has decided to take its coverage to another level, this time covering the prestigious AAU tournaments throughout the country. Our first stop was the Spiece Pump N Run. While there were many players participating that will be very good college players and eventual NBA prospects, we had to focus on five players who are either NBA prospects right now, or who are definite ones in the very near future. We will be giving you a detailed breakdown on the performance of those five players (O.J. Mayo
, Bill Walker
, Greg Oden
, Daequan Cook
, and Kyle Luckett), as well as the buzz and interesting stories that surrounded them at Spiece.
The first interesting story was that of the connection between O.J. Mayo
, Bill Walker
, and Reebok. I found it quite odd that there were two Reebok employees at nearly every one of the talented duo's games. What was even odder was that both Mayo and Walker left the team's bench during the middle of one of their games to do a Reebok photo shoot. Granted it was a blowout win, but I still found that disconcerting. Reebok sponsors both their AAU team (D-1 Greyhounds) and their high school team (Cincinnati North College Hill). It was also interesting that Mayo and Walker had different Reebok shoes the ones their team was issued. To top things off, one of the Reebok employees that I mentioned before handed Mayo a brand new Reebok headband to wear against the Spiece Indy Heat and looked extremely disappointed when Mayo took it off midway through the game. While I am not saying that there are any illegal activities going on between Reebok and the two, I just thought this was a pretty interesting story for basketball fans.
Mayo and Walker were not the only super talented duo on the same AAU team. Greg Oden
and Daequan Cook
each had their own stories over the weekend. First of all, there was a rumor going on amongst virtually every single scout on hand that Oden and teammate Mike Conley would join Daequan Cook
and commit to Ohio State University. I first heard this rumor as soon as Cook committed to OSU, and now its looking like it actually might happen. Oden and Conley both have visits to Ohio State lined up for this Friday, May 6th. I had the chance to speak with Cook personally and ask him about the rumors of him transferring to Oak Hill Academy and that his grades were sub par. He let it be known on the record that he will not be transferring and that his grades were not an issue at the moment.
The final story of the weekend was that of super talented 7'0 Kyle Luckett. first spotted Luckett when he was working out with the players selected to play in the EA Sports Roundball Classic in March. We saw an extremely athletic 7 footer with good quickness as he went through post drills. Originally, we were told that Kyle had never played high school basketball at all, just a few random AAU tournaments. Mark Miller of the Wisconsin Basketball Yearbook, contacted us and told us that Kyle did indeed play high school basketball for Racine Horlick high school in Wisconsin. We were told that Kyle played 8 games in the 2002-2003 high school season, and that was verified by Kyle's AAU coach Eric Vaughn. Kyle has gone through some problems in life that I truly wish upon no one, which resulted in him struggling academically for quite some time. Within the past year, Vaughn got Kyle enrolled in South Side high school in Fort Wayne, Indiana and he seems to have really changed for the better. Vaughn also confirmed that Kyle is an unsigned member of the class of 2005, and is 19 years old. Luckett's team, Blessed IJN, looked like the best team in the tournament until Kyle was ejected in the Sweet 16 round of tournament play two minutes into the game, as an opposing player attempted to start a fight with him. Even though he did not retaliate, Kyle was ejected from the game. Blessed went on to win the game, but tournament rules state that any player ejected from a game must sit out their next game. Blessed then had to face Mayo, Walker, and the rest of the D-1 Greyhounds in the quarterfinals, where they lost by an enormous margin.
Now you have heard about some of the stories going around the tournament, as well as the truth on the Kyle Luckett situation, we will give you our evaluations of the players we covered at the Pump N Run.
6'5, 205 lbs.; PG; 2007;
AAU team- D-1 Greyhounds HS-Cincinnati North College Hill (OH)
Win over Grand Rapids Lightning- 11 points
Win over D.T.A- 36 points
Win over Cincinnati Cowboys- 20 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds
Win over Blessed IJN- 21 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 dunks (Sat entire 4th quarter)
Win over King James Shooting Stars- 16 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists (sat entire 4th quarter)
Loss to Spiece Indy Heat- 27 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds
Proclaimed by many as the best high school player in the nation regardless of class, O.J did not disappoint this past weekend. At 6'5, he possesses the ability to post virtually any guard with his lethal combination of size and strength. Along with his amazing quickness, great handle, and jumpshot (NBA 3 point range), he is virtually unstoppable.
