Monday, April 21, 2008
Updated: April 22, 9:09 AM ET
Jordan Brand Classic player-by-player breakdown
By Antonio Williams
NEW YORK -- The Jordan Brand Classic did not produce a great deal of defensive intensity, but it more than made up it with a number of open court plays resulting in spectacular above-the-rim finishes. After the White team got out to a substantial lead early on in the exhibition, the Blue team, led by dynamic 6-1 PG Brandon Jennings (Arizona) and the defense of future UCLA Bruins 6-3 combo-guard Jrue Holiday, mounted a furious comeback on its way to a rather easy victory.
Tennessee-bound 6-5 SG Scotty Hopson constantly caused the Madison Square Garden crowd to gasp for air by making numerous plays with his electric athleticism. Hopson easily got out on the break, quickly filled lanes in transition and often finished off the break with highlight-reel worthy plays. Hopson's explosive leaping ability greatly complements his quick first step, making him a great slasher to the basket. Once at the rim, Hopson has the hang time and body control to adjust in the air, take contact and still convert the basket.
As he prepares for the next level, Hopson will have to improve his jump shot. Although he has range on his jumper and successfully connects on the shot at times, he needs to increase his consistency from the perimeter. He has great elevation on his jumper, but sometimes the high altitude negatively affects his shot, causing him to shoot the ball on the way down as opposed to releasing the ball at the peak of his jump. Developing his jumper more will only serve to make Hopson an even more devastating penetrator and add more versatility to his offensive game. His good lateral quickness, length, and anticipation skills should help him develop into a good defender on the next level.
Hopson will provide Tennessee with prototypical size and athleticism on the wing next season and his aggressive approach will fit well with Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl's intense, in-your-face defensive style of play.
Blue team notes
6-4 combo guard Jrue Holiday (UCLA): Holiday once again demonstrated his willingness to compete and play defense with no regard for the setting. His defensive effort coupled with his lead-by-example approach greatly influenced his teammates and encouraged them to increase their defensive efforts. Holiday's lateral quickness helps him keep guards from penetrating to the basket and frustrates them into turnovers. He played passing lanes well, anticipating and reacting quickly for a number of steals. He even contested shots as if playing the center spot, but his defensive ambition can make him overzealous, often resulting in foul trouble. Holiday easily ranked as the best defender on the floor.
On offense, Holiday effortlessly penetrated to the rim, though he did not finish at the high-rate we have grown accustomed to seeing from him. When he did finish successfully, he demonstrated his impressive, ambidextrous finishing skills. He will have to continue to improve his shooting accuracy and increase his range for the next level. Holiday sometimes has a tendency to over-dribble, which he will have to alleviate for college.
6-10 PF Greg Monroe (Georgetown): Monroe continued to exhibit his vast array of offensive skills, though he did not receive the ball nearly enough during the game. He seemed inspired and played with a purpose, which he sometimes fails to do. When he got the ball on the perimeter, he showed his impressive ability to drive to the basket, favoring to go left. He also connected on jump shots with range extending out to the 3-point line. Monroe also displayed his good footwork in the post, using moves and counter-moves on the block. He could develop into the best prospect in the class if he continues to compete at a high level.
6-6 SF Demar DeRozan (USC): DeRozan excelled in the transition game for the Blue team. With his long strides and good foot speed, he got up the floor in a hurry and finished above the rim constantly. He has the college-ready frame needed to draw contact and get to the free-throw line frequently. DeRozan also did an adequate job playing defense. With his size, strength, and athleticism, he can become a defensive stopper if he decides to. He showed some range on his jumper but needs to continue to improve his jump-shot and ball-handling skills.
6-9 PF JaMychal Green (Alabama): Green also played well in the up-tempo attack, showing an ability to run the floor and impressive athleticism on the break. Green jumps very high and gets off the floor quickly, which helps make him a good rebounder and shot-blocker when he puts his mind to it. Green attempted to finish with authority whenever he received the ball in the paint and will become better with improved post moves.
6-8 SF Wesley Witherspoon (undecided): Witherspoon has the quick first step to easily penetrate past defenders. His leaping ability and athleticism make him a force in the open court. He converted many baskets above the rim on the fast break. Witherspoon needs to continue to improve his jumper; he sometimes shoots the ball on the way down and lacks rotation on his shot. Witherspoon passes very well and plays defense with passion, bothering opposing players with his length. His versatility would help almost any college program.
7-1 C B.J. Mullens (Ohio State): Mullens ran the court well with the stallions on the Blue team. Once he got the ball, he finished with authority around the rim. He also showed his ability to step away from the basket and hit the 12-15 foot jumper. Mullens has the athleticism and frame to dominate on both ends of the court; he just needs to impose his will on games more often.
