Doesn’t anyone in this country make seven-footers anymore?
The question was posed by a fellow freelancer as we observed this morning’s practice — the first of two — for the USA Junior National Select Team.
Illinois-commit Meyers Leonard is the lone U.S. player at the seven-foot mark, but he was invited only when Tobias Harris (Tennessee) was forced to back out after breaking his foot at the McDonald’s All-American Game.
Team USA faces a World Select Team with five players at 6-10 and above. To have any chance at avenging last year’s loss, Team USA will rely on its platoon of quick guards to force tempo. That’s the logical assumption, anyway.
So much on my mind after taking in six hours of practice today. (First and foremost, I can’t believe I watched six hours of basketball practice today.) In no particular order of relevance, here’s some interesting notes from the day:
- Brandon Knight (No. 1 on Rivals.com) and Terrence Jones (No. 13) are the lone players on the U.S. roster who haven’t committed to a college yet. Knight’s scheduled to make his announcement at his school of choice on Wednesday. No word on Jones. I would double-down on my student debt Knight is headed to Kentucky and Jones will follow shortly thereafter. It’s unfair how quick Kentucky will reload.
- I sat near Knight’s mother during the afternoon practice. She said if he finishes this term with all A’s, it will mean he maintained straight A’s for all 12 years of school. She said he’s also got 27 advanced placement credits and could graduate from college in two-and-a-half years. With such dedication to academics — he’s a 4.30 GPA — you have to wonder if he’s good for more than a year of college ball.
- Florida-commit Patric Young deserves the Dwight Howard comparisons based on his physicality. Of all the players to take the court Saturday night, Young has the most impressive physique. However, like a young Howard, he doesn’t seem quite sure how to utilize his size. He’ll need serious work on his post moves and footwork, but he could amount to a great post player. For now, his best offensive move is the dunk.
- Will Barton (Memphis) is listed at 6-6, 175 pounds, but that seems a little courteous. Barton’s wiry frame makes him an injury concern, especially at the next level against bigger, more physical players. At the same time, he’s a slasher who rarely wastes a step. Tigers coach Josh Pastner has a true weapon in this shooting guard.
- Meyers Leonard (Illinois) could wreak havoc in the Big Ten. Maybe not next year, but give him time. At 7-0, 215 pounds, he’s got the frame to add 30 pounds. He’s nimble with decent post moves, but he’s got lazy arms when playing away from the ball. He’s an above-average shot blocker who can really get up and down the court for a big man.
- My proudest achievement of the day was getting out of the Portland Trail Blazers practice facility without slipping on the puddles of drool left by dozens of NBA scouts who observed Harrison Barnes (North Carolina). He’s a complete player with Grade-A character. He’ll be picked in the top three if he enters the 2011 NBA Draft.
- I got a few minutes with Tennessee-recruit Tobias Harris this morning. Harris has his broken foot in a boot and he’s been limping around on crutches, but regardless, he seems to be enjoying the experience. A little while later, I was interviewing Barton when Harris hijacked the interview and each started trading barbs about the other’s school in a mock interview. Great stuff, considering I was cutting the interview for Nashville SportsRadio WNSR 560 AM.
And just to maintain objectivity, here’s a few notes from the World Select Team:
- Enes Kanter (Kentucky) has earned my vote for Player Most Likely To Severely Hurt Someone. At 6-11, 255 pounds, the Turkish import is a feisty post player with a solid mid-range game. Even if Knight and Jones sign with Kentucky, Kanter will still be coach John Calipari’s prized recruit.
- Of all the uncommitted players in the country, no one has been more coy than Cory Joseph. I tried to get a read on Joseph after practice this afternoon. If basketball doesn’t work, he’s got a future in poker or politics:
- Joseph’s Findlay Prep teammate Tristan Thompson (Texas) shows a lot of versatility at power forward. He’s 6-9, 233 pounds with a 7-2 wingspan. He’s not going to do anything off the dribble, but he’s long and aggressive in the post, where he’ll earn his keep on rebounds and put-backs.
The 2010 Nike Hoop Summit is 7 p.m. Saturday night at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore. I’ll be tweeting throughout the game and reporting the latest news and rumors from press row. If you have any comments, fire away in the comments section.