Who To Watch From adidas Nations
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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Earlier this month the 2012 adidas Nations was conducted in Long Beach, California. Nations is one of the premiere showcases for young talent from all over the globe. 30 college counselors were brought in, given the opportunity to work with pro-caliber coaches, and play against each other in front of NBA scouts. HOOPSWORLD was in attendance and here is a look at the top 15 players from the NCAA who stood out the most and have a chance to be drafted in 2013:
Steven Adams (Pittsburgh, Fr.) – 6’11, 235 lbs. Center
Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon has to be chomping at the bit to get Adams on campus and start developing the young, raw big man who has so much room to improve. At Nations Adams was one of the most physically fit players in attendance, possessing an NBA-ready body at 19 years of age. He has decent speed and some promising skills offensively. That’s the area where he is most raw, but when he is patient and takes his time in the low post he can be tough to handle. Defensively Adams should serve as one of the best anchors in the country for the Panthers. With his size and upside, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which he isn’t a surefire lottery pick at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Isaiah Austin (Baylor, Fr.) – 7’0, 201 lbs. Center
Austin was the talk of the event early on but did not finish as strong as he started. Still, his ceiling is as high as any player in college basketball next season. Austin needs to put on a significant amount of muscle, which he admits, but he’s one of the most offensively-gifted seven footers to come around in quite some time. He has a very nice jump shot and appears to be more dedicated to posting up than he’s been in years prior. With Quincy Miller (Denver Nuggets) and Perry Jones III (Oklahoma City Thunder) in the NBA, Austin will be featured from opening night and have every opportunity to make Waco, Texas a one-year pit stop.
Robert Covington (Tennessee State, Sr.) – 6’9, 204 lbs. Forward
Surprisingly, Covington was the best Ohio Valley Conference player at the event. While most expected Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan to shine the brightest, Covington undoubtedly helped himself the most. He was in great shape, showing that he has clearly been working hard this offseason. Scoring came easy to Covington throughout the weekend as he was able to find the bottom of the net from all over the floor. He should go into next year with the goal of establishing himself as a first round pick because he certainly has the opportunity, size, and shooting ability to become one.
Gorgui Dieng (Louisville, Jr.) – 6’10, 210 lbs. Power Forward
The last two years have contained a lot of growth for Dieng, but if his performance at Nations is any indicator, his biggest jump could be coming this upcoming season. Dieng has added strength since the end of the season, looking every bit like a future NBA big man. He stands out on the defensive end with his length and activity. Offensively he still has quite a ways to go, but there were signs that some progress has been made since the end of the season. Dieng’s character shined at Nations, where he worked with and served as a mentor for the African team. He is one of the true breakout candidates for 2012-13. Louisville has high aspirations of returning to the Final Four and with an improved Dieng it’s definitely possible.
Ray McCallum (Detroit, Jr.) – 6’2, 187 lbs. Point Guard
A lot of the players looked at this event as an opportunity to work themselves into shape for the upcoming season. McCallum did not have that approach. He came looking to prove himself against what may be the highest level of competition he sees all year. He succeeded as nobody felt that any point guard performed better. McCallum showed strong floor general skills, setting up teammates who he was completely unfamiliar with regularly while taking advantage of his own opportunities to score when they came. His jump shot still lack consistency, but few mid-major players in the country warrant as much attention from an NBA Draft perspective as McCallum.
Amath M’Baye (Oklahoma, Jr.) – 6’9, 215 lbs. Power Forward
Somewhat of a mystery going into the Nations, M’Baye earned himself a lot of attention for this upcoming season at Oklahoma. He sat out last season after transferring from Wyoming and looked ready to come in and be a leader for the Sooner. He’s athletic and plays an efficient brand of basketball. He has two years of eligibility remaining, but at 23 years of age the native of France may only be around for one.
Cameron Ridley (Texas, Fr.) – 6’10, 262 lbs. Center
This wasn’t exactly a tailor-made atmosphere for Ridley as sometimes the speed of the game took away his chances to do what he does best: score on the low block. On the defensive end, Ridley was too big and strong for most of the physically-underdeveloped big men to have success against. He really has a solid understanding of how to use his body. While he does need to trim down and tone up some, he’s nowhere near the project that former Longhorns center Dexter Pittman, who he often draws comparisons to, was when he first arrived in Austin, Texas. Ridley has all the tools to be one of the most dominating forces in the country next season.
