LAS VEGAS -- Everyone was assembling. The stage was set for No. 10 rising senior Myles Turner (Euless, Texas/Trinity) to take on No. 2 Cliff Alexander (Chicago/Curie). Unfortunately, the much-anticipated matchup didn’t happen after a leg injury for Turner put this titanic tilt on ice.
Still, a long Day 2 at the LeBron James Skills Academy on Sunday and the first day of games allowed ample time to evaluate and gather intel on many premier players. Here are some nuggets from Day 2.
Day 2 at the LeBron camp belonged to No. 2 recruit Cliff Alexander, who dominated both games he played.
No Myles, but plenty of Alexander
The whole camp was hyped up to see the Turner vs. Alexander matchup. The high school and NBA scouts were ready, but only one party wound up having fun. A phone call from the camp trainer to Turner’s parents put the kibosh on the showdown. Turner’s leg injury wasn’t getting better and he had to sit this one out.
Alexander, well, he took full advantage of the stage.
Rising senior power forward Trey Mourning (Miami/Ransom Everglades), the son of Alonzo Mourning, wasn’t physically ready or strong enough to hold Alexander back. UNLV-bound ESPN 100 forward Dwayne Morgan (Baltimore/St. Frances) did the best he could, but the freight train that was Alexander still rambled through the lane.
Simply put, Alexander was awesome. Most of his rebounds were two-handed and he dunked everything in sight. His offensive game is coming together quicker than expected and the baby hook is his go-to move. As big and as strong as he is, he has room to improve as a finisher (outside of the dunking, of course). The only defense for Alexander is to attempt to knock him a foot off his sweet spot and take your chances.
In the nightcap, he went unchecked again. The entire day belonged to Alexander.
• I’ll remain a lean toward Malik Newman (Jackson, Miss./Callaway) as the top prospect in the 2015 class. He was unguardable in the evening game. He went wherever he wanted off the dribble, plus his jump shot is a major weapon. After Alexander, he may have turned in the day’s best body of work.
• This was my first time seeing left-handed 2014 scoring point guard Dominic Magee (Gretna, La./Helen Cox). Not too shabby at all. He has a toughness that bodes well for the future.
• Oklahoma State 2015 commitment Austin Grandstaff (Rockwall, Texas/Rockwall) has a big rep as a shooter. In the evening session, he shot it even beyond that reputation.
• He needs the ball in his hands, but when he’s locked in, Ohio State 2014 commitment D'Angelo Russell (Louisville, Ky./Montverde Academy) is a slick scorer with an accurate jump shot.
• Morgan is a guy who attacks his matchups. As a small forward, his inclination to score is born from the fact that he can both shoot it and put it on the deck.
• ESPN 60 small forward Malachi Richardson (Hamilton, N.J./Roselle Catholic) is a better shooter than he was last summer. The trick is to not just settle for jumpers. He was outstanding on Sunday and has room to grow.
• There’s a ton of sub-6-foot point guards floating around. But if there’s a better shooting one than ESPN 100 prospect Justin Coleman (Birmingham, Ala./Wenonah), I’ve yet to see him. Shooting is the strength of his game, and you feel good when he lets it fly. However, he’ll need to be careful with his college selection so as to not bite off more than he can handle. He’s more scorer than set-up man, and at his size that tends to even itself out in college.
Can USA Basketball spring another package deal?
Ivan Rabb (Oakland/Bishop O’Dowd), the top post player in the 2015 class, was part of USA Basketball’s U16 FIBA Americas championship team last month. So were Newman and 2015 center Diamond Stone (Milwaukee/Dominican). Rabb said he has formed relationships with Newman, Stone and fellow ESPN 60 prospect Isaiah Briscoe (Union, N.J./St. Benedict’s) and wouldn’t mind playing college ball with any of them. He’s also interested in seeing where his high school teammate, Paris Alston, winds up.
Following the summer, Rabb wants to trim his list to 10-15 schools. We know California, Arizona, Oregon, Kansas, Connecticut, North Carolina and Ohio State will be in the mix.
ESPN 100 forward Jaylen Johnson attacked drills with a purpose on Day 2 at the LeBron camp.
Johnson talks recruiting
There’s no doubt one of the big questions that needs to be addressed by college recruiters is just how good is ESPN 100 forward Jaylen Johnson (Ypsilanti, Mich./Ypsilanti), the son of Janetta Johnson, the single-season blocks leader for the Wisconsin women’s program.
