Nike Jordan All-American Classic: Thursday Practice

Nike Jordan All-American Classic: Thursday Practice
Apr 20, 2007, 02:22 am
The first practice for the teams in the Jordan All-American Classic got underway early Thursday morning in Manhattan. Despite being listed on the official rosters, O.J. Mayo and DeAndre Jordan did not attend, as neither are allowed to play after already having participated in two other All-Star games this summer. If they participate in more than two, they lose their college eligibility, so it’s pretty understandable that they aren’t in attendance. The Yellow and Blue teams that make up the game to be played on Saturday at 9:00 EST on ESPN2 still have 10 players on each roster, though, and there’s plenty of talent to go around. The official rosters can be viewed here: Jordan Classic Rosters.

The initial practice for the two teams got underway with some light shoot-arounds, stretches, and some agility and hand-eye coordination drills using a tennis ball, such as dribbling a basketball with one hand and having a catch with a tennis ball with the other. The teams, each on their own separate courts, progressed into lay-up lines and some full-court weaves, now about 30 minutes into the 2-hour practice session.

The Yellow Team, headlined by Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon, and Kyle Singler, moved onto some fast break 3-on-2/2-on-1 drills next, follow by a little 2-on-2 halfcourt action, which primarily consisted of pick-and-rolls. On the other side of the gym, the Blue Team, headlined by Donte Greene, Jerryd Bayless, and Kosta Koufos, did a few shooting drills, hitting spot-up shots and coming off screens, where the three aforementioned players quickly stood out with their impressive shooting form, and in Greene and Bayless’ case, the ability to hit the shot while on the move.

After this, the teams each installed a few basic plays for the games, including a baseline inbound play, a sideline inbound play, and two half-court sets. These weren’t extravagant offenses being installed, just something the teams could go to in the game when motion was stalled.

With about 45 minutes remaining in the practices, the teams finally got to the really interesting part, the intra-squad scrimmages. Each team started with some half-court 5-on-5 and quickly progressed to full-court, where the intensity was high on the offensive end and many times the squads would go back and forth scoring on one another in 10-second intervals. A few players managed to stand out with their skill-sets in the game, though much more will be learned of the players in tomorrow’s inter-squad scrimmage and Saturday’s official game.

Yellow Team

Derrick Rose, 6’3, PG, Memphis:
This wasn’t the perfect setting for Rose to show off his skills, as he was paired with another point guard on his squad in Villanova’s Corey Fisher and therefore played off the ball for about half the scrimmage. But when he did have the ball, he showed off his ability to create for his team in a big way.

Rose dished out plenty of nice passes for assists in the half-court and full-court, going on a few tears of back-to-back-to-back plays that were filled with highlights. He threw strong, hard chest passes in the full-court through defenders with pinpoint precision, and also did a good job dishing off in the half-court on drives through the lane, showing off his excellent creativity. He was equally impressive creating shots for himself in the lane, switching hands and showing excellent body control en route to the hoop, getting to the basket and finishing on multiple right-handed floaters in the scrimmage. He didn’t force the issue at all, though he seemed to just blend in with the rest of his squad at times when he wasn’t controlling the ball. Rose still needs to work on his outside shot, as he has an awkward shooting motion, exhibiting a fairly slow release speed on the one outside shot he attempted and missed in this scrimmage.

Corey Fisher, 6’0, PG, Villanova:
Fisher had a good showing here, exhibiting his inside-out offensive game along with his ability to create for teammates, though he forced the issue a bit at times when penetrating into the defense. Fisher controlled the ball a good amount in the game, and was responsible for creating plenty of his squad’s scoring opportunities, throwing alley-oops in transition to the extremely athletic Chris Wright, making assists off pick-and-rolls, dropping the ball off in the lane on drives, and making a really nice bounce pass through the defense in the half-court to a cutter. Fisher also scored the ball himself well, hitting some right-handed floaters and a few three-pointers coming around screens.

Jai Lucas, 5’10, PG, Undecided:
Jai Lucas had a pretty solid showing here at the first practice, with father and former NBA player John Lucas Jr. looking on. Jai Lucas was easily the smallest player on the court today, being shorter and less muscularly built than all of the other All-Americans, but it didn’t stop him from playing his game. Lucas handles the ball well and does a good job controlling the tempo, moving in and out of the defense while showing excellent court vision and good passing instincts. His more impressive assists were precision passes to cutters going through the lane, though he also did some scoring himself, showing off a smooth, quick release on his jump shot, which he hit from mid and long-range. Lucas didn’t really dominate the ball here, deferring to his teammates at times, so he wasn’t consistently creating offense himself.

