While most of America was sleeping on Friday night, the high school All-Star game toured continued, when the Nike Hoops Summit tipped off at 10 p.m. ET. The game – which pits the best American players against the best from those across the globe – featured many of the names that high school basketball fans are familiar with. Guys like Cole Anthony, James Wiseman and Nico Mannion, not to mention Kentucky commit Tyrese Maxey.
And for those who weren’t able to stay up, well I’m sorry to tell you, but you missed an awesome matchup. That’s because after last year’s game was a total dud (in large part because some of the top American players like Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford sat out with injuries) this one was highly competitive as Team USA beat the World Team 93-87, in a game that came down to the final minutes.
Still, you don’t care about the final score. What you want to know is what we learned about the players who will come to dominate college basketball next year, which is what I’m about to do below. There was a lot to take away from the Nike Hoops Summit, so let’s get to it. I’d also add that in addition to the game, media had access to practices all week, so in addition to the game itself, below are some thoughts on what we saw at practice behind the scenes.
Here are 10 Takeaways from the Nike Hoops Summit
(Before we get started, one note: Unfortunately from the perspective of Kentucky coverage, there simply wasn’t all that much to report. Tyrese Maxey was at the event, and I shared thoughts below, as well as 2020 prospect N’Faly Dante. Unfortunately, they were the only two guys with Kentucky ties in this game.
So if you’re looking for strictly Kentucky coverage, make sure to hit bullet point 1 and 10 and skip the rest. However, if you want to learn about players who will play all over college basketball next year from Kentucky to Arizona, Duke and Memphis, read the entire post. Thanks!)
It wasn’t a huge night statistically for Tyrese Maxey, but he impressed those around him throughout the week
The obvious place to start is with Kentucky commit Tyrese Maxey, and if we’re being perfectly honest, it wasn’t his best night. Maxey played 23 minutes and finished with eight points and two assists.
Still, don’t let the ho-hum stat-line fool you. Those who were around Maxey all week came away incredibly impressed with his skill, energy and enthusiasm.
“I love Tyrese,” Team USA head coach Scott Fitch said following the game. “I think he was probably our best shooter from the perimeter [this week] even though he had a tough game tonight.”
Fitch continued on that last point, crediting Maxey from overcoming the slow start to help his team get the victory.
“Shots weren’t falling for him, but rather than doing that [hanging his head], he still gutted it out,” Fitch said. “He was giving great effort on defense. I love his personality. He’s smiling all the time. He’s a guy that picks up the room.”
Cole Anthony, Maxey’s teammate agreed.
“He has that winning smile,” Anthony said. “His smile is contagious. He’s just a very capable player. And as coach said, he didn’t hang his head. He’s a dog. He’s going to compete at all times.”
Safe to say that Maxey won over quite a few people this week in Portland.
The best player on the floor Friday night was future Arizona point guard Nico Mannion
While guys like Cole Anthony, James Wiseman and others have more hype, no one came out of the week looking better than future Arizona point guard Nico Mannion.
Put simply, Mannion was the best player on the floor on Friday night, and controlled the game on both ends. Playing for the international squad (although he is from Arizona, Mannion’s mom is Italian and he plays internationally for that country) Mannion finished the night with a game-high 28 points, and did so on an efficient 12 shot attempts from the field. He also added five rebounds and five assists, and his on-the-ball defense early gave Team USA fits. At early points in the game, Team USA couldn’t initiate their offense because Mannion was giving them so many problems.
Mannion showed that he is as good as any point guard in this class, and impressed at least one NBA player, the Portland Trailblazers’ Evan Turner, who was in the stands on Friday.
Nico mannion is a problem
— Evan Turner (@thekidet) April 13, 2019
Nico mannion got 25 on 10 shots. The gingers of the world have found their leader. He’s DIFFERENT
— Evan Turner (@thekidet) April 13, 2019
Cole Anthony is the real deal too – and North Carolina really does need him next season
Anthony is the top-rated point guard in this class, and to his credit, backed it up. While he struggled a bit early in the game, Anthony was excellent late, finishing with 25 points on 1 of 18 shooting from the field. That included three, three-point field goals made.
