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July 9, 2007

LeBron James: Sunday action

AKRON, Ohio - Rivals.com caught both sessions of game on Sunday at the LeBron James US Skills Academy. Within a strong line up of 80 some players, several prospects stood out with their play, but none were more impressive than Demar DeRozan.

Playing every bit like the No. 4 ranked prospect in the Rivals150, DeRozan put up big scoring numbers in both sessions. He was dialed in from deep with his fade away jumper off the dribble, but he also finished off a number of physical drives to the basket. And in between he utilized his athleticism with some aggressive work on the offensive boards.

With DeRozan firmly establishing himself as the top shooting guard prospect over the long haul, Scotty Hopson is also making a statement this summer that he is a top flight shooting guard prospect with legitimate NBA potential. In a similar fashion to DeRozan, Hopson is consistently knocking down the deep ball while also putting the ball on the floor and finishing with his patented floater.

As for the big men, three players stood out on Sunday. Greg Monroe continues to play a more aggressive style of play which began to surface in June. No longer is the No. 1 prospect playing stretches of the game where he waits for the game to come to him. Instead, he is fighting his way through crowds to get rebounds outside of his area, and he is more consistently establishing deep position in the post and taking his moves to the basket. On several occasions, he spun back to his weak hand for impressive finishes. And has always, Monroe completed passes that you just don't expect a post player to be able to complete.

Monroe did run into some stiff competition in the afternoon session, however, against the breakout player of the summer John Riek. The 7-foot-2 center and No. 3 ranked prospect in the class of 2009, thwarted several of Monroe's attempts around the basket. Throughout the day Riek was the most dominant player at the basket, blocking a host of shots and securing most every rebound he could get to. After his national debut at the NIKE Hoop Jamboree in June, Riek has used this event to prove that his performance in June was no fluke. He still has a ways to go offensively as a scorer, but he does play with poise with the ball in his hands. He commanded the double team throughout the day and did a nice job passing the ball out of the post. His problem as a scorer is that after he pivots on his post moves, he has to hesitate to gather himself to go up for the shot. With increased strength, he will be able to finish directly off his pivot. And if he ever establishes a jump hook, watch out.

Samardo Samuels was the third impressive post player of the day. And in terms of production on both ends of the court, he was probably the most impressive interior player. Already with a NBA body, Samuels is developing a game that is NBA ready as well. Looking very similar to Elton Brand, Samuels is doing a lot more than just beasting opponents around the basket. He is also posting up in the midrange area, facing his man up and then taking him off the dribble. During the day he completed this move with a dunk in traffic, a runner off one foot and a hop back jumper going left.

2009 five-star prospect Daniel Orton didn't make a big splash on the offensive end, but he was the most impressive interior defender next to Riek. Orton used his wide body and extraordinary reach to block shot after shot at the rim. On one possession, he blocked three consecutive shots from three different opponents at point blank range.

A couple other guards who impressed with their player were Brad Tinsley and Iman Shumpert. Tinsley made a statement to be reclassified as a point guard by the solid way he handled the ball for his camp team. He didn't just get them into the offensive, but created plays off the dribble. One reason he was able to do this is that he was red hot from the outside both off the catch and the dribble. He raised his stock as much as any player over the day.

Shumpert was outstanding in the afternoon session, draining three-pointer after three-pointer and working his way into the interior for scores. However, he was played a passive game in the night session and was a non-factor. We will be watching him closely on Monday.

Rotnei Clarke played his usual game yesterday. He primarily ran the point for his team, but still found ample opportunity to pour in jumpers from the outside. He also scored on his floater going right. As a point guard, Clark takes care of the ball and sees the floor well from the perimeter, but as of now, he is not the type of player who is going to consistently break his man down to create scoring opportunities with the drive and kick. His game with the ball is off the Gerry McNamara variety.

Two other posts players who are not elite players in their class, but proved they can compete with anyone in their class were Kenny Frease and Ralph Sampson, III. Although not a great athlete, Frease does have body control and an imposing frame. He is difficult to score over as Jeremy Tyler learned and if he has time and space, Frease can be crafty with the ball in his hands. He knows how to finish and also did a nice job running the floor in transition. What a get for Xavier.

Sampson is just one of those players who is better every time you see him. He looks more athletic and is playing with an ever growing confidence. He did a great job crashing the offensive glass and had a couple strong post moves over the course of the day.

School lists

Sylven Landesberg has a top five of Virginia, Georgia Tech, Texas, Kentucky and St. John's. He has already visited Texas and St. John's and expects to visit Virginia and Georgia Tech this summer. As for Kentucky, he is not sure since they just recently entered his school list. Landesberg hopes to make a decision by the end of the summer.

Iman Shumpert has a host of schools on his list including North Carolina, Illinois, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Marquette, Bradley, Notre Dame and Connecticut. All but North Carolina and Connecticut have offered, and Shumpert stressed that he is wide open at this point.

Rotnei Clarke said he enjoyed his visit to Kentucky, but he is not leaning towards the Wildcats or any other school. Along with Kentucky, he mentioned Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, Memphis and Kansas. He would like to cut his list down by the end of the summer and then make a decision around the start of school before the season begins. He also reiterated that playing with Willie Warren would be great, but that they are not a package deal.

Ralph Sampson, III is in the preliminary stages of his recruitment as more schools are certain to recruit him as his game rapidly progresses. At the moment, he has offers from Minnesota, Georgia Tech, California and UNLV. Wake Forest is also showing strong interest.

Heavy hitters in the crowd

With major events also going on in Philadelphia and Cincinnati on Sunday, a large contingent of head coaches was in Akron, Ohio. Roy Williams, Bill Self, Jim Calhoun, Mike Krzyzewski, John Brady, Tom Izzo, Ben Howland, Oliver Purnell, Paul Hewitt, Frank Martin, Rick Stansbury, Dennis Felton, Thad Matta, Rick Barnes, Scott Drew, Bruce Pearl, Kelvin Sampson, Bob Huggins, Dave Leitao, Lorenzo Romar, Jeff Capel and Ben Braun were some of the head coaches in attendance.



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