In Storrs, they're still celebrating a championship two and a half weeks after the University of Connecticut beat Butler in the NCAA title game. Everywhere else in the country, however, thoughts have already turned to what lies ahead and the eternal hope provided by the promise of a new season and incoming recruits. For national powers, the annual high school showcase games provide a first look at all the talent that will soon be matriculating on college campuses.
For the second consecutive year, I had the opportunity to attend the Nike Hoop Summit at Portland's Rose Garden. What the Hoop Summit lacks in the prestige of the McDonald's All-American Game it makes up for in competitive basketball. With the involvement of USA Basketball and a format that pits the nation's best high schoolers against international stars of similar age, the Hoop Summit functions more as an actual basketball game (with defense!) than most exhibitions.
As compared to last year, when Jared Sullinger's fundamental game was obvious and Harrison Barnes and Kyrie Irving tantalized with their skills, this year's Hoop Summit offered less clarity about the elite talent. At the same time, the depth of the USA squad helped them to a 92-80 win over the World team. Here's a look at the players in action.
The Kentucky foursome: PG Marquis Teague, SF Michael Gilchrist, PF Kyle Wiltjer and C Anthony Davis
John Calipari has landed yet another impressive recruiting haul. A full 30 percent of the U.S. roster is headed to Kentucky, as is Canadian post Wiltjer. What really stood out during the game was the chemistry that the Wildcats' recruits have already built with each other. Teague, Gilchrist and Davis played together during the third quarter and complemented each other nicely.
Teague, the younger brother of Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague, appears to be more of a true point guard than his brother. He has quick hands on defense and can score too, which could make for an intriguing backcourt pairing of Brandon Knight sticks around for another year. (Otherwise, Teague will likely team up with rising sophomore Doron Lamb.) It's already clear that Gilchrist will be a favorite of analysts. His shooting form needs work, but Gilchrist plays a smooth game and excels at the defensive end of the floor. He reminds me of Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls.
Davis might just be the prize of the crop. A late bloomer who grew seven inches in the last year, Davis' athleticism is off the charts. Because he previously played on the perimeter, he is skilled but still learning to play in the post. As a work in progress, Davis might just be a better pro than a college player. Wiltjer relies heavily on a throwback hook shot that will cause problems for opposing defenders. Wiltjer needs to add strength to play in the post, however. He was muscled out of position by the bigger American big men.
Austin Rivers, G, Duke
I had a certain preconception of what Rivers would play like as the son of a coach and a Duke recruit. That assumption was incorrect. Rivers is much flashier than I anticipated, and more of a shooting guard who can handle the ball than a point. That could be an issue down the road, since Rivers is just 6'3"; for now, he should be fine as part of a Blue Devils backcourt that will also feature Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins. Expect Rivers to emerge as Duke's go-to scorer. Blue Devils recruit Quinn Cook also played in the game. He's a point guard who will probably see limited action next season before growing into a larger role.
Bradley Beal, G/F, Florida
Beal scored just eight points on 2-of-6 shooting in the game, but was the most impressive player on the USA roster during practice the previous day. Beal is an excellent outside shooter who also has the ability to create off the dribble and finish through contact. A natural two-guard, Beal will likely play as an undersized small forward alongside the Gators' strong backcourt of Kenny Boynton and Irving Walker and will help replace the scoring lost with the departures of Vernon Macklin and Chandler Parsons.
James McAdoo, PF, North Carolina
Sadly, McAdoo is unlikely to make good on his bold prediction to SBNation.com's Benjamin Golliver of averaging 20 and 10 as a freshman, not with everyone back on what will almost certainly be the preseason No. 1 team. However, he will be a tremendous boon to the Tar Heels' depth. If McAdoo were an inch or two taller, he'd be the best player in this class. As it is, his versatility and athleticism make him a possible future lottery pick.
Tony Wroten, PG, Washington
Wroten was one of the most intriguing players in the game, alternating highlight-reel passes with turnovers in almost equal measure. Playing against less defensive pressure in last Saturday's Jordan Brand Classic, Wroten was able to pile up the assists without the turnovers, finishing with 16 points and 10 dimes. With Isaiah Thomas headed to the NBA, Wroten will have the chance to play right away. He's as talented as almost any incoming freshman, though Lorenzo Romar will have his work cut out for him in terms of working with Wroten on decision making.
Others: Rakeem Christmas, PF, Syracuse; Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga; Adonis Thomas, Memphis
Christmas is a defensive-minded big man who should be useful for the Orange, though like Fab Melo this past year he may initially see only limited action off the bench. Pangos, another Canuck, joins the Zags' international-heavy roster with high expectations. He struggled against the pressure of the American guards, though, and faces a battle for playing time at the point with the way David Stockton finished his redshirt freshman campaign. Thomas, who joins Josh Pastner's talented young squad, was maybe the most invisible player in the practice I saw and the game.
Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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