Mike Schmidt was present in Memphis for the practices of both the US and World team in their preparations for the Nike Hoop Summit. Schmidt first presents his take on the practices of the US team. World Team Practice Recaps USA TeamThursday 9:30 AM
The USA team of high school seniors assembled for the first time for practice in Memphis at 9:30 AM on Thursday, April 6th. The coaches started by explaining the rule differences of international play in contrast to the style the high schoolers were used to. Some of the rules they went over were the 24 second shot clock, the length of the three point line, and the fact that you cant throw the ball into the back court when in-bounding from your own frontcourt. Next, the coaches went into a defensive positioning drill, in which the players worked on their assignments for help defense. Vernon Macklin
struggled a bit with his positioning in the lane while trying to play help defense. On the other hand, Paul Harris
was in perfect position nearly every time.
After the defensive drills, the coaches moved on to the game strategy, and taught the players their offensive sets and defensive style. On offense, the coaches decided a motion offense would be best, and planned 3 sets for the high school kids to use. The way the plays were set up allowed for multiple scoring options on each play. On defense, the U.S. coaches told the players to switch on all screens, to prevent the foreign players from beating them on the perimeter. The practice continued with transition defense drills and some scrimmaging, which placed the starting unit of Tywon Lawson, Wayne Ellington
, Kevin Durant
, Brandan Wright
, and Thaddeus Young
against the reserve squad of Paul Harris
, Jon Scheyer
, Gerald Henderson
, Vernon Macklin
, and Spencer Hawes
During the first day, Kevin Durant
easily looked like the best player on the floor. His perimeter shot was dropping with consistency from the NBA three point line, and he showed a little versatility by taking the ball to the hoop. Wayne Ellington
was a close second, as he showed how dangerous he can be when his shot is falling. He angles himself back a little bit when he shoots which gives him a ton of arch on his shot. Ellington also took it to the hoop a few times, and made some creative finishes in traffic, but also struggled a little bit on the defensive end. Thaddeus Young
also displayed the tools that make him such a fantastic prospect. Young used his freakish athleticism near the hoop on more than one occasion, but also showed some nice range on his jumper. He also possesses a great feel for the game and is a very good passer for a high school kid. Spencer Hawes
also stood out, not only showing solid footwork and touch in the post, but also the ability to step out and hit a jump shot. He even knocked in a few three pointers throughout the practice. Friday 9:30 AM
The Friday morning practice started with a review of the offensive plays, as well as the inbounds plays that the US Team had learned the night before. After that, the players warmed up and stretched, and then moved on to a press break. Tywon Lawson was the only true point guard selected to the team, but Paul Harris
, Jon Scheyer
, and Wayne Ellington
all assisted with the point guard duties throughout the practices and into the game. Having these guys handle the ball helped out greatly when doing the press break. From there, the team moved on to working on fast break lanes. The coaches emphasized that the players need to keep the lanes wide when running the floor. The perimeter players were each paired with a big man, and they took turns bringing the ball up. The player with the ball would pass it a the teammate on the break who would either go all the way to the hoop, or fade back out to the perimeter for a jump shot. The practice concluded with more scrimmaging and transition defense drills.
The four players who stood out the most during this practice were Gerald Henderson
, Tywon Lawson, Paul Harris
, and Spencer Hawes
. Henderson displayed his fantastic athleticism when running the floor, and also his polished mid-range game. In addition, his usually streaky three point shot was going in, which makes him that much more dangerous. If hes given minutes right away (which he should), expect him to produce as well as any other freshman in the country. Henderson has seemed to have already developed a good relationship with future teammate Jon Scheyer
, and they partnered up for a lot of the drills throughout the week.
Lawson put on a show during the Friday practice, using his blazing speed and quickness to make some amazing finishes at the hoop. Though his ability to run a half court offense will need some work, he has good floor vision and makes some awesome passes in transition and off the dribble drive. Lawson will need to learn to shoot a floater once he starts playing against bigger and more athletic players. Right now most of his points come either right at the basket or from three point attempts.Paul Harris
played with great intensity throughout the practice, and displayed some abilities that are rare for a player at the high school level. He is built like an NFL linebacker, and uses his body and athleticism to play intense defense. In addition, Harris is a very good passer with some point guard skills at 65. His game is best suited for a team that pushes the ball a lot on offense, and his jump shot is really limited at this point in time. There are some questions about his eligibility, but if he does play at Syracuse, it will be interesting to see how Harris fits in with their slower style of play.
Hawes again displayed his fantastic fundamental understanding of how to work out of the post. Most of the questions surrounding him revolve around his true height, and lack of athleticism. Some people seem to think Hawes is somewhere around 610, and he doesnt possess the quickness or athleticism that you look for in an immediate NBA prospect. The players were measured after the conclusion of this practice, so we will be able to find out how tall Hawes really is once the measurements are released. In addition to the players heights, the USA Basketball officials also measured wingspans and standing reaches.
Both Kevin Durant
and Wayne Ellington
proved Friday morning why they receive the streaky label. Durant seemed disinterested throughout some of practice, and never dominated like he has the ability to. If he consistently played with intensity, it would elevate his game to a new level. As it is, he hits dry spells that make you wonder how he can look so talented one minute, and so average the next. Ellingtons shot wasnt falling all morning, and he was getting outworked on both ends of the floor. He still made some nice moves around the hoop, but didnt look nearly as good as the day before. Friday 3:30 PM
After being scheduled to work out at a Nike facility at 4:30 PM for two hours, the plans changed due to tornados in the Memphis suburbs, and an ongoing tornado watch. The USA team instead practiced at the Fed Ex forum practice facility an hour before the World team was scheduled to practice there. On top of that, the USA coaches were late for practice, so the team just shot around for a while. The coaches showed up with a half an hour left, and they ran the players through the offensive sets and a light scrimmage. It was a really an uneventful practice, but was good as a final walkthrough before the game.