USA Basketball Junior National Teams Tryouts: Top Performers

USA Basketball Junior National Teams Tryouts: Top Performers
Jun 20, 2009, 10:04 pm
Spending three days watching two-a-days in Colorado Springs gave us a great deal of insight into a large number of prospects we’ll be focusing in on for next year’s draft. Here’s who stood out the most.


Tyshawn Taylor, 6-3, Rising Sophomore, Kansas

Probably the biggest revelation to come out of these tryouts, and clearly one of the most well-rounded players in attendance, Tyshawn Taylor looks poised to emerge as the leader of the Under-19 World Championship bound team.

Fresh off dissecting this 2009 draft class to the Nth degree, it was hard not to come away seeing a lot Jrue Holiday in Taylor’s game. Although not freakishly long or strong, he has good size for either guard spot to go along with a very nice first step, and is an extremely versatile player on top of that.

Taylor stands out first and foremost for the work he does on the defensive end of the floor, which is not a surprise considering the coach he plays for. He is the type of player who is always around the ball, constantly in the mix for loose balls, and he takes a lot of pride in the effort he puts forth shutting down his man.

While clearly not a pure point guard at this point in time, Taylor shows good enough court vision that it wouldn’t be a stretch seeing him develop into a capable playmaker down the road. His feel for the game is excellent, and he’s a highly unselfish player who particularly shines with the patience he shows on the pick and roll. He rarely takes bad shots, is always willing to make the extra pass, and really does a nice job feeding the ball into the post or finding the open man on the drive and dish.

Offensively, Taylor clearly has room to improve on his all-around polish, especially in the half-court. His ball-handling skills are good, but not great, and his shot tends to get streaky from time to time. Despite this, he’s obviously capable of knocking down jumpers, both with his feet set or off the dribble. In transition he is very effective thanks to his excellent smarts and the great burst he shows on his first step.

Already a very effective player, despite having plenty of things he can still work on, Taylor’s upside looks significant. While he may have to take a back seat to Sherron Collins this season at Kansas, scouts will definitely look at him thoroughly as a prospect for 2010 or 2011.

Gordon Hayward, 6-8, Rising Sophomore, Butler

Another extremely well-rounded prospect who is bound to become one of this team’s leading players, Gordon Hayward acquainted himself quite well to the NBA talent evaluators in attendance who had not yet penciled in the Horizon League as a legitimate scouting destination.
Strictly a wing player, despite standing 6-8, Hayward showed a very polished game on the offensive end of the floor. He’s first and foremost a terrific shooter, knocking down an incredible 45% of his 3-pointers as a freshman on nearly five attempts per game, which helped him rank in the top-10 in true shooting percentage amongst all NCAA prospects. He sports a quick, effortless stroke, being absolutely automatic with his feet set, but also looking very comfortable stepping back and pulling up off the dribble, particularly after a shot-fake.

Not particularly explosive, Hayward relies on his terrific smarts and excellent array of jab-steps and shot-fakes to keep his man off balance and create space to get his shot off. He does a great job of selling his moves and has terrific credibility thanks to how deadly a shooter he is. Once he gets past his defender, he’s very adept at finding the open man, looking extremely polished with a high basketball IQ, even being capable of playing some pick and roll, which is somewhat of a rarity at his size.

One NCAA coach in attendance didn’t seem to be too surprised by what Hayward was showing. “He’s the best player we played all year,” raved incoming Arizona head coach Sean Miller. His Xavier team only lost two out of conference games last season, to Duke and Butler.

Hayward’s flaws revolve mostly around his average physical profile, not being particularly strong or overwhelmingly athletic. Mostly used as a mismatch nightmare as a face-up power forward, he struggled keeping power forwards off the block, being posted up and pushed around. His lateral quickness is average, and there will be question marks regarding his ability to guard some of the more explosive small forwards he’ll have to match up with at his position in the NBA. With that said, he is a very crafty defender, using his length really well to come up with blocks and steals and also contributing significantly as a rebounder. Offensively, he struggled to create his own shot at times in pure one-on-one situations, as his first step is not all that great if his matchup does not bite on his initial move.

Hayward showed at these tryouts that he could have played for any school in America, and he’s certainly a prospect NBA teams will have to keep tabs on. With Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack (who also fared well here in Colorado Springs), Butler looks like a sure-fire top-25 team next year and a very legit candidate to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

Evan Turner, 6-7, Shooting Guard, Rising Junior, Ohio State

The class of this roster in terms of pure talent, Evan Turner started off the tryouts slowly—looking to show off his playmaking skills primarily—but eventually settled down and put his versatile all-around game on full display. Turner was clearly the best ball-handler and shot-creator on the roster, getting extremely low with the ball and weaving in and out of traffic impressively with his excellent footwork and spin moves, often to finish with a pretty floater. He has a tendency to over-dribble at times and make some careless mistakes, but it’s tough to argue with he brings to the table as a shot-creator. His perimeter shooting was hit or miss, especially from beyond the 3-point line, but he did show a very nice ability to pull-up off the dribble and make shots from mid-range. It was very informative to see Turner outside the confines of Ohio State’s zone, as he was really able to show his potential as a big-time defender here, switching out onto guards and using his excellent size and length to keep his man in front of him and contest everything.

