In theory, at least.
Over the years, the top college seniors have increasingly declined invitations to attend Portsmouth, now in its 63rd year. None of our top-10 ranked seniors made an appearance and only 5 of our top-25 ranked seniors were in Virginia.
Still, the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament provides a good collection of talent, and one of the few settings to see prospects play competitive basketball between now and June's draft. History says that many of the players here will go onto play in the NBA in some capacity, possibly by way of the D-League or as undrafted free agents.
-Portsmouth Invitational Tournament: Official Rosters and Preview
25 points, 2 rebounds, 1 block, 10-15 shooting (3-5 3P)
Treveon Graham struggled during the first few minutes of the game, seemingly determined to challenge Gabe Olaseni at the rim. That style of basketball is not Graham's game, and he struggled to finish inside, largely deterred by the formidable shot blocking presence of Olaseni.
After the first few minutes of the game Graham settled down, letting the game come to him and doing a much better job of playing to his strengths. He connected on his open catch and shoot shots, hitting 3-5 from three point range. Graham is now shooting 6-13 from three point range in his two games in the tournament, showing no trouble hitting from NBA three point range, an important aspect for his NBA hopes.
After establishing his jumper, driving space opened up for Graham, allowing him to be opportunistic attacking off the dribble. Graham is not a great leaper, and it showed when he challenged Olesani earlier in the game, but he has a good enough handle to be able to make defenders pay when they close out too aggressively, and he utilized his floater to neutralize the shot blocking Olesani on multiple occasions.
Graham didn't contribute in other areas like he did in his first game, as he had only 2 rebounds and a block in 26 minutes of action, compared to the 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and a block he had in Wednesday's opener, but his scoring and in-control play are big reasons why his Cherry Bekaert team is playing in tonight's championship game.
14 points, 5 assists, 7 rebounds, 7-19 shooting (0-5 3P)
Penn State guard D.J. Newbill had sort of a mixed bad during his semi-final game at Portsmouth. On one hand, Newbill's 14 points were second on the team in scoring, and he showcased a nice series of moves to get into the lane despite average physical tools. Newbill struggled to convert once in the lane, being disrupted by the long and athletic Gabe Olaseni, who finished the night with 5 blocks, and seemingly altered at least 5 more.
More disconcerting for Newbill was his perimeter shot, as he failed to hit any of the five three point attempts he took. A big part of this was shot selection, as Newbill was eager to look for his own shot coming off the pick and roll, settling for tough, contested jump shots.
This was nothing new for Newbill, and something that has been a staple of his game for some time. While last night was certainly an off-night for the guard, his reliance on that shot off the dribble can lead to some streaky play.
Newbill's likely transition to more of an off the ball role should help limit that, but here at Portsmouth Newbill played on the ball quite a bit as well, including some time as point in a big lineup alongside Wesley Saunders on the perimeter. While this led Newbill to settling for some contested shots, Newbill did flash some nice passes while running the offense, ending the night with 5 assists to only 2 turnovers. So far in the tournament Newbill is averaging 4.5 assists per night, while sporting a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
4 points, 8 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 assists, 1-7 shooting
Gabe Olaseni flashed both his intrigue, and his limitations, during the semi-final round at Portsmouth.
A 6'10 athlete who picked up the game after a late growth spurt, Olaseni showed the ability to change a game defensively, altering any and every shot he could get within close proximity to. And with his athleticism, length, quickness, and constant effort, that was far more than the 5 shots he was credited with blocking on the night.
Olaseni also crashed the glass on both ends of the court, and regularly beat his man down the court in transition, a combination of his speed and effort.
Yet Olaseni's lack of polish on the offensive end was on display as well, shooting just 1-7 from the floor and committing 3 turnovers, trying to make a couple of passes from the high post that, while well-intentioned, were not necessarily within his current skill set.
Picking up the game late and not playing many minutes for Iowa, Olaseni is a relative unknown for somebody who turned 23 years old earlier this season. While his skill level still needs a lot of work, his defensive tools and effort level are hard to ignore.
15 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 4-11 shooting (2-5 3P, 5-7 FT)
While St. John's D'Angelo Harrison (23 points on 7-12 shooting, including 3-4 from 3) was clearly the star of the night in what was the most entertaining and competitive game of the day, Oklahoma State's Le'Bryan Nash contributed a big 15 points and 5 rebounds in 22 minutes of action.
Noteworthy for Nash was connecting on 2 of his 5 three point attempts, although his inconsistency was evident. Nash, who shot only 2-26 from three point range over his last two seasons at Oklahoma State, drained one pull-up three early in the first half, stepping into the shot and shooting the ball with confidence. He then followed that up with a bad catch-and-shoot airball, retaining very little of his previously confident form and even less of his results.
Outside of that, Nash played how we've come to expect him to over the years at Oklahoma State. He used his size, strength, and athleticism to his advantage, forcing turnovers, getting out on the break, and posting up down low when the opportunity presented itself, but limited by his lack of perimeter skills that hold him back from utilizing his excellent physical tools to their fullest.
That jump shot will be a key for Nash's going forward. While his 2-5 shooting from deep looks good on paper, especially combined with his 2-3 performance from three point range earlier in the week, the inconsistency we saw in his form makes us hesitant to fully buy into an improvement. Whether or not Nash can convince NBA front offices that there is hope in him finding consistency from the perimeter will be a key in his draft stock over the next few months.