Here are some quick thoughts on some of the players that stood out to me at the Jordan Classic this year.
Kyrie Irving, Duke: What can I say that I haven’t said this year? Jay Williams said Irving was a combination of himself and Chris Duhon and that sounds about right. So creative, so smooth in transition, with a feathery jumper. He completely took over the game and the crowd in the final three minutes, when nobody could stop him going coast to coast. He’s the total package, and when Mike Kryzewski gets him playing that hard man-to-man defense, you’re looking at a future Chris Paul in the making.
Harrison Barnes, North Carolina: As much as I don’t wish to admit it as a Duke graduate, Barnes is going to be a problem right away. He attacks the boards tenaciously (15 rebounds), handles the ball well for 6-foot-8 and has a nice jump shot with three point range – he’ll thrive in UNC’s uptempo system. I can only continue to think that Barnes should have considered playing with an elite lead guard like Kyrie Irving…
Josh Selby, Kansas: Most impressive guard in the Classic aside from Irving. Selby’s speed and explosiveness allowed him to get to the line at will. He’s going to Kansas, but as a clear one-and-done talent, I’m actually surprised he didn’t end up at Kentucky – his style and talent resemble John Wall’s far more than…
Brandon Knight, Kentucky: I didn’t hate Knight’s game, but I didn’t love it either. He was clearly an above-average passer and had several moments where he demonstrated abundant speed, but he’s more a pure point guard than an absolute game-changer. He shot 3-for-11 in the game but did have a 6-1 A/TO ratio.
I asked him after the game why he chose Kentucky and got: “Just the chance to get better. It’s a great program, with a great coach.” Does he compare himself to Wall in terms of making a name for himself very quickly? “Not really, everyone has their own path. Not really, I don’t compare myself to him.” Very safe, very steady – it’s obvious he’s going to Kentucky just, well, because it’s the thing to do when you’re ranked the top point guard in your class.
Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: I loved his game; he reminded me of Carlos Boozer the way he took up space and had a soft touch around the rim. He hit 9-for-11 from the field and blocked four shots. When he gets some work in on his body, he’s going to be near impossible to handle.
Josh Smith, UCLA: He had a soft touch, but he must lose weight. Most high-level opponents would run him right off the court if he’s playing at 300 pounds, which I suspect he is. If he gets to where he’s playing at 265, maybe even 270, I think he’d be a force like Sean May or Glen Davis.
Terrence Jones, undecided: Kind of like Barnes West. He’s picking between three Pac-10 schools, Oklahoma, Kentucky and now says he’ll visit Kansas. (Are Kansas and Kentucky on everyone’s lists?) He has handle, hits the boards, decent one-on-one game… pretty much the total package, just not quite as good as Barnes.
Tristan Thompson, Texas: Lots of solid big forwards in this game. Thompson’s a pure 4, but the lefty has some handle, rebounds and finishes well. He was 1-for-6 from the line, but almost nobody hit their free throws, to be fair.
CJ Leslie, Undecided: I think he has a world of athletic talent, plays above the rim and has some polish to his game. I hear he’s sort of eccentric, but I’d imagine there are teams out there that view him as the final piece. If I’m John Calipari, I want him to put me that much closer to being a true contender even with a super-young team. If I’m Sidney Lowe, I want to reclaim him for State because he’d be the best pure player they’d have since Julius Hodge. If I’m Roy Williams, I want to get involved – pronto.
Kendall Marshall/Reggie Bullock, North Carolina: I think I caught these guys on a bad night. Marshall was very ordinary and couldn’t finish on the rare times he got to the rim, but I heard later he had a wisdom tooth issue, so I’ll give him a pass. But I think he has a very tough time with Kyrie Irving a few times a year. I didn’t even know Bullock was there until I looked up at the scoreboard late and he had 11 points. I have no idea when those baskets happened. I just have to assume these guys are better than I saw last night, especially Bullock.
Doron Lamb, Kentucky: I watched him score 49 points in an upset loss to St. Peter’s Prep back in February, all on jump shots. Sort of strange player for Kentucky; his athleticism isn’t off the charts or anything. Mostly he’s just a shooter, though a very good one.
Cory Joseph, Undecided: Solid, tough player – unselfish and good passer, played tenacious defense. I think his gritty style would be a great fit for Villanova and I could see him doing very well there, but lure of family in Connecticut and Findlay Prep teammate Thompson going to Texas may be bigger potential lures.
Perry Jones, Baylor: Relatively ordinary game (8 points, 6 boards) for a decidedly unordinary player. I see him stepping in nicely for Ekpe Udoh well, though he won’t play at that level right away.
Roscoe Smith, UConn: Very quiet game, feeding into what I’ve come to expect from Roscoe. He’s either going to impact the game greatly, or drift a bit. I still would have enjoyed watching him play for Duke, but seeing him on the same court as Barnes makes it stark how there’s simply no comparison between the two players, though Smith would have you believe there is.
Will Barton, Memphis: Pure scorer and a terrific addition for Memphis, who lose Elliot Williams to the NBA Draft. I talked to Barton’s mom outside for a minute, and she was simply ecstatic after he slashed his way to 15 points. He’s part of a top-notch recruiting class, and I see him as a solid scorer in college.