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July 7, 2006

Nike camp: Opening day

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - Let the games begin. The shoe camp season has officially started and the Nike All-American camp kicked things off. Guys like Jai Lucas and Patrick Patterson did their thing as the rest of the camp is now playing catch up.


Top performers


There just isn't a great buzz on opening night and finding the elite performers is not an easy task to do judging on two games into the action. That said, there were a handful of guys that we saw that brought it.

Jai Lucas, 2007 - When it comes to being a competitor, the Houston native was born and bred to shine at events like All-American camps. And on a day that lacked great point from the backcourt, Lucas was the grand maestro from the point guard spot.

Speed? He's got it. Smooth fade away jumper once he gets into the lane and a defender towering over him? Buckets. Defense? He is as pesky as they come.

It was all clicking. Don't expect him to stop either. The camp setting isn't a sprint. It's a marathon. Day one, Lucas is holding a comfortable and steady lead on the guards.

Patrick Patterson, 2007 - Here is a big surprise. The 6-foot-8 power forward was bringing it. He's been a man on a mission all spring and summer long and didn't let up on opening night. The blue-collar big man just gets better and better in the post. He's mixing in a great looking jump hook, setting up low in the post and getting big in the blocks. You know what you are getting with the West Virginia native. He's an effort guy that mixes in talent, production and still a hint of potential of great things to come.

Jay Dee Luster, 2007 - Nike has a three pass rule before shooting at the camp. That rule is just what the San Diego point guard loves. The Hoover HS product was making friends in a hurry, dropping off dimes left and right. The 5-foot-7 point guard was orchestrating a fantastic offense. Patterson was the beneficiary for several good looks. On the defensive end, Luster was pesky like a gnat on a hot humid summer night.

Adam Allen, 2007 - The future Florida wing had it going in the first half of his first game of the day. He buried a three pointer but also moved well without the ball and was rewarded on the baseline with a great pass that translated into a backdoor dunk. His ability to move without the ball on the offensive end will only be rewarded when he lines up with fellow 2007 commit Nick Calathes, one of the best passers in the class.

Solomon Alabi, 2007 - He must have found religion because he is living a basketball miracle right now. The progression the 7-footer has made in the last six month is amazing. At every setting on day one, he's showing improved skills on the offensive end. Alabi is scoring with a jump hook. He's running the floor and getting transition buckets. He's catching the rock better. It's starting all come around. If there was one big man that created a bigger buzz on Thursday, it was him. It's starting to all click.


Hi, my name is…


Cory Higgins, 2007 - Here's a guy with something to prove. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Monte Vista High School in Danville, Calif., came into the camp with a strong recruiting contingency from the West Coast Conference. Harris said Oregon, Cal, Arizona, St. John's and Georgetown are also showing interest.

Enter a great looking jump shot and a 3.1 grade point average. Higgins could be a guy that has more people talking come Sunday. Higgins performed well in the three on three routine and then came out swinging in the first game with a great looking jump shot. As he puts the pieces together, Higgins could go home to Cali with a host of other schools in tow.

James Johnson, 2007 - Wyoming. Not your traditional starting place when looking for high-major players. But that is where the 6-foot-8 wing forward hails from. In fact, that is where he hangs his state championship title and tournament MVP. There can't be too many athletic and big wings in Wyoming that can check him at the high school level. He likes to stroke the three and attack the rim. Johnson has the tools that catch the eyes of recruiters at the highest level. He had done that so far here at the Nike camp. In fact, he could be one of the breakout guys that always emerge from All-American events.

Johnson said he has offers from Cincinnati, Virginia Tech and Washington State while Wake Forest, Gonzaga, Boston College and Wichita State are looking at him. A host of schools will follow him down to the Kentucky Hoopfest after the Nike camp and to the Reebok Big Time in Vegas. Johnson will play with Colorado based True Players AAU team.


Other notable performers from opening night


E'Twaun Moore, 2007 - Every school in search of a combo guard is knocking on Moore's door. But Moore isn't looking at more schools. In fact, it's more like less is more. The Indiana native told Rivals.com that he is looking at wrapping up his recruitment and has a top four of Illinois, Indiana, Purdue and Iowa. All four schools watched him closely on opening night. And a handful of others are watching hoping to make an impression in the final hour. Moore is playing good basketball, doing what he does best, scoring, defending and knocking down jumpers.

