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More Stickdog From Nike!

Monday was a very good day for basketball at the Nike Camp in Indianapolis. Coach K and Wojo arrived on the scene (Chris Collins traded places with them at the ABCD), and the number of big name coaches here reached an all-time high.

J.J. Redick
Shavlik Randolph
Shelden Williams

The biggest story of the day may have been the evening showdown between Shavlik Randolph and Torin Francis. Francis has been tearing up much of the interior competition at Nike, especially in 3-on-3 competition. Earlier in the day, observers were disappointed when Francis’ team went head to head with Amare Stoudemire’s team, but Francis and Stoudemire were relegated to completely different rotations for over 80% of the game, and no real fireworks ensued when both were in the game together (although Francis did convert one nice up and under move around Stoudemire).

But there was no draft dodging in the nightcap as the obviously banged up, 6’8” 208 lb Shavlik Randolph was most often matched up toe to toe with the bigger and stronger 6’10” 220 lb Torin Francis. The bleachers filled up fast with Coach K, Matt Doherty, Billy Donovan, Roy Williams, Tubby Smith, Mike Montgomery and dozens of other big time coaches looking on. Torin has a lot of skill and poise, but these were not advantages last night as Shavlik Randolph made the high post his home and displayed a stocked arsenal of pretty spin moves, head and ball fakes, turn around jumpers, crisp relocation passes and successful finishes. Of course, Francis had his moments as well. Torin used his stronger body to draw several fouls on slick power moves and win a closely contested battle of the boards. Torin also showed off his well-polished drop step, which has been destroying the opposition with amazing consistency this week. However, considering the competition and the fact that he was arguably playing out of position, Shavlik’s defense on Torin was very impressive. The “book” on Shavlik is to body him aggressively and hit him with double teams whenever he makes a move toward the hoop, and this strategy has often paid dividends this week. But when Shavlik simply lets the game come to him as he did on Monday, it is easy to see why so many knowledgeable observers believe that he is something special. Imagining a fully healthy Shavlik with 20 lbs of added muscle has more than a few big time coaches pulling out all the stops to influence Shavlik’s decision in their programs’ direction.

JJ Redick was also extremely impressive on Monday. JJ’s game begins and ends with his sweet, sweet stroke and he was barely ruffling the net from way outside--off relocation passes, off the dribble, on the break and even with a hand in his face. But it’s the “middle” of JJ’s game that has everyone ranking him in the top 15 this year, and Redick showed again that he’s much more than a perimeter marksman. JJ led fast breaks with aplomb, and he finished them with incredibly efficient reverses. He came up with loose balls and critical rebounds. He even tapped home a couple of his teammates’ misses. In addition, JJ and Shavlik worked extremely well together Monday, consistently setting each other up for scoring opportunities. Will their obvious penchant for making each better play a major role in Shavlik’s decision?

Of course, the good news didn’t stop with Shav and JJ. Coach K and Wojo were also front and center for both of Shelden Williams’ games, and Shelden again showed his biggest fans why he’s considered one of the premier high school players in the land. Shelden simply outclassed his interior competition on the boards and in the paint. He also displayed his developing perimeter game by knocking down a couple of soft jumpers, facing up successfully, and even leading the break at times. When Shelden’s team needs a hoop, they know exactly where to go. When it’s time for a critical basket, Shelden just sets up down low. He doesn’t let anything, not even beefy double teams, get in his way.

Michael Thompson also continued to dominate. Anyone who came out to see Michael at the Bob Gibbons tourney should just file that performance away under new teammate growing pains. Michael has simply been a raging bull over the last few days, holding his ground on defense while taking whatever ground he wants on offense. Michael’s recent trip to the Duke basketball camp seems to have worked wonders for ability to clear out space on the offensive end. He has become the obvious target for any teammate who doesn’t mind being credited with an assist. Michael still isn’t comfortable shooting the baseline jumper outside of 8 feet, and he needs to develop a few fakes to throw off shot blocking opponents. But his hands are vastly improved, and he is now arguably the most consistent and effective offensive weapon on his Nike team (which includes Matt Walsh). Thompson’s teammates are looking to feed him the ball down low whenever he has position, which is almost every minute he’s on offense. Michael is giving himself so much room inside that his teammates’ post entry passes have become almost as safe a swing around the perimeter.

