Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Pinson, Russell shine at Adidas Nations
By Dave Telep
LONG BEACH, Calif. -- We’re a long way from the postseason all-star games, but watching the championship game of the Adidas Nations on Monday night, I couldn’t help but think there’s a lesson here.
Of the 21 players who took the floor in the title game, 18 were ESPN 100 prospects (Emmanuel Mudiay would have made it 19 but missed the game due to injury). And with all that massive talent on the court, the integrity of the game stood up.
I listened into the huddles of Don MacLean, the former UCLA star who coached USA 2014 Blue to an 81-77 win over USA 2014 Red in the title game, and he had the focus of his players and command of his team. What could have easily disintegrated into an all-star game never did. On both ends of the floor, I saw many of the best players in the country compete -- and compete hard.
When next spring rolls around, I challenge the bulk of this group to approach the postseason all-star games with the same fervor. Trust me, it’ll be more fun for everyone if they value the competitive aspect as they did Monday night. We air a lot of high school basketball games on ESPN each year, and some are better than others. This one was memorable for the intensity down the stretch and the overall effort.
North Carolina recruit Theo Pinson had 15 points and seven rebounds in the Adidas Nations title game.
• Pinson made 7-for-8 from the free-throw line and keyed a late run for the winning team. North Carolina’s coaching staff will be happy to know he made his last three free throws to seal the game in the clutch.
• The defensive presence of Myles Turner is real. By the spring, once his confidence is full blown, he’s going to be a load.
• Russell scored 11 points (most in the first half) to go with eight rebounds and four assists. With impressive talent on the floor, he proved to be one of the top performers.
• What can you say about Travis that hasn’t been said? While I do think length will be problematic for him, there will be nights when he simply wears out an opponent. He’s a candidate for best motor in the 2014 class.
• Justise Winslow did not shoot the ball well. What he did do was prove that, for my money, he’s the best perimeter defender in the class. I also loved that he was not too thrilled about the loss. This is a player who craves winning.
• Okafor had 14 and eight despite being doubled much of the time. My favorite Okafor highlight was when he cooked a pass to a cutter for an easy layup.
• As a country, the U.S. stinks at shooting the basketball. In the title game, the two USA teams combined to shoot 11-for-45 (24%) from downtown. And in a third-place loss to Africa, a continent known more for its big men than its big-time shooters, USA 2015/2016 Red was outclassed as Africa made 9-for-18 while USA went 1-for-5.
• Guard Sidy Ndir scored 23 points while making three 3-pointers to lead Africa to a third-place finish.