What will be fascinating to see with Anthony is what’s next. He is expected to make his college announcement next week, and all signs point towards him committing to North Carolina. The funny thing is, the Tar Heels probably need Anthony as much as he needs them, as it’s possible that North Carolina could lose basically every key player on their roster. That includes Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson, Nassir Little, and yes, point guard, Coby White.
And if Anthony does go to UNC, watch out. The combination of having the ball in his hands and not having much talent around him could lead to a monster season for Anthony.
Remember the name “Precious Achiuwa”
Another guy who could have an immediate impact on the college game next year is Precious Achiuwa. Although he is “only” ranked No. 13 in the 247 Sports recruiting rankings, he has the size (6’9), frame and athleticism to dominate college basketball as a small-ball four next season.
While Anthony and Mannion were the stars on Friday night, Achiuwa played about as well as anyone else, finishing with 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. More impressively, he showed off a complete game at 6’9, with an ability to put the ball on the floor, shoot and do pretty much anything else you need him to do.
Achiuwa’s college decision is still up in the air, and most recent reports have him strongly considering Kansas, Memphis and North Carolina.
Wherever this kid ends up, watch out. He’s going to be a monster.
Duke’s incoming freshmen get an incomplete
No conversation about high school and college basketball would be complete without asking “Who’s next at Duke.” The Blue Devils have stacked the deck with freshman talent in recent years, with everyone from Zion Williamson to Marvin Bagley and Jayson Tatum all enrolling in Durham in the past three seasons. Of course I’ll let you insert your own “But how many Final Four’s have they been to with all that talent” jokes here.
Still, for any fan who is looking for Duke’s freshmen to take over college basketball next season the way they did this season, we are definitely in “wait and see” mode. That’s because neither guy who is committed to Duke (wing Wendell Moore and big man Vernon Carey) was able to play all that much in Portland this week. Both sat out of practice with injuries on Thursday, and in Friday night’s game, Carey was limited to just four minutes of play. Moore actually got into the action on Friday and was one of the more pleasant surprises, finishing with 13 points in 23 minutes of play.
Still, neither of them are Zion Williamson, and heck, neither is R.J. Barrett as well. They will be good pieces on Duke, but for the Blue Devils to have success, their upperclassmen will be key.
I see what the buzz is about with Matthew Hurt
Another guy who could end up at Duke is Matthew Hurt. And I’ve got to be honest: I had seen Hurt play quite a bit in person before this week and just couldn’t understand what the buzz was all about.
I get it now.
While Hurt didn’t have a great game Friday night (he finished with seven points in 13 minutes of play) he was absolutely one of the stars of the practice sessions early in the week, showing off a variety of offensive skills. He can hit the deep three, has a nice mid-range game, and has all the moves in the post as well.
At this point it looks like Hurt will likely head to Duke, and from Kentucky’s perspective, I think they’ll be just fine with grad transfer Nate Sestina in his place, if Hurt does choose the Blue Devils.
But I also do understand what the hype is about. And why he’s so coveted.
I also see the hype on Jaden McDaniels
Unfortunately for fans, the Hoops Summit selection committee put a heavy emphasis on players with Team USA backgrounds when putting together this year’s roster, which meant that some of the best players in the class – including Georgia commit Anthony Edwards and Top 5 recruit Jaden McDaniels – were left off the Team USA roster. Fortunately, McDaniels was still in town on Thursday night, playing against Team USA for a group of local All-Stars nicknamed “The Portland Generals.”
The Generals were actually pretty stacked (with top 2020 prospect Marjon Beauchamp and top 2021 prospect Paolo Banchero), but McDaniels was still very clearly the best player on their roster, and outside of maybe Wiseman, the top player on the floor on Thursday night.