Chris Wright, 6’7, SF, Dayton:
Chris Wright, not to be confused with the other Chris Wright on the Blue Team who is heading to Georgetown, quickly stood out as one of the most explosive athletes here in attendance. Wright had plenty of explosive finishes in this practice, throwing down multiple jams cutting to the basket in the half-court and catching alley-oops in transition. He also hit a few outside shots, some from three-point range, making some of them while on the move. Wright didn’t exhibit much in terms of ball-handling here, just showing the ability to finish at the rim and shoot outside jumpers, so his long-term position is a bit up in the air.

To give you an idea of Wright’s athleticism, let me describe one of the more exciting plays of the day, just due to its sheer absurdity. Gary Johnson, a 6’7 PF headed to Texas, was playing on the squad opposite Wright’s. Johnson got inside position in the post on Wright, sealing him out and catching an entry pass about five feet from the basket. Johnson, trying to draw an and-1 opportunity, up-faked with the ball and then quickly ducked down before going up with his shot attempt, hoping to draw contact from Wright. Wright, from a near standstill, bit for the fake, but rather than crashing into the ducking Johnson, he literally leap-frogged over his head! Johnson scored the basket, but he didn’t draw the foul. I’m not sure how this skill will come in handy for Wright on the defensive end, but it’s not something you see every day and was impressive nonetheless.

The Rest: Shooting guard Eric Gordon didn’t have a great performance here, missing an assortment of off-the-dribble outside shot attempts, though he did show nice footwork while coming off a screen going to the left. He did hit a few outside shots, but missed many of his off-balanced attempts. Kyle Singler hit a few nice mid-range jumpers and also showed off some nice passing ability in the halfcourt. Blake Griffin showed off an interesting post game consisting of scoop shots and runners from the mid and low-post. He also scored on some easy finishes around the rim and made a nice 8-foot face-up shot off the glass.

Blue Team

Jerryd Bayless, 6’3, PG/SG, Arizona:
Bayless was one of the more impressive players here at the first day of practice, showing off an impressive array of scoring ability while not really forcing the issue. The biggest thing to notice about Bayless is his body control, which he exhibits on both his long and mid-range game. He hit a large assortment of shots from 15-18 feet in his team’s scrimmage, coming off curls, pulling up off-the-dribble, shooting with a hand in his face, or fading away from his defender. He has excellent elevation and a high release point on his shot, keeping his upper body square the whole time to ensure a consistent shooting motion. Bayless also got into the lane well here, though he didn’t finish at the rim many times, rather settling for floaters, which he hit with both his left and right hand, which is very impressive for a high school senior. Bayless also showed off his athleticism on one play, getting high above the rim for an alley-oop jam in transition.

Nike Calathes, 6’5, PG/SG/SF, Florida:
Calathes had a solid showing here, showing off his nice complementary skillset, hitting an assortment of three-pointers both in transition and in the halfcourt, exhibiting what was one of the quickest shot releases here, even though he doesn’t have the greatest form. He didn’t miss from outside for the portion of the Blue Team’s scrimmage I saw. Calathes showed off his passing ability as well, showing good control with the ball in transition and excellent court vision, finding seams to dish out bounce passes and behind-the-back passes with good precision. He tried to get a bit fancy with the ball at one point, making back-to-back turnovers when driving into the lane, but for the most part played under control and did a good job hitting shots and making passes.

Donte Greene, 6’9, SF/PF, Syracuse:
Greene had a strong performance here, showing off his athleticism and ability to hit a variety of shots from mid and long-range. Greene’s shot looked smooth here, and he took a lot of shot attempts while on the move. He hit a pull-up jumper from three-point range and a 10-footer off the glass, along with some other spot-up shots. Greene also finished around the basket on multiple occasions, including a nice alley-oop in transition in which he showed the coordination to catch a poorly thrown ball and still finish before he hit the ground.

Kosta Koufos, 7’0, C, Ohio State:
Koufos did a nice job displaying his versatility and inside-out offensive game, scoring from in the post and behind the three-point line. He has a smooth shot for a big man, and hit some three-pointers here, but also hit from the mid-range, including on a nice 8-foot jumper with a touch off the glass. He had a bit of trouble in the post here, missing on a mini-hook, a fade-away jumper from 5 feet, a dropstep in the post, and being blocked on a lay-up on another attempt, but Koufos did a good job getting putbacks on his own shot, converting on about half of his misses on the second attempt.

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