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Stickdog Gets To The Point!

Here's Stickdog on the best point guards at Nike, and some cool photos of some
of the participants as well superbly taken by the sublime and comely Stickbitch. All Hail Stickdog and Stickbitch!

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The 2001 Nike All-America Camp was a very professional production that was strategically optimized for ease of scouting. The players are weighed and then
measured in their bare feet. (Does seem just a tad ironic for a shoe camp?) Weight, reach and wingspan are all measured along with height, and this unusually
accurate and valuable information is readily available. All basketball events take place on three courts in a single venue, the NIFS building at IUPUI. In the mornings,
coaches and scouts can watch players as they practice various skills such as 3-on-3 drills, free throws, and perimeter shooting. In the afternoons and evenings,
these players face off against each other in games designed to allow evaluators to view the largest number of players in the shortest amount of time. There are very
few stoppages of play for any reason, including free throws.

While the high school recruiting class of 2002 may not be remembered as the finest or deepest in history, there are a hundreds of wonderful and exciting players
working hard every day for just a chance to make a splash in the high major recruiting pool. Of course, careful talent evaluation is especially important when the
number of obvious standout recruits is relatively small.

I am simply a hopeless college and high school basketball fanatic who watches countless hours of hoops--not a basketball skills evaluation genius or a recruiting
guru. I’m far more concerned with correctly describing these players than I am with ranking them. Ranking players is a typically intractable task.

For example, there were nine point guards at the Nike All-America Camp who managed to stand out from the crowd. Each of the point guards has unique strengths
and unique weaknesses. Because no single point guard or small subgroup of point guards has obviously risen to the top, an ordered list of these players is closer to
self-commentary than objective analysis.

Here are the top nine 2002 point guards at Nike:

Shavlik Randolph
JJ Redick
DeAngelo Alexander
Rashad McCants
Torin Francis
Jarrett Jack
Jeff Horner
Justin Gray and Torin Francis
Shelden Williams
Tristan Williams

John Gilchrist - 6’1” 179 lbs. (Salem HS, Virginia Beach, VA)

John is a fine penetrator with a great handle who runs the show in a very efficient manner. Gilchrist has a cool demeanor and nothing seems to faze him on the
court. While not the quickest point, he manages to summon enough quickness to get by his man whenever he needs to. John uses his fine dribble and first step to
go by his defender(s) and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. If the defense stays at home, he’ll crash the hoop himself. Gilchrist can and will knock
down the three if he’s given daylight, and he’s an active and aggressive defender with long arms and quick hands. He finishes well, even when he gets tossed around
in the tall trees. John’s just a fine playmaker who knows that he’s most valuable to his team with the ball in his hands.

Jarrett Jack - 6’2” 190 lbs. (Worchester Academy, Fort Washington, MD)

Jack was the biggest and strongest point guard at Nike as well as the fastest from end to end on the break. The cousin of Duke’s Chris Duhon, Jack has excellent
court vision and can pass the ball with the best in his class. He has a nice frame that he rolls over many opposing guards as if they were bowling pins. Jarrett’s
frame, strength, speed and exceptional handle allow him to penetrate and then dish or score. On the other side of the ball, his long arms, quick feet and
turbocharged motor make opposing guards miserable. However, Jack’s perimeter stroke is still questionable: his rotation is not consistent and his release is a little
low. On Monday, he didn’t look to shoot much, but over the last two days of Nike, he bounced back to knock down a few long threes. In fact, he occasionally hunted
his shot outside his team’s offensive flow, albeit without much success. Disregarding his shaky long distance stroke, Jarrett played as well as any point at Nike.
He’s always a tenacious defender, he’s always hustling, and endline to endline, he's always a blur.