Throughout the tournament, Mayo made helpless defenders look silly as he constantly drilled three pointers from NBA range. After sinking a contested three pointer from about 25 feet, an opposing defender turned to his team's bench and told his coach He's unstoppable, I can't do anything. O.J. showed the ability to beat anyone in the country off the dribble, shoot the ball from anywhere on the court, and make passes that only a few players on earth can make. Defensively, he is able to be a lockdown defender any time that he wants to. It was truly a thing of beauty to watch such a talented offensive player dominate on the defensive end as well.
The only real knock that some might have on Mayo is his attitude. I have spoken with him on two different occasions and I have found him to be a very bright and intelligent young man. On the court though, O.J. is constantly arguing with referees and talking trash to other players, but it only seems to motivate him as he normally does something amazing right after getting into it with an opposing player.
As far as the NBA draft is concerned, I feel that O.J. would easily be a lottery pick if he were allowed to enter the draft this year. As far as potential goes, the only high school players that even come close to him are Bill Walker
and Greg Oden
. Both Prerak Shah and I agreed that both Mayo and teammate Bill Walker
were more impressive then any player at the Roundball Classic, including probable 2005 lottery pick Gerald Green
. His high school, North College Hill, has a game lined up against national powerhouse Oak Hill Academy next season, which will most likely be on ESPN. If the 20 year old age rule is imposed, fans will have the ability to see O.J. in college for two years. If it is not, fans will probably hear his name called extremely early in the 2007 NBA draft.
6'6, 220 lbs.; SG/SF; 2007
AAU team- D-1 Greyhounds HS-Cincinnati North College Hill (OH)
Win over D.T.A- 16 points
Win over Cincinnati Cowboys- 12 points, 7 rebounds
Win over Blessed IJN- 29 points, 16 rebounds, 10 dunks (Sat entire 4th quarter)
Win over King James Shooting Stars- 19 points, 8 rebounds (sat entire 4th quarter)
Loss to Spiece Indy Heat- 12 points, 8 rebounds
Even though his numbers may not exactly show it, Bill Walker
may have had the best tournament of any player at Spiece. Walker's performance left some scouts proclaiming that he was the number one player in the nation. While I don't necessarily agree with that comment, I do agree that he certainly did boost his stock at the Pump N Run.
Offensively, Bill is a wing player's worst nightmare to guard. Possessing a lethal first step and a rapidly improving three point shot, Bill is able to virtually do anything he wants when on the floor. Combine that with his absolutely amazing strength and the ability to outleap virtually any player in the nation, you see why many compare him to Vince Carter
. Walker's chiseled physique allows him to post any player he wants, and his quickness allows him to beat taller players off the dribble. The knock on Walker is that he isn't a good ball handler at the moment, but he is improving each and every day. This time last year, Bill had the handle of a post player, while he now has a solid enough handle to play on the wing, but not good enough to play on the wing in college or the NBA quite yet.
Defensively, Walker does a great job boxing out and using his world class leaping ability to grab rebounds. Opposing players do not dare post Bill, as they will not gain any post position whatsoever due to his great strength. The North College Hill wing also has superb lateral quickness, allowing him to keep up with smaller perimeter players. His main weakness is that he always goes for the spectacular blocked shot, allowing him to easily pick up fouls on opponents pump fakes. With the superior training that Bill receives, I'm sure that he'll be able to fix this bad habit.
Like Mayo, Walker also has a tendency to jaw at officials and opposing players. While this can be very negative at times, Bill seems to use it in a positive matter. For example, against Blessed IJN, Bill and another player began talking trash to each other. Bill then responded by taking his already intense game to a totally higher level, dunking on the next two possessions.
With improvement on his ball handling skills, Bill Walker
could be the ideal NBA wing prospect: a player with the ability to score from the outside, post up smaller defenders, rebound, and defend. With the incredible work ethic that both he and Mayo possess, I am confident that will happen. Both Bill and O.J. have stated that they will be going to college, but I feel that if the 20 year old age rule is not imposed, we will be hearing both of their names called on the night of the 2007 draft..within the first few picks.
