Yesterday afternoon I went up to The Sports Club/LA to watch the kids from the Boost Mobile Elite 24 train and practice before tonight’s game. With 24 of the best high school players in the country, competition sets in when you’re playing in front of the media.
To kick things off, Under Armour setup a training and combine session led by Steve Hess, the first full time strength and conditioning coach for the Denver Nuggets. This dude is an animal. (Side note: Apparenly ‘Melo is in ridiculous shape.) While all of these kids are clearly talented, it all starts with training, and they need to learn that to get to that next level.
After the session, there was a panel discussion moderated by ESPN’s Chris Broussard with Peter Vecsey, Brandon “Doo Be Doo” Jennings, Kevin “Kevlar” Love, Tyreke “Reke Havoc” Evans and UFC’s Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Broussard started things off by introducing the panel and giving Vecsey one of the best compliments you could get: “If sports writing was the NBA, he’d be Kobe Bryant.” Vecsey went on to talk about his experience as both a player and a coach up at Rucker and school the young kids in some history of the park and the game. Having not coached up there since the ’80s, tonight’s game will be his first game back.
“I’m excited to be back,” he said. “But you’ll play as a team or you’ll sit.” Not necessarily what these kids probably wanted to hear for and all-star game.
Couple of things that came out of the discussion:
– Broussard on Jennings: “He’s going to be an icon. He’s going to be the next Allen Iverson of the NBA.”
– Jennings on Italy: “The ladies were wonderful and the food was great.”
– Evans on being a PG at Memphis: “Coach Cal put me at point guard after out loss to Syracuse. I had no clue what I was doing but I watched tapes of Coach Rod Strickland and film of Derrick Rose too. I had to get a rebound and push the ball or Coach Cal would take me out of the game.”
– Jackson on his next fight: “I woould take a fight with Kimbo Slice today.”
– Love on last season: “You go from the top of the food chain to the bottom, but you gotta keep grindin’. Your weaknesses will show on the next level, so learn the intangibles.”
Then came the scrimmage. The starters for The Goat (Orange Squad) were Tristan Thompson, Jared Sullinger, C.J. Leslie, Kyrie Irving and Terrence Ross, while the starters for Skip To My Lou (White Squad) were Joe Jackson, Will Barton, Tobias Harris, Harrison Barnes and Josh Smith.
Couple of observations:
– Irving is smooth as silk with the ball in his hands
– Barton is an amimal all over the court
– Perry Ellis is a quiet assassin with a great inside game
– Roscoe Smith is very athletic and reminds we a lot of Stephen Jackson
– Myck Kabongo has sensation swag to his game
– Ross is much better than the last time I saw him play at the ESPN RISE National High School Invitational. With Mouphtaou Yarou and Isaiah Armwood headed to Villanova, Ross is going to be a beast alongside rising sophomore Justin Anderson at Montrose Christian
– DaJuan Coleman, who is only going to be a sophomore, will be a beast in a couple years
– Leslie is a freak athlete and could easily win MVP honors tonight. With John Wall gone, expect him to be one of the best players in the country.
– Josh Selby will be gunning for MVP honors tonight
– Barnes could start in the NBA this season
– Dion “Fresh Pepper” Waiters is going to make Syracuse fans forget about Jonny Flynn
– Final score: Skip To My Lou 99, The Goat 98
If you can, be sure to Rucker tonight (Friday, August 21) and check out the dunk contest (5:30 PM) and the game (7:00 PM). If you can’t make it, the game will be televised tomorrow (Saturday, August 22) at 7:00 PM on ESPNU.