Portland, OR – It was another jam packed week in Portland attending the Nike Hoop Summit practices and then the game on Saturday afternoon. The World Team edged the USA 103-101 behind 30 points from Jamal Murray (Canada) and 21 points, six rebounds and six blocked shots from Kentucky recruit Skal Labissiere (Haiti). Duke recruit Luke Kennard led the USA with 22 points. The USA had a chance to tie the game or win it in the closing seconds but Kennard’s shot was blocked out of bounds and Allonzo Trier (Arizona) missed a three pointer at the buzzer.
LSU recruit Ben Simmons (Australia) set a event record with nine assists and just missed a triple-double adding 13 points and nine rebounds. The bigger world team out-rebounded the USA by 11 and set an event record with 12 blocked shots.
Between the week of practices and the game I had a good view of all the international players. Here are my impressions.
Ben Simmons (Australia, 1996, 6’10”, 239 lbs, 6’11” wingspan) LSU
Simmons missed the first day of practice after arriving late from New York after leading Montverde to their 3rd straight DICK’S National High School Invitational title. He took a day or so to get over his travel fatigue. Simmons is a facilitator on offense, gets his teammates involved and can be a point forward in college. With the ball in his hands he provides excellent mismatch opportunities due to his size and athleticism. Simmons is a great passer, penetrates well and can finish or draw fouls at the rim. He’s very athletic, plays above the rim and is an excellent rebounder (#2 rebounder in the game with nine). Simmons is excellent in transition whether leading the break or finishing off a pass. He’s somewhat turnover prone and needs to get his shot to be more consistent. Simmons will likely be a 1-and-done at LSU and one of the top few picks of the 2016 NBA Draft.
Skal Labissiere (Haiti, 1996,7’0″, 216 lbs, 7’1.5″ wingspan) Kentucky
Labissiere hadn’t been seen a lot by NBA scouts. Now he has and he’ll likely be a top 2016 NBA Draft pick. The 7-footer runs the court like a deer, is athletic and is stronger than he looks. He impressed everyone throughout the week’s practices. He has a nice shot, with a very high release point as well as a high arc. It will be very difficult to block. He rebounds well, and anticipates well on defense. He had six blocks in the game which was not surprising. Labissiere is versatile, can step out for jumpers and even if he adds strength and weight does not figure to be a pure post-type center down the line. With his offensive profile he projects more as a PF. He just seems to glide down the court. In all the full court line-to-line drills he was first at the finish line. In drills against Thon Maker he did not back off and mixed it up well. Once he adds strength his defensive potential is off the charts.
Jamal Murray (Canada, 1997, 6-5, 204 lbs, 6-7 wingspan)
Murray, returning for his second straight Hoop Summit, was the star of the game, scoring 30 points and tying the World team record with three 3-pointers. Murray is more athletic than he is given credit for and showed his athleticism in two impressive drives to the basket. He seems to play better when he’s running point, otherwise he tends to get a bit inactive. Murray is noticeably bigger than when we first saw him at the Jordan Brand two years ago. As a tall, strong point guard in college he’ll be able to match up effectively from a physical standpoint. Murray is a solid shooter from all distances, has range and can create for himself and others. He competes well on defense, and although not particularly long, makes up for that with his anticipation and strength. Murray was elusive when discussing his plans of either reclassifying or in choosing a college. He may not make a decision on either until late in the summer. Whether he winds up in the 2015 or 2016 class, Murray will be one of the top guard prospects in either class.
Cheick Diallo (Mali, 1996, 6’9″, 220 lbs, 7-4 wingspan)
Diallo is another extremely athletic player who runs the court extremely well. He’s very long (+7″ from his height) has good anticipation on defense and is a natural shot blocker. Diallo had a very efficient game with 12 points (5-of-9 FG), six rebounds and three blocks in only 16 minutes of play. He’s great in transition but at this point his offensive game needs work, particularly his mid-range shot, post moves and ball handling ability. Diallo has a high energy level and won’t be outworked. At this point Diallo wlll score in transition and off put-backs and provide a key defensive and rebounding effort. Currently undeclared in the 2015 class, he’ll be an immediate starter wherever he goes and has unlimited potential.
Thon Maker (Australia, 1997, 7’0″, 218 lbs, 7-3.25 wingspan)
Maker announced recently his reclassification to the 2015 class and is one of the top undeclared players in the class. Maker has a versatile skill level and appears to gravitate outside on offense. He has a nice looking shot and can handle the ball but would better be used inside. Unfortunately at this point he’s just not strong enough and has trouble keeping position against strong and skilled players. He seems to be coachable, a good teammate and has a good energy level on the court. We’ll be interested to see if he can add strength and weight in the near future. In 14 minutes of play in the game, Maker did not score (0-5 FG) but pulled down a game-high ten rebounds. He is a solid rebounder and shot blocker at his point in his development.