7'0, 235 lbs.; C; 2006
AAU team- Spiece Indy Heat HS- Indianapolis Lawrence North (IN)
Win over Magic Elite- 18 points, 14 rebounds, 7 blocks
Win over Portland ICP- 14 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks in approximately 15 minutes
Win over AAU team whose name I forgot to write down- 11 points in very limited minutes
Win over Arkansas Hawks- 15 points in limited minutes
Win over Illinois Fire- 21 points
Win over D-1 Greyhounds- 17 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks
While I have watched the number one player of the class of 2006 many times on tape, this was my first time seeing him play in person.and he did not disappoint. He was the dominant defensive player that he is regarded to be by scouts, as he blocked 4 or 5 shots a game on the average and probably altered twice as many. Even though he has great size and athleticism, Oden does a great job boxing out, unlike many players his size. Due to the fact that he puts a body on his man every single time, he is able to grab a very high amount of rebounds on a consistent basis. Greg also does not give up his position in the low post, making opposing post players work for every single inch they get.
Physically and athletically, Oden is a GM's dream at the center position. He has long arms, broad shoulders, and a frame that could add at least 20-30 pounds to it even though he has a very good muscular physique already for a high school player. Athletically, Greg possesses the ability to beat just about any 7 footer down the floor. His post moves are remarkably quick, and he looks to have a very good vertical leap for a player of his size. It is evident to anyone who sees Oden play that he is truly gifted athletically, and unlike some 7 footers, he uses all of his gifts to the fullest extent.
Offensively, Greg improves each and every day. Words cannot even explain how much his game his improved from the tapes I saw from last summer. Oden showed a nice jump shoot, turnaround jumper out of the post, and drop step. The most impressive move in the center's repertoire was a quick baseline spin move that resulted in either a dunk or a foul each and every time he did it. It was a definite NBA move; reminiscent of the spin move Amare Stoudemire
does out of the post.
Something must be said as to how humble Greg truly is. Anyone who has ever talked to him will tell you that he is a truly special young man, unlike most in today's society. When I asked Greg if I could interview him, he responded with sure, but do you mind if I change my shirt really fast sir?. I was absolutely shocked by the amount of respect that he gave a person that he had never spoken with in his life. One can tell that Greg has had a great upbringing. It was an absolute pleasure talking to Greg, and here is our talk:: What are your thoughts on the NBA's possible 20 year old age rule?
Oden: I don't really think about it. I'm still in high school and my next step is college, so its not really a concern.: So you don't really have a stance as to if you're for the age rule or against it?
Oden: No.: What colleges are you looking at right now?
Oden: Ohio State, Wake Forest, Michigan State, North Carolina, and Indiana.: What do you like about Ohio State?
Oden: I like the coaches and I like the campus. I haven't really had a chance to meet the players, but I plan on doing that next week.: What was it like playing with Josh McRoberts?
Oden: It was great. The high low with Josh McRoberts
man, that was great. He's really great.: With Daequan committing to Ohio State, and Mike and yourself listing Ohio State, have you three all spoken on going to the same college?
Oden: We've talked about it. We're just thinking right now. It's possible, but we're all going to make our own choice.: Was this your first time going up against O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker?
Oden: No, we went up against each other when we were younger.: Well what was it like going up against O.J. and Bill today?
Oden: Bill.. (laughs) I think you saw on the first play of the game. Soaring through the air and dunking on us. With O.J., I couldn't block his shot at all. They are just two great players, there's nothing bad I can say about them.: Thanks a lot for the interview Greg. You played a great tournament. I hope you have a blast on your Ohio State visit.
Oden: Thanks. I'm sure I'll have a good time
As far as the draft is concerned, Oden has stated on countless occasions that he is planning on going to college, whether the age limit is passed or not. After speaking with him, I truly believe him. Greg seems like he really wants to experience the college life and have the opportunity to lead a team to the final four. I feel that Ohio State would be a perfect situation for him if Mike Conley were to commit there, as he would be able to play with two players that he's played with for his whole high school career in Conley and Cook. If the age limit is not imposed and for some reason he does decide to enter the 2006 draft, I feel that his combination of size, character, and work ethic will automatically make him a candidate for the first pick.