Jeff Horner - 6’1” 182 lbs. (Mason City HS, Mason City, IA) IOWA verbal

Horner is a strong, tough, savvy point with nice size, a polished handle, and fine all-around playmaking skills. He’s a deceptively
athletic and active defender who gets his share of hustle steals and usually manages to stay in front of seemingly quicker
opponents. If he senses a possible advantage, Jeff advances the ball directly toward the goal at a breakneck pace and still
manages to make excellent decisions on the break. He generally takes extremely good care of the ball, often plays very
aggressively, and always hustles. He has good form and elevation on his accurate jumper, but he can be very streaky from outside
21 feet and he lets it fly from way, way out on occasion. Jeff seemed to play with a little less energy and desire when his three’s
weren’t falling, and his midrange game off the bounce is a work in progress. Although dribble penetration is not Horner’s offensive
strength in a half court setting, he dribbles and/or strong-arms his way past his defender(s) when he sees an opening. Finally, he's
a real fighter in the trenches who won’t hesitate to battle under the boards or dive for loose balls.

Dee Brown - 5’11” 166 lbs. (Proviso East HS, Maywood, IL) ILLINOIS verbal

While Jarrett Jack’s full-speed breaks were extremely impressive, I heard that Dee Brown was even quicker end-to-end.
Unfortunately, Dee got a little banged up at the Nike Camp over the weekend, and by the time I saw him play, he was neither
blindingly quick nor deadly from the perimeter. However, he still looked plenty quick to me, and he still managed to show off the
best handle at Nike--including a slick spin dribble move to free himself down low that was extremely impressive. Dee didn’t take
too many perimeter shots; in fact, he looked to pass as his first, second and third options. To his credit, he was often able to set
up teammates for easy buckets, he played solid defense, and his controlled style limited his teams’ turnovers. Dee proved that
he’s enough of a pure point that his leadership and passing skills are extremely valuable--even without his customary heaping
helping of explosive full court forays and deadly downtown sniping.

Justin Gray - 6’1” 165 lbs. (Oak Hill Academy, Charlotte, NC)

This quick and slight sharpshooter can really lead a team. He isn't a drive and dish man so much as a set up man--think
Dunleavy/Duhon-style assisting and pre-assisting. He gets a bad rap as an undersized wing because he often directs the offense
by reversing the ball, feeding the post or hitting the cutter rather than simply controlling the ball with his dribble and trying to create
a gap by penetrating. Gray’s lead guard style works extremely well when his team is talented at all positions because it keeps the
other players involved and rewards movement without the ball. Justin then takes full advantage of his accurate stroke by converting
many of the reversal or relocation passes he receives into 3-point swishes. If his defender comes up too close, he goes around and
attacks the rim, or more likely, pulls up and launches a soft mid-range floater. Despite his slight frame, Justin gets right up on
defense and generally makes himself a pest.

Marshall Strickland - 6’2” 185 lbs. (South Carroll HS, Mt. Airy, MD) INDIANA verbal

Marshall is a strong and skilled scoring combo-guard who is just learning how to lead a team. His full fleet of physical facilities is
phenomenally impressive--strength, quickness, hops, athleticism, body control, and toughness. His sick sack of scoring skillz is
simmering with creative finishes down low, pull up midrange shots, off-the-dribble three-pointers, defensive prowess, and above
average court vision. However, Strickland’s lead guard skills are noticeably erratic, and I’m still not completely sold on him as a
full-time high major point guard. He has the body, the defense, the shot, and the ability to finish strong. Can he improve his handle
while cutting down on bad decisions? More importantly, can he learn to temper his impressive scoring tendencies in order to keep
his teammates involved and his team in the win column?

