The 13th annual Jordan Brand Classic took place last night in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center and in typical fashion, the game did not disappoint, becoming the highest scoring game in JBC history. The folks at Jordan Brand did a phenomenal job this year showcasing some of the top high school basketball players in the country. The game was followed by an epic postgame concert by Grammy Award winning rapper, Macklemore. In case you missed it, Brooklyn was where it was at last night.
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.
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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.
5. Tremendous Point Guard Trio – Emmanuel Mudiay – Tyus Jones – Tyler Ulis – Winner
The crop of point guards in this year’s Jordan Brand Classic is very unique, led by the trio of Mudiay, Jones and Ulis. Each player possesses different attributes that make them strong players. By first glance at the practices, I can tell Mudiay is a special kind of player. Standing at 6-4 and weighing 190, he is a physical nightmare for most point guards. He is a thoroughbred and compares a lot to Russell Westbrook. He kept the crowd on their feet throughout most of the game and threw down the dunk of the game when he 360’d an alley-oop.
After Mudiay committed to SMU, head coach Larry Brown had some strong words on the potential of Mudiay when he talked to SNY.tv earlier this week: “The best player in the country and he will be a lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. It ain’t even close, He’s 6-5, he can just play. He makes people better, he can defend, he can rebound. He’s going to be a lottery pick if I don’t screw up.”
On a solid SMU team next year with the return of Nic Moore and Keith Frazier, Mudiay is going to be one of the best freshman in the country from the start.
Tyus Jones and Mudiay are polar opposites on the way they can dominate a game. Jones, as mentioned earlier, is one of the purest point guards in the country and is going to be capable of running Coach K’s offense from the beginning. He has great court vision and sees plays five steps before they happen. He also has the ability to be an effective scorer when needed. It is also going to be interesting to see who is going to be the starting point guard when fall comes, Quinn Cook or Jones.
Tyler Ulis made it clear throughout the month that he is an elite guard at the next level like Mudiay and Jones. Ulis is extremely fast and looks like a natural running the point.
6. The International Game – Loser
This is not a knock on the game itself but the International Game struggled in fan support, which is the reason why the game is on the loser’s side. The reason could be that no one in the crowd besides a select few of the media knew who these kids were. The game went down to the wire and featured a strong performance from Ibrahima Fall Faye from Senegal, who showed a lot of potential to run the floor at his size.
7. Macklemore – Winner
After Drake did his thing in last year’s event, the Jordan Brand got it right again when they asked Macklemore to perform this year. Macklemore is coming off a great year after winning four Grammys and he put on a great show, going through a set of his best songs, “Can’t Hold Us”, “Thrift Shop”, “White Walls” and more. The fire and the confetti throughout the show was pretty impressive as well.
8. Injured Players – Loser
There was too many injured players that I really wanted to see play in the game. Myles Turner is the lone top-ranked recruit in his class to not yet pick a college and picked April 30 as the date of his decision. Unfortunately, Turner sat out the week after injuring his ankle in the Nike Hoop Summit. When healthy, Turner is one of the best bigs in the country. While he lacks the physical body of Okafor and Alexander, he is long and can be a defensive force for a team immediately. He also has the ability to stretch the floor with his ability to shoot. Also missing in action was Brooklyn native Isaiah Whitehead, Syracuse commit Chris McCullough, and UNC commit Joel Berry.
9. MJ Makes an Appearance in His Press Box – Loser
A few minutes after the All-American Game tipped off, there was a loud uproar and a flood of fans running towards a specific area. I looked up and there was his “Airness” in his press box. It was great to see Jordan at the game but I was hoping that MJ would come down to the floor to show his face but he did not budge. It was my only chance to take the Michael Jordan selfie I always wanted to take, too bad some other guy got it before me.
10. The Security Guard that Questioned Tim Hardaway Jr.’s Credential – Loser
Tim Hardaway Jr. made quite a name for himself in his first year in the league for the Knicks, where he was one of the most surprising rookies this season. However, this did not stop a security guard worker interrogating Hardaway, who was sitting courtside, about his tickets.
11. The NCAA – Winner
The issue of one-and-done in college basketball has been a huge subject throughout the years for the NCAA. Some coaches such as Coach Calipari have embraced it; some on the other hand downright hate that players can choose to leave after a year. This may be the class that changes everything. While some players from this class, such as Jahlil Okafor, Stanley Johnson and Emmanuel Mudiay are solid lottery picks next year, the majority of this year’s class is most likely to stay for multiple years. This class lacks potential superstars such as Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, but the upside is that this can be a great class of college basketball players.
12. The Jordan Brand – Winner
The Jordan Brand is the ultimate winner this week. The brand had a strong week, starting off with great practice sessions at Basketball City in Lower Manhattan, then with MJ and legendary designer Tinker Hatfield showcasing the next Jordan sneaker in line with the Air Jordan XX9. The company exhibited throughout the week why they are one of the world’s high-class brands. There was strong representation from the company in the arena last night with Carmelo Anthony and Victor Oladipo, president of the Jordan Brand Larry Miller, and MJ himself. The Jordan entertainment and event staff did a wonderful job of keeping fans intrigued throughout the game with shirt tosses and handling other in-game events. There was also a cool 3-d projection on the court as the players were introduced.
The game was an overall great experience and the Jordan Brand Classic is now competing with the McDonald’s All-American Game. I can’t wait for the next one next year.
What do you think?
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