Dallas- - Talented players from around the world descended on north Texas to compete in the adidas Nations Tournament. Teams from Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Canada and the United States were in attendance. This high-profile event was held at the state of the art Integrated Athletic Development facility. NBA coaches and current college players served as mentors for these high school players.
Some marquee players from the Class of 2009 were on hand at the event: 2009 PF/C 6-9 Derrick Favors (Atlanta, Ga./South); SG/PG Dexter Strickland (Rahway, N.J./St. Patrick's); and 6-8 SF Christian Watford (Birmingham, Ala./Shades Valley H.S). There were also a handful of Class of 2010 prospects, such as 6-7 PF Jared Sullinger (Columbus, Ohio/Northland); 6-3 PG Brandon Knight (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Pinecrest); and 6-9 C Josh Smith (Covington,Wash./Kentwood H.S). This event consisted of much more than games. There were skill-development sessions, team practices, motivational speakers and media training. Adidas did a great job of preparing these young players for college and beyond.
Derrick Favors, C/PF (6-9, 225)
2009, Atlanta/ South Atlanta
Favors is strong, agile and very athletic. He runs the floor like a small forward. Favors is very explosive around the basket where he power dunks drop off passes created by guard penetration. Favors has excellent skill and touch. He can shoot the jump hook or turn and shot in the post with either hand. He elevates over defenders with ease. His face-up game off the lane to about 17 feet is good enough to shoot the open jumper with time and space. He also can drive both ways one or two dribbles and use his spin move when the defender crowds him. Another strength is his ability to pass on the move. Once he starts his scoring move and he draws a second defender, Favors can put a pass on the money to an open teammate. Favors is an above the rim rebounder on both ends and he does a great job using his length to reach over or around opponents to secure the ball. He is a fast-break starter with his shot-blocking ability, either on the ball or coming from the weakside. On the defensive end, he plays in a stance and uses his strength to move the opponent out of the lane. He also makes a great effort to contest shots on his man or a near by teammates. Favors constantly make his presence felt when he is on the floor.
Dexter Strickland, SG/PG (6'3, 185)
2009, Rahway, N.J./ St. Patrick's
This combo guard is a great fit for North Carolina's transition game. He is strong, physical and extremely athletic. Strickland can rebound and go coast to coast, sprint the wing or receive the outlet pass in order to attack the defense in transition. He can finish above the rim or with an acrobatic layup once he get's into the lane. A quick first step allows him to be an explosive driver from the wing or at the top of the circle once he is in a half-court setting. Strickland can dribble through contact in order to draw fouls or shoot the pull-up jumper when his defender retreats. When side ball screens are set he likes to reject the screen and go baseline especially on the right side of the floor. Strickland is a decent 3-point shooter but must become more consistent. He has great elevation on his shot but a slight hitch in the release that causes him to shoot on the way down at times. When at the point guard position, he is a good passer who can penetrate and kick, but scoring seems to always be the first option. Also when he is at the lead guard spot, he tends to force the issue when the defense has recovered, which get's him credit for a turnover. He is a quick-handed defender with excellent lateral footwork that allows him to defend both guard positions.
Lance Stephenson, SG/SF (6'5, 200)
2009, New York/ Lincoln
Stephenson is a confident scorer who is in attack mode on both ends of the floor. He is a strong, physical wing who has never met a shot he didn't like. He's also a shot creator in transition who knows how to get the ball to the rim. Stephenson's a good not great athlete who can get into the lane at will with his ball-handling ability and strength that allows him to dribble through contact and draw fouls. Stephenson has great command of the ball; he kind of hops or skips when he is attacking off the dribble. He uses the hesitation, between the legs and spin moves to get by his defender. He likes to bounce into a pull up jumper after one or two dribbles when he get's the defense on its heels with his quick first step. Stephenson is a good passer when he keeps it simple; he possesses excellent court vision. At times he will take chances with the ball by trying to make a great play in traffic that results in a turnover. Stephenson's a good 3-point shooter off the catch or dribble when he is set. Stephenson has great elevation, a high release and follows through. Also, Stephenson does a great job of using the shot fake to lift his defender at the start and end of drives. Defensively, he attacks the ball with active hands and he really works to stay in front of the ball-handler in order to cut off scoring drives. At times, he get's too close to a live dribble and reaches going for steals and picks up cheap fouls but he has the offensive players full attention. He's a big-time talent who can take his game to the next level once he has a better understanding of shot selection.