Put simply, I “get” what the buzz is about with McDaniels. He is an A+ athlete, who despite standing 6’11 was still comfortable taking guys off the dribble and attacking the rim on offense, and protecting the rim on the other end on defense. His skills are still a little raw (he was a little loose handling the ball at times) but you can see that he is just oozing with talent, and one thing that I liked this week, was that it was clear he took his Team USA slight personally. He busted his butt on both ends of the court, and wanted to prove to the folks at USA Basketball that they made a mistake not including him on the team. Outside of James Wiseman (more on that below) he was probably the best player on the floor Thursday night.
McDaniels looks like another guy that Kentucky could miss on, but honestly, I wouldn’t worry too much if I was a UK fan. The bottom-line is that McDaniels best basketball will be played in the NBA, long after he’s left college.
This was the best I’ve seen James Wiseman play
Full-disclosure, I’m not a recruiting expert and don’t claim to be. But between all the local camps and AAU tournaments that come through LA, I usually get to see all the top players at least a few times during their high school careers and in the lead-up to college. And to be perfectly blunt, I’ve always been a little underwhelmed by James Wiseman. Just looking at Wiseman, he has all the physical tools, standing at 7’0 feet with a large wingspan, quick feet and a soft touch around the basket.
But he doesn’t always put that skill-set to use. To put it nicely, he can be a bit lazy at times.
Well, whether he has truly flipped a switch or simply wanted to impress the NBA scouts in attendance, I can’t lie: The kid played his butt off this week. From the opening jump in practice on Thursday night he was active and aggressive, especially on defense where he completely controlled the paint. That continued to the game itself where he had 12 points to go along with eight rebounds and a staggering six blocked shots. Seriously the dude was awesome.
Now, like most high school players, Wiseman is still very much a work in progress. He especially has a lot of work to do on the offensive end.
But, the one thing you can’t teach is effort and energy. And he had plenty of that this week in Portland.
Scottie Lewis is going to be a PROBLEM for the SEC next year
If you only watched the Hoops Summit game itself, it would have been easy to miss the play of Florida commit Scottie Lewis. He finished with a pedestrian nine points in 16 minutes of play, with four fouls. Still, don’t let the stat line fool you: He was arguably the most impressive player behind the scenes at the Hoops Summit this week and earned rave reviews from the NBA scouts who were in Portland taking in practice.
What stood out about Lewis is that – in a setting where guys sometimes take it easy on defense – Lewis played about as aggressive and tough on that end of the court as I’ve seen for a high school kid. In Thursday’s practice game against the local team, Lewis picked up his man a full 94-feet and made life miserable for whoever was handling the ball. You could tell that at times, the point guard just wanted to get rid of the rock, rather than deal with Lewis. To his credit, Lewis was also about as vocal of a player on defense as I’ve seen at the high school level, and you can tell he is uber-competitive. There were times where he’d get frustrated with a missed assignment or if he picked up a cheap foul.
The point I’m trying to make is that the SEC better watch out. This kid is going to be giving opposing point guards nightmares all night long.
Finally, let’s focus on 2020 prospect N’Faly Dante
From a Kentucky fan’s perspective, there’s been a lot of buzz about 2020 prospect N’Faly Dante. For months we’ve heard that the native of Mali may consider reclassifying, although in recent weeks, that buzz has died down.
Well Dante was in town representing his home country, and I’ll say this: Without being overly critical of the kid, it seems like it might be best for him to stay in the class of 2020. Again, it’s nothing personal. But his game needs a lot of work.
Dante is one of the great athletic specimens in high school basketball, standing a legit 6’11 with a massive wingspan. But he is still relatively new to the game, and is just learning how to play basketball. It showed on Friday night, where he finished with just two points and four rebounds in 17 minutes of play.
The bottom-line is that from a basketball skill-development standpoint it’d probably be best for him to get an extra year before going off to college.
Still, if he continues to develop at the rate he has been, he could be a major force in 2020.