LAS VEGAS -- The 2013 LeBron James Skills Academy is over, finishing up with the third and final day on Monday. The narrative of the camp is likely to be the performance of No. 2 rising senior Cliff Alexander (Chicago/Curie). Once No. 10 recruit Myles Turner (Euless, Texas/Trinity) went down with an injury, there wasn’t a guy here capable of getting in Alexander’s way, much less stopping him.
Many of the big names like North Carolina-bound Justin Jackson (Tomball, Texas/HYCA), 2014 No. 11 Rashad Vaughn (Minneapolis/Findlay Prep) and 2015 No. 2 Malik Newman (Jackson, Miss./Callaway) played to their reputations, but there are always guys who click it up a notch. Two of the players in the latter group were ESPN 100 power forward Angel Delgado (Troy, N.Y./Redemption Christian) and four-star combo guard Robert Johnson (Richmond, Va./Benedictine Prep).
Here are some nuggets from Day 3 at LeBron. On Wednesday, I’ll have an overall look at what I learned from the camp.
Malik Newman, the No. 2 player in the ESPN 60, is turning into a dangerous scoring point guard.
Newman vs. Vaughn was fun
The most interesting part about camps is the matchups. It just so happened that Newman found himself on the court going up against Vaughn on Day 3 in a matchup of two of the best scoring guards at the LeBron camp.
Both came into the game fresh off stellar Sunday efforts. Vaughn, who on Tuesday following LeBron camp announced he would transfer from Robbinsdale Cooper in Minnesota to national power Findlay Prep in Nevada, drew first blood and put a bunch of early buckets down, including some deep jumpers. He caught Newman off guard with the quick strikes.
However, Newman settled down and guarded Vaughn harder than most would expect at camp. The younger Newman soon put the clamps on Vaughn and the pair struggled to score following the early hitters from Vaughn. In the second half, Newman hit his counterpart with a rocker step and he was gone.
These are two pro-centric guards. They already have the step-backs, jab steps and, in the case of a Newman, a burst to the cup. Vaughn will be a big-time scorer with his jumper, with mid-range and deep as his primary weapon. Newman, meanwhile, is turning into a scoring point guard with a get-by gear, deep jumper and a prideful demeanor when challenged on defense.
Johnson dialed in from deep
I remember colleague Paul Biancardi falling hard for Robert Johnson at the Hampton Nike EYBL earlier this spring. Since then, Johnson played his way into the NBPA Top 100 Camp and did the same at LeBron.
I watched him hit four 3-pointers in one half on Monday and he reportedly finished with seven triples in the contest. People will rave about his shooting, and rightfully so. In the back of my mind, though, I’d like to see if my hunch that he’s a point guard plays out that way. For the rest of the month, college assistants will be asking themselves the same question.
Notes from game action
• Two years from now, ESPN 100 point guard Edmond Sumner (Detroit/Detroit Country Day) won’t be as woefully skinny as he is now. He’ll be starring in the backcourt for Xavier and folks will wonder why he isn’t playing for one of the bluebloods. This kid has real toughness, a screwball jump shot and court vision.
• Four-star 2014 point guard Lourawls Nairn (Bel Aire, Kan./Sunrise Christian) has proved himself at LeBron. He led, passed and used his speed. Scoring is not his thing, but defense and getting guys shots are his gifts.
• Villanova-bound ESPN 100 small forward Mikal Bridges (Malvern, Pa./Great Valley) had his best set of games on the final day and finally got his jumper on track. He’s a long-term stock and that’s the lens we should view him with.
• If ESPN 25 power forward Thon Maker (Martinsville, Va./Carlisle School) embraces the position, the No. 2 prospect in the 2016 class could be a special player. I can’t remember a player who has come to the United States from Africa with his kind of upside this early in his career. Maker’s big advantage is that he has both skill and feel. You hear rumblings of trying to make him a perimeter player, but he did well in power forward positional stuff and he’s not adverse to contact.
• ESPN 100 point guard Tyler Ulis (Matteson, Ill./Marian Catholic) built on his strong spring. He continues to demonstrate court vision and the commitment to making others around him better. In my opinion, Ulis exemplifies the makeup of a point guard.
ESPN 100 PF Angel Delgado is starting to add more offense to his already dominant rebounding game.
Delgado continues to cement his standing
There is no doubt in my mind that the player with the best motor at LeBron camp was Delgado. He played harder the last game of the event than half of the kids did in their first game out. After leading the Nike EYBL in rebounding this spring, he rolled up his sleeves and went to work here.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Delgado hasn’t seen his mother in three years. “She went to Argentina to work,” Delgado said. “I play hard for her.”
When Delgado first came to the United States, his coach told him to rebound and put back shots. He’s proved to be a good listener, and now he’s beginning to add to what has previously been a relatively simplistic game. Delgado could be seen knocking down a mid-range shot and tossing in a hook at LeBron camp. Little by little, the offensive light bulb is flickering.
There’s a school of thought among some college programs recruiting him that he’s waiting on Kentucky to offer. He likes the Wildcats, there’s no doubt about that. Louisville, Florida, Miami, Georgetown, Kansas, St. John’s, Dayton, Virginia and Florida State also garnered mention. This much I know: He could play for anybody because rebounding translates.
Abu seeks answers and truth
Spend a few minutes with ESPN 100 power forward Abdul-Malik Abu (Boston/Kimball Union Academy) and you’ll come away impressed. Few kids in the 2014 class have the ability to analyze their own strengths and weaknesses like he does.
“I love camps like this because you get to see where you stand,” Abu said. “I feel like I played well. I’d rather die than get outworked.”
Working hard is a staple in Abu’s game -- it’s in his DNA. When it comes time to make a college decision, expect him to remove the name on the front of the jersey from consideration and make a choice based on the best fit for him. He knows everyone looks at his list and assumes he’s bound for the biggest name. That’s why he makes it a point to not count out Iowa State, Wisconsin or Kansas State.
With that said, Kentucky is beginning to peek his way. Kansas, Florida, Connecticut, Providence and NC State are also in the mix. “I need a detailed plan,” Abu said. He can handle the truth, and that’s what he wants to hear during the recruiting process.
Point guard with no timetable
ESPN 100 point guard Dominic Magee (Gretna, La./Helen Cox) has no real school list that he’s married to. Magee plays for the same high school that produced Greg Monroe. Unlike Monroe, this underexposed point man didn’t enter July with preconceived notions about his recruitment.
Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, UCLA, Memphis, LSU, Louisiana Tech, Tulsa, Texas A&M, Alabama, Houston and Oral Roberts will watch him this month. Oklahoma State, according to Magee, has done the most with him.
Next up: What’s cooking for Tuesday is a travel day. That’s what we in the basketball recruiting business call an off day, at least by July standards. I’ve got a new July Road Trip blog on what I learned from LeBron camp and a movie -- “Limitless” -- on tap for the cross-country flight from Vegas to Augusta, Ga. On Wednesday, I’ll be at the U16 version of the Peach Jam and then head over for a nightcap at the Peach State.