Most years, the Nike Hoop Summit is dominated by one or two elite talents. While this year seemed to be different — the 2019 high school class is generally full of two-way wings and guards — when the buzzer sounded on Friday night in Portland, it was evident that a pair of elite talents were easily the biggest story, as they found themselves at the center of the fiercest rivalry in high school basketball.
Nico Mannion and Cole Anthony, the top two guards in the country, squared off. The best kinds of sports rivalries are often born out of repetition, and ever since Mannion reclassified to the class of 2019, he and Anthony have been at each other’s throats, both on the court and in the Instagram captions. Both sons of former NBA players — Nico’s dad Pace played for six teams in the 80s, while Cole’s dad is Greg Anthony — Mannion and Anthony went to war again at the Hoop Summit, leading their teams in scoring and showing the sort of well-rounded game that make them potential starters in the NBA in 2020.
Mannion, who will play his college ball at Arizona, jumped out of the gate quickly, scoring on two easy run outs to give the World Team an early 7-0 lead. He flashed high-level feel as a passer for someone who doesn’t turn 19 until next March, also relocating for some good looks from three in the first half as his team took a seven-point lead into the locker room.
His game is a little reminiscent of Trae Young. He excels at leveraging his mediocre athleticism into defenders before beating them with a combination of trickery and anticipation. While he’s bigger than Young, he didn’t quite show that level of passing ability, though it may come. Defensively, he at least competes, even if he’s always going to be giving up something athletically. He finished with a game-high 28 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists on only 7-for-12 shooting from the floor while knocking down 11 of his 14 free throw attempts.