The first day of practice seemed to be more about building continuity than it was about actually playing competitive basketball. Players from both teams went through fundamental workouts, with the guards focusing on shooting drills and the big men honing their post skills. An East vs. West scrimmage then followed, and the results were not pretty. The West team, which was led by the four recruits headed to Ohio State next season (Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., Daequan Cook, and David Lighty), absolutely dominated the East squad. The future Buckeyes led the way to their teams astonishing 43-10 victory. What makes this more impressive was that the scrimmage was only 20 minutes long and with a running clock, and the players did not shoot free throws on shooting fouls, instead just taking the ball out of bounds as if it were a non-shooting foul.
Greg Oden- 70, 240 lbs; C; Signed with Ohio State
Oden made it clear that he was going to make up for his mediocre performance at the McDonalds game, coming out seemingly with a chip off his shoulder and looking to destroy any opposing player that he went up against. He was totally dominant on both ends of the floor, blocking or altering every shot taken in the lane on the defensive end, while showing an improved offensive game on the other end of the floor. Oden brought out his full array of post moves Friday, including a remarkably quick spin move to the baseline and even a left handed hook shot out of the post. He established himself in the first day of practices as a man amongst boys, a trend that would continue throughout the entire weekend.
Derrick Caracter- 69, 280 lbs; PF; Signed with Louisville
If everything were based on talent and skills alone, Caracter would be right there next to Greg Oden as one of the two or three best in the nation. Unfortunately however it is not, and the New Jersey big man has come to realize that the hard way. The previous issues with Derricks lack of motivation and desire that have plagued him in the past were not present on Friday, as he came out looking to show everyone that he is one of the very elite players in the country. The Louisville recruit showed incredibly quick moves in the post, and even stepped out and knocked down a three pointer. He looks like he has lost some weight and gained some explosiveness since we last saw him in late July, but unfortunately that hasnt helped him become any better of a rebounder. Although Derrick has great hands and a massive frame, he wasnt able to rebound the ball at quite the clip youd hope for a player of his stature. Rebounding aside however, it was a great practice for a player looking to show off his immense skills.
Daequan Cook- 65, 195 lbs; SG; Signed with Ohio State
In the shooting drills, Cook was hands down the best shooter in the game, as he knocked down jumper after jumper with great range and consistency. Like his teammate Oden, he seemed to be able to score on any of the East players whenever he wanted to, whether it be via a smooth take to the basket or a deep bomb from three point land. Daequan left little doubt in anyones mind that he will immediately be able to step in and continue his scoring prowess at the Big 10 level. He really needs to improve in the other aspects of his game, though, especially his defense, before he thinks of bolting for the NBA.
Earl Clark- 69, 200 lbs; PG/SG/SF; Signed with Louisville
The tall wing from New Jersey displayed an astonishing skill set for a player of his size, with the ball handling and passing ability to play point guard, and the scoring ability to play off the ball. Earl displayed very good ball handling and decision making skills on Friday, but desperately needs to improve the consistency of his jumpshot in order to reach his potential. Although Clark has the ability to knock down the three, his mechanics could use some fine tuning before he reaches Louisville. What was most impressive about Clark however was the fact that he was definitely a legit 69, possibly even 610. The future Cardinal was taller then every player in the game with the exception of Greg Oden, Tom Herzog, and Bryan Carlwell, all of whom are listed at at least 611.
Darrell Arthur- 69, 225 lbs; PF; Undecided
The Dallas native showed flashes of why he is so highly touted, but never put it all together to give a dominant performance. Arthur had a spectacular spin move, topped off with a left handed layup at the rim, showing the quickness and athleticism that everyone constantly raves about. He then stepped out and knocked down 2 three pointers, but totally disappeared for the remainder of the scrimmage, as he decided to float on the perimeter the whole time. Darrell has expressed the desire to play small forward at the next level, but really needs a ton of work in order for that to happen. We feel that he would be much better suited staying right where he is now on the court at power forward.
Damion James- 68, 227 lbs; SF; Signed with Oklahoma
The first thing that you notice about James is that he is much smaller then his listed height, looking to be only around 66 or so. Height aside however, he is an elite talent who will contribute right away no matter where he goes to school next year. Its a bit of a tricky situation with Damion, as he is waiting to see who Oklahoma announces as its next head coach before he makes a decision in regards to reopening his recruitment. In practice Friday, James was doing all you could ask for out of a WF offensively, slicing through the lane, creating for others, and burying the three when left open. A McDonalds snub, Damion seemed to come out with a chip off his shoulder, and gave opposing East guards fits all day with his ability to put the ball through the hoop.