6'5, 190 lbs.; WG; 2006
AAU team- Spiece Indy Heat HS-Dayton Dunbar (OH)
Win over Magic Elite- approximately 14-16 points
Win over Portland ICP- Did not play (Attending a Prom)
Win over AAU team whose name I forgot to write down- 17 points in limited minutes
Win over Arkansas Hawks- 10 points in limited minutes
Win over Illinois Fire- 13 points
Win over D-1 Greyhounds- 20 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
Dayton Dunbar's Daequan Cook
is all a college coach could ask for in a shooting guard prospect. Cook is a player who lets the game come to him, never forcing the issue at all even with his immense skill set. Offensively, Daequan has above average ball handling and passing skills, allowing him to play point guard when necessary. In the games that I saw, he did an amazing job of throwing post entry passes into big men Aaron Pogue (Arizona, Kentucky, Ohio St., Cincinnati, Louisville) and Greg Oden
. When it comes to scoring the ball, Cook has NBA three point range with very nice form on his shot to go along with a very explosive first step that allows him to beat most defenders. Once the Ohio State recruit gets an inch on you, he is a threat to dunk on just about anybody as he possesses very good leaping ability.
Defensively, Cook has long arms and good lateral quickness, allowing him to stay in front of his man. At 6'5, he is a very good rebounded, boxing out well on the defensive end and crashing like a madman on the offensive end. Daequan seems to have a relatively high basketball IQ, as he always rotates into the proper position, takes charges, and rarely commits bad fouls.
The main weakness on Cook is his height, or lack there of. While he is listed at 6'4 by most scouting services, he definitely seemed to be a legitimate 6'5 to me when I interviewed him. The fact that he lets the game come to him sometimes hurts him, as he sometimes disappears for stretches of games. However, when he went up against Mayo, Walker, and Co. in the championship game, Daequan took his game to a whole other level, scoring at will. He even dared post Bill Walker
, who had an inch and about 30 pounds on him, drilled fade away jumper after fade away jumper out of the post.
Daequan has said publicly that there is a 70 percent chance that he will be attending Ohio State, with the other 30 percent being a chance of him entering the NBA draft. If he were 2 inches taller, people would be hyping him as a future lottery pick. There have been rumors of academic difficulty with Cook, which could play a factor in the decision that he makes after high school if the age limit is put in. I personally feel that he should go to college for a year or two in order to develop himself into a legitimate combo guard, a la Dwayne Wade, but there have been many reports that if an age limit is not imposed, Daequan will be entering the 2006 draft.
Here is a short interview that we conducted with Daequan:: What are your thoughts on the NBA's possible 20 year old age limit?
Daequan: Well I really ain't thought about it that much because I know I'm going to play college basketball, so it's not really a factor for me.: Well if it were to be imposed, how would it affect you personally?
Daequan: It wouldn't really affect me because like I said, I was going to play college basketball. I was going to play one or two years, so it won't really effect me.: It has been reported that you will be transferring to Oak Hill Academy next year. Is there any truth to these reports?
Daequan: No, it ain't true. It was just a rumor that was spread from a lot of people.: Do you have any clue where these rumors came from?
Daequan: No.: It has also been reported that grades might be an issue with you, possibly effecting your college eligibility. Is there any truth to these reports?
Daequan: No, there is no truth to this. Grades are not an issue with me.: Have you taken the ACT or SAT yet?
Daequan: No, but I'm taking prep classes for it now.: So right now, your grades aren't an issue and all of the Oak Hill stuff is false, correct?
Daequan: Yeah.: Ok Daequan, thanks a lot for the interview. Best of luck with the rest of the tournament.
7'0, 225 lbs.; PF/SF; 2005
AAU team- Blessed IJN HS- Fort Wayne South Side (IN)
Averaged approximately 17 points per game
Coming into the tournament, I had no clue what to think of Mr. Luckett. At the Roundball, he strictly did post drills, showing off his amazing athleticism and quickness. His AAU coach, Eric Vaughn, told me that he was a small forward, which I immediately laughed off. Over the weekend at Spiece, I saw Kyle do things that only a handful of 7 footers on the planet can do.
