COLORADO SPRINGS – Today was the first full day and I was prepared to hurry over for the 8:30am session but learned from fellow Blue Star Evaluator Chris Mennig not to rush as USAB Staff were working again on simple, build-upon drills for these young players. I went back to my hotel to work on the USJN Big Apple event in NJ and decided to come back for the after lunch session.
This event is even more full than in the past as the dual sessions and the numbers have cut down on the length of the break for all but the Media and USAB Staff. With two groups splitting three-hour blocks of workouts there would be only one hour for lunch and dinner compared to at least two hours for previous years. Chris and I got back and were greeted by Chris Hansen, Lisa Bodine and Mark Lewis who where “shocked” that I missed the morning session. We were all hoping for a more competitive and more intense drill and competition session in the afternoon. This wish was necessary as we would have to “evaluate” the entire group on this afternoon drill session and evening competition and come up with a preliminary cut group even before the USAB Selection Committee did their own work.
It was very intense and by the end of the afternoon session I had Group 2 finished and half of Group 1 as it was hard to focus on player abilities with the limited drills they were running at that time. After this session I interviewed two players, 6-0 Jannah Tucker 2013 (top five 2013 BSR) from Randlestown, MD and 6-0 Cierra Calhoun from Brooklyn, NY (top 10 2014 BSR).
“Attending the Nike Skills Academy made a difference because Ganon Baker was there (Hampton, VA site),” said Tucker who along with Calhoun play for the Philadelphia Belles travel program. “He talked about intensity and bringing energy, showing passion and doing the little things.” “I think the talent level is higher here, “ said Calhoun who is making her first visit to the Olympic Center. “The Nike Skills prepared me for this. I just have to play my game and separate myself from the other players here.”
After a quick dinner away from the Center, Chris and I returned to a flurry of evaluations as the players were not into group competition drills of three-on-three halfcourt. As this was again two sessions you only had 1.5 hrs to get through the 60-plus players, per group. This session was about cleaning up the Evals and seeing who was separating themselves from the pack.
From Group 1 I was able to pull about 9 names with another possible 10 players on the bubble. Those players are: 124 Campbell, 142 Mitchell, 154 Washington, 181 Davis, 209 Nared, 219 Tucker, 221 Turner, 269 Russell, 273 White. From Group 2 I selected 11 players with at least 11 more possible: 116 Allen, 122 Caldwell, 176 Calhoun, 183 Drummer, 190 Green, 198 Jackson, 203 Manvunge, 212 Petitbomme, 217 Smith, 261 Cooper, 276 Lapeyrolerie.
The takeaways from both sessions so far was that there are a lot of guards here and big guards, small forwards who all play a position higher due to their height and abilities. It was hard to come up with the selection of the guard. The bigger wings and small forwards was much easier as those players clearly dominate when they step on the floor. There are no great post players here. In fact, this is a very slight two classes of post players along with a small number of post players in the 2012 class which means the USA will be in a tight situation when the USAB older teams are constructed after the 2012 London Olympics. The Australians and Chinese teams are huge and they have surprising numbers of them while we don’t. as shown at the 17u Worlds last summer.
If I had to select a team, I would pick the following: 116 Allen, 142 Mitchell, 154 Washington, 176 Calhoun, 181 Davis, 190 Green, 198 Jackson, 209 Nared, 212 Petitbomme, 217 Smith, 219 Tucker, 221 Turner, 261 Cooper, 273 White.
GUARDS: Allen, MD; Mitchell, OH; Washington, OK; Petithomme, FL
WINGS: Calhoun, NY; Green, CA; Nared, OR; Smith, OH; Tucker, MD
BIGS: Davis, GA; Jackson, AR; Turner, TX; Cooper, CA; White, NC
The first cut is after the morning session. The Selection Committee should get down to at least 40 players including the above names. Who will make the guard and wing list will be up for discussion as some player may move from bubble slots to contenders for the team. There are at least eight players who did not make my 14 player selection who could move up if this next session is a breakout for them.