaches Galore

After being off the road for a little over two months, college coaches were once again hitting the recruiting trail hard and making their presence felt at games on Sunday.

Daniel Orton drew one of the biggest crowds. Thad Matta, Billy Gillispie, Jeff Capel, and Bill Self were all front and center to watch. Also an assistant from Texas was dispatched to track him.

As the best player to come out of Iowa in years, Barnes drew the consistent attention of Iowa head man Todd Lickliter and Iowa State's Greg McDermott.

School Lists

Baltimore big man Andrew Fitzgerald gave a list Texas A&M, Louisville, Baylor, Boston College, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma, and Minnesota.

Barnes says that things have been "really hectic" recruiting wise since the Jamboree. His current list of offers is Iowa State, Indiana, Oklahoma, Minnesota, DePaul, Illinois, Texas, Kansas, Tennessee Kentucky, Iowa, and TCU.

National Christian big man Dante Taylor is one of the best uncommitted bigs in the 2009 class. He currently has a long list of schools with Kansas, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Villanova, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Georgetown, Florida, and Memphis all in the running.

Roscoe Smith made his first appearance of the summer and named a long school list consisting of North Carolina, Duke, Maryland, Texas, Kansas, Memphis, Tennessee, Florida, Florida State, USC, Temple, and Xavier. He also added that there are more schools showing interest in him.

One of lesser known players at camp is Lane Adams. The 6-foot-3 wing from Red Oak, Oklahoma is currently hearing from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Mississippi State, Tulsa, Witchita State, Oral Roberts, Colorado, and Gonzaga.

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