LAS VEGAS: The 2012 edition of the LeBron James Skills Academy came to a conclusion at Rancho High School Monday evening. The day was filled with more high level action and also produced one of the better moments of the grassroots season when the top players in attendance from 2013 and 2014, Julius Randle and Andrew Wiggins, passed the torch to rising sophomores Ivan Rabb and Diamond Stone and let them go at it.
Rabb, Stone duel
The majority of folks left in attendance early Monday evening lined Court 1 at Rancho looking forward to seeing 2013's No. 2 player Julius Randle and 2014's top dog Andrew Wiggins square off. The two certainly had their moments, but the game turned into a matchup between a pair of rising stars in the class of 2015.
Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd's Ivan Rabb and Milwaukee (Wisc.) Dominican's Diamond Stone engaged in a duel that will go down in the history books of the LBJ Skills Academy as one of the most entertaining ever. Not just because it was two talented youngsters going at it, but because everybody in the gym was supporting it and their teammates were giving them the ball each time down the floor.
"I'd texted him about it before the game because everybody was talking it up," Stone told Rivals.com. "We knew we were going to go at it and we did.
"I told him (Rabb) that he had better guard me."
Rabb definitely guarded Stone and Stone returned the favor.
Let's start with Rabb, who came out the aggressor early. A bit more of a lengthy, slender athlete than Stone at 6-foot-9 and 195 pounds, Rabb showed off a diverse set of skills. He caught the ball on either block and spun quickly to the rim. He caught and faced up to hit jumpers out to 17 feet and worked the glass on both ends of the floor.
After starting a little more slowly, Stone -- who checks in at 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds -- got things rolling and played in a style reminiscent of a young Kevin Love. He would catch with his back to the basket from between six and 10 feet, survey his options and then go to work, finishing with a dizzying assortment of spins, scoops, jump hooks (with either hand) before stepping out to make some jumpers.
"It was a lot of fun," Rabb said. "I kind of just zoned everybody else out and locked in. I don't even really know what happened."
What happened was two future five-star prospects announcing their presence on a big stage. Not surprisingly, both guys will be watched heavily heading into July.
The coaches will be out later this week, but whether they are, Isaac Hamilton's approach remains the same. The five-star guard from Los Angeles (Calif.) St. John Bosco just goes out there, relaxes and trusts in his talent to take over.
The 6-foot-4 senior-to-be definitely did that in Las Vegas. One of the country's premier jump shooters and skill guys on the offensive end, the smooth scorer had was draining jumpers from all over the perimeter.
While it's definitely fair to label him as a shooter, he's also a very sneaky athlete and clever scorer off the dribble who has a vast array of scoring moves and is a superior mid-range player.
He'll be looking to start cutting things down after the summer and is pretty sure that he'll use official visits to check out East coast programs and he'll likely wait until the spring to make a decision.
Strong camp for Pinson
Theo Pinson isn't the type to crow about his ability or talk a lot of trash on the floor. The class of 2014 wing just quietly goes about his business and gets things done.
One of the top perimeter athletes in his class, the No. 16 player nationally from Greensboro (N.C.) Wesleyan Christian had himself an outstanding run at LBJ.
Most importantly, he proved that he's making significant strides towards rounding out his game and relying more on skill than his athleticism.
The first area that Pinson really looks improved is with his ball-handling. He's improved his ability to go left and does a much better job of using one or two strong dribbles to get somewhere and make something happen.
Additionally, he's keeping his head up and finding open teammates.
His jumper has always been the biggest area of concern with his game and while it still needs some work, it is also significantly improved.
Pinson has a little bit of a flying elbow that gets his shot out of alignment, but he's elevating much better, getting good follow through and shooting with much more confidence.
Stevie Clark got his jumper dialed in on Monday. The sub-six footer from Oklahoma keeps proving again and again that he's a threat to launch from anywhere inside of thirty feet and he's got the heart of a lion out on the floor.
2014 forward Kevon Looney from Milwaukee (Wisc.) Hamilton continued to prove why he's a five-star prospect. He can shoot with range, is a superior rebounder and in Las Vegas he was much more aggressive attacking the rim off the dribble. What's great about Looney is that he is always in motion, always aware of his surroundings and has such a good fundamental base of skills that he's really starting to blossom with the strength and athleticism he's gaining from physical maturity.
Speaking of Julius Randle, the 6-foot-9 senior to be from Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian continues to say that he's eyeing a spring decision. He didn't give a complete school list, but mentioned Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, N.C. State and Texas as a few of the schools on his list. In terms of his play at camp, he was a beast off the dribble all weekend and really focused on attacking the rim via the bounce. Randle is in the best physical shape he's ever been, and is simply too powerful for most high schoolers.
There simply can't be a discussion about the best shooter in the country without at least mentioning Reggie Cameron. There's definitely not a better shooter with size than the 6-foot-7 combo forward from New Jersey. If the guy catches with a square look at the bucket from anywhere inside of 23 feet, it's pretty much like he's shooting a layup. He shot 51 percent from three during EYBL play (with 114 attempts over the course of 19 games) so his hot shooting isn't a fluke.
It would be great to see 2014's Jalen Lindsey and 2013's Davon Reed bottle up whatever it was that was flowing through their veins in Las Vegas. Both are talents, but sometimes have a tendency to fade. That wasn't the case in Vegas as each player was much more aggressive than usual. Lindsey could ultimately be a five-star prospect in the class of 2014 if his aggression and willingness to mix it up keeps matching his athleticism and overall skill. He was banging 3s, getting to the rim and finishing on the break. Reed is a formerly slender wing from New Jersey who has gotten much stronger, and he played with a borderline nasty physical edge in Vegas. He's got a Big East frame and game when he's competing like he was in Vegas and can do a little bit of everything from the wing.