At a legit 7'0, one would expect Luckett to play primarily the role of a post player, while going out on the perimeter when need be. It is actually the opposite with him, as he primarily plays on the perimeter, only going in the post when he has a much, much smaller defender on him. The unsigned senior easily broke smaller players down off of the dribble, normally with between the legs or crossover dribbles, then finishing with a power dunk or soft jump shot. To give you an example of his ball handling ability, in one game, Luckett got a rebound at the defensive end, crossed over two opposing players, and nearly jumped over an opposing player trying to take a charge for a dunk that would have easily been the #1 play on SportsCenter's top 10 plays. In another game, I counted Kyle having 8 dunks, most of which coming off of offensive rebounds or drives to the basket. In the majority of games that I saw, I could count the number of possessions in which he posted on one hand, no matter how small the player guarding him was. What is very odd is that Mark Miller, who saw Kyle play in Wisconsin during the 2002-2003 high school season, said he was strictly a post at that time and did not play the perimeter at all. Boy have things changed in the past two years.
Athletically, Luckett is an absolute freak. To give you an idea, 6'5 teammate Marques Johnson
was standing around under the basket during a shoot around waiting for a rebound when Kyle decided to run and jump over the unsuspected Johnson
and dunk the ball, a la Vince Carter
over Fredric Weis in the 2000 Olympics in Sidney. His warmup dunk routine includes a variety of 360 and windmill dunks that could easily receive high scores in the NBA dunk contest. Along with his extraordinary leaping ability, Luckett has amazing quickness that allows him to legitimately guard small forwards on the defensive end, as well as play the role of a guard in Blessed IJN's deadly full court press.
Blessed IJN was referred to by most in attendance as the best team in the event going into the playoffs, as they had won every game by at least 20 points. In their opening playoff game, a player from Mean Streets (an AAU team out of Detroit I believe) attempted to start a fight with Kyle, who has been known to have had anger problems in the past. Luckett reacted the right way, just laughing the matter off, but was ejected along with two other players from Mean Streets two minutes into the game. The Spiece Tournament had a rule stating that any player who was ejected from a game was automatically suspended from the following game. Kyle's coach told me that he was unaware of this rule at the time, or he would have immediately protested the rule. Luckett told me of his desire to play against players such as O.J. Mayo
, Bill Walker
, and especially Greg Oden
. Blessed IJN won their game against Mean Streets without him, advancing to the quarterfinals against O.J. Mayo
's D-1 Greyhounds. Without Kyle, Blessed IJN was blown out by the deadly duo of Mayo and Walker.
While extremely talented, it is evident to any scout that Kyle has an extremely low basketball IQ, especially on the defensive end, and really needs to play more basketball before considering making the leap to the NBA. From what I saw, I did not see much of a post game out of Luckett, which will have to change if he seriously wants to play on the next level. Even though he has the perimeter and athletic skills to play small forward, most teams will want Kyle to utilize his height better on both ends of the floor.
As it stands, Kyle has stated that he is planning on most likely attending a junior college or prep school next year, but has made it clear that his ultimate goal is to get to the NBA. Everyone who I have spoken to feels that it is in his best interests to go prep or juco next year in order to gain more experience and to gain a better basketball IQ. Draft fans should not forget the name Kyle Luckett, as if he gains more experience and understanding of the game, he will definitely be able to make some noise in a future draft due to his amazing athleticism and skill set for a seven footer.
While has not came anywhere close to covering all of the eventual NBA prospects at this event, we feel that we have brought you the most in depth coverage on the five players who seem to have the most draft potential. By no means are we attempting to encourage these players to make the large leap to the NBA. We are just trying to give draft fans a preview of players who could potentially be draft picks in future draft. Our coverage of the AAU scene will continue through the summer, as we will be attending many more major AAU events, including the Adidas May Classic in only two weeks where Greg Oden
and Kyle Luckett will be matched up against each other in pool play. Let the debate go on until then as to who the better big man is