LAS VEGAS -- The LeBron James Skills Academy is L-O-A-D-E-D. The roster doesn’t have any fat to it, and once the games tip Sunday, the action should reflect the balance and depth of the group.
New offer for Williams
The floor game and approach of Kameron Williams (Baltimore/Mount St. Joseph) is high level. If he weighs any more than 155 pounds, the scale is broken. Regardless, he’s 155 pounds of prizefighter swagger. Miami sits at the top of his list. Villanova offered before camp, and Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, DePaul, Dayton, VCU, Rutgers and Providence garner mention.
On the move
Devin Williams (Cincinnati/Montverde Academy) is relocating his power forward and rebounding prowess to play for a loaded Kevin Boyle squad. Xavier, UCLA, Virginia Tech, DePaul and West Virginia will track his moves this month.
Just the stats, please
Jimmie Taylor (Greensboro, Ala./Greensboro) is one of the best shot-blockers in the country. He measured out at 6-foot-9.5 in shoes, making him one of the tallest players at the LeBron James Skills Academy. Taylor’s measured wingspan of 7-5.5 was the largest of the camp. It’s freakish that his wingspan is 8 inches longer than his measured height, and it’s a huge factor in the Alabama commit's success on the defensive end.
Other notable wingspans:
• Point guards: Jordan Woodard 6-4.5 (wingspan 5 inches longer), Kasey Hill 6-5 (+4)
• Wings: Isaiah Briscoe 6-8.5 (+6), Davon Reed 6-10.5 (+5.5), Wayne Selden 6-10 (+5), JaJuan Johnson 6-9 (+5), Stanford Robinson 6-8 (+4.5), D'Angelo Russell 6-8.5 (+4.5), Sindarius Thornwell 6-9 (+4.5), Theo Pinson 6-10 (+4.5), James Young 6-11 (+4.5)
• Bigs: Noah Vonleh 7-3 (+6), Jordan Mickey 7-1.5 (+6), Chris McCullough 7-2.5 (+6), Cliff Alexander 7-2 (+6), Marc Loving 7-1.5 (+5), Austin Nichols 7-2 (+5)
What does this mean? For starters, wingspan helps us understand rebounding and lends insight into some of the better wing defenders. Think back to all the recruiting recaps we’ve done since the spring. Johnson was mentioned as a possible elite defender, Reed has often been praised for his work on that side of the ball and Pinson earns marks there as well. Taylor’s one of the best rejecteors, while Vonleh and Alexander earned high marks as board men. During our ESPN broadcast of a game Mickey played in during the high school year, I remember his work in traffic as a board man. Wingspan is a fun statistic, and when you combine wingspan with effort and desire, it’s a powerful tool.
However, it's important to remember that wingspan isn't everything. Jarell Martin (Baton Rouge, La./Madison Prep) has proved to be one of the best rebounding forwards in the country. He measured out at 6-9 and his wingspan was 6-9. If you want to be a great rebounder, desire is the best asset you can have.
Athleticism only gets you so far
Oftentimes an evaluation is thought to mean how a player performed. Well, missed layups, deep jumpers and game-winning drives are part of the deal. However, nonverbal communication is also part of the spectrum.
For example, there’s a lot of talent at the LeBron James Skills Academy, but not all of the talented players really know how to play basketball. They rely on their athleticism.
There are elite prospects who can’t grasp what the coaches and instructors are trying to get across. One instructor said about a top-20 player in the 2013 class: “He’s a great talent, but when we slow the game down and put in plays, he’s lost.”
That player is still going to grade out high when it comes to physical tools, but his aptitude for the game will hold him back. This part of the game doesn’t just improve with experience, either. Overall, there are a lot of talented prospects out here getting by on their physical attributes, not their mental capacity for the game.
The guys who suffer from a lack of awareness and feel also tend to be the lazier players whose motors run only certain times.