After spending a couple days with the Jumpman team and with the All-Americans, here are your winners and losers from the Jordan Brand Classic.
*** *** ***
1. Brooklyn (Barclays Center) – Winner
Brooklyn is definitely on the rise and is becoming one of the most popular destinations in the city when it comes to hoops and entertainment. While the Nets have settled in nicely in their new home the past two years, the borough has welcomed many of the best in the entertainment industry to come perform, including Jay Z, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Rihanna and Drake.
In only its second year, the Barclays has hosted an NBA Draft, A-10 tournament and a NBA playoff series. In the future the arena already has locked in a deal with the NCAA to bring the ACC tournament to Brooklyn for the 2017 and 2018 season.
The arena is easily accessible for everyone in the city with over 12 connecting subway lines that brings fans right into the entrance of the arena.
Brooklyn is the home of some great high school basketball legends, and when it comes to passion about the game, the borough is second to none. The borough has faced negativity throughout its history for violence but a new arena has helped build a positive image in the community.
2. Madison Square Garden – Loser
The World’s Most Famous Arena is definitely on the losing seat, after an all-around terrible year. MSG had a good run hosting the JBC from 2005-10 until the event moved to the Times Warner Center in Charlotte for two years. The brand decided it was best to return to the city but opted to go into a fresh arena where they can continue building their legacy into a rich, vibrant and young Brooklyn community.
3. The Blue Bloods – Winner
The rich get richer. The legendary Blue Bloods of college basketball (Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina) were strongly represented in the game, featuring 13 of the best prospects.
Duke – The Blue Devils have the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation and Coach K’s next crop of standouts all played in the game. Consisting of Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen, this can be a great class of players from day one for Coach K. Okafor was MVP of the game after a strong performance with 29 points and nine rebounds and showed that he is going to be force on the next level. He has a strong basketball IQ and has some great footwork for a big man. Over the last couple days, there were a few scouts comparing him to Tim Duncan. As of right now he is the most NBA-ready prospect in the field.
Next on the line is Tyus Jones. There is nothing you want more as a coach for your point guard and your big man to be best friends, which is the case with Jones and Okafor. Over the week, Tyus Jones showed he is ready to lead a college basketball team with his strong poise and leadership. He has an incredible feel for the game and made some of the best passes throughout the week. Rounding out the class, Winslow and Allen will also be great down the line for Duke. With Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood declaring for the NBA Draft, I still expect this team to go very far in next year’s NCAA tournament.
Kansas – Bill Self is a master recruiter and knows how to fill holes in his roster every season. As expected with Wiggins and Embiid declaring for the NBA draft, Self and the Jayhawks picked up two great commitments in power forward Cliff Alexander and small forward Kelly Oubre. Also a game MVP, Alexander is a man-child, and dominated this week in practice and the game. He is a great two-way player and swatted a few shots in the game to the stands. He only started playing organized basketball five years ago and is learning quickly what he can do on the basketball court. He reminds me of a young Amar’e Stoudemire and dunks everything around the hoop while also showing the ability in some cases to stretch the floor with a top of the key jumper.
Kelly Oubre is one of the most confident players in the country, which is a vital trait to have if he wants to take on Wiggins’ role next year in Lawrence. He showed off his athletic ability throughout the week and is going to be lethal scorer down the road.
Kentucky – This is one of the most distinctive recruiting classes for John Calipari in years. What makes this class different is that these players are “actual college basketball players.” What I mean by that is each player in this recruiting class is built for college basketball and not solely the pros. Each player represents a certain role for a loaded Kentucky team next year. Karl Towns Jr. out of St. Joseph’s is going to have a strong impact in Lexington. His frame is incredible, standing at 7-1 and he can run the floor like a guard. He even made one of the best passes in the game when he completed a behind-the-back pass from almost half-court that led to a player scoring. What is scary that throughout the week, he was telling reporters that doctors told him he is expected to grow three more inches.
Before the week I was not intrigued by Trey Lyles but after watching him close up in practice and in the game, everything about my opinion has changed. Lyles probably has the best footwork of any big man in the class and has a great soft touch around the rim. He is also a great four that has the ability to stretch the floor. He is going to be a great fit at Kentucky if he can find enough minutes battling with a stacked Wildcats frontcourt.
Devin Booker is a lethal shooter and reminds me a lot of former Wildcat Doron Lamb. Booker is going to find minutes on the court early on just off his shooting ability alone.
One of my favorite players in the class is Tyler Ulis. Despite his height, Ulis is a tough guard that Coach Calipari is going to love to coach. He brings a lot on the defensive end and has shown that he can get to the rim with a solid floater game.
North Carolina – Roy Williams‘ three-man recruiting class of Justin Jackson, Theo Pinson and Joel Berry is everything the team was missing this past season. Justin Jackson is a silent assassin and puts up large numbers on the boards. He is going to start from day one and is going to be a great offensive player in Williams’s system. If he hits the gym soon as he steps down in Chapel Hill, he is going to be problem for a lot of ACC teams in the future.
A Carolina native, Pinson is a good athlete and posses the ability to slash to the basket. He reminds of an athletic Jamal Crawford and can get a bit erratic at times but with a year playing under Roy Williams he should be fine.
Point guard Joel Berry recently won his third Florida Mr. Basketball award. Only a few players have won their state player of the year honors three times and it was first accomplished by LeBron James. Berry is a tough guard and is great getting to the rim. It is going to be interesting to see how Roy Williams finds minutes for Berry with both Marcus Paige and Nate Britt running the floor.
4. Concession Stand Prices – Loser
For someone who attends a lot of sporting events, I am still somehow amazed by the ridiculous food prices at arenas. For instance, the Jordan Brand Classic is an event that starts from 2:30 until the All-American game is completed; that means you are locked inside the arena and must spend money on food to eat. I bought a simple chicken tenders and fries meal yesterday that was $10. They gave me three small strips of chicken. The drink was $5 and was the size of a water cup. I even asked the concession stand if it was a joke. I wasted a good $15 in which I could have feasted at another restaurant in downtown Brooklyn. Best advice: eat like a king before games, otherwise you will waste a lot of money.