Here are some quick thoughts on some of the players that stood out to me at the Jordan Classic this year.
Kyrie Irving, Duke: What can I say that I havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t said this year? Jay Williams said Irving was a combination of himself and Chris Duhon and that sounds about right. So creative, so smooth in transition, with a feathery jumper. He completely took over the game and the crowd in the final three minutes, when nobody could stop him going coast to coast. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the total package, and when Mike Kryzewski gets him playing that hard man-to-man defense, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re looking at a future Chris Paul in the making.
Harrison Barnes, North Carolina: As much as I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wish to admit it as a Duke graduate, Barnes is going to be a problem right away. He attacks the boards tenaciously (15 rebounds), handles the ball well for 6-foot-8 and has a nice jump shot with three point range Ã¢â‚¬â€œ heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll thrive in UNCÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s uptempo system. I can only continue to think that Barnes should have considered playing with elite lead guard Irving, but the way he carries himself projects far more like a UNC player than a Duke player.
Josh Selby, Kansas: Most impressive guard in the Classic to me aside from Irving. SelbyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s speed and explosiveness allowed him to get to the line at will. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to Kansas, but as a clear one-and-done talent, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m actually surprised he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t end up at Kentucky Ã¢â‚¬â€œ his style and talent resemble John WallÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s far more thanÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Brandon Knight, Kentucky: I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hate KnightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game, but I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t love it either. He was clearly an above-average passer and had several moments where he demonstrated abundant speed, but heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s more a pure point guard than an absolute game-changer. He shot 3-for-11 in the game but did have a 6-1 A/TO ratio.
I asked him after the game why he chose Kentucky and got: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Just the chance to get better. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a great program, with a great coach.Ã¢â‚¬Â Does he compare himself to Wall in terms of making a name for himself very quickly? Ã¢â‚¬Å“Not really, everyone has their own path. Not really, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t compare myself to him.Ã¢â‚¬Â Very safe, very steady Ã¢â‚¬â€œ itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s obvious heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to Kentucky just, well, because itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the thing to do when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re ranked the top point guard in your class.
Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: I loved his game; he reminded me of Carlos Boozer the way he took up space and had a soft touch around the rim. He hit 9-for-11 from the field and blocked four shots. When he gets some work in on his body, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to be near impossible to handle.
Josh Smith, UCLA: He had a soft touch, but he must lose weight. Most high-level opponents would run him right off the court if heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s playing at 300 pounds, which I suspect he is. If he gets to where heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s playing at 265, maybe even 270, I think heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be a force like Sean May or Glen Davis.
Terrence Jones, undecided: Kind of like Barnes West. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s picking between three Pac-10 schools, Oklahoma, Kentucky and now says heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll visit Kansas. (Are Kansas and Kentucky on everyoneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lists?) He has handle, hits the boards, decent one-on-one gameÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ pretty much the total package, just not quite as good as Barnes.
Tristan Thompson, Texas: Lots of solid big forwards in this game. ThompsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a pure 4, but the lefty has some handle, rebounds and finishes well. He was 1-for-6 from the line, but almost nobody hit their free throws, to be fair.
CJ Leslie, Undecided: I think he has a world of athletic talent, plays above the rim and has some polish to his game. I hear heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sort of eccentric, but IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d imagine there are teams out there that view him as the final piece. If IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m John Calipari, I want him to put me that much closer to being a true contender even with a super-young team. If IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m Sidney Lowe, I want to reclaim him for State because heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be the best pure player theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d have since Julius Hodge. If IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m Roy Williams, I want to get involved Ã¢â‚¬â€œ pronto.
Kendall Marshall/Reggie Bullock, North Carolina: I think I caught these guys on a bad night. Marshall was very ordinary and couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t finish on the rare times he got to the rim, but I heard later he had a wisdom tooth issue, so IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll give him a pass. But I think he has a very tough time with Kyrie Irving a few times a year. I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even know Bullock was there until I looked up at the scoreboard late and he had 11 points. I have no idea when those baskets happened. I just have to assume these guys are better than I saw last night, especially Bullock.
Doron Lamb, Kentucky: I watched him score 49 points in an upset loss to St. PeterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Prep back in February, all on jump shots. Sort of strange player for Kentucky; his athleticism isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t off the charts or anything. Mostly heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just a shooter, though a very good one.
Cory Joseph, Undecided: Solid, tough player Ã¢â‚¬â€œ unselfish and good passer, played tenacious defense. I think his gritty style would be a great fit for Villanova and I could see him doing very well there, but lure of family in Connecticut and Findlay Prep teammate Thompson going to Texas may be bigger potential lures.
Perry Jones, Baylor: Relatively ordinary game (8 points, 6 boards) for a decidedly unordinary player. I see him stepping in nicely for Ekpe Udoh well, though he wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t play at that level right away.
Roscoe Smith, UConn: Very quiet game, feeding into what IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve come to expect from Roscoe. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s either going to impact the game greatly, or drift a bit. I still would have enjoyed watching him play for Duke, but seeing him on the same court as Barnes makes it stark how thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s simply no comparison between the two players, though Smith would have you believe there is.
Will Barton, Memphis: Pure scorer and a terrific addition for Memphis, who lose Elliot Williams to the NBA Draft. I talked to BartonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mom outside for a minute, and she was simply ecstatic after he slashed his way to 15 points. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s part of a top-notch recruiting class, and I see him as a solid scorer in college.