Mario Moore - 5’11” 157 lbs. (Antioch HS, Nashville, TN) VANDERBILT verbal

Vanderbilt really stole one when they locked up the wiry and fiery Moore last August. A fierce competitor with dangerous speed, a
slick handle and great elevation on his jumper, Mario is a true point guard as well as a true athlete. He’s as comfortable setting the
table for his teammates as he is leaping over it for his highlights. Blessed with quick feet, quick hands and a quickening defensive
intensity, his penchant for stealing with impunity is almost Enron-esque. Mario may have all the raw materials a talented young
point needs, but the formative word here is “raw.” When Moore turns on his incredible quickness, he still has a notable tendency to
get out of control. While a considerable number of Mario’s long distance heaves have gone through immediately, he launched a
couple so aimlessly that their only chance of ever meeting is through a “Missed Connection” personal ad. So maybe this guy is a
tiny bit freaky and a tiny bit streaky. It doesn’t change the fact that he should become a notable force in the SEC within a year of
his arrival.

Mike Lasme - 6’0” 186 lbs. (Life Center Academy, Willingboro, NJ)

Lasme is another highly talented, highly athletic combo-guard desperately trying to morph into a point. He was first spotted on the
high school basketball scene two summers ago when he jumped straight from France clear over to New Jersey, and he and his 47”
vertical have been wowing dunk fans ever since. Mike is extremely fast, and he seems to have an infinite energy supply. He flies
on the break, wreaks havoc on defense, and he can jump completely out of the gym. Between Lasme’s 6’5” wingspan and
ridiculous hops, he’s always had the tools to score in the paint, but it took him awhile to learn how to connect his dots. In addition,
Mike is involving his teammates when he runs the break, and he’s improving his handle. He may never become a point guard who
can take the keys to a high major team, but he’s turned himself into an intriguing prospect to say the least. If Mike works hard on
his studies, his handle and his dime delivery service, he’ll be coming soon to a major conference near you.

Tristan Martin - 6’1” 177 lbs. (York Memorial CI, Toronto, ONT, CAN)

If pure athleticism were the only measure of a pure point the marquis match-up of the summer circuit would be Tristan Martin vs.
Michael Lasme. Both players are breathtakingly athletic leapers and both have wingspans that exceed their heights by 5 full
inches. Martin may be slightly quicker (Iverson vs. Marbury) and Lasme may be slightly stronger (Duncan vs. Robinson). Martin
may have a bit more range (Miller vs. Allen), and Lasme may be the slightly more seasoned lead guard (Satterfield vs. Solomon).
But when it comes to bouncing over the backboard, I say OT goes OT. Much like Lasme, Martin’s got a truckload of quicks, and a
boatload of hops. Both Martin and Lasme run turbo-breaks, knock down long threes, and jam it home from just inside the stripe.
Yet neither of these high fliers is close to sniffing a spot among the top 10 point guards in their recruiting class. Could this athletic
“slight” be a consensus recognition of the relatively high levels of skill and maturity necessary to become a successful point guard
in both big time college basketball and the NBA? Wouldn’t it be refreshing if mad skills still outvalued mad hops for even one

Maybe this would be refreshing, but wasn’t the completely lost (but 6'6") Jamal Crawford drafted 8th last year specifically to play
the point? No, the extraordinary athleticism of Lasme and Martin isn’t devalued because special leadership skills are uniquely
valued among point guards. It’s simply because all skills--and especially athleticism--are still severely devalued with decreasing
height. (Haven’t we learned anything from Iverson?)

If Tristan Martin were 6’4” with an equivalent skill set and proportionally long arms, he would be a consensus top 15 recruit,
regardless of all the missing parts in his game. And if Mike Lasme and his ridiculously athletic skill set somehow sprouted up to
6’9”, he’d have it all over Amare Stoudemire--and maybe even Lebron James.

Continuing This Thought, Here is:

Stickdog’s Amazing 1st Annual ALL-NIKE Thrillz not Skillz Team

(Sponsored by the All-Athletes-All-the-Time Channel)

  • Eric Hicks - 6’4” 220 lbs. (Dudley HS, Greensboro, NC)
  • Andre Iguodala - 6’5” 190 lbs. (Lanphier HS, Springfield, IL)
  • Bobby Jones - 6’6” 186 lbs. (Dominguez HS, Compton, CA)
  • Almany Thiero - 6’7” 238 lbs. (Mount Zion Academy, Durham, NC)
  • Rashard Sullivan - 6'7" 217 lbs. (St. Thomas Aquinas HS, Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

All of these players are unbelievably electric athletes. They can run and they can fly and they can certainly dunk with the best.
However, their combined level of basketball skill could be politely described as raw (and in one specific case even N/A could be
considered polite).

