Kentucky Basketball: McDonald's All-American Game Impressions

I don't know if most of you have been able to find the time to watch the McDonald's All-American game, but I have.  So I wanted to give you some of the impressions that I came away with after watching the game. 

The Kentucky Wildcats are known to have five players they are actively recruiting in this game that have UK as one of their top choices.   For each player, I will break down what I saw (or what I think I saw) and evaluate them as a future Wildcat.  So off we go:

  • Brandon Knight -- All of you know about this guy -- 6'3", 185# Rivals #1 player in the USA, point guard with a very high GPA from Florida.

    Knight is a true lead guard who can score.  Unlike John Wall, Knight does not have astonishing speed or athleticism, but he does have excellent speed and athleticism.  Knight has NBA size for a point at 6'3", and has excellent ball-handling skills and Wall-like floor vision.  Knight is an elite defender, and even in the all-star game where defense is rare showed flashes of his skill.

    Knight shot the ball badly from the field, but his mechanics are excellent  He was credited with only two assists, but I personally counted at least five (God knows what game the official scorers were watching), had only 1 turnover.  Knight is a good fit for Calipari's system in every respect, and he would be an excellent replacement for Wall.  He may be even better that Wall in that he will add significant perimeter shooting, and has the ability to get his own shot when he wants.  He also hit the game-winning shot from 3 even though he struggled with his shot all game, which tells you a little bit about his confidence.

    Knight is a pass-first point guard who can shoot the ball and get to the rim.  He is very strong physically and is not afraid to fight big people for rebounds.

More after the jump.

  • Terrence Jones -- Jones is a 6'8" 220# player from Oregon ranked #13 in the Rivals 150 who projects as a college power forward.  Jones is athletic and strong, and plays with great determination.  Jones is mostly an inside player but is able to shoot the ball well from the perimeter.  His form is good, and he is very long and has excellent, but not remarkable, athleticism.

    Jones' most desirable characteristic in this game was his effort.  He loves getting out on the break and is relentless on the boards.  He only shows three rebounds in this game, but he was extremely active and kept the ball alive a lot.  Jones is a capable scorer down low and can finish strong at the rim.  If he can put on about 20 more pounds, would be a serviceable replacement for Patrick Patterson

    We saw that Patterson played much more facing the basket this year, but Jones is much more natural at that style of play.  He has a better handle than Patterson, and would be a perfect DDM player due to his inside-outside ability.
  • C.J. Leslie -- Leslie is a 6'7" 205# player from North Carolina (Word of God Academy) ranked #14 in the Rivals 150.  Leslie projects as a college wing who could also play some 4 if necessary.  He has been playing a 4 in high school.  Leslie is an athletic freak who can really fly, and runs the floor like a deer.

    Leslie is extremely long -- his wingspan has to be 7' or greater.  For a fellow with such a slight frame, Lesilie is an outstanding rebounder and had 9 boards in the McDAA game.  He was able to rebound well against even Fab Melo, who is much bigger and stronger.

    Leslie is very, very quick off the floor, and if you look up the word "bouncy" in the dictionary, you will find his picture there.  He loves to run the floor and can finish with authority at the rim.  He has an outstanding handle for a man his size, and can get his own shot anytime he wants.  He is much quicker off the bounce than Darius Miller, and even though his shot mechanics are not perfect, they are not weird or unsightly -- just a few technical flaws that need to be addressed.  Leslie's stroke is 110% better than that of Eric Bledsoe in high school, and we saw how Bledsoe worked out.

    Defensively, Leslie is a capable shot-blocker and defender.  His commitment to defense is typically below what is needed for college, unlike Brandon Knight, but he is quick enough to handle even significantly smaller players.  Under Calipari, he has the potential to become an elite college defender.

