July 8, 2006

ABCD: Day two

Teaneck,N.J.-Bill Walker hasn't been that visible on the circuit this spring and summer, but the athletic forward got the attention of everyone at the Reebok ABCD Camp on Friday with his typical array of powerful dunks, and more importantly a handful of 17-foot jumpers.

Walker, now the second leading scorer at the camp, put up two game high performances of 19 points in his team's two wins of the day. In the first game against Kevin Love and company, he also grabbled 5 rebounds.

Love led his team with 15 points and 7 rebounds. The leading scorer in the camp, Love was not as efficient against the long armed defense of Dallas Lauderdale as he has been against other defenders in the camp as he only made 4 of his 11 field goal attempts.

Walker, who is leading the camp with a 70 percent field goal percentage, shot 60 percent in this contest, hitting 9 of 15 of his attempts.

In his second game, Walker took advantage of the lesser athletic Taylor King on both ends of the court. He applied intense defensive pressure on the left handed shooter, and King was only able to get his 12 points while playing extra minutes with the second string due to a rash of injuries on his team.

On the offensive end, King backed off Walker and dared him to shoot it. Walker first probed with the dribble and then rose up on at least three occasions to knock down jumpers just inside the arc. For the game, Walker was 8 of 10 from the field.

Still as athletic as ever, Walker has taken his ball handling and passing to another level. Now his shot has not made the same leap, but as evidenced in his last game, he it is certainly improving.

Although he will not reveal a school list, Walker did address his lack of visibility on the circuit and his mind set here at the camp.

"I haven't played in as many tournaments, so I can take the time to work on some parts of my game like shooting and becoming a smarter player," said Walker. "I need to cut down on my turnovers.

"In the past when I came up here, I was trying to see where I stood against players like Gerald Green. I gained the confidence that I can play against the best players in the country.

"Now I have a different outlook. All the proving is done. I've proved I can compete with the best. I'm not concerned about my ranking. That is for everyone else to worry about. I'm just happy with the moment and happy to be here."

Walker's athleticism has always been mind bending, and now he is handling and passing like a skilled off guard. He is a ferocious defender when he wants to be. Just ask King, Leonard Washington and James Harden, all of whom Walker has shut down.

Now if he can consistently knock down jumpers and stretch his range as well as get in the lane and grind out rebounds in traffic, he will be a truly gifted complete player.

Little guy, big impact

While Walker was on the bench during the first and third quarters, his teammate Josh Miller stole the show with his aggressive play. A fearless and speedy point guard at 5-foot-7, Miller scored 13 points and had 3 assists and 3 steals in the night game.

Hoping to elevate his recruitment to the high-major level, Miller presently has offers from Akron, Toledo and Marshall, while Xavier is showing strong interest.

A new man

As Tracy Smith's weight ballooned to 280 pounds, his ranking went from top 25 to non-existent. Now, the 6-foot-7 forward is almost 60-pounds lighter at 222-pounds and is quick to the basket and quick off the floor.

"At the beginning of the high school season I went on a low carb, all water diet," said Smith, who is the fourth leading scorer in the camp. "I cut out all sodas and all sugar. I had been way over weight for a year and a half, and I just got tired of it and of hearing my high school coach getting on me about it."

Gauging by the smile on his face, the work on his body has been worth it for Smith. He is down to Memphis, North Carolina State and Oklahoma State and plans to announce a decision at the end of The Big Time tournament in Las Vegas.

Hickson shines against top defender

Despite being cut at the end of the process, J.J. Hickson was one of the more productive players at the USA U18 trials in San Antonio. He has continued that production at the ABCD Camp. He is tied for tenth in rebounding, and last night he put on a scoring clinic against defensive menace Anthony McClain.

Hickson never had to worry about shooting over the 7-footer, because he consistently got an angle on the big man with his quickness and ever improving foot work.

Three plays standout-Hickson drives middle from the wing with his right hand, spins back to the baseline, shot fakes, and then steps through with his left foot back to the middle and scores with a twisting jump hook.

Then he drives middle from the other wing with his left hand, fakes a spin back to the baseline, pivots to the middle and scores with a left hand jump hook.

Finally, Hickson measures up McClain on the left wing well behind the arc, then he explodes to the middle and with one dribble gets to the other side of the basket for a reverse lay up.

Starting over

We've already mentioned in our camp coverage, the recruiting misfortune of Alex Tyus. Misfortune may very well turn to fortune, as the highly motivated and springy forward continues to play excellent basketball. He is draining mid-range jumpers, including and game winner in overtime on Friday, and he is one of the more dangerous offensive rebounders in the camp.

Tied with Walker as he second leading scorer in the camp, Tyus should have a horde of schools after him after this weekend.

Making a name

Coming from El Paso, Texas and playing on a New Mexico AAU team, Cliff Tucker has not had a whole lot of national exposure. The wiry wing is getting plenty of it here, and he has been impressive. A very instinctual and efficient player, Tucker has handled and passed the ball well. On defense, he is active and has a knack for impacting the play. He plays with terrific court awareness.

Growing up

Not only does DeAndre Jordan appear to have grown into a legit 7-footer, he is also becoming a much more mature player on the court. There has been hardly a hint of frustration at his teammates or wining at the officials. Jordan has been flat out competing and playing like a legit five-star prospect and future pro.

Shot blocker in the house

Eli Holman nearly has the closest competition doubled with his 3.5 blocks per game. The active left hander has also shown flashes of an offensive game.

Shooter in the house

Blake Hoffarber knocked down a lot of three's at the NBA Players Camp, and he is doing the same here. In fact, the Minnesota wing prospect is shooting a mind boggling 81 percent from behind the arc. Can that possibly be correct? Whether it is or not, he gets my vote for the best catch and shoot guy in the 2007 class.

Impressive 2008 prospects

A fluid wing prospect, William Buford is fifth in the camp in scoring and also the fifth in the camp in field goal percentage. He can hit from three, is smooth in the mid-range and is also explosive attacking the basket. Playing like a top ten prospect, the one thing Buford lacks right now is physical strength.

A top point guard, Anthony Crater is tied for fourth in assists. Crafty with the ball and adept at executing the high ball screen, Crater can shoots it well off the dribble from three and has a very promising floater in the lane.

Still physically developing, Verdell Jones is quite an intriguing prospect with his long arms and skills with the basketball.

Future five-star prospect Devin Ebanks continues to impress with his skill package and smooth feel for the game.

Sylvan Landesberg has been quite impressive with his length, fluid athleticism and smoothness with the ball.

Always willing to grind it out defensively and on the boards, Olu Ashaolu has played well on the offensive end as well.

School Lists

Darius Miller, another impressive 2008 prospect, claims offers from Clemson, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Xavier, Miami and interest from Indiana.

Trevor Mbakwe has a top five of Michigan, Miami, Marquette, Illinois and Wisconsin. All have offered, and he hopes to make a decision this month.

Alex Legion is considering offers from UCLA, Arizona, Kansas, Kansas State, Michigan, Illinois, Florida and Notre Dame.

Leonard Washington, who is toying with the idea of playing football in college, is considering offers from LSU, Louisiana-Lafayette, McNeese State, Mississippi State and Oklahoma State.

2008 prospect Josh Crittle is considering offers from DePaul, Clemson and Illinois. He is also getting interest from Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee, Purdue and Miami.

Chris Braswell, one of the top 2008 prospects, made it to camp Friday night after getting out of summer school. He played well and shot well from the outside in his first game. He has a top five of Villanova, Georgetown (offer), Maryland (offer), Connecticut and Texas.


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