Christian Watford, SF (6-8, 205)
2009, Birmingham, Ala.
Watford is a versatile player with great size. He is athletic and skilled. This long and lean small forward sprints the wing in transition and can finish in traffic. He is a slasher with excellent body control that allows him to hang in the air in order to make acrobatic shots. Off the dribble he likes drive hard to his right to get to the rim and will spin into a pull up jumper with great elevation if the defender cuts off the drive. Watford will also use the right to left crossover to get into lane. He is a good 3-point shooter off the catch and has a nice stroke at the free-throw line. He does a great job reading guard penetration double teams and cuts to the open area for easy baskets especially along the baseline or from the weak side of the floor. He's an excellent rebounder that uses his great length for tip-ins on the offensive end. Watford has the athletic ability to defend both wing positions but must get stronger in order to slug it out in the paint with a power forward where his quickness is his best asset. Watford is very efficient; he makes the most of his touches without taking bad shots. His talent, skill and size will make him a special college player.
Josh Smith, C (6-9, 250)
2010, Covington, Wash./ Kentwood
Smith is a strong, physical and super explosive around the rim. Smith power dunks on, over or around defenders when he receives drop-off passes created by guard penetration. He has good hands and runs the floor very well for a player his size. He can beat most centers down the floor for an early post up opportunity. When he anchors down in the low post he is a huge target that likes to shoot the right-handed jump hook over his left shoulder. Smith has a soft touch and elevates over the defense with ease. He has a nice stroke at the free-throw line where he executes a high release and good follow through. Smith's a powerful rebounder on both ends; he snatches the ball with two hands at rim level on defense and dunks in misses on offense. Smith must continue to add to his post-move package and work to stay in shape year around to continue his dominance on the college level. It is fun to watch him attack the rim with an attitude. He reminds me of a more athletic Glen "Big Baby" Davis.
Peyton Siva, PG (5-11, 175)
2009, Seattle/ Franklin
Siva is a true point guard that has excellent speed and quickness with the ball. He pushes the ball in transition on the pass or dribble and his athletic ability makes him a threat to go coast to coast and finish with a dunk. Siva does a great job running the offense and directing teammates. He is an excellent ball-handler who weaves and slashes through the defense with inside out and crossover dribble moves in order to get into the lane for a drop off pass or kick out for an open shot. Silva also has a good understanding of how to execute the pick and roll. He looks to pass to the screener rolling to the rim or he can knock down the 3 ball if his man goes under or behind the screen. Siva also competed on the defensive end by hounding the ball and keeping constant pressure on the ball-handler with his quick feet and active hands. He can also get on a roll from behind the arc when the defense backs away because of his ability to penetrate. Other than an occasional overpenetration, Siva is a rock-solid floor leader.
Brandon Knight, PG (6-3, 175)
2010, Fort Lauderdale, Fla./ Pine Crest
The first thing one notices about Knight is the constant effort he puts forth. He also is great at advancing the ball up the floor after he receives the outlet pass to keep constant pressure on the transition defense. Knight does a good job running the offense and keeping the ball on the move. His excellent speed and quickness allows him to get into the lane on a regular basis, and Knight has good court vision. He can find an open teammate with ease; he penetrates and draws two or three defenders. Knight did a much better job taking care of the ball at this event than he has in the past. He has a great feel for the game especially when using on-ball screens. Knight comes off the screen with speed and is a threat to pass to the screener rolling to the rim, popping for a perimeter shot or taking the ball all the way to the basket. Off the dribble, he likes to shoot his pull up jumper and he is also a good 3-point shooter when the defense is backs off. He works hand on defense at pressuring the ball and has excellent foot speed and quick hands. Knight has the special ability to turn up his intensity and take over games with a flurry of baskets when ever he wants. He plays with a quite confidence and is a big-time talent.
Tyler Griffey, PF (6-8, 220)
2009, Wildwood, Mo./ Lafayette
This pick-and-pop power forward can knock down the 3 with regularity. He has great form and makes it look easy. On the break, he can run the middle of the floor and be the first post or the lane and spot up. Griffey has size and strength to go along with good bounce around the rim where he has an excellent touch and can finish with either hand. He also does a good job reading guard penetration and getting to the open area to shoot his midrange jumper. Griffey should look to post-up more, especially when he has a size advantage to give his game some flexibility. He is also a decent ball-handler who can drive to the rim in the open court when he is ahead of the pack. A good fundamental rebounder on both ends, Griffey attempts to block out his man on defense and gets his share of put backs on the offensive end. On defense, Griffey puts forth good effort to move his feet to deny the ball inside and works to push his man out of the lane to prevent deep post-up position. He will be a nice fit for Illinois' motion offense.