Trevor Booker, 6-7, Power Forward, Rising Senior, Clemson

Somewhat up and down from session to session, Booker was still the most aggressive and athletic big man on either roster, and was able to make quite an impression with the outstanding combination of intensity and toughness he brings to the table—coming up with a number of emphatic blocks and dunks. Despite being severely undersized for the power forward position, Booker makes up for his shortcomings in the height department by just playing much harder than everyone else. He brings a level of physicality to the game that NBA teams crave these days, on the defensive end in particularly, and despite his tendency to force the issue from time to time offensively, the reckless abandon he shows wins you over eventually. On top of that, his ability to take his defender off one or two bounces from the high post seems to be improving, and he even made a couple of mid-range jumpers from time to time.

Terrico White, 6-4, Shooting Guard, Rising Sophomore, Ole Miss

While Terrico White’s name doesn’t roll off the tongues of NBA scouts or college basketball enthusiasts that easily, that appears likely to change sometime in the near future. The SEC freshman of the year showed possibly the best upside of any prospect in attendance on the U-19 team, and looks like a pretty likely candidate to play in the NBA at some point in time.
White stands out immediately for his terrific physical profile, as he is an outstanding athlete with a great frame and good size for either guard position. With starting point guard Chris Warren out with a torn ACL from very early on in the season, the freshman was forced to play primarily at the point guard spot for Ole Miss, which likely helped speed his development considerably and really allowed him to shine.

Regardless of the fact that he is not a terribly polished player offensively, White has some very nice tools which can be harnessed and developed in the next few years. Unlike almost any other prospect here, White is capable of going out and getting his shot almost whenever he pleases, thanks to his terrific first step and nice scoring instincts. On top of that, he’s also an effective shooter, showing very nice mechanics and great elevation getting up off the floor to get his shot off, both from beyond the arc and pulling up off the dribble from mid-range.

With that said, White has quite a few holes to his game that he’ll need to round out before he can even come close to reaching his full potential. For one, his fundamentals and decision making skills are fairly poor, as he has a tendency to over-dribble in the half-court and show bad shot-selection. He relies far too heavily on his 3-point stroke considering how talented an athlete he is, as nearly 50% of his attempts this season came from beyond the arc. He doesn’t get to the free throw line very often and still needs to learn how to use his quickness and leaping ability to create better shots around the basket, as he often prefers to settle for contested fade-away jumpers.

Defensively, White again has tools, with his great size, frame, length and lateral quickness, but he doesn’t quite know how to use them just yet. His fundamentals are average, quickly getting out of his stance and swiping at the ball excessively, and gambling in the passing lanes. He shows pretty good intensity on this side of the floor though, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him develop significantly in this area as his college career moves along.

White is a guy to keep under the radar for now, but if he puts the work in and is able to become a smarter and more complete all-around player, he could really emerge as an interesting prospect down the road. In the meantime he should be patient and not try to rush things too quickly.

Notes from the U-19 Team

Trey Thompkins was one of the more talented big men in attendance on either roster, showing great length and a decent skill-level facing the basket. His motor looked fairly poor though, not running up and down the floor as hard as you might hope, and looking fairly soft in the post on both ends of the floor. He needs to improve his footwork and intensity level, since he’s not that great of an athlete to just get by on his potential.

Arnett Moultrie was one of the few “sleepers” in attendance, a long and athletic 6-11 big man with a decent frame that for now is extremely underdeveloped, but has some legit upside. He’s quick off his feet to grab offensive rebounds and runs the floor well; even showing a mid-range jump-shot that interestingly fell from time to time. With that said, he’s a long ways away from being considered a legit NBA prospect, as he has average hands, is way too skinny to hold a spot on the block, has little in the ways of post moves, and really struggles to finish around the basket. He’s a guy to keep an eye on to see how he develops over the next few years at UTEP.

Dante Taylor was a big time disappointment considering his McDonald’s All-American status, looking extremely out of shape and almost disinterested in the proceedings for the most part. One scout went as far as to compare him with fellow Pitt alum Chris Taft. Jamie Dixon is either going to get him playing hard or run him out fairly quickly we imagine. Taylor was not surprisingly cut from the roster after two and a half days.

Also providing a stark contrast in showing how much of a jump most players make in their first year of college basketball was Florida’s Kenny Boynton, who was unable to make it past the final cuts when the tryout was over. Boynton started off strong in the first day but quickly resorted back to his AAU ways, jacking up bad shots left and right and struggling to get by guys off the dribble. His talent and confidence level was unmistakable, but Billy Donovan clearly has work to do in terms of showing him the right way to play.

