CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The NBPA Top 100 camp is annually one of the most important events on the grassroots circuit. Shoe company affiliations go out the door and the best of the best show up to compete. A few last-minute withdrawals, along with some players lost to USA Basketball's 18U team hurt the overall roster a bit, but the competition is still plenty stiff. Highlighting Thursday's session was a much anticipated matchup between Ben Simmons and Thon Maker.
Simmons and Maker impress
In the second round of Thursday's first session games, the Heat squared off with the Wizards, meaning 2015's No. 5 player Ben Simmons would be matched up with 2016's (for now) No. 3 player Thon Maker. Adding to the intrigue was that both have roots in Australia, meaning they traveled a long way to renew a rivalry that began when they were much younger -- even if they didn't end up going head-to-head all that much during the game.
Committed to LSU, Simmons finished with 20 points and five rebounds. He was the aggressor early and lived in transition. He got dunks in transition, got a steal and a coast-to-coast score, finished through contact and made himself available to finish around the rim off of inbounds passes.
There wasn't anything flashy or a high wow factor to how the 6-foot-8 power forward did his damage, it was just steady and effective and that plays very well. Simmons remains in contention for the No. 1 spot in 2015 and he's not doing anything to hurt himself with these performances. In a perfect world, he would be either a little bigger or a little more athletic, but his numbers don't lie and in a class where nobody has really taken control and made the top spot theirs, the production matters a lot.
On the other side, Maker got off to a bit of a slow start. As he can do at times, the seven-footer was floating to the perimeter, looking to dribble and basically made his tremendous size and length a non-factor. As the game crept on, though, something changed and it looked like Maker got angry about something.
All the sudden Maker was sprinting from one end to another, blocking shots, catching alley-oops and making life difficult for opponents. He finished with 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks. On one block, Maker defended point guard Kobi Simmons down the floor and sent him to the right (Maker's left) wing. Once Simmons picked up his dribble Maker saw an open player in the far left corner (his left) and busted his tail to make it over in time to block a three-point attempt off a skip pass that Simmons had made to the corner. It is plays like that which could ultimately separate him.
"That was a lot of fun," said Maker after the game. "That's not the first time that we have matched up because we have matched up back in Australia when we were younger. It was some bumping and grinding for a bit but we didn't get matched up a lot."
Bacon taking game to a new level
In the class of 2015, Jaylen Brown has started to separate himself from the small forward pack with Ray Smith giving chase. Dwayne Bacon is also entering into that level of elite wing and deserves a little more credit than he has gotten so far during the grassroots season.
During Thursday's first game, Bacon was making lots of plays while racking up 12 points as his Rockets took out the Knicks.
Bacon is ready for the next level from an athletic and strength standpoint. While he is capable of bullying opponents, his ability to put the ball on the floor, transition playmaking and ever improving jump shot have made him a true force to be reckoned with.
Rivals.com will be updating the class of 2015 Rivals150 shortly after NBPA Camp ends and based on what he has shown in Charlottesville and other stops along the way, Bacon deserves serious consideration for five-star status and looks to be in a good position to move up from his current spot of No. 33 nationally.
Thursday session one notes and notables
It has been a strong grassroots run for class of 2016 point guard Derryck Thornton. The Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep floor general looks to be due for a bump up from his current No. 20 national ranking because of his consistent play. Thornton excels in a high pick-and-roll, where his floor vision and the quickness with which he turns the corner puts defenders in bad situations. He's also a very good on-the-ball defender and was playing at a high level on Thursday morning.
It was a good morning session for four-star big man Daniel Giddens. The 6-foot-10 center from Georgia played to his strengths -- meaning he was physical near the rim, worked the glass and played good straight up defense and then helped as a shot blocker. He'll be making his college choice in early July and the way things are lining up Ohio State looks to be the favorite.
Is there a better looking jump shot in the class of 2015 than Jalen Coleman's? Rivals.com has seen a lot of ball this spring and we have yet to see a more crisp, clean, compact and aesthetically pleasing looking jumper than the one wielded by Coleman. The No. 31 player in 2015 is also a very good one- and two-dribble pull-up jump shooter but does need to get more strength and become a better finisher as a driver.
Class of 2016 five-star big man Edrice Adebayo AKA "Bam Bam" wasn't playing around during the first session. A powerful athlete with long arms and tremendous quickness around the rim, he played grown man basketball around the rim while racking up 17 points and 10 rebounds. Adebayo has added the ability to put the ball on the floor for a dribble or two and that with his quickness causes other big men -- 2015's Doral Moore on Thursday -- major problems.
Point guard Jawun Evans probably didn't have quite the run through Nike's EYBL that he wanted to. On Thursday, Evans was in prime form while running the show. One of the quickest players in the country, Evans is the rare point who can help to dictate tempo on both ends of the floor because of his ability to move opposing point guards where he wants them to go on his defense. When locked in, he's almost impossible to blow by and while he's probably only about 5-foot-11, he has good length and is a mean competitor.
Four-star shooting guard Brandon Sampson had a nice outing as well. The Louisiana shooter's handle is just a tad shaky, but his athleticism and jump shot are all high level. He's angling for a spot in the 2015 top 50 at this point.
Class of 2016 big man Dewan Huell admitted that he is a bit tired after also playing in last weekend's Elite 100 in St. Louis. But, the four-star big man is giving a solid effort anyway. He listed offers from Louisville, Kansas, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Memphis, Ole Miss, Tennessee, South Carolina and Texas A&M. Huell cautioned that he may have forgotten a few offers off the top of his head and said he's not close to cutting things down. He's trying to set up an unofficial visit to Louisville.
A summer teammate of Huell's on Florida-based Team Breakdown, Juwan Durham is another long and bouncy big with loads of big-time interest. Durham listed Duke, Florida, USF, Florida State, Louisville, Miami, Memphis, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Wichita State, Kansas, LSU, Georgia Tech, Georgia and Alabama among the many early suitors he has.