Noel Johnson, SG (6-6, 190)
2009, Fayetteville, Ga./ Fayette County
Johnson has good size for a 2-guard. He is an excellent jump-shooter with a quick release and good follow through. He is at his best spotting up in transition and running of screens along the baseline or down screens on the wing. Johnson has good shot preparation as he clears the screen. He is low and squares his body to the rim very quickly. Off the dribble, he likes to shoot his pull-up jumper going right. He also is very good at reading penetration and spotting up behind the arc. Johnson is a good ball-handler and likes to use the right to left crossover. He must do a better job protecting the ball when he is under intense ball pressure. Johnson's a decent offensive rebounder who sneaks in from the perimeter for an occasional put back. In the games I saw, Johnson didn't get a lot of touches and there were not many screens set and to his credit he didn't press or force bad shots. Johnson will be a very productive shooter in college.
Erik Murphy, PF (6-9, 220)
2009, Southborough, Mass./ St. Mark's
Murphy is a skilled face-up power forward. He is long, wiry and athletic enough to get your attention. Murphy plays with good effort, toughness and he competes. He has a great feel for the game on both ends of the floor. On offense, he does all the little things -- such as attempting to set screens and helping to defend multiple screening actions like on-ball screens and down screens on defense. He runs the floor well and can finish above the rim. An excellent reader of guard penetration, Murphy knows how to make himself available in an area that he can be effective with his midrange jumper or swing step to the rim along the baseline. Murphy has an excellent touch around the basket and can score with either hand and with his jump hook, but he must be a more consistent finisher. He handles the ball well on the wing and in the open court, which allows him to score on drives and slashes to the rim. A good defensive rebounder -- mostly because of his consistent effort to hit the glass. He can block shots mostly coming in from the weakside. Must get stronger in order to add the physical part of the game to his mental assets. Great upside and should improve rapidly when he get's to Gainesville.
• Jared Sullinger (Columbus, Ohio/ Northland, Committed to Ohio State) -- a physical low-post scorer -- continued to play well. He scored on power drop steps from the right low block and with his right-handed jump hook over his left shoulder. He rebounded in traffic and competed every second he was on the floor.
• Ray McCallum (Beverly Hills, MI/ Country Day) is a rock-solid point guard with good size. He runs the offense and makes good decisions on the break as well as in the half court. He's a good shooter who can knock down the open 3 or hit the pull up jumper in traffic. He is the son of Detroit head coach Ray McCallum.
• Trae Golden (Powder Springs, GA/ McEachern) is a power 2 guard who can shoot the 3 off the catch or dribble. He's a physical driver who can draw fouls as he bounces into his pull-up jumper. He plays with passion and competes. Golden reminds me of a young Vinnie "Microwave" Johnson when he gets it going.
• Trey Zeigler (Mt. Pleasant, Mich.) is a wing player with good size who sprints the floor in transition. Zeigler can shoot the 3 off the catch or dribble. He also likes to drive the baseline to get to the rim and he will also show the spin move into the lane and finish with a pull-up jumper or floater. He's the son of Central Michigan head coach Ernie Zeigler.
• Tristan Thompson (Brampton, Ont, Can/ St. Benedict's (NJ), Committed to Texas) Thompson is very long and athletic power forward that runs the floor like a deer. This lefty can rebound and go coast to coast and finish with a big time dunk. Thompson can shoot the 15 footer off the catch and drive from the high post or low wing especially on the left side of the floor. He is a terrific shot blocker with an up side that is off the charts.
In the Class of 2011 two players that were in attendance must go right to the top of the ESPN Watch List LaQuinton Ross (Jackson, MS/Calloway) and Tony Wroten (Seattle/ Garfield). Ross is a 6-7 small forward with tremendous skill and athletic ability and Wroten is a left handed jump shooter with range beyond the arc.
Reggie Rankin is a recruiting coordinator for ESPN Scouts Inc. Rankin was a Division I assistant coach for 14 seasons, including stints at Boston University, Wyoming, Ohio, Georgia, Nebraska and Dayton.