Washington State’s Klay Thompson clearly wasn’t one of the most productive freshmen in the Pac-10 for nothing this year, as he showed here throughout the week with his steady and heady play on both ends of the floor. Thompson is an excellent shooter with a very good feel for the game, showing strong fundamentals and a nice understanding for how to move off the ball and use shot-fakes to get his shot off. He probably isn’t athletic enough to be considered a great NBA prospect, but is still a guy teams will need to look at considering how productive he’s likely to become by the time he’s done at Washington State.

Seth Curry would have been able to help Duke this year already from what we were able to see at the tryouts, as he’s an extremely complete all-around player with a great feel for the game. Possibly an inch taller than his brother Stephen, with a better frame at the same age, Seth doesn’t show the same quickness or playmaking ability, but has a similar ability to play at different speeds. His ability to move off the ball and get open is about as developed as you’ll find from a player this age, and he quickly established himself as the best shooter on the team, sometimes reeling off three or four 3-pointers in a row in consecutive possessions for good measure.

Best of all, Curry is a team player and a very competitive guy, really putting good effort in on the defensive side of the ball, and also showing nice passing skills. He’s not overwhelmingly athletic but has a certain smoothness to his game, doing a good job at using shot-fakes and looking very crafty in transition. He needs to develop more of a dribble-drive game, as we didn’t see him get all the way to the basket more than a handful of times at best over the course of the week, always preferring to pull up off the dribble for a pretty mid-range jumper.

Based on what we saw here in Colorado Springs, you wouldn’t expect Deangelo Casto to have only played 16 minutes a game as a freshman for Washington State. The long and athletic big man did a very good job crashing the glass and establishing himself as a shot-blocking presence throughout the week, being one of the more reliable players in attendance. Showing average hands and little in the ways of an offensive skill-level, Casto is a limited guy who regardless can be a valuable player in the right role. He’ll likely play a lot more minutes this season now that Aron Baynes is out of the picture.

Northwestern’s John Shurna did a very nice job in the tryouts and is likely to carve out a solid niche for himself on this team, as he’s one of the few big men who can space the floor, and is smart and hard-working enough a player to not hurt you in other areas. Shurna is more athletic than he looks on first glance, but is first and foremost a solid perimeter shooter. He runs the floor hard, has a nice feel for the game, and quickly endeared himself to the coaching staff with his willingness to do what’s asked of him.

Notes from the World University Games

James Anderson didn’t play up to the expectations he created with his excellent sophomore season at Oklahoma State, but was taken onto the roster based on his terrific catch and shoot ability. After a slow start, he emerged as one of the more reliable perimeter shooters on the team in terms of spotting up with his feet set, but beyond that he seemed to struggle. Anderson’s ball-handling skills are still very much a work in progress, and in a setting like this where there are no plays called for him and the spacing is often poor, he is mostly ineffective. His drives looked wild and he seemed to turn the ball over frequently when forced to put the ball on the deck.

Craig Brackins struggled from the opening session, playing with some type of flu in the first day and then deciding to sit out the morning practice of the second day. When he was on the floor, he had a very difficult time with the altitude and was constantly clutching his shorts. His body doesn’t look a great deal better than it did last season, and he didn’t do much more than settle for jumpers on the offensive end. Defensively, he had a very difficult time guarding some of the stronger big men he was forced to match up with.

Jarvis Varnado missed the first day of action but quickly made his presence felt in the second, completely stone-walling the opposing team’s big men with his terrific shot-blocking ability. He altered absolutely everything that came his way, showing amazing length and timing, both coming from the weak-side on team defense or on the ball frustrating his own man. Offensively he confirmed the notion that he’s an extremely limited option, showing very poor touch on his hook shots and absolutely no ability at all to make a mid-range jump-shot. His body is still very much a work in progress, and there will be concerns about his ability to translate his defensive game until he’s able to show he can put a little bit of weight onto his slender frame.

Deon Thompson was about as aggressive a player as you’ll find at these tryouts, trying to make a strong move in the post or shoot a jump-shot basically every time he touched the ball. Unfortunately, he ended up forcing the issue a great deal, making some scouts wonder whether he’s something of a black hole after spinning into a double-team and getting absolutely smothered in the post by Jarvis Varnado on repeated possessions. He’s going to have to learn to play better without being the focal point of the offense, which seems to have been somewhat of an issue for him at North Carolina as well.

Quincy Pondexter showed that he’s still very much a prospect that teams need to keep an eye on with the potential he showed at these tryouts, particularly in terms of his physical tools. Pondexter is a very good athlete with long arms and a great frame, and was able to use that to his advantage in particular defensively and on the offensive glass. His ball-handling skills remain poor and his perimeter shot a bit streaky, though, as it seems he’s still a bit more comfortable in an up-tempo system where his average skill-level and feel for the game isn’t exposed as much.

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