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Morning Coffee Talks Seastrunk, James, and the Nike Hoops Summit

Horns_bullet_mediumSeastrunk takes in Auburn. The words coming from Lache Seastrunk's mouth ($) after visiting Auburn over the weekend glowed with superlatives. Describing his visit as "the best experience I ever had," Seastrunk also noted that his mother appeared to enjoy the visit and that he also received more attention from head coach Gene Chizik than at most other schools he has visited. Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn went as far as to tell Seastrunk that the staff would use him in the same role Darren McFadden played during Malzahn's only season at Arkansas. Seastrunk did, however, decline to name Auburn as the current favorite, saying that they are simply "pretty high" on his current list, which has not yet been narrowed down.

It's notoriously difficult to read much into a recruit's enthusistic remarks shortly after a visit, but it does look like Auburn has some staying power in the race for Seastrunk's services. The person to keep an eye during this process is Seastrunk's close friend Trovon Reed, who also made the trip. Such close friends that Seastrunk often refers to Reed as his cousin, if Reed ends up choosing either Auburn or LSU, his decision could seriously impact that of his close friend Seastrunk. Still talking about attending the same school, Reed and Seastrunk may end up becoming a package deal, though it is still so early in the process that those plans could end up changing.

Horns_bullet_mediumOn Damion James. The Longhorn forward still has nearly two weeks to make his official decision about whether he will stay in school or declare for the draft. Most rumblings out of the program have James declaring for the draft, but declining to hire an agent, leaving open the possibility of returning to school. As noted by Trips Right, various NBA mock drafts have James going anywhere from late in the first round to early in the second round, at which point the money may not be guaranteed.

Continuing the theme of experts not knowing where to fit James is the confusion about what position he really plays -- some list James as a small forward and some as a power forward. Essentially, the question revolves around whether James is big enough to defend opposing power forwards and still maintain position to rebound well or if he is a garbage man wing with the ability to run the baseline and finish.

If James does declare for the draft, he must answer several questions during his workouts. Before I list those questions, it is worthwhile to point out that there is speculation that NBA teams won't work out as many players this year for monetary reasons, making it more difficult for players not hiring agents.

  1. Can James defend opposing threes? When matched up against opposing shooting guards or small forwards, James often had trouble staying in front of them, not necessarily because he doesn't have the lateral quickness, but because James often fails to get low enough in his defensive stance to move laterally, an aspect of his game sure to be exposed in work outs.
  2. Can James dribble the ball? Any foray to the basket by James late in the was accompanied by collective moans of despair for Longhorn basketball fans and often ended badly, with a turnover. Despite much spilled ink before the season started about James improving his ball-handling abilities, those skills never showed themselves on the court and James demonstrated that he needs to catch the ball within one dribble of the basket, which will make it hard for him to play small forward in the NBA.
  3. How does James score in the NBA? Possessing an inconsistent jump shot and often struggling to consistently finish at the rim, NBA teams will have to decide how they think James can contribute offensively. Can they afford to have a small forward who only scores on put backs?
  4. Does James have an ounce of basketball IQ? Some players don't have much athleticism, but make it for up by having a deep understanding of the game of basketball. Other players have an abundance of athleticism, but dn't have a clue how to use it. Damion James falls into the second category, evidenced by repeatedly falling for pump fakes and repeatedly giving pump fakes when rebounding or catching the ball around the basket, instead of gathering himself and going up strong. When NBA teams see that lack of basketball acumen in work outs, it will likely hurt the draft prospects of James.

At the end of the day, James will likely have to return to school after receiving to mid-first round guarantees. Trips Right has argued for some time that James will improve his draft stock by getting more easy opportunities based on the incoming talent opening up the floor. I agree with that assessment, but ultimately think that James just won't show enough to NBA scouts to make it worthwhile for him to leave school without completing his final season of eligibility.

Horns_bullet_mediumClarification on Brown. When news came out that former Port Arthur Memorial guard J'Covan Brown had finally completed his academic requirements, I wrote that he was finally eligible. It was a poor wording on my part, as Brown still has to be cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse, which is currently taking a look at his academic records.

For cases like Brown, the Clearinghouse exercises a higher degree of vigilance when the player has sat out a year or transferred to multiple high schools. That being said, there are rumors that Brown is close to being cleared and will enroll in summer school. If Brown does become eligible, the obvious and much-discussed question is how Texas gets under the scholarhip limit -- Brown would make 14 players for 13 scholarships, numbers that assume Damion James will jump to the NBA.

Horns_bullet_mediumJohn Wall is the real deal. Don't have time to do a full recap on the Nike Hoops Summit game on Saturday night that saw the USA team lose for only the third time in 12 games to the World team. One of the more impressive players for the United States was uncommitted John Wall, ranked no. 1 in the country by Rivals in the 2009 class.

At 6-4, Wall has excellent size for the point guard position and incredible quickness and hops, accelerating to the basket with speed that probably even surpasses Avery Bradley, who looked like easily the fastest player the McDonald's game. Wall also looked like the consummate point guard, willing to pass to his teammates when they were open and not forcing shots. He's no Tommy Mason-Griffin.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his game was his willingness to work on the defensive end. With exceptional lateral quickness and a clear commitment, Wall played excellent defense for most of the game, until he inexplicably started going for steals late when the USA needed stops and giving up dribble penetration by letting the offensive player get by him in an attempt to knock the ball loose from behind. Besides those two plays, however, Wall looked every bit the top player in the country.

Horns_bullet_mediumBradley shows more of the same. By now, it's almost redundant to talk about Avery Bradley's incredible work on the defensive end or his uncanny ability to pull up and knock down the mid-range jumper. Bradley did all those things against the best young players in the world, continuing his trend of not giving up dribble penetration one-on-one and also throwing down some impressive dunks in transition.

Bradley also added to his reputation as one of the best guards in the country in transition, once again blocking a what looked like an easy lay up attempt. Teaming with Justin Mason and Dogus Balbay in the Longhorns' back court next year, the three may make up the most prolific transition shot-blocking tandem in the country. They are certainly good enough to make LeBron James and Tayshuan Prince proud.

The only real quibble with Bradley is that he often trailed his opponent into the lane after screens. However, that was less Bradley's fault than the fault of the USA bigs, who did a horrible job hedging on the screens, as well as playing interior defense and rebounding.

Horns_bullet_mediumOther miscellaneous Hoops Summit thoughts.

  • Renardo Sidney continues to remind me of Zach Randolph, both in his general pudginess and willingness to float on the perimeter. He made a variety of difficult lay ups around the basket, but doesn't appear to have any post-up moves at all. To his credit, he made several excellent outlet passes to create transition opportunities for his team.
  • The World bigs did a much better job on the glass and working around the basket, making the USA team look like they need to spend the next two or three years at a big man camp.
  • DeMarcus Cousins didn't show up at all, having virtually no positive impact on the game.
  • Milan Macvan may have been the best player in the game, hitting a decisive three pointer from about 27 feet with the World up four and less than two minutes left on the clock. He looks like he will eventually become a better version of Linas Kleiza.
  • The Abdul Gaddy-Avery Bradley connection once again failed to materialize.
  • A significant advantage for the World was their professional experience going against mature players instead of the marginal athletes the USA players compete against in high school. Really, there is no comparison in terms of competition.