Mason Plumlee (Duke, Sr.) – 6’10, 234 lbs. Power Forward
One of the older players in attendance, Plumlee didn’t really show anything that scouts haven’t seen from him over the past three years at Duke. That’s not to say that he still didn’t impress, though. He’s tremendously athletic with the ability to really impact the game on both ends when he’s focused and determined to do so. Offensively Plumlee remains a guy who can’t create a lot for himself. Luckily, he’s going to be surrounded by a handful of very talented guards this season at Duke who should be spoon feeding him regularly. Plumlee has been projected as a first-round pick for most of his career and that shouldn’t change now that he’s a senior.
Patric Young (Florida, Jr.) – 6’9, 222 lbs. Power Forward
The best way to describe Young is as a physical marvel. He’s chiseled, more so than probably the vast majority of the Florida football team, let alone basketball players who sometimes tend to shy away from the weight room like there’s a high cover charge to get in. His physique and athleticism is what has placed him on the NBA radar since his freshman year. Young plays hard and appears to have adapted the mentality that what his head coach Billy Donovan needs from him is more important than focusing on his professional aspirations. His offense leaves a lot to be desired, but there will be a place for him in the first round as a defensive standout.
Adonis Thomas (Memphis, So.) – 6’5, 204 lbs. Small Forward
This upcoming season is big for Thomas, who can potentially play his way into the lottery with a solid sophomore season. Last year he was rated as one of the top freshman in the country, but he was injured at the most important time of the year and wisely decided to stick around. At Nations Thomas showed that he is continuing to make the transition to a full-time perimeter player smoothly. He defended every position out there from point guard to small forward. His jump shot is solid and he plays with a lot of energy. With Will Barton (Portland Trail Blazers) gone, Thomas should look to take over as the number one option at Memphis.
Andre Roberson (Colorado, Jr.) – 6’7, 210 lbs. Small Forward
The athletic forward was a rebounding machine at Nations. His quickness and explosiveness stood out, as they have the last two years at Colorado. For his stock to really take a jump he’s going to have to start playing more like a small forward than power forward like he has up to this point in his collegiate career. At Nations he didn’t look the part of the a full-time small forward, but he’ll have ample opportunity to do so this season. That doesn’t mean he has to become a gunner from three-point range, where he struggles, he just needs to show an improved handle and defend well out there.
Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State, Jr.) – 6’7, 221 lbs. Small Forward
There are big shoes to fill at Ohio State next year with former centerpiece Jared Sullinger now a member of the Boston Celtics and Thomas looked ready to fill them at Nations. He scored at a prolific rate from all over the court. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be top five in the nation in scoring next season if he picks up with where he left off. What will be key for him from an NBA Draft perspective is how much he rebounds and how well he defends. Thomas spoke at length about the post-Sullinger era at Ohio State and seems eager to prove he can keep the program amongst the elite.
Kyle Wiltjer (Kentucky, So.) – 6’9, 226 lbs. Power Forward
By no stretch of the imagination did Wiltjer play his best basketball or really standout at Nations. Like Ridley, it wasn’t the ideal situation for him. However, Wiltjer did show that he is a threat to do more than just shoot the basketball. His shot wasn’t falling as regularly as it did during his freshman season, but it’s evident that he does have as pure of a stroke as you can ask for from someone 6’9. Defenders really overplayed him at times, and when he did he showed the willingness to attack and even try to post up a bit. Wiltjer, despite only being a sophomore, is going to be one of the elder statesmen on the Wildcats this season. No matter what, he’s going to be projected as a specialist at the next level, but the more he can show outside of his jumper the higher his stock will be.
Nate Wolters (South Dakota State, Sr.) – 6’4, 190 lbs. Point Guard
Like his fellow small-school star McCallum, Wolters was all business as Nations was one of the best opportunities to boost his stock that he’ll have over the next year. He more than held his own and definitely impressed the scouts who were in attendance. He plays the passing lanes very well, has a great handle and can do a multitude of things on the court. He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well from distance, which holds true to the drop off he experienced over the last year at South Dakota State. He’s a second-round pick as of right now and a must-watch player in college basketball next season because few players will produce at the rate he does.
Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati, Jr.) – 6’4, 215 lbs. Shooting Guard
Quite possibly the best shooting guard in attendance, Kilpatrick showed off his impressive offensive skill set that helped him lead the Bearcats in scoring last year. He struggled with his shot at times, but he was able to create good looks and also showed some nice passing skills as well. Going into next season he should be projected as a first-round pick.
Although they did not perform as well as the players listed above, the following players in attendance are also on the radar and worth tracking: Nerlens Noel (Kentucky), Isaiah Canaan (Murray State), Willie Cauley (Kentucky), Will Seehey (Indiana), Wayne Blackshear (Louisville), Pierre Jackson (Baylor), Ryan Boatright (UConn), Peyton Siva (Lousville), and Joe Jackson (Memphis).