About 20 NBA scouts packed the gym on Wednesday for the international practices in Portland for the Nike Hoop Summit. Recognizable names in attendance included Fred Hoiberg
and Jim Stack of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Gersson Rosas of the Houston Rockets, Tommy Sheppard from the Washington Wizards, and Michael Born of the Portland TrailBlazers.
Coach Rob Beveridge is coaching his fourth World Select Team, and has been in the gym with the current group of international players since Monday. One complaint of the day amongst NBA scouts revolved around the slow tempo, half-court practices where you werent able to see the players run much.
It should be noted that no two players on the international squad are from the same country this season, and four of the players plan to attend college this fall. Angel Garcia
(Puerto Rico) will attend Memphis, low-post scorer Samardo Samuels
(Jamaica) plans to play for Louisville, Emmanuel Negedu
(Nigeria) has committed to Arizona, and Canadian Devoe Joseph
plans to play for Minnesota.
It was clear from the start of practice today that the bigs were clearly the prospects to watch here this week. Serge Ibaka
, Alexis Ajinca
, Boban Marjanovic
, Tim Olbrecht, and the aforementioned Samuels all appear to be intriguing in one way or another.
Standing at about 68, Samardo Samuels
looks like hell make an impact from day one at Louisville. The low-post scorer appears to be extremely quick on his feet for his size, and his thick, well developed frame will allow him to bang against any big he faces in the NCAA. He has the type of build that makes you wonder if weight could become an issue for him down the road, but he moves extremely well for the time being.
Though his biggest strength at the moment comes on the low-block, he appears comfortable handling the ball away from the basket and can score on the drive going to the hoop. To improve his stock over the next year, Samuels must improve his mid-range jumper, and focus on becoming a better player on the defensive end of the floor. Judging from this setting, he looks like a bit of a black hole in the post as well, and he may need to work on kicking it back out rather than forcing the ball into double and triple teams.
Another player who showed plenty of upside was on the Hoop Summit roster last season, and one scout commented that it was very smart of him to come back this season. French big man Alexis Ajinca
has added weight to his frame since last season, and is now listed at 240 pounds, though he still has a ways to go before reaching an ideal build. The young big man showed a nice package of offensive skills in both practices today, scoring with his back to the basket a number of times from the low post with either hand. Its clear that his patience on the block has improved, and the added bulk on his frame allows him to hold his ground until he fakes out the defender.
Facing the basket, Ajinca also scored on a number of spot-up jumpers out to 20 feet, and even made a couple of drives to the basket. He made an impact defensively as well, showing a quick vertical leap and good anticipation on the defensive end. Though bulked up, Ajinca must continue to become stronger, which became clear on a couple offensive rebound put-backs, where he was unable to collect his body in time to have a chance at finishing. He appears more comfortable with his body in terms of coordination, but still has a little work left to do in this area as well.
One of the more intriguing prospects both to the scouts and us is Congo native Serge Ibaka
, who came here from his team in second division Spain. Ibaka appears to be a physical freak with some very nice tools to work with, but he appears to be years away from making an impact at the NBA level. The African big received the ball only once in the post during the morning session, and made a beautiful turn-around jumper move to put the ball in the hoop. He looks to have good mechanics on his jumper with a high arching release, but we didnt see him take any of these shots during the scrimmages in either practice today.
Ibaka has a very quick second jump, as he proved defending a fast break during the night practice. He committed to elevating to stop the original ball-handler, and showed great recovery time in blocking a dunk by Tim Olbrecht an instant later. It will be interesting to see if we can get an idea whether the young big will lean towards entering the draft after appearing with the Hoop Summit team.
We will bring you more coverage from here Thursday and the rest of the week as the High School team has finally arrived today, and will hold a pair of practices.