Nike Hoop Summit Practices: Day Two

Nike Hoop Summit Practices: Day Two
Apr 06, 2011, 02:48 pm
Nike Hoop Summit Official International Team Measurements

With first day jitters and logistical issues out of the way at the Nike Hoop Summit practices in Portland, we were able to focus on the full 11 player international-team squad in two two-hour sessions at the Trailblazers practice facility.

As is customary every year, the international team comes together a full five days before the actual game on Saturday evening (7 PM PST, TV: FSN), while the US squad will only conduct their first practice on Thursday.

The international squad is led by new head coach Roy Rana, via Canada, who has the difficult task of blending in skill development with the tactical game preparation.

We got a chance to speak with Coach Rana after the morning practice yesterday, and we asked him about this – “that's always the balance, between how much time are you spending on tactics and how much time are you spending teaching and drilling guys. I think we want to keep a nice balance, and the goal is to try and get a W on Saturday night. So we're approaching this more like a preparation for a national team than we would for an all star game.”

Rana (Twitter: @Roy_Rana) has plenty of experience in the national team setting, as he's served as both a head coach and an assistant for the Canadian national team on both the senior and junior-team level.

Both practices showed us quite a bit about the make-up of this International roster, which looks to have a great deal of depth and a very balanced roster, which should help to define players' roles and give Coach Rana some flexibility to play with different types of lineups.

The Nike Hoop Summit international team has always had great talent in years past, but for the first time ever there appears to be very little drop-off between the top of the roster and the bottom.

The USA roster looks to be smaller and more athletic, so it will be interesting to see how things play out on Saturday night.

We asked Coach Rana if he thought his more balanced roster gave the International team an advantage.

“Well I think it's a real strength of ours, but it's also kind of a weakness, right? I mean we've got legitimate guys down low that we can go inside to and take advantage of our size. The US is a little bit smaller and more athletic with guys like Michael Gilchrist and James McAdoo playing some 4, so defensively that kind of poses some challenges for us. But I think for us it's really going to come down to how much chemistry do you have. And really protecting the basketball. In the end, most games are about effort and hustle. We do those things, and I think we've got a chance.”

About half of the NBA was represented at practice yesterday to get an up-close look at some of the best young international prospects in the world all practicing together in the same gym. Many cited the convenience of having a group of prospects of this nature assembled here in the US in such a well-organized setting—something that saves them a significant amount of time and money for the future.

We counted at least fifteen different NBA teams on hand so far, some of whom had multiple representatives in attendance. As the week moves on, we'll surely see many new faces, while some scouts will move onto Portsmouth after getting a good feel for the prospects here in Portland.

The most intriguing long-term NBA prospects on the international team are 1992-born front-court players: 6'9” Bismack Biyombo from the Congo (currently playing for Fuenlabrada in Spain), and 7'0” center Lucas Nogueira from Brazil. Both players have some limitations on the offensive end, but also possess some freakish physical tools that were on display during every practice session thus far.

Biyombo stands out immediately when he walks into the gym. He sports a chiseled frame (measured 4.8 % body fat) with broad shoulders and an incredible 7'7” wingspan, and as we saw during some of the brief 5 on 5 sessions, he has an outstanding motor, which makes him a terror on the glass and on the defensive end. He also looks to be a very mature player with a great attitude, often seen encouraging teammates, talking with the coaching staff, and helping others with instructions. The experience he's garnered seeing heavy minutes in the top league in the world outside the NBA—the Spanish ACB--over the past few months was very evident.

Lucas also has a ridiculous 7'6” wingspan, and he runs the floor like a deer, but he's still fairly thin, as expected from an 18 year old 7-footer. He showed great mobility and shot-blocking ability yesterday, and he'll be a guy scouts will be keeping a close eye on over the next few days to see just how far along he is in his development.

Other intriguing prospects from yesterday's practice included 6'10” small forward Davis Bertans from Latvia, who showed a beautiful stroke from 3-point range, and 6'7” wing Evan Fournier from France who showed a very well-rounded skill set on the wing and excellent scoring instincts.

After missing Monday's practice, Chinese guard Ailun Guo and Brazilian point guard Raul Neto made it to Portland for both sessions yesterday. Ailun has a translator with him, highlighting the language barrier between some of the players and coaches, which is a given when you have players from all over the world coming together on the same team.

We asked Coach Rana about the language barrier and other issues facing his team – “there are a number of hurdles that we have to overcome. Guo, the Chinese kid, just got in last night and he's got a 15 hour time differential, Neto's coming in from Brazil, we've got guys coming in from all over the world, and not just taking into account jet lag, but also dehydration, time zone differential, and then the language on top of it, it's an incredible mental load. It tests these kids a lot. And so far they're passing with flying colors. They're buying in and picking up things pretty quickly and developing some of that chemistry within the group that's really important.”

Overall, we've been very impressed with the international group, and we're looking forward to the rest of the week and getting the opportunity to further evaluate them and see how they fare against Team USA on Saturday.

See USA Basketball for more coverage.

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