In every single Nike Camp combined position ranking I’ve seen (the count now stands at four), at least one of these highly athletic
players--and in some cases as many as all 5--are ranked ahead of both Mike Lasme and Tristan Martin.

Remembering that both Martin and Lasme “run turbo-breaks, knock down long threes, and can jam it home from just inside the
stripe” and that Lasme is a beefy 186 lbs. of muscle with a 47 inch vertical, isn’t something wrong with some of these high school
camp rankings? How can all five guys on the Thrillz not Skillz Team--or even one of them for that matter--be ranked ahead of Mike
Lasme? And apart from that fact that these rankings are so objectively questionable, what message is sent when merely a couple
of inches or pounds moves a player ahead of another player with far better skills as well as far better athleticism?

More Fun with Height

The wingspan and reach measurements are two other factors that can compound height-based talent evaluation bias. It should be
obvious to most by now that players like Elton Brand and Shelden Williams (to name just two of many) can and usually do play
bigger than their height if they have exceptionally long arms. So why isn’t reach listed on all NBA programs and draft analyses?
And why isn’t it listed on as many college recruiting publications as possible? While admittedly still far from perfect, isn't reach far
more instructive than height?

Why do many scouts and almost all fans remember exactly one measurement about every player they follow? What is the
profound significance of memorizing the exact distance from the top of a player's head to the bottom of his shoes? In a game
where long arms puts balls in 10 foot high hoops, why do know so little about arms and what accounts for our strange obsession
with scalps? What possible purpose does it serve to know the exact coordinates of Shaquille O'Neal's head--unless you're
somehow planning to dunk on it?

Consider this team of (IMO) generally underrated performers from the Nike All-America Camp:

Stickdog’s Amazing 1ST Annual ALL-NIKE Big & Short Forward Team

(Sponsored by the Swing-Low-Sweet-Chariot Channel)

  • Delco Rowley - 6'6" 225 lbs. 8'6" reach (Arlington HS, Indianapolis, IN)
  • Justin Johnson - 6’6” 213 lbs. 8’6” reach (Merrillville HS, Merrillville, IN)
  • Elliot Poole - 6'6" 220 lbs. 8'3" reach (Farragut HS, Chicago, IL)
  • LeVar Carter - 6'5" 244 lbs. 8'6" reach (Male HS, Louisville, KY)
  • Graham Brown - 6'5" 237 lbs. 8'5" reach (Mio HS, Mio, MI)
  • Rashaun Freeman - 6'6” 229 lbs. 8'7" reach (Schenectady HS, Schenectady, NY)

All of these players performed admirably at the Nike Camp, but only Rowley and, in one case, Johnson have appeared in evaluation rankings of the top Nike
performers. There seems to be an unwritten rule which says that NBA and major college power forwards must be at least 6’7”. (Think of a giant Disneyland ride.)
Therefore, a fine player like 6’8”, 213 lbs. Byron Sanders may get the nod over any of the six players listed above.

However, if we check the fine print on the Nike Camp roster a bit closer, we’ll quickly notice that Byron’s reach is 8’6”--the exact same reach as Rowley, Johnson
and Carter and one inch smaller than Rashaun Freeman’s reach. Considering that each of these four “undersized” forwards can reach at least as high as Sanders
and that each weighs as much or more than Sanders, which players are undersized now?

Next up: The Nike Wrap
Evaluations and pictures of the Top 40 Nike All-America Campers who are NOT:

  1. point guards (combo-guards are OK),
  2. athletes’ athletes, or
  3. undersized power forwards.