The first practice for the 2014 Jordan Brand Classic is in the books. It kicked off this morning with the Jordan Brand All-American Team practicing as East and West squads and an International Team practice.
Our current focus in practices is on the All-American teams. We watched the East Team today and will take a more detailed look at the West Team tomorrow during the second practice. Here’s a breakdown of who stood out during the first practice for the East Team:
Jahlil Okafor, C (Duke) – After impressing at the Nike Hoop Summit and helping the USA team pull away down the stretch, I’m looking for more of the same from Okafor at the Jordan Brand Classic. Okafor has a wide-array of offensive moves and is an efficient scorer with his back to the basket. He has good footwork and a soft touch, which helps him establish position inside with ease. Okafor showed off an array of spin moves and can finish with either hand. He’s also a great rebounder and seemed to be everywhere on the court. He’s a dominant finisher and had some great post-passes today with Karl Towns, Jr. and Trey Lyles. He’s usually giving his opponents fits on the defensive end as well. In addition to his immense physical talent, he also has a high basketball IQ.
Tyus Jones, PG (Duke) – It was evident from today’s practice that Jones and Okafor already have good chemistry together and should be a great tandem at Duke next year. That’s not very surprising, though, as Jones seems to make all of his teammates better. He is a natural leader on the court and was the only true point guard for the East Team today, with Joel Barry III not being in attendance. He’s great at leading the break and had clean, crisp passes that were right on the money all day. Jones has a quick first step and is a good three-point shooter, but ultimately looks to be a pass-first point guard.
Karl Towns, Jr., C – Kentucky has another top-notch recruit heading their way in Towns. He is a dominant finisher inside who also has three-point range. He was quick in transition today and had some athletic plays around the rim. He has a great deal of defensive potential and had some stellar box-outs and blocks today. Towns struggled defending Okafor at times, but then again, who wouldn’t? He’s a very long, skilled center with great potential. A year under Coach Calipari should have him more than ready for the 2015 draft.
Kelly Oubre, SF (Kansas)– At 6’7”, Oubre is a long wing with an explosive game. He’s very athletic, fast and skilled at penetrating a defense. He ran the plays very well today and played with high intensity, which was encouraging to see. His shot was a bit off in practice, but he didn’t let that stop him from getting his teammates involved. He has tremendous body-control and is adept at taking contact and still finishing inside. After a solid performance at the Nike Hoops Summit, it will be interesting to see how he follows that up in Brooklyn.
Trey Lyles, PF (Kentucky) – Lyles and Towns will make up a great frontcourt for the Wildcats next year. Similar to Towns, Lyles also has the ability to knock down open threes. He displayed good footwork today and a soft touch inside. Lyles is quick on the break and able to convert turnaround mid-range jumpers off the dribble. He has a decent handle and can pass on the move. He may have some trouble guarding quicker power forwards at the next level, but has defensive potential.
Grayson Allen, SG (Duke) – Allen is a sharpshooter with a pure stroke, who is also an explosive athlete. At 6’4, 185 pounds, he has a strong frame and is a versatile scorer. He drives hard to the rim and is adept at drawing fouls. Allen can also shoot off the dribble, creating his own shot. He’s a talented passer as well, and could eventually develop into a combo guard.
Reid Travis (Stanford) is a 6’7” power forward who ended the practice with a nice stretch of play. He also ran the break well and finished with some athletic plays. He flashed a long-range shot (mechanics could use work) and a nice euro-step. He needs to work on his handle some and limit turnovers. He also struggled to defend Okafor and Lyles at times. Justin Jackson (North Carolina) is a long, athletic wing with good defensive potential. His length causes problems for his opponents and he’s skilled at creating steals. He’s able to finish through contact and has a tough demeanor. James Blackmon, Jr. (Indiana) is a 6’3” shooting guard, who had to run some point today. He is a gifted shooter and good at penetrating a defense. He will probably end up being a combo-guard as well.
We’ll be taking an in-depth look at the West Team during tomorrow’s practice to see who stands out. NetScouts Basketball will also provide a rundown of Friday’s games and which players impressed.
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