Yes, I’m going to talk about practice.
The first practice session of The Iverson Classic was INTENSE!
The effort, body language and intensity was exactly what I expected to see from a practice led by Stephen Jackson, Rasheed Wallace, and Bonzi Wells. They pushed the guys from the beginning to the very end. Stephen Jackson let the guys know at the end not to take the hard coaching personal and all eyes were locked in and engaged. It’s important for these young players to understand the expectations required of them in order to be successful at the highest level, and who better to deliver the message than guys who’ve been where the participants are trying to get to. The talented roster assembled was able to command the presence of numerous NBA Scouts, Evaluators and Executives.
With a roster loaded with McDonald’s All Americans, Players of The Year and NBA Hopefuls it’s difficult to separate yourself from the pack but there were a few players that stood out to me.
Calhoun High School (Alabama)
Known for his athleticism and above the rim play, JD Davison had his entire skillset on display today. Physically, you can look at him and tell that he is ready for college, but he more than passes the eye test. Every time I looked up Davison was at the rim. His change of pace and acceleration allowed him to get in the lane effortlessly. He has great touch and finishes well through contact. He’s a knockdown shooter who scores efficiently at all three levels but didn’t seem to force anything. Davison, who has a college ready physique, gave a glimpse into his future leading the Crimson Tide offense and if you’re a Bama fan you should be extremely excited. He was never sped up, has superb vision and is an elite level playmaker. He is a willing defender, rebounds very well and is a fierce competitor. I’m excited to continue to watch him over the course of the weekend.
Fenwick High School (Kentucky)
There’s so much to like about Bryce Hopkins! The first time I saw him, I was impressed by his size, strength and ability to dominate the paint. Today, I saw how truly multi-faceted his game is. On the offensive end; Hopkins showed an ability to handle the ball on the perimeter, he scores and finishes well, his basketball I.Q. was on display showcasing superb vision and Hopkins’ passing exceeds expectations. He has a high motor and is active on both ends of the floor. He uses his length to his advantage defending on the perimeter and uses his size to his advantage in the paint. He’s active and attacks the glass on both ends. Although he had an energetic dunk that put an exclamation point on the day; the play that stands out to me the most was when he grabbed a rebound, pushed it full court, got into the lane a kicked it to a shooter on the wing for a wide open three. He saw an opportunity to attack the defense and although he has previously showed that he can finish through contact, he made the right play and found the open man. Bryce Hopkins will make an immediate impact at Kentucky!
Hillcrest Prep (NBA G-League)
Michael Foster is the player in this group that I’ve seen the most and the longest. I rarely am able to say this; but every time I see him play, he get’s better! I first saw him when he was a Freshman in Milwaukee and I immediately knew he was special. As he has grown, matured and developed so has his game. He has a pro body, a high motor and is an elite athlete, but the thing that is most impressive to me is his unique mixture of speed, strength and agility. Foster can handle the ball, has the range and touch to knock down the outside shot and is a monster on the glass both offensive and defensively. He competes extremely hard and brings great energy to the floor. It’s going to be exciting to see his game continue to grow during his year in the G-League.
Minnehaha Academy (Gonzaga)
A lot of people look for shots, dunks and highlight worthy plays. I was impressed by Holmgren’s defensive aptitude and versatility. His lateral agility paired with his 7’6 wingspan was on display all practice! Chet was able to defend the perimeter, contest/block shots, rebound the basketball and overall impact the game. His presence on the court was felt as he competed from start to finish. His level of timing and anticipation when it comes to rebounding and shot blocking are ELITE.
I loved seeing Banchero & Chet compete. I also loved to see Paolo’s energy and intensity on both ends of the floor. Banchero is extremely versatile, and he didn’t hesitate to defend the perimeter. He aggressively attacked the glass on both ends of the floor and showed great footwork and touch around the basket. His put an exclamation point on the day with a monstrous put back dunk. Paolo Banchero is as good as advertised!
Pace Academy (Florida State University)
I really like Matt Cleveland! Leonard Hamilton and Coach CY have a special player on his way to Tallahassee. Over the last few years, I’ve seen Cleveland improve his perimeter game and that was showcased well in the first practice session. He also shoots it well off the bounce, making it very tough to defend him. Cleveland demonstrated his athleticism, ability to score on the perimeter and in traffic along with his mid-range shooting ability. He defends well, has great size and held his own against the best players in the country.
Atlanta High School (Kentucky)
Daimion is one of the best rebounders and shot blockers in the country and once the ball tipped in scrimmage, he showed that. He is an elite athlete and superb rim runner. He has great timing and agility making him not only a rim protector but also a scoring threat on the offensive glass. As his offensive skillset continues to evolve Collins is a player to keep a close eye on.
Wasatch Academy (Un-signed)
Nolan Hickman was one of the players I was most looking forward to seeing this weekend. He is extremely impressive on both ends of the floor and checks all of the boxes for me. He can shoot it exceptionally well, has pace, vision and a high basketball I.Q. He made all the right reads/plays and defended well against very high-level competition. Although he knocked down multiple deep three’s he delivered the best play of the day in my opinion when he pressured JD Davidson, forced the turnover, dived on the floor and kicked it ahead for a big dunk. Defense to offense is always big but seeing a 5 Star McDonald’s All-American dive on the floor for a loose ball in an All-Star Game practice shows his intensity, effort and commitment to excellence.