The Nike LeBron James Skills Academy takes place the week after the NBA draft every July. And although it's mainly known for hosting 80 of the top high school players in the country, it is also the first look for NBA teams at some of the top college players in the country.
This year's camp in Las Vegas likely will not produce three top-five selections in next June's draft, but there were a number of players who stood out to me and are primed for great college basketball seasons:
Tony Mitchell, 6-foot-8, sophomore, North Texas
The former Missouri Tiger recruit only played the second half of his freshman season at North Texas after gaining his eligibility and, while he finished with solid numbers, the camp was a great stage to perform on to build his burgeoning reputation.
Although aspects of his game are a work in progress, Mitchell has Dennis Rodman-like rebounding instincts and athleticism. When four or five sets of hands go up for a rebound, his go up a lot higher. He has a great nose for the ball.
In addition, Mitchell shoots the ball reasonably well from the outside, although he needs to continue to improve his ballhandling on the perimeter to get ready for the NBA or he'll be relegated to tweener status.
As it stands, Mitchell will be the dominant player in the Sun Belt Conference and capable of taking a talented Mean Green team a couple of rounds in the NCAA tournament. He may have helped himself more with NBA scouts than anyone at the camp.
Phil Pressey, 6-0, sophomore, Missouri
I think point guard will be the deepest position this season with guys like Aaron Craft, Peyton Siva and Trey Burke, among others, all in the upper echelon. Make sure you have the Tigers' Phil Pressey in that group, as well.
Pressey has dynamic speed, quickness and court vision to dominate a game and may be the best pure playmaker in the country because of those attributes. He showed those strengths at the camp, in addition to effectively scoring when he wanted to. And he was a real defensive pest when moved to be.
If there are areas of inconsistency in Pressey's game, they would be his streaky shooting and his desire to force passes into tight defensive windows, and they were both evident at times at camp.
The Tigers should be able to overcome the loss of NBA draft picks Kim English and Marcus Denmon because they return veterans like Michael Dixon and Lawrence Bowers and have added a quality group of transfers and recruits. But the catalyst will be Pressey, the team's smallest player, who acquitted himself well in Las Vegas.
Jackie Carmichael, 6-9, senior, Illinois State
After watching Jackie Carmichael at the camp, I now know why my good friend, Tim Jankovich, was torn between joining Larry Brown as the associate head coach at SMU and remaining as head coach of the Redbirds. Outside of Creighton's Doug McDermott, Carmichael may be the best player in the Missouri Valley this season.
At 240 pounds, Carmichael was not afraid to throw his weight around, and coupled with a relentless motor, he was one of the best rebounders in the camp. It's no surprise that he racked up 15 double-doubles last season. He also possesses an underrated low post game with an assortment of jump hooks and turnaround jump shots.
There's no guarantee that Carmichael will be an NBA first-round pick, but if you want a fun guy to follow this season, you can't go wrong with him. The Redbirds can jump on his back en route to a possible NCAA tournament appearance because there will be nothing undersized about his performance.
Ed Daniel, 6-7, senior, Murray State
Daniel was not quite as under-the-radar as Carmichael coming into the camp, playing on one of the best mid-major teams the past three years. However, he escaped the shadow of his more-publicized teammate -- Isaiah Canaan -- at the camp.
Daniel is your classic undersized power forward whose greatest talent may be his relentlessness. Combined with his athleticism and strength, Daniel pursues every rebound as if his life depended on it, and he consistently outworked players with bigger reputations.
Although Daniel's NBA prospects are sketchy at the moment, it's clear that the Racers are not a one-man team. In fact, coach Steve Prohm should sleep easy knowing he has one of the best inside-out combinations this season.
Elias Harris, 6-7, senior, Gonzaga
It's a backhanded compliment, but Harris will be one of the best seniors in college basketball. Although projections of him being a lottery selection after a fast start in his freshman year were premature, he has a chance to lead the Zags deep into the NCAA tournament this season.
It's not totally accurate to call Harris a tweener. I'd describe him more as a jack-of-all-trades because while he is undersized, he's a physical presence around the rim and averaged almost nine rebounds a game last year. Yet his perimeter skills have improved throughout his career. In fact, he is currently a 41 percent career 3-point shooter.
Harris carried himself like a veteran at the camp -- he is 23 years old -- and from that standpoint he was impressive. He played hard, challenged the rim and didn't mind trying to dunk on people with his athleticism. He may have impressed NBA scouts, but he proved to be one of the better players here.
Doug McDermott, 6-8, junior, Creighton
Although McDermott certainly didn't dominate at the camp, he showed why he is the leading returning scorer in college basketball. In fact, no one plays harder on the offensive end of the court than he does.
First of all, McDermott is an excellent perimeter shooter for his size and although he doesn't possess the quick trigger of former Bluejay Kyle Korver, he may be his equal in terms of accuracy.
McDermott has a quick release around the basket, owns an array of scoring moves and, when he does get his shot altered, is quick off his feet to follow the ball. He is a prolific scorer with a garbage man's mentality.
McDermott's weaknesses may lie on the defensive end and will be a concern for NBA scouts, but those questions can be answered at a later date. In the meantime, he'll help his coach -- and dad -- Greg McDermott and his Creighton teammates to another successful season because he scores like he breathes.
LaQuinton Ross, 6-7, sophomore, Ohio State
Coach Thad Matta is no dummy. He must have had good reasons for not playing Ross last season. And Ross' reputation for being an underachiever certainly preceded him.
But there were flashes from him at the camp that made him look like an All-Big Ten player. He has a natural gift for scoring, especially from the perimeter and -- for 10 minutes at a time -- dominated some camp games. At other times, he disappeared.
If Ross raises his intensity level on a more consistent basis, he should combine with Deshaun Thomas to form one of the most lethal scoring combinations in the country. That's a big "if," though.
Here are some quick thoughts on a few other players I saw:
He's fundamentally sound and, while he has no single great skill, he does a lot of little things well.
He'll score prolifically like McDermott this season and will be murder in the Patriot League. His transition to being a point guard in the NBA is the only question.
He's not an explosive athlete and is undersized but he knows how to score from the point guard position. Another year in the Michigan system will do him wonders.
Isaiah Canaan, 6-0, senior, Murray State
He is who he is: an elite, small scoring guard with a great jump shot and the confidence to be a first-team All-American this season.
He more than held his own at camp. He has the toughness of a welterweight.
Tim Hardaway Jr., 6-6, junior, Michigan
I wish his jump shot was more consistent, but he does everything else better than average.
He reminds me of former West Virginia star Kevin Jones. He's a relentless rebounder for his size who can make the 3-point shot.