CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Thursday morning was dominated by a pair of underclassmen at the NBA Players Association camp at the University of Virginia.
Peach State pair shines
The Noel Johnson that played very mediocre on the grassroots circuit did not show up to camp. The aggressive, attack the basket and spot up shooter that has been amongst the top three scorers in the camp that is shining here in Charlottesville is fantastic.
The wiry 6-foot-6 rising junior from Fayette County (Ga.) High School has shed his mental block of driving to the basket and scoring more at the rim all the while keeping his ability to knock down the perimeter shot with little trouble. In his three games of play at the camp, Johnson has scored at least 16 points a game.
His long time teammate and long time friend Derrick Favors was one, if not the best, big men in the morning session. The 6-foot-8 big man always looks like he has much more in the tank at the end of the game so considering his near flawless scoring performance, who knows how good he could have been on Thursday morning. His mastering of both hands around the basket is a thing of beauty.
Same game, different day
Disclaimer: Elliot Williams will be mentioned a lot this week. The five-star guard continues to shine as an all around guard and certainly as one of the best backcourt players in the camp. He shines at every possible level – close to the basket, in the midrange and from the perimeter.
Williams continues to separate himself as one of the elite scorers in the class of 2008 and certainly not doing anything here to change the tune of that here after a day and a half of action.
When it comes to playing with a high-motor, using athleticism and being alert at all times, Olu Ashaolu can check himself on all three. The Rutgers bound forward has enjoyed a great start to the camp. He's keeping himself inside the paint, where he is at his best, and causing problems because of his length and quick bounce. Ashaolu may have had the play of the day, he saved a ball from going out of bounds, tossed it between his legs to a cutting teammate and dunked it home for a quick two points.
Class of 2009 shooting guard Dominic Cheek shined the brightest as a big time perimeter threat on the AAU circuit. At the camp, the rail thin 6-foot-5 guard is doing more to get to the basket and challenging players at the rim. He's showing more toughness and diversity to his already skilled offensive game.
Watch Elston Turner long enough and you'll appreciate what the Washington bound guard does. The combo guard knows how to play his position, as you'd expect from a son of a NBA assistant coach and player. The 6-foot-3 guard controls the pace of the game at the speed he wants to play, he doesn't force the issue and finds guy in the flow of the game.
Luke Babbitt has confidently gone about his business after three games. The Reno (Nev.) product has earned the respect of his peers with his great motor. His perimeter skills have been well-documented. But it his hands that have really stood out. Babbitt has Velcro on his paws and collects every pass thrown his way with some zip.
Odds & Ends
Mississippi State commitment Romero Osby left for home because of an injured shoulder.
Washington bound guard Isaiah Thomas led the camp in assists after the first day of action. He averaged 6.5 assists after two games, two and half more than the next player.
Quietly, Washington D.C. area forward Terrell Vinson led the camp in scoring and rebounding after the first day. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 17 points and eight rebounds a game after two contests.
The Indiana kids have finally made it to the camp after playing in the Indiana all-star game. The Tyler Zeller-Ty Walker match-up that was supposed to happen but never fully materialized. Instead, Zeller paired against Michigan bound Ben Cronin, who also arrived to camp today.
Sylven Landesberg made his camp debut after missing the first day.
Word is from the game we didn't see this morning that Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker and Xavier Henry all put on a show. The NBAers here are all high on Knight, a 2010 prospect.
What a week here so far for Georgia wing DeQuan Jones said he hopes to come up with a top three shortly after the NBA camp. To date, he is counting Arkansas, Florida State, Miami, Georgetown, Oregon, Oklahoma, Clemson, Ole Miss and LSU.
Eloy Vargas has a busy month ahead of him. He'll trip to Pittsburgh, Indiana, Ohio State and Louisville after the camp. The four-star big man from south Florida has really played himself into the upper echelon this AAU season.
2007 or 2008? That is the question Arkansas forward Andre Clark is hearing the most here at the camp. He said he is waiting for the answer himself. The 6-foot-8 forward is waiting for his ACT score and hopes to have his answer in the next week. He has officially visited Colorado and unofficially tripped to Baylor. Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Florida State, Miami, West Virginia, Cincinnati and Indiana are all hoping to lure him in for 2007. For 2008, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky and Arizona are looking.
Washington (Mo.) High School prospect Scott Suggs said he is down to seven schools – Florida, Clemson, Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Washington and Wisconsin. The four-star shooter said he has visited all of his finalist but Florida and Clemson. A decision could be coming by the fall or end of the summer.
Class of 2009 point guard C.J. Harris said he is being courted by the majority of the ACC programs. Makes sense. He's a heady floor general from Winston-Salem's Mt. Tabor High School. It shouldn't come as a big surprise that Wake Forest is on him the hardest, he said.