After a reprieve with the US vs World format in the Nike Hoops Summit, the Jordan Brand Classic once again used the East vs West format where nothing is at stake, and there is no reason for anyone to try on the defensive end. And of the high school all-star games this year, this game had by far the least defensive effort. With no one getting back and a cavalcade of fastbreak dunks and layups, it was hard to learn anything about the players. But that won’t stop me from trying.
Jay Bilas said it well, Washington recruit Tony Wroten was playing like a player with something to prove. After not getting selected to the McDonald’s All-American game, Wroten wanted to get noticed. Wroten had two of the best passes in the first half, and his ability to run up and down the floor was impressive. It is hard to learn much from such an up-and-down game, but since Washington uses a fastbreak style, Wroten’s success in that environment was a positive sign.
The McDonald’s All-American game also featured another Pac-10 recruit who was ignored in the McDonald’s All-American game, Oregon recruit Jabari Brown. Brown hopes to play point guard at Oregon (presumably to look better for the NBA.) But that part of his game is not quite polished. He had an ugly early pass that found nothing but the front row of the crowd. But what Brown could do well was shoot the basketball. His pair of three pointers in the first half were as pure as any shots I have seen this year.
Speaking of shooters diversifying their game, North Carolina’s PJ Hairston is normally known for his shooting. And after the Tar Heels struggled from the three point arc last year, North Carolina can use his outside touch. But Hairston’s most impressive play in this game was a first half block where he skied high above the rim to deny the opposing team. Not bad for a 6’5” shooting guard.
One player who did put out some defensive effort in this game was St. John’s recruit Sir Dominic Pointer. His late steal gave helped spark a comeback that gave his team a chance to win in the final seconds. And with his semi-mohawk haircut and gritty play, he looks like the perfect leader for St. John’s team of freshman next year.
As I noted in the McDonald’s All-American game, one question I have in these games is which players are going to be more aggressive early. Who wants the ball in his hands when the spotlight gets turned on? And Duke’s Austin Rivers, North Carolina’s James McAdoo, and Syrcause’s Rakeem Christmas answered the call. The trio helped their side to build an 18-2 lead in the opening minutes and to an eventual second half win. Rivers and McAdoo’s success was not surprising, but this was easily the best performance by Christmas in an all-star competition this spring.
But for everything Rivers and McAdoo did well, they combined for two of the funniest missed dunks of the game. In the first half, Rivers stole the ball and found McAdoo wide open on a fast-break. And as McAdoo realized he had no one around him he attempted a 360 dunk. Sadly, McAdoo spun around and jammed the ball into the front of the rim. Then in the second half, in transition Rivers tried to throw the ball to himself off the back window to himself for an alley-oop. It wasn’t even close. But in a game that meant nothing, there was no harm in trying.
Sadly there were no humorous hobbies in the factoids in this game. (I’m already bored with the factoid that Michael Carter-Williams played Aladdin in a high school musical.) The best thing we learned was that Texas recruit Myck Kapongo wants Jay Bilas’ job. Kapongo and Florida recruit Bradley Beal remain two of the most well-spoken players in the high school class. Certainly, being articulate is not everything, but it tends to show a level of maturity that has to rub off into other parts of the player’s game.
Speaking of mature players, I’ve already noted how polished Kentucky recruit Michael Gilchrist looks on the court, but I had no idea he was only 17. Gilchrist looked solid again, as did future teammate Anthony Davis. Davis scored 29 points in the game, the second most in Jordan Classic history, behind only LeBron James. But if you have been watching these all-star competitions, this was actually the least impressive performance from Davis. All of the highlight plays in previous games that made you think he had the most upside were replaced by a series of efficient inside dunks. But that’s the beauty of elite players. They can score 29 points without looking impressive.