What We Learned in Las Vegas
The New England Playaz and Connecticut Basketball Club were the last two local programs standing when action got underway in Las Vegas on Monday. Ultimately, the Playaz advanced to the Super 16 before falling at the hands of the Michigan Mustangs while CBC advanced to the quarterfinals before running into Indiana Elite.
After having spent the last four days covering both the Adidas Super 64 as well as the Vegas Fab 48, here’s a look at five lessons we learned during the course of our time in Las Vegas:
1. New England’s Big Men are Second to None
Super pool play at the Adidas Super 64 pitted the nation’s premier big men against each other to kick off the tournament and Andre Drummond came away the undeniable winner. Physically, his combination of size, power, mobility and athleticism puts him on another level altogether while his more consistent assertiveness had him making statement after statement throughout the week.
As for Kaleb Tarczewski, while he might not have been able to match the perimeter skill of some of his big man rivals, that’s part of the reason why he projects as a better true center down the road. He’s a big man who wants to be a big man and given his massive size and frame, he offers something that no other big man in Las Vegas did…a seven footer who is intent to dominate the paint each time down the floor.
Zach Auguste was one of the big winners of the week. While much more of a power forward than a center, Auguste still falls in the “big man” category and the fact that he dominated his match-up with top 100 prospect Phillip Nolan suggests that he could be well on his way to similar status given his continued growth.
2. Getting a Look at Noel’s Competition in 2013
One local big man who was not in Las Vegas was Nerlens Noel, but that didn’t stop us from investigating his competition. The Tilton star is currently giving chase to Jabari Parker as the nation’s top ranked rising junior. This week allowed us a long look at Parker and he is as good as advertised. Some scouts refer to him as the nation’s best prospect regardless of class and after seeing him first hand it’s hard to argue that he couldn’t make a strong case for such accolades. Right now it comes down to this, Parker is the best offensive player in the class of 2013 and Noel is the best defensive player in the class of 2013. What they have in common is their mental make-up. Both play with great poise and have superstar type DNA with their ability to bring their game to another level when the situation calls for it.
3. Prep Stars Raising the Levels of their Games
We hadn’t gotten the chance to see Deonte Burton and Nikolas Stauskas since the prep school season ended in March, but both appear poised to return to New England having added new dimensions to their game. Burton has expanded his skill set to become more of a true swingman, while maintaining the same power and athleticism that has always been his bread and butter. Stauskas is just the opposite, having always been extremely skilled but now starting to show the power and explosion to consistency make and finish plays inside the lane.
4. Future is Bright
A number of youngsters from New England showed well this week as well. Tops among them may be Chris McCullough who was dominating the u15 bracket with Team Scan, but Jarred Reuter continued his productive summer by contributing valuable minutes to the New England Playaz u17 squad and showing new elements to his game with his passing ability. Noah Vonleh continued to have coaches from the highest levels of college basketball raving about his long term potential while Makai Mason, Sean Obi, Adrian Oliveira, Kahlil Dukes, and Paschal Chukwu also showed well.
5. NBA Players Like Vegas Too
There were literally dozens of NBA players in Las Vegas this week, and often times you could find them in the gym checking out the top up and coming prospects. Deron Williams and Earl Watson were at the Fab 48 on Sunday while Corey Maggette made an appearance on Saturday. Amare Stoudamire and David Lee were also in town while UNLV legends Larry Johnson and Stacey Augman (who has since joined the staff at his alma mater) could also be found checking out the action next to New York native Wally Szczerbiak.