Robbie Hummel, 2008 - The Indiana native had a crowd of media around him as if he were George Dub-ya himself. The reason? A local radio station reported that he committed to Purdue. Hummel said he did not commit but the Boilermakers are in his top two, along with Indiana. A decision could be coming by the end of the month, he said.

By the way, Hummel looked very impressive on day one. Great things happen when he has the ball in his hands. Hummel played the point and made guys like Austin Freeman look even better than they already are.

Dorenzo Hudson, 2007 - After a sub par NBA Players Association camp, the North Carolina native said he knew he had to change things with his game. In the first day of games, he did something about it. He escaped from his go-to moves (shooting a high percentage from the wing) and distributed the ball very well. He is trying to show off a well rounded game in Indy. So far so good. On the recruiting front, his list is ACC strong. Wake Forest, Clemson, Boston College, Maryland have joined everyone but North Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.


All eyes on you


The first head coach in the gym for the 2:30 games? How about new NC State head man Sidney Lowe. It is his first outing as the Pack's leader and he didn't waste any time finding a seat front and center for the afternoon games.

Lowe wasn't the only head coach making it in to the NIFS Center. Head coaches in the house included: Bill Self (Kansas), Paul Hewitt (Georgia Tech), Herb Sendek (Arizona State), Ben Howland (UCLA), Tom Crean (Marquette), Bruce Weber (Illinois), Rick Barnes (Texas), Jay Wright (Villanova), Bob Huggins (Kansas State), Matt Painter (Purdue), Sean Miller (Xavier), Mike Anderson (Missouri), Steve Fisher (San Diego State), Sean Sutton (Oklahoma State), Dave Leitao (Virginia), Seth Greenberg (Virginia Tech), Greg McDermott (Iowa State), Lute Olson (Arizona), and others.


School lists


John Roberson, 2007 - Some how, winning a 5A state title in Texas didn't put the point guard on the national map like you'd except. Oklahoma and Utah don't seem to mind. The two schools are the finalists in his recruitment. The Sooners are three hours from home and a visit to Salt Lake City helped raise the Utes on Roberson's list. A decision could come soon from the Florida transplant. Day one was strong. It's day two and three that will help separate him self from a relatively unmotivated point guard crew at the Nike camp.

Xavier Gibson, 2008 - There has been a lot of scuttlebutt floating around that the lanky forward from Alabama was getting ready to decide on his college home. He isn't. In fact, the notion that he was winding it down rattled the talented youngster a little bit. Gibson told Rivals.com that he isn't committing to Kansas State or Cincinnati but liked both schools. The schools aren't alone. Alabama, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Florida and Georgia are recruiting him as well. Gibson said he'd like to hear more from UConn, North Carolina and Duke. On the basketball court, Gibson didn't look too shabby. The Nike camp is where he took his game to another level last year. He said he is ready to take his game back to that level this week.

Jerai Grant, 2007 - The DeMatha big man said Marquette and Clemson have emerged as his top two. He took an unofficial visit to Marquette last week and would like to take a peek at Clemson soon. Grant also said Dayton, DePaul, Indiana and Xavier are in the picture as well.

Malcolm Delaney, 2007 - Head coaches from Clemson and Iowa State and an assistant from Maryland (all three of his high-major offers) and Indiana watched the Baltimore product closely on opening night. He played well on the offensive end, knocking down jumpers. Delaney said he isn't close to making a decision and said he'd like to see how well he does and reevaluate things come August.

Delvon Roe, 2008 - Here is a guy that has found his way onto the most wanted list for a number of high-majors. Ohio State, Michigan State, Florida, Michigan, Virginia Tech, Illinois and Miami have offered, he said, but North Carolina has not.

Al-Farouq Aminu, 2008 - The Peach State stud said his list could move around over the next couple of years but for now, Clemson, Wake Forest, Florida, Georgia Tech, Uconn and Tennessee are looking like the early front runners.

