AKRON, Ohio - The inaugural LeBron James US Skills Academy ended Monday night with a competitive single elimination tournament. Team Kentucky squeezed by Team Duke 39-38 in a 24 minute game behind the man sized play of Louisville bound post player Samardo Samuels.
Samuels has bullied his way around the paint all camp, and even though he was facing some large timber in Demarcus Cousins at 249-pounds and Rashanti Harris at 238-pounds, Samuels at 270-pounds was still able to have his way. He posted up deep in the lane, scoring on quick post moves, cleaned up a couple messes on the boards and took the ball to the rack off a midrange face up game. Presently ranked at
No. 6 in the Rivals150, Samuels is making a strong argument to crack the top five.
Although Samuels got the better of both of them, Cousins and Harris had outstanding camps in their own rights. Cousins is cutting down on the number of outside shot attempts and playing an aggressive, physical style of play. He finished against contact and has had some impressive finishes against contact on drives to the basket. It is also a guarantee that he will deliver a couple nifty assist passes in every outing.
Along with Brad Tinsley, Harris has raised his stock as much as any prospect in the camp. Sporting a Ben Wallace look with a high afro, headband and high socks, Harris physically battled every big man he opposed. His defended at a high level, which made Samuels' championship game performance even more special, and rebounded at a high level. And just when you thought that was the end to his game, he snuck in a little offense. There is no doubt that Harris is a high-major post prospect.
2009 wing Jordan Hamilton provided Samuels a lot of scoring support in the winning effort. Hamilton knocked down jumpers like usual, but also picked up points on quick floaters on drives to the basket and opportunistic points in rebounding/scramble situations. His activity on the boards was a significant contributing factor to the win.
For Team Duke, Lance Stephenson and Scotty Hopson took turns scoring the basketball. Stephenson, who also possesses a man's body as a 2009 prospect, repeatedly bullied his way to the rim and finished with authority. Hopson, who has made a strong case in the last month to move up into the top level of five-star prospects, scored from all three levels with an intriguing mix of athleticism and finesse.
Other prospects of note
Brad Tinsley- California, Pepperdine or Utah is going to get a good one in this combo guard. Tinsley said he is down to these three and will make a decision in the next couple weeks. Outplaying a number of guards ranked ahead of him, Tinsley ran the point proficiently for his squad while also draining three-pointers and penetrating the lane.
Iman Shumpert- A terrific passer with a reliable stroke from deep, Shumpert is a high quality combo guard. He also defends well. Don't know if it was frustration with his team situation, but he did play too passive at times for our taste, and we would have liked to see him force the action off the bounce instead of deferring to teammates.
Matthew Humphrey- The sharp shooter from Chicago had a strong camp, playing a strong all around game.
Tyreke Evans- He might not have dazzled like he did in Colorado Springs at the USA Basketball Festival, but Evans was awful good here as one of the top three guards along with Hopson and Demar DeRozan. Able to get his dribble lower than any other guard in camp, Evans repeated splint double teams off the high ball screen. Once in the lane, his superb reach gets the ball to the basket quicker than the help defenders can get to the ball.
Lance Goulbourne- This active small forward might need to be in the list with Tinsley and Harris for prospects who raised their stock the most. Goldbourne was all over the boards, defended and made jump shots. When guarded by Ed Davis yesterday, he blew by Davis on the dribble for easy buckets at the rim. Goldbourne has the skill package and athleticism to cause a lot of match up problems.
Tony Woods- Known primarily as a dunker, Woods displayed an expanded game at the camp. He scored the ball off the glass and had a terrific spin move into a left handed finish on Monday.
Sean Mosley- A well built shooting guard, Mosley has had a strong camp. He has shot the ball, and his fade away jumper off the dribble is a weapon.
Greg Echenique- He's not a great athlete, but he must be a pretty good athlete because he gets results. He also gets results because he is a load at 6-foot-8, 270-pounds and has a mind for the game. He got a chance to bang against his high school teammate Samardo Samuels, and he certainly held his own.
Most of the head coaches moved on to Reebok U, but there were a few notable exceptions. Rick Pitino stuck around and had a chance to watch Samuels go against Louisville targets Tyreke Evans and Greg Monroe.
Roy Williams kept an eye on Ed Davis.
Oliver Purnell continued his watch of Iman Shumpert.
And Frank Martin didn't let up in his pursuit of Wesley Witherspoon.