Monday, July 8, 2013

Updates from the LeBron James Nike Skills Academy

LAS VEGAS- Day two of Nike's LeBron James Skills Academy was an all day affair that featured skill work in the morning and then each team playing two rounds of games during the latter part of the day. A few things became readily apparent: Five-star Cliff Alexander is the most dominant big man in attendance, Rashad Vaughn is asserting himself as the top shooting guard in the class of 2014, and Devin Robinson may not have gotten a big enough boost in the rankings when he skyrocketed into the top 25 of the 2014 Rivals150.

Devin Robinson made a big jump in the Rivals150, but it may not have been big enough.
Robinson oozes ability and potential
During the spring and early summer, 6-foot-8 small forward Devin Robinson out of Christchurch (Va.) High was the talk of the grassroots circuit. He made a meteoric rise from No. 106 to No. 24 in the 2014 Rivals150 and the way things look he might not be done climbing.
At the recent NBPA Top 100 Camp the five-star swingman showed flashes of what he's capable of. At LeBron, he's gotten used to playing against lots of high level competition and has looked really comfortable and at times dominant.
Long and lanky, Robinson is armed with a smooth jumper that he can make with ease from deep, and he's a very fluid athlete. Around the rim he's been quite explosive and has started to show what he's capable of doing off the dribble.
Not surprisingly, he's been one of the hottest targets in the country. His most recent offer was a draft-night tender from Indiana, and the Hoosiers join the likes of Auburn, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Rutgers, USC, VCU, Virginia Tech, among others.
Rather than chop things down before the three July open periods, Robinson says that he's keeping things open and see who else jumps in before he cuts things down in August. He also knows that he has to back up the hype that he's generated, and he's not interested in others building their reputations at his expense.
"I have to play hard every game," Robinson told "Everybody knows who I am now, and they are trying to come after me. I don't want to be the come-up guy where everybody gets an offer off me. I gotta come to play every game."
For Robinson, it's been all about staying in the gym, and he's not satisfied with how far he's come as he looks to tighten up every aspect of his game.
"The biggest thing is I've been getting to the gym every day," said Robinson. "I've been in the weight room every day trying to get stronger, bigger and faster. I think I need to work on my ball handling and being more of a guard instead of setting picks and popping ... more off the dribble stuff."
Alexander and Vaughn have Alpha mentality
Both Cliff Alexander and Rashad Vaughn were profiled earlier in the day on Sunday; but their work in the afternoon and evening sessions demands that they get a little more run for their play.

Rashad Vaughn is backing up his talk of more efficient play.
We'll start with Alexander. A beastly 6-foot-9 power forward from Chicago (Ill.) Curie, the No. 4 player in the class of 2014 has been easily the most dominant low-post player and arguably the top player in camp. It isn't just that he's been fantastic either; it's how he's gone about things.
Alexander has long been known as a supremely physical player who is going to try and dunk everything, and he's definitely still doing that. But he's improved his body and is showing off more game. Jump hooks are coming more often, and he's looking real comfortable on short jumpers. He dominates the glass and really understands how to seal his man and hold position while presenting a good target for guards' passes.
While Alexander has looked like a future NBA player on the interior, Vaughn has looked like one on the wing.
The Minneapolis product was stroking jumpers from deep, finishing at the rim and as always hitting the glass extremely well for his position. No other shooting guard in the class can score as well as Vaughn can from all three levels, and it is quite apparent that his talk about working to take smarter, more efficient shots isn't just talk, because the proof is in his much more efficient play at LeBron.
He does have a bit of a tender ankle and ran out of steam a little during the latter part of his late night game, but Vaughn has the goods. Within the next week, Vaughn should also have his destination for his senior season picked out.
More Sunday notes from LeBron
During the first game of the day recent Oklahoma State commit Austin Grandstaff matched up with Vaughn, and it didn't go so well for him. The 6-foot-5 four-star from the class of 2015 came back in impressive fashion during the night session. At one point, by our count, Grandstaff had hit seven three pointers (number six may have been a two, couldn't see referee signal) three pointers in a row, and he was spacing the floor. The Texan is definitely a competitor.
North Carolina-bound Justin Jackson continues to be steady. There's not much point in mentioning his mid-range game because it has been covered inside and out. He had a great first game and then an up-and-down second game; laterally quick wings can give him some trouble.
> There isn't a faster point guard in the class of 2014 than Lourawls Nairn. A four-star prospect who is pushing the national top sixty, the floor general from Bel Aire (Kan.) Sunrise Christian puts a lot of pressure on defenders with his ability to attack off the dribble. Relax for a second, and he blows by you. Nairn is also a good defender and looks like a leader. Lots of coaches will be watching him with MoKan Elite during July, and he can certainly push the tempo.
Picking up right where he left off during the second half of the NBPA Top 100 Camp, Shaqquan Aaron had a nice day. The 6-foot-8 Louisville bound wing initially earned notoriety as a jump shooter but has at times relied on his shooting too much. With his ability to handle and create off the dribble, Aaron is at his best probing defenses via the bounce and then using his jumper to keep them off balance.
One of the more ferocious rebounders to come across the summer circuit in a few years, Angel Delgado will win fans during July because of his rebounding. On a few occasions, even though people didn't see him get the rebound, they knew Delgado had snatched it because of how loudly he slaps the ball when he grabs it. He is also pretty good attacking the rim off of one or two strong dribbles from between 12 and 15 feet.
Class of 2015 four-star Malachi Richardson has worked his way into high end four-star status and the national top 25 in his class because of his shooting and size. When Richardson plays with an edge and attacks off the dribble, his ability to finish through contact gets him buckets in the lane and puts defenders on their heels.
Class of 2014 wing Terry Larrier played to his top 40 status. He could still be a little more aggressive at times, but with his size, fluidity and ability to shoot the ball off the catch or dribble, Larrier is an easy high-major player.
Finally, we've begun to notice that 6-foot-8 wing Dwayne Morgan rises to the challenge. Because of his size and toughness, he can still play some power forward, and he had to do that against Alexander. Alexander still got his on offense, but Morgan made him work hard for his hoops despite giving up a lot of weight. On the offensive end, Morgan was hitting jumpers again and did a very nice job of pulling Alexander out of his defensive comfort zone around the rim and making him guard in space.

By Eric Bossi.  Reprint from

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