James Anderson, 2007 - With players trimming their lists and picking schools at a daily clip, the Arkansas native is going the opposite direction. He is collecting schools, and offers, at a fast rate. Arkansas, LSU, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kentucky, UConn, Tennessee, Texas and Missouri are all involved. He said he'd like to take some visits to help make his decision a little easier. If he keeps playing like the way he did on Thursday, his list will be longer than most kids as they return home.

Terrell McKenzie, 2007 - The New Jersey native has found a new home next year and he'll spend it at Brewster Academy. Jason Smith will have a guard that can play both positions well and a guard with offers from St. Joe's and Virginia Tech. Miami, Maryland and Iowa State are new players in the game while Wake Forest and Clemson continue to recruit him, he said.

Angelo Johnson, 2008 - The jet quick point guard is moving from the Atlanta area to Stoneridge Prep in California and he'll take a favorite list of Cincinnati, Michigan and Minnesota with him. The Bearcats have made the biggest impression with the Minnesota native.

Dexter Strickland, 2009 - After a sensational showing at the adidas Phenom150 camp last week in San Diego, the St. Patrick's guard showed flashes of why he has the clear cut top player at the event that featured a host of 2009 and 2010 prospects. Playing against bigger, stronger and older players here at the Nike camp, it is obvious that he'll need to add a lot more bulk over the next three years. That said, he was fearless to the basket with the dribble drive and scored at the basket in traffic. He buried a three-pointer and handled the ball well enough to absorb the point guard duties. Time is on his side and he's gaining confidence each time he steps on the floor. Strickland took an unofficial visit to Rutgers shortly after shining in San Diego.


Odds & Ends


South Carolina guard Shelton Brown may only stand 5-feet-9 but he gets off the floor in a hurry and flies when he leaves the hardwood. He had a couple of impressive athletic feats in his morning game.

Miami commitment Freddy Asprilla went down with a bad high ankle sprain in the three on three drills. He's lucky to not have broken his ankle. The swelling was nasty to see. He had x-rays taken at a nearby hospital and proved to be negative. Obviously, he is out of the camp now because of the bum foot.

Alabama stud prospect DeMarcus Cousins is in search of a good dentist. The class of 2009 big man had his front tooth broken off, leaving half an ivory. He took a nasty face first spill in the three on three session.

Players quickly learned that Blake Griffin is not here to hand out flowers and lolly-pops. He is no Mr. Nice Guy on the floor. In the three on three segments, Griffin was the only player that was willing to dive onto the chairs for a loose ball and plant elbows in players jaws while posting up. He is tailor made for the Big 12. Sooner fans will love him even more than they already do and the rest of the conference will despise him. He probably wouldn't have it any other way.

Xavier Henry, the stud 2009 prospect from Oklahoma, had the college coaches giddy with his text book jump shot. He's automatic from the wing when he has an open look and with his mature body, he can put the ball on the floor and challenge anyone that gets in the way. Special? You betcha.

Scott Thompson, 2007 - The Idaho native made a great entry pass to a fellow big and that opened some eyes but he needs to get bigger. Once he does, that will help him down low because he is not a great finisher around the basket but the skills are there. Is he a Pac-10 guy or his a player that steps into the WAC, Mountain West, etc. and helps earlier than later? It is up to Thompson to decide that much.

The strength of the Nike camp this year is in the class of 2008. And the strength is in the big men. So when studs Greg Monroe and Samardo Samuels tangle down low, people will watch. It's too bad Samuels showed up around half time as he high tailed it in from the airport. The match-up never fully materialized, as the big time match-ups never do. But in the short time they battled, Monroe got the upper hand.

The New Orleans native is a difficult match-up. For starters, he's a lefty. Monroe is athletic and does a great job of attacking from the high block. He rebounded well, scored at the basket and gave Samuels a headache because his footspeed was just a step too slow compared to Samuels.

In fact, another late arrival, Georgia commit Jeremy Price, also gave Samuels a hard time. He out-bigged Samuels, one of the best bigs in the camp, down low. Price looked good in his brief outing.


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