This past weekend, Palm Beach Atlantic University hosted the Junior National Skill Advancement Camp put on by Nike Elite Skills Instructor Gannon Baker and Elev8 Academy. We’ve been to many events that combine skill work and scrimmages but we can recall nothing that compares to what we witnessed Saturday. Too often the “skills and drills” sessions are time fillers until game play starts. Unfortunately that leads to the games degenerating into nothing more than glorified fast break drills. At the JRNSA, skills development was of prime emphasis and the drills were creative, competitive, and required the players to think quickly and react even quicker. Prior to the games portion of the event, teams were given basic offenses to run and this made the games much more competitive and much easier to scout. For those of you that have viewed any of Gannon Baker’s skill videos, be assured that he has even more passion, intensity, and enthusiasm in person. Before we get into some player profiles from the event, we have to pass along two pearls of wisdom from the event:
1)Selfish, silent, and/or soft play is a killer for the team and individual
2)Don’t give into laziness or fear when working to achieve any goal
Carlos Aleman, 2017, San Juan Puerto Rico
Now: In both drill work and games, Aleman proved to be a solid scorer. He handles the ball well in traffic and is a good shooter off the catch as well as the dribble.
Next: Because he can play both guard spots, Aleman’s next step in development should be improvement as a passer and distributor.
Blake Anderson, 2017, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Now: Anderson was one of the more offensively aggressive players in camp. He attacks the basket relentlessly, rebounds well for his size and is quick to start the break on his own after securing the defensive rebound. Anderson also has an accurate shot from distance when given space.
Next: Anderson will become a more complete offensive threat once he develops more of a mid-range game. All of his scoring seemed to be either at the rim or behind the arc.
Justin Ryder, 2017, Blackwood, New Jersey
Now: Arguably one of the top performers on Saturday, Ryder plays the game with the savvy of a high school senior. He has an extremely high basketball IQ, is a vocal leader, gets the ball to open teammates, and is a solid shooter and scorer. Whatever high school he lands at is getting a very good player.
Next: We’re probably nit-picking a bit, but the lefty can elevate his game by becoming more proficient at scoring with his off hand in traffic.
Jamison Hunt, 2017, Ripley, West Virginia
Now: Hunt didn’t register with us until late in a close game when he made some big plays. He’s fundamentally sound, hits open shots from a variety of angles and distances, and has the ability to play either guard spot.
Next: His savvy and skills will keep him competitive but he will need to improve his quickness to compete against top players as he gets older.
Ja’cor Nelson, 2017, Columbia, South Carolina
Now: Nelson was one of the better players in transition as he is quick to change ends and he makes tough shots going at full speed. He also moves pretty well without the ball and got some scores on cuts into the teeth of the defense.
Next: We didn’t see much from Nelson in terms of range and consistency on his jumper during games so that is a next step for him.
Daniel Tisdale, 2017, Columbia, South Carolina
Now: Tisdale scored very well from inside of fifteen feet. We liked how he was very active on the offensive glass as well as his ability to score in transition.
Next: While he did score well in the mid-range area, we’d like to see him improve his ability to get into the paint and finish in traffic via the dribble.
Omar Habwe, 2017, Lexington, Virginia
Now: Physically and facially he reminds us a lot of Victor Olidipo. Habwe is an exceptional athlete, has a long wing span, and plays with an aggressive mindset. We give him points for being extremely coachable as he was called upon to play a lot in the post for his team during scrimmages. During the drills portion of Saturday, Habwe showed he could play on the perimeter as he knocked down shots off the dribble inside of fifteen feet and connect on threes when not pressured.
Next: The more Habwe improves his ball-handling and ability to understand when to pull up from mid-range or go all the way to the basket, the higher his already considerable upside will be.
Job Grundmann, 2017, Bissen, Scandanavia
Now: Grundmann is solid in terms of his fundamental skills. He’s a good passer on the perimeter and has range on his jumper when he is able to catch and shoot after a teammate’s penetration.
Next: He can become a bit passive when on the court and hasn’t yet gotten used to the more aggressive style of basketball played in the states. He needs to dig down and find his killer instinct to rise to the next level.
Kenny Dye, 2018, Camp LeJeune, North Carolina
Now: Dye was one of the fastest players we saw with the ball during the event. He relentlessly pushes the pace and is a good passer on the move.
Next: We didn’t see much from Dye in terms of a jump shot during games but from what we saw in drills he needs to increase his range and consistency.
Quentin Grimes, 2018, Spring, Texas
Now: Grimes is blink-of-an-eye quick. He gets to the rim with ease and scores very well. He pushes the pace and makes acceptable decisions in transition. His jumper is okay at this stage and should certainly improve as he gets older and physically stronger.
Next: For us, Grimes’ next step will be to better understand game pace: when to slow down and when to continue to push the tempo.
Nick Honor, 2018, Orlando, Florida
Now: We were impressed with Honor’s ability to both run a team and also score. He does a very good job of keeping his head up while dribbling and facing pressure. Honor generally made solid decisions on the move as to when to shoot or pass and found teammates for easy baskets. He surprised many with his ability to knock down shots with range.
Next: Nearly all of his points come from either behind the arc or at the rim. If Honor can become an effective mid-range scorer, he will become very difficult to stop at the offensive end.
Christian Brandt, 2018, Auburn, Alabama
Now: Brandt didn’t wow in any one area but he was steady all day. He’s a “glue guy”, the kind of player every team needs to be successful. Brandt makes plays, gives a great effort, and does a lot of little things that make a big difference.
Next: Not the greatest athlete, Brandt needs to become more confident and crafty with his dribble so that he can do a better job of defeating defensive pressure.
Ignas Brazdeikis, 2018, Ontario, Canada
Now: Ignas has a very high skill level for a player so young. The lefty handles the basketball well in both full and half-court situations, has very good court vision, scores with range and is also effective at getting to the basket and finishing in traffic.
Next: In our mind, his greatest challenge is complacency. The skills and basketball IQ are already there. He will get stronger and more athletic as he matures physically. It is now a matter of challenging himself to see just how good he can be.
E.J. Montgomery, 2018, Fort Pierce, Florida
Now: Truthfully, he’s too good to play at this level even though this is his age group. Already 6’7 with long arms, excellent ball skills, and a solid IQ, he is all but unguardable. He needs to play with and against guys that are his same size and skill level on a consistent basis to really get an understanding of how good he is and can be.
Next: Montgomery needs to consistently play hard at both ends of the floor an continue to push himself on a daily basis.
Cole Phillips, 2018, Bentonville, Arkansas
Now: Phillips is a guy that knocks down open shots from a variety of areas on the court. He has good size, rebounds the ball well, and surprised with his ability to pass from the post.
Next: Phillips will need to spend time with the jump rope to improve his quickness and foot speed as well as become more adept at scoring off the dribble.
Marcus Tillman, Jr., 2019, Apopka, Florida
Now: Tillman essentially played “up” with the guys in the ’17 and ’18 classes and more than held his own. Inch for inch he may have been the best rebounder in camp. Tillman played bigger than his size (5’8), scored well in transition and on put backs, and worked very hard at both ends of the court.
Next: As proficient as Tillman was at grabbing the defensive rebound and starting the break on his own, it didn’t take more than two dribbles with his left hand before the ball switched over. He needs to become a better ball-handler with his off-hand.
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