Federico Mussini (Italy, 1996, 6’1″, 154 lbs, 6-2 wingspan)
We really like Mussini as a high-major college point guard. Any NBA possibilities may seem low but if he comes to the USA and does well in college he’d have a chance. Mussini is small but tough and is very competent running a team. He knows how to play, has great ball skills, always knows where his teammates are on the floor and is an excellent passer. He has NBA range on his shot and has the craftiness to finish inside and dish off penetration. Mussini didn’t react so well to pressure in the game, committing three turnovers, but made two three-pointers and scored nine points with three assists over 19 minutes. While his future may appear limited at the highest level due to his physical profile we wouldn’t count him out. David Stockton was just signed to an NBA contract for next season and Mussini will be more skilled than Stockton when the time comes.
Zhou Qi (China, 1996, 7′-2″, 209 lbs, 7-6.5 wingspan)
The 19-year-old Qi plays for Xinjiang in the Chinese Basketball Association and was the defensive player of the year in his first season in the league. He averaged 14.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, led the league with 3.3 blocked shots per game and shot 72.2% from the field. Qi tweaked an ankle in practice on Monday and was out for two days. That may have limited his game action to 12 minutes (2 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks) but he was in the game late in the fourth quarter and helped provide a defensive presence inside. Qi is very mobile and very long. He has some offensive skill, has a decent touch but obviously must get stronger as he’s quite lean. Adding strength and weight will be the key determinant in his possible NBA future as the physical attributes are there. Qi will likely declare for the 2016 NBA Draft and would need a few years of development after that, but is intriguing as possibly the next Chinese big man in the NBA.
George de Paula (Brazil, 1996, 6’6″, 202 lbs, 6-11.75 wingspan)
de Paula, signed professionally in Brazil, has possibly the largest hands we’ve seen on a player his size (10 3/4″ width). That combined with good size for a shooting guard and long wingspan make his physical attributes at the top end of the curve. At this point, however, De Paula is very raw. He also didn’t appear to communicate in English and did not show much emotion on the court. He appeared a little lost at times but did get into defensive passing lanes and drained some three-pointers in practice. We saw de Paula at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Colorado Springs last summer where he averaged 13.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists. De Paula needs much more high level experience and start to show some passion in his game. In the Hoop Summit he hit one-of-two three-pointers and scored three points in over 12 minutes of play.
Nedim Buza (Bosnia & Herzegovina, 1995, 6’8″, 199 lbs, 6-11.75 wingspan)
Buza had initially entered his name for the 2014 draft and is likely to do so for this year’s draft. He has very good size for a wing, seems like he has ball skills and a decent touch from long range. However he didn’t stand out in practice, needs strength and weight and must improve his perimeter defense and toughness. In his second season in the Bosnian League he’s averaging 11.5 points and 5.0 rebounds while shooting 38.3% on three-pointers. He seems to be quite a bit way from being considered a serious NBA prospect at this point. In the game Buza was 2-of-2 on three-pointers, scoring six points with one rebound in 13 minutes.
Stefan Peno (Serbia, 1997, 6’6″, 200 lbs, 6-7.25 wingspan)
Peno is another player who did not help his NBA Draft stock during the week. A combo-guard who is not particularly long, Peno did not play with much confidence or stand out at any point in the practices or the game. He’s in his third year with the Regal Barcelona program but his game has not developed after he was named the best player at the U16 European Championships in 2013. This season he was demoted from LEB-Gold (2nd division Spain) to LEB-Silver (3rd division) where he’s averaging 8.2 points and shooting only 24.8% on three-pointers. He’s still young so has time to regain his confidence and turn his career around.
Tai Wynyard (New Zealand, 1998, 6’10”, 263 lbs, 6-10 wingspan) Kentucky
The youngest player at the event Wynyard is not used to playing against high level competition and that showed throughout the week in practice. On a few occasions he had the ball inside expecting an easy basket when he was blocked from behind. Wynyard is noticeable because of his strength and solid body at such a young age. His parents are both champion woodchoppers and his mother played collegiately at Alaska-Anchorage. Wynyard is strong but very raw. His attitude was great and he’ll likely come back to the event next year stronger and more capable to compete. He’ll be graduating high school in December and then likely enter school at Kentucky to get acclimated and train for the 2016-17 season. Wynyard will only get stronger and more skilled. While he’s not very long he can use his strength and body to compensate. He’ll likely have a solid college career at Kentucky.
Here are a few videos from the World Team practices:
Thanks to Ken Nowaczyk (practice photos) and Cameron Browne (game photos) of USA Basketball for the photographs. Any international players interested in coming to the USA to play in college, prep school or high school can contact us here. We are looking for interns and sales associates. If you’re interested contact us and forward your resume.