    When John Calipari modified Vance Walberg's innovation into the DDM, Leslie was the kind of player it was invented to take advantage of.
  • Doron Lamb -- Doron Lamb is 6'4" 175# off guard from Oak Hill Academy, ranked #21 in the Rivals 150.  Lamb is long and a very good athlete.  Lamb reminds me a bit of a smaller version of Joe Crawford.  He has good strength and good length.

    Lamb is a solid shooter, but his favorite shot is inside the arc.  He needs to work on his 3-point range, but his shot mechanics are solid and merely need a tweak or two.  Lamb handles the ball well enough to sub in for the point on occasion, but most of his college career will be spent in the scoring guard position.  Lamb is a 3 or 4 year player at the college level.

    Lamb's strength allows him to finish very well at the rim, and he is not afraid to mix it up inside.  Lamb is a natural scorer, and gets his points off the bounce, drive, or spot up.  Lamb's defense does need some work, and he is not the quickest guard at his size I have seen.

    With improved range, Lamb could be a very dangerous shooter in college, and has the game to be very effective in the DDM.
  • Josh Selby -- Selby is a 6'2", 183# point guard from Baltimore, ranked #4 in the Rivals 150.

    Selby is an elite athlete with great speed and leaping ability.  He impressively won the slam dunk contest against bigger players, and has a Wall-esque vertical of 40" or so.  At times, Selby was the dominant player on the floor, and he is unguardable in these types of games.  He is faster and jumps higher than almost everyone.

    Of all the Kentucky recruits, however, Selby would be the toughest to integrate into Calipari's system.  Selby is a bit of a selfish player and is way too much into flash.  While he is more athletic than Knight, Selby's decision making is nowhere close.  Selby was cocky and arrogant on the floor, and reminded me very much of a smaller version of Lance Stephenson.

    Selby is a capable, but inconsistent defender.  When he wants to play defense, he is capable of holding down players several inches taller than he is.  He has quick hands an is very aggressive in every phase of his game.

    Selby will be a star no matter where he is, whether the coach wants him to be or not.  He likes to shoot, gets to the rim at will, can get any shot he wants and finishes strongly.  He is right-hand dominant and needs to work on his left hand.  Selby gets down the floor faster than any other player I saw, and has good court vision.  Selby can pass when he wants to, but he likes having the ball in his hands.

So there you have it -- my impressions of the McDAA game, and any of these guys would be capable of playing for John Calipari.  Of all the players I saw, only Harrison Barnes, Fab Melo and Josh Selby look like one and done type players, although Barnes plays at a position where you don't see that many one and dones -- the wing.  Barnes would probably project as an off guard rather than a wing in the NBA, and even though he can shoot the college three well, he is not ready to shoot the NBA three.  But his length, athleticism and intelligence are remarkable, and he will be a great addition to North Carolina next year.

Selby is the only non-center I saw who is clearly an NBA prospect within the next year or so, primarily due to his remarkable athleticism.  He is also a skilled player who can make tough shots with people in his face. 

Fab Melo is the most likely one and done among the big people in this game, and he is not all that likely.  He is everything you could want in a big man, and has really good skills for a man his size.  The Syracuse Orange will be very happy to have him.

The Duke Blue Devils got themselves a great player in Kyrie Irving.  He is exactly what they need at the point.  Kendall Marshall was also impressive, and he will be the medicine that the North Carolina Tar Heels so desperately need.

Tobais Harris played very well, and is a great get for the Tennessee Volunteers.  He has an inside-out game and will be an ideal replacement for the departing Wayne Chism, having a very similar game but even better skills than Chism did when he arrived at UT.  Unfortunately, Harris aggravated a broken toe in the first half and did not play in the second.

Jared Sullinger, who will be matriculating to the Ohio St. Buckeyes, was also very impressive.  He can bang and he can shoot the three.  A coach's son, he plays a remarkably cerebral game for a big player.

There were other players who were impressive, but I think this is enough for now.  In the final analysis, if UK gets any three or more of the uncommitted guys I have reviewed above, the Wildcats will be in great shape for next year.

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