During a post-up drill at LeBron, every big man had to run into a huge pad. Some guys approached the drill as if it was a pillow fight, others a dogfight. I can tell you this: No one hit the pad harder than Johnson. He had a purpose.
After averaging 13 points and 11 rebounds per game as a junior, Johnson went to work this spring establishing his reputation. Iowa State, Oregon, Miami, Michigan State, USC, Xavier and Louisville are looking.
Okonoboh, Noel are like brothers
A little more than a week ago, ESPN 100 center Goodluck Okonoboh (Boston/Wilbraham & Monson) saw his former AAU and high school teammate, Nerlens Noel, go No. 6 in the NBA draft.
“We call each other best friends, but we’re more like brothers,” Okonoboh said.
So, can Noel’s “brother” wind up at Kentucky? “I don’t know; they’re recruiting everybody,” Okonoboh said.
UNLV, Duke, Indiana, Florida and Louisville are charging hard, but this young man is a long way from making a decision or even formulating a final list. He’s locked in on basketball this summer, not recruiting.
“I need to keep working on my touch around the basket,” Okonoboh said. “My positioning can get off. I’m confident facing the basket because I can get by my defender, but I need to work on my back-to-the-basket game.”
Regardless of his offensive progress, he remains a serious rim protector on defense.
LeBron camp buzz
• One camp instructor working with the wings who views things through his NBA lens weighed in on his group. He relayed that ESPN 100 prospect Stanley Johnson (Fullerton, Calif./Mater Dei) went harder with more attention to detail than his peers during drills. That same instructor sought me out later and said he surmised the best wing in the building was UNC-bound Justin Jackson (Tomball, Texas/Homeschool Christian Youth Association).
• When it came time to begin positional work, Syracuse-bound 2014 combo forward Chris McCullough (Bronx, N.Y./Brewster Academy) headed for the wings, not the bigs. From a scouting standpoint, that says a lot. Will McCullough embrace the forward role that he will likely occupy in college and beyond? Georgetown recruit Isaac Copeland (Raleigh, N.C./Brewster Academy), whom we view as a stretch 4-man, also went to the wings and not the big men. Time will tell.
• Rising senior Bonzie Colson Jr. (New Bedford, Mass./St. Andrew’s), the son of a former Division I assistant coach, owns offers from Rhode Island, Northeastern, Florida State, Iowa State, George Washington, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, while Minnesota and Miami are looking. Colson is a positional tweener, a 6-foot-4 power forward who is trying to expand his game and play some small forward this summer. The question will be his outside shot and ability to defend the position.
• Shooting guard Rashad Vaughn (Minneapolis/Robbinsdale Cooper), the No. 11 prospect in the 2014 class, is who we thought he is. When asked what he likes to do best, Vaughn offered up a succinct yet predictable answer: “Score.” Kentucky and Kansas are basically guaranteed official visits. Baylor, North Carolina, Iowa State, Minnesota and UCLA are mixing it up with him as well.
• ESPN 100 small forward Kameron Chatman (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Poly) is one of my favorite basketball players in the 2014 class. He samples from so many areas of strength for his position, including IQ, shot making, passing and defense. Whichever college gets him won’t have him all four years. Michigan, Oregon, Arizona and Connecticut are likely to receive official visits. Arizona also has a little hook with him: Both his father and Arizona assistant coach Damon Stoudamire are Portland natives.
• Rising senior combo guard Khadeem Carrington (Brooklyn, N.Y./Bishop Loughlin) said he feels like Cincinnati and St. John’s would like to have him.
• ESPN 100 power forward Kevon Looney (Milwaukee/Hamilton) will cut his list to five at the end of the month. Duke, Florida, Michigan, Michigan State, Tennessee, Georgetown, Wisconsin and Stanford get a lot of play right now, and the most active head coaches have been John Beilein and Tom Izzo. “(Michigan State assistant) Dane Fife used to call a lot, but my mom told him she wanted to hear from the head coach and now Tom Izzo calls the most.” Rule No. 1 in recruiting: Obey the mother.
Next up: Monday is the final day of the LeBron camp. There will be light skill work in the morning, then tournament play concludes the action in Vegas.