The return of Larry "Hoops" King:

Jarrett Jack really picked it up Monday after a couple of disappointing days. He can speed the break north-south as well as any point guard in the 2002 class … Rashad McCants is doing it all this week. He is posting up, hitting his threes from everywhere, finishing breaks and drive with thunderous slams, coming up with clutch steals and even dishing off the break. The Duke-UNC rivalry is in for some epic future battles … Mark Causey’s younger brother Matt continues to prove that he is one of the rising juniors players who belongs with the big boys. He’s a tough winner who won’t back down from bigger, stronger and faster players … Recent Michigan commit Graham Brown is a fighter down low. Although he measured in at just 6’5”, his 6’11” wingspan and solid build allows him to come up with the rebound in a crowd … 6’3” scorer deluxe Rashad Anderson continues to make those who called him underrated this spring look very smart. Thanks, Rashad. We knew you could do it. Expect some high majors to try to get in on him immediately … Ousmane Konate may be a little raw and intermittently out of control, but he is an extremely athletic and active player who can sky, body, rebound and hit the short jumper. He displayed a nice spin move in the lane, and he even tried to run the break a couple of times. Now if we can just find out how old he is and where he’s planning to go to (high?) school … 6’5” WI wing JR Morris is one of those players who manages to get his points no matter who is guarding him. He’s a physically mature performer who uses a variety of methods to score and who takes and makes clutch shots … Speaking of physical maturity, 6’7” Evan Burns is proving to be a man against boys. When it comes to driving to the basket, he has had his way against all comers … Thin, 7’0” MA C Keith Butler seems to have developed the beginnings of an offensive game when no one was looking. He hit a couple short jumpers, showed pretty good hands and even made the extra interior pass for a nifty assist … A raging battle between 6’4” Denham Brown and 6’5” Kelenna Azubuike ended up going extra innings. Kelenna is a better ball handler with a quicker first step, but Brown is a stronger player with a more consistent outside stroke and a wonderfully elevated release … 6’7” GA commit Alexander Johnson didn’t play for some reason on Monday. Hopefully, he isn’t injured … 6’1” DC PG Wade Dunston is a very aggressive lead guard with a strong drive and a seemingly tireless motor … 6’11” rising sophomore Roy Hibbert is extremely thin and less than the picture of fluid grace. However, he has nice hands, a surprising mid-range stroke and good court awareness--not to mention an incredible 9’1”(!) reach, the highest of any player at Nike … Moving from height to width, 6’9” 341 lb IN rising junior C Kenneth Harris is the clearly uncut winner. Harris has an impressive 7’1” wingspan, and his frame isn’t that much smaller. He’s a hustling player who uses his bulk well to take and hold position, and he will be a coveted big man next
year.... Speaking of width, 6’7” Sean May went back to setting up near the hoop on Monday, and he had good success there … 6’1” Shannon Brown is a little undersized for a wing guard, but he’s got a sweet stroke, obvious athleticism and a knack for slithering to the hole through traffic and finding a way to finish. He’s definitely high major … Thin, 6’6” IL WF Brian Randle and heady 6’2” VA PG JR Reynolds continue to impress. They are definitely two of the top 10 rising juniors at Nike … Beefy 6’5” LaVar Carter is related to the incredibly athletic 6’2” rising junior Michael Bush. Bush is also a star wide receiver who is already coveted by big time football programs. Both kids are from Louisville, and they like to play together so much that whoever signs Carter could have the inside track on Bush. Does Rick Pitino have enough scholarship magic left to work this one out? … 6’1” VA PG John Gilchrist had a great game Monday night, getting the better of fine 6’1” IA PG Jeff Horner. Although John missed a couple of questionable shots, he penetrated extremely well, hit a big midrange jumper off the dribble and a finished a sweet drive around Shavlik’s outstretched arms with the game on the line. He matched up against his Boo Williams AAU teammate JJ Redick for a few possessions, and both kids seemed to get a big kick out of going after each other in front of such a high rent audience....

I’m sorry that today’s Nike article arrived so late, but I’ve been busy pondering a possible de-commitment to the DBR. In fact, I’ve already made a verbal to “Sports Illustrated.” Now, if they’d only return my calls ….