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March 25, 2008MILWAUKEE - The intensity picked up for both squads during their final practice Tuesday before Wednesday night's McDonald's All American Game. Overall play was strong for both teams, but you couldn't help but notice two Ohio State commitments lighting it up on both sides of the curtain.
William Buford- The future Buckeye didn't show all he was capable in Monday night's Three-point Shooting Contest, but he was on fire during this practice. Working off screens and creating off the dribble, Buford was just too much for Sylven Landesberg to contain. Buford's uncanny ability to use the glass at any distance inside the three-point line is a testament to his deft shooting touch. If he gets serious in the weight room, Buford can be one of the top shooting guards in the country.
Chris Singleton- The Florida State commitment continues to impress. Today he asserted himself more as a scorer and stroked the ball from the outside. He also had two terrific behind the back passes that led to scores in transition. He looks big and serious and like a player who is destined to make a mark in the ACC. And Singleton is hungry to make a mark on the McDonald's game as well. He said his goal is to set a record in either rebounds, assists or steals.
Samardo Samuels- It will be fun to watch Samuels go toe to toe with B.J. Mullens of the West squad on Wednesday night. Quite frankly, he has dominated around the rim in every East practice against his thinner frontcourt big men. Other than one three-pointer in the first practice, I don't think I've seen Samuels score a bucket that was not a dunk. But don't be fooled. As a surprise contestant in the Three-point Shooting Contest on Monday, Samuels out shot a number of the guards in the contest. He told Rivals.com that he models his game after Carlos Boozer, and that is exactly the type of player who we expect him to develop into.
Kemba Walker- Much of the success of the East squad hinges on Walkers ability to contain the penetration of West point guard Brandon Jennings. The physically stronger of the two, Walker said he is up for the challenge. The beauty of Walker's game is how he can control the action on both sides of the basketball. He plays low to the ground with great strength and has a burst of athleticism at his disposal. On top of this, he makes very few mistakes.
Mike Rosario- While the West squad is loaded with point guards, the East is thin at the position. Tyreke Evans, who has played the point all his life, is running at the shooting guard position besides Walker, so it looks like Rosario, who is a natural shooting guard, will be the back up point guard. That will be a challenge for the Rutgers bound sharpshooter especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Ed Davis- After a strong day of practice on Monday, Davis was unable to practice today due to an upset stomach.
Elliot Williams- He did a terrific job defending Evans causing him a lot of problems with his quickness and aggressiveness. Despite concerns about Williams thin frame, he should eventually be a top notch defender for Duke. His athleticism continues to standout for the East team.
B.J. Mullens- While his future teammate at Ohio State was scorching the nets in the East practice, Mullens awed spectators with his special blend of explosiveness and touch in a 7-foot plus package. While the other big men on the West squad struggled to score against today's more physical play, Mullens had a much easier time finishing. Except for a couple times when Mullens dipped the ball down low and had it stripped by guards, he got the ball to a height above the rim that the competition couldn't get to. He also had some terrific finishes while on the run. He also showed what he can do on the perimeter, stroking jumper after jumper in the West's shooting drills. No doubt about it. He is a new age big man who will give Ohio State an athletic presence in the middle of its zone defense that was sorely missing this season. In watching Mullens, you can only wonder just how good this big man could be one day.
Brandon Jennings- He started out the day shooting and passing the ball at an extremely high level. When on the move in transition, Jennings is an exceptional talent. It is when things stagnate into a half court game, however, when Jennings depends too much on his pull back jumper. Today he had mixed results with it and often his teammates settled into watching him operate. He definitely holds the key's to the West teams success or failure Wednesday. If he keeps his teammates in the flow of the game, the more talented West squad should come out on top. Too many dribbles and pull back jumpers, however, could play right into the hands of the underdog East. On another note, one thing has been evident during the West practices. When Jennings puts his mind to it, he is dangerous defender and rebounder at the point guard position.
Jrue Holiday- Never out to individually impress, Holiday's serious minded approach to the game has had a positive effect on the West squad since he began practicing on Monday. Primarily scoring with his unorthodox tendency to finish with his left hand in the lane, Holiday has been happy to keep the ball moving and get his points off moving without the basketball and hitting the glass. His best work was on the defensive end today where he did a sound job defending Jennings. It will be interesting to watch him defend Evans on Wednesday night.
Malcolm Lee- Lee displayed his defensive prowess locking up Demar DeRozan along with others during the West practice. At 6-foot-4, Lee can get low to the ground and move his feet with the best of them while pressuring the ball with his hands. He and Holiday are custom built for the UCLA system, but Lee is going to need some time in the weight room before he can have the impact that the physically stronger Holiday is ready to have.
Larry Drew- After a sub par summer where he looked a step slow and off his game, Drew has matched up well with the West's higher ranked guards. He looks quicker and has the confidence with the ball that we saw in the summer prior to his junior year. Whatever limitations he has size wise and athletically, Drew has the savvy and skill to overcome them in the North Carolina system.
-The West squad has focused primarily on the transition game. Defensive transition has been a major emphasis by the coaching staff. And offensively, if the West is able to get out and run, they have the fire power to score a whole lot of points.
-The East has run as well, but has spent more time working on its half court offense and defense. They have been a tad more methodical in their offense compared to the West and had an emphasis on getting the ball inside on offense. If the East actually does pound the ball inside and take quality outside shots in rhythm, they have a chance to control the tempo of the game and grind out an upset victory.
-Expect these match ups amongst the starting five:
West vs. East
Brandon Jennings vs. Kemba Walker
Jrue Holiday vs. Tyreke Evans
Demar DeRozan vs. Al-Farouq Aminu
Greg Monroe vs. Tyler Zeller
B.J. Mullens vs. Samardo Samuels