CHAPEL HILL, N.C.- Travel teams from across the country were scattered throughout The Triangle on the opening night of the Tournament of Champions. In the Dean Smith Center, both Kyrie Irving and C.J. Leslie had outstanding outings.
Kyrie Irving- The dynamic guard knocked down a couple jumpers, but he was at his best when carving up the Wisconsin Playground Warriors off the dribble. A master at changing directions, Irving is comfortable playing at a fast pace. He has great body control at the rim and also finds the open man in the lane. Defensively, he was a big part of the swarming New Jersey Roadrunners pressure defense.
C.J. Leslie- When Leslie hits the court with a focused and energetic approach like he did Friday night, he is awful good. A big time athlete, Leslie looked like he relished the opportunity to be the go-to guy on his Carolina Cobras team. His best work was on the defensive end where he just might have had double digit blocks. But he was also effective on the offensive end attacking the basket with the dribble. He's still in need of a jumper, but Leslie constantly put pressure on the defense with his attacking style.
Noah Cottrill- A terrific deep shooter, Cotril might project more as a scorer off the ball than a full time point guard at West Virginia. He is not going to overwhelm opponents at the next level with his quickness, but he will deliver a lot of daggers with his quick release and confident jumper.
Anthony Brown- Loved his play in the open court in transition, but there is going to be a time when he has to develop his body in order to be an impact player at the next level.
Okaro White- Beginning to like this lanky combo forward more and more. The energy level is always there and now his skill level is beginning to catch up. White looks comfortable shooting the ball from the outside, and he is making plays off the dribble.
Tashawn Mabry- The combo forward impressed with his physical and aggressive play. He was strong around the basket and made several tough midrange shots. High majors will like what they see in July.
Isaiah Sykes- The lefty has a knack for getting to the rim and finishing even though he isn't overly athletic. Doesn't appear that he has much of a jumper, but he is a presence on the court offensively, nonetheless.
Dwight Powell- Love his motor, and his body and game are coming along nicely. Effective in the pick and roll with the talented guards on his Grassroots Canada team, Powell finished off some tough shots on the move. He runs the floor extremely well and also has the potential to be a dangerous offensive rebounder.
Cory Joseph- His shot was off in the first half, but in the second half it was true as he knocked down both three-pointers and a couple pull up jumpers. After deferring to Myck Kabongo at the point guard position in the first half, Joseph was more energetic and aggressive with the ball in his hands as point guard in the second half. Joseph also had a couple plays in transition where he showed his surprising athleticism.
Reggie Bullock- He was at his best scoring in transition from behind the arc and at the basket.
Mike Gilchrist- As always, Gilchrist was a workhorse around the basket, and made plays off the dribble in the open court. He did, however, struggle mightily from the free throw line.
LaQuinton Ross- He is working his way back from an ankle injury so there is some rust in his game, but the way things come so naturally to him offensively is quite clear. Rarely do you see his kind of skill game in a 6-foot-8 package. The challenge for Ross is to ramp up the defensive effort and put his length to use on the boards.
Myck Kabongo- You don't find many guards who can pressure the ball 94-feet like Kabongo can.
Jacob Lawson- Playing on the far court, Lawson continued to catch my eye with athletic plays. Well put together at 6-foot-7, Lawson has the look of a high major athletic forward. Don't have a good read on his skill level, however.