Now that the summer viewing period is complete and we’ve had time to take in all we saw, we dug through our notes to talk about five important things we gathered from evaluating many of the nation’s best players.
1. The Class of 2014 isn’t bad at all
When Noah Vonleh (Indiana), Dakari Johnson (Kentucky), Wayne Selden and Andrew Wiggins (both Kansas) reclassified back to the class of 2013 in the fall of 2012, the prevailing thought at the time was one of doom for the class of 2014. That quartet of incoming college freshmen was supposed to gut the Class of 2014 of some major talent and make this upcoming senior class one of the weakest of the past 10-15 years. Wrong. From the group of 6-9 Cliff Alexander (Curie, Chicago), 6-1 Joel Berry (Lake Highland Prep, Orlando, Fla.), 6-7 Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei, Santa Ana, Calif.), 6-1 Tyus Jones (Apple Valley, Minn.), 6-5 Emanuel Mudiay (Prime Prep Academy, Dallas), 6-10 Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young, Chicago), 6-11 Myles Turner (Trinity, Euless, Texas) and 6-5 Rashad Vaughn (Findlay Prep, Henderson, Nev.), if you took the five of your choice you’d have one heck of a college team and the solid foundation of a NBA team. Players such as Johnson and Turner have really emerged to give this class a strong group at the top.
2. American players haven’t improved their shooting
We recall at an ABCD Camp in the mid 2000s when a prominent coach speaking to campers stated NBA brass at the time was passing on many American born players because it was “en vogue” to search for the next foreign superstar. The truth of the matter be told, a majority of America’s high level high school talents either can’t shoot the ball consistently or don’t executive good shot selection in order to put themselves in position to take a high percentage shot. Take a look at these team 3-point shooting percentages from high end events — 2013 McDonald’s All-American Game (3-for-22, 4-for-17), 2013 Jordan Brand Classic (8-for-17, 3-for-18), 2013 adidas Nations Championship (6-for-19, 5-for-26) and third place game (1-for-5, 9-for-18). In three major events, that’s two above average shooting performances, one by the Jordan Brand West team and one by the African team at Nations. The lack of outside shooting has reached anemic levels with no relief in site.
3. American players haven’t improved their commitment level
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made waves during the 2013 NBA Playoffs when he was quoted as saying American players don’t have the work ethic of foreign players. Pop was obviously talking about his experience coaching at the highest level of the game, but that process begins at the high school level. At adidas Nationsm we witnessed foreign players who were more receptive to coaching, more receptive to criticism and more enthusiastic about learning. This has been a criticism of American basketball for quite some time, the so-called “entitlement culture”, and the only way for it to change will be with adults. Until adults in the game hold kids accountable, instead of fawning to their talents, the entitlement culture won’t change. Kids know they have a way out because there is always another coach, mentor, or hanger-on that will allow them to do what they want and tell them how great they are.
4. There will always be sleepers
One train of thought since the Internet became such an ingrained part of the recruiting process over ten years ago was that the “sleeper” prospect would cease to exist. But as this summer proved, even with Social Media taking over the game the last two years, prospects will always emerge. Two prime examples are 6-9 LaDamion Keys of Conquering Word Christian Academy (New Orleans, La.) and 6-2 New Williams of Santa Monica (Santa Monica, Calif.). Keys turned heads playing for New Orleans Elite at the adidas Invitational in Indianapolis and Super 64 in Las Vegas and is now ranked No. 87 in the Class of 2014 by The Hoop Scoop. Williams, meanwhile, played spot minutes for SaMoHi as a sophomore but now holds offers from schools such as Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine. There will always be kids with the drive to get noticed and surpass those that are receiving the early attention, regardless of where technology takes the game.
5. Josh Jackson is scary good
The 6-foot-6 wing from Consortium College Prep (Detroit) is just another reason the class of 2016 is so mouth-watering. Sure, Thon Maker of Carlisle School (Martinsville, Va.) is intriguing because of his size (7-foot) and coordination, but with Harry Giles of Wesleyan Christian Academy (Winston-Salem, N.C.) hurt for the upcoming school year there isn’t a better prospect nationally in the class. In fact, there aren’t more than five players in the country we’d take over him to start a high school team with. Jackson makes up for his rail frame with good passing instincts, a good for the ball, and the ability to effortlessly score.