Much like Friday, Saturdays practice was a total domination by the West team. The four players headed to Ohio State were excellent, and led their team to another blowout victory in the scrimmage. The players went through many of the same shooting and post drills, worked on plays with their respective teams, then scrimmaged each other in a 20 minute session with the same format as Fridays practice. Heres a look at some of the top performers from Saturdays practice:
Greg Oden- 70, 240 lbs; C; Signed with Ohio State
Like the first day of practice, Oden totally dominated whatever East player he went up against. He showed off his left handed hook shot multiple times, ran the floor incredibly well, and established great post position down low. The future Buckeye did a great job of getting the ball in the post, passing out, and re-posting to get better position down low, often to the point to where he would only have to turn and dunk the ball. Defensively, he controlled the paint with his shot blocking and rebounding skills. Odens great timing, combined with the fact that he boxes out on every single possession will guarantee that his rebounding numbers will translate over into the Big 10 next season. If you had to find a flaw however, it must be noted that Greg did seem to drop a remarkably high number of passes today, which was a bit irregular for him. This shouldnt be an issue however, as from the 20+ times weve seen him this has never been as much of an issue as it was today, and could be possibly accredited to the sprained wrist that Oden has been playing with for nearly a month now.
Daequan Cook- 65, 195 lbs; SG; Signed with Ohio State
Cook shot the lights out of the ball Saturday, just as he did in Fridays practice. Whether it be in the drills or in the games, the ball was going in the basket no matter where the Dayton native shot it from. Daequan also showed off his freakish athleticism on an incredible alley oop that he flushed right on Earl Clarks head. The dunk had the crowd going nuts, and left Clark in a state of disbelief, just standing there and shaking his head. Cook has used the Roundball as a bit of a statement game, looking to show fans that he is the best SG in the high school game. After Saturdays practice, itd be pretty tough to argue with him.
Mike Conley Jr.- 61, 175 lbs; PG; Signed with Ohio State
While we didnt mention him in our recap on Fridays practice, Conley did absolutely all you could ask for out of a point guard in both days practices. Conley Jr. broke down the East defense at will, made sound decisions, and got each of his teammates involved when on the floor. His ambidextrous style of play benefited him, as he dropped floaters in the lane over all of the East big men. He is so ambidextrous in fact that he was counted nailing 6 straight three pointers with his right (opposite) hand, which was quite the sight for any basketball fan.
David Lighty- 65, 215 lbs; SG/SF; Signed with Ohio State
While Cook, Conley, and Oden get all of the media attention nationally, Mr. Lighty is no slouch himself. The Cleveland wing does not have the flare or overall talent of Cook, but has all of the intangibles that Cook is missing. Davids crafty, smart play should immediately bolster the OSU backcourt. After playing point guard this season for his high school team and leading them to the state championship game, Lighty now has the versatility to play all three perimeter positions, which will help the Buckeyes immensely.
Lance Thomas- 68, 210 lbs; PF/WF; Undecided
Thomas is a tough player to project at the next level, due to his lack of size and true position, but is still a pleasure to watch each time he steps foot on the floor. On Saturday, he used his athleticism to blow past opposing forwards, finishing at the rim with ease each time. Lances virtually nonstop motor and energetic play wear down opposing forwards, allowing him to score his fair share of garbage points by outworking his opponent. Thomas is currently narrowed his collegiate choices to Rutgers and Duke, and will have to decide which is more important, immediate playing time at Rutgers or potentially winning the national championship at Duke.
Alex Stepheson - 610, 230 lbs; PF; Signed with North Carolina
Stepheson really came out to play against Oden, not backing down against the top player in the country. Unfortunately for Alex however, he is only 69 and going up against a player who would have been the top pick in the NBA Draft had he been able to come out this year. With that said, the North Carolina recruit made it clear that he would use his strength and athleticism to battle against any player willing to come up to the task, and would not concede to his more heralded teammates. He did a great job rebounding, blocking shots, and even stepped out and hit a few 15 foot jump shots. Alex will certainly battle Brandan Wright for minutes next season in the UNC frontcourt, and could very easily steal some away from his McDonalds All American teammate if Wright doesnt pick it up.