6-4 SG Malcolm Lee (UCLA): Lee has good size for a combo guard and greatly impressed with his defensive effort. His lateral quickness and active hands caused problems for smaller point guards and bigger shooting guards. Although he hit a couple of jump shots, Lee still needs to improve the shot and remain on-balance when he shoots from the perimeter. Lee ran the break and looked for open teammates during the game, though he did over-penetrate at times. He plays with a ton of energy and scraps for loose balls and rebounds well for a guard.
6-5 SG William Buford (Ohio State): Buford did not shoot the ball as well as he normally does from the perimeter. When he did look to use the midrange pull-up, he efficiently needed only one or two dribbles to get in position for the shot. Although he missed frequently, Buford has a nice, high release on his jump shot. Buford surprised with his defensive effort, hounding opposing guards and not allowing them to get to their comfort spots on the floor.
6-9 PF Drew Gordon (UCLA): Gordon played very hard, despite a sore knee that may have caused some hesitation when he jumped. He did not look to score much in the paint. On defense, Gordon still gave the high level of effort expected of a UCLA recruit and contested shots. He also worked tirelessly for rebounds.
White team notes
6-8 SF Devin Ebanks (undecided): Ebanks showed his ability to connect on his jump shot, with range extending out to the NBA 3-point line. He has a tendency to rely too much on the shot instead of using his quick first step and leaping ability to create off the dribble. When he did go off the bounce, he sometimes looked as if he had to think about his move as opposed to quickly sizing up a defender and making a decisive move. With his leaping ability, he could easily add a one- or two-dribble midrange, pull-up jumper. If he simplifies his game and doesn't dribble so much to set up for scoring, he will develop into a big-time scorer in college.
6-10 C Tony Woods (Wake Forest): Woods attempted to finish with authority in the paint, trying to dunk the ball whenever remotely close to the rim. He plays with the mean streak coaches love to see in their big men. His post game continues to emerge, though he needs to continue to improve his foot work in the paint. Currently, he favors to perform a quick spin move in the paint and will have to increase his post repertoire for Wake Forest. Woods plays good post defense and will battle to keep opposing bigs from establishing deep-post position. He attacks the offensive boards with ferocity and gets off the ground quickly.
6-0 PG Kemba Walker (Connecticut): Walker deferred to his high-scoring teammates early on, opting to create shots for them instead of shooting himself. He did a good job of acting as a floor general for his team, and Walker looked for his offense more as the game went on. He did not shoot the ball well from the perimeter, but he normally connects on his jumper. Walker also took on the challenge of guarding Brandon Jennings defensively.
6-9 SF Al-Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest): Aminu has a very long wingspan and outstanding leaping ability, making him a terror on the offensive boards. He also got out in transition, finishing off breaks with layups and dunks. Aminu has to continue to improve his ballhandling and jumper for college. Once he improves in those areas, he will give the opposition headaches on both ends of the court as a small forward at the next level.
6-4 SG Iman Shumpert (Georgia Tech): Shumpert played his normal, solid defense during the game. He also shot the ball reasonably well from the perimeter, though he needs to continue to improve in that area. His athleticism makes him a standout on the fast break, and he finished successfully. Shumpert also does a good job of locating open teammates and unselfishly giving them the ball.
6-4 combo guard Willie Warren (Oklahoma): Warren has a very developed and chiseled body for a perimeter player. He sometimes uses his body on defense, along with his lateral quickness, to badger opposing guards. He needs to give a solid defensive effort much more frequently, though. Warren has good passing skills, though he needs to improve his decision-making. He can create off the dribble effectively, with his quickness and ballhandling skills, but needs to shoot the ball more consistently, which he would do if he improved his shot selection. He could combine with current Sooners PF Black Griffin to form an incredible inside-outside duo at Oklahoma.
6-9 C Samardo Samuels (Louisville): Samuels looked very limited during this game, playing a step slower than the rest of the players. He used his thick body and strength to carve out position in the post but had trouble finishing once he received the ball. He almost exclusively turns over his right shoulder in the post and has trouble when the defense takes that move away from him. To succeed at the next level, Samuels will have to continue to develop his footwork and counter moves to overcome his lack of explosion off the floor in the post.
6-9 PF Ed Davis (North Carolina): Davis remained active around the basket throughout the game. He crashed the boards and runs the floor well for a big man. He sometimes looks robotic when he receives the ball with his back to the basket and will have to improve his post moves. A jump hook would significantly help him in college as well as adding a short jumper to his game.
6-10 C Michael Dunigan (Oregon): Dunigan did not get the ball much; therefore he did not have a chance to display his wares during the game. Conversely, he did not demand the ball either, which he should do more, given his impressive skill set in the post. He ran the floor and hit the offensive glass while his teammates hoisted up shot after shot.
Antonio Williams is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He previously worked as an NBA scout for Marty Blake Associates.