Which players made the biggest jump in Reno?
A day full of top prospects did not disappoint
The NBADLeague.com crew breaks down the best bigs, guards and swingmen from Showcase
Kevin and Sam break down the top five players from Showcase, skill-by-skill
After a blowout loss on Wednesday, Iowa wraps Showcase on a high note
Stepping Up

Dante Milligan -- The Charge's unheralded big man scrapped, as usual, and picked up 12 rebounds to go along with seven points and three assists for the night.

A Step Back

Curtis Stinson -- Stinson has earned a little bit of leeway in getting into the flow, but he didn't show much of an ability to break down his defender or get to the hoop at Showcase, going 6-for-23 across both games. After a tough game Wednesday, he came back with only seven points, three assists and two rebounds on Thursday. He'll certainly get looks this year because he was so singularly dominant in the NBA D-League last year, but for now, he's fallen behind a pack of point guards who showed themselves better in Reno.
The Rockets' forward, down on assignment with the Vipers, had to be helped off the court in Thursday's third game
New acquisition Preston Knowles hits the game-winner to send Springfield off with a win

Stepping Up

Preston Knowles -- The former Louisville guard, who shared the Cardinal backcourt with now-teammate Jerry Smith (another Step-Upper who finished the day at 12 points, 9 assists and 9 rebounds) under Rick Pitino, hit the game-winning 3-pointer to put the Armor up, 100-99. It was only Knowles' second game with the team, after signing with Springfield on Sunday. He also stuck three other 3-pointers, finishing the day at 4-for-6 from downtown.

JamesOn Curry -- Playing on a tweaked ankle (which is probably sprained, said Springfield coach Bob MacKinnon), Curry set up the game-winning shot with a nifty pass. This came at the end of a day in which he notched 13 points and nine assists.

A Step Back

Greg Smith -- It wasn't a huge step back, but the RGV center trudged around the lane all game, making the easy play and grabbing the boards that fell to him, but not really working hard enough to impact the game the way he can.
After taking over for called-up coach Nate Tibbetts, Osbourne oversees the NBA D-League's best defense

Kevin Scheitrum, NBADLeague.com: Nate obviously prided his team on the way they played defense. Tulsaís long been known as one of the best defensive teams in the league Ė is that something youíre trying to continue?

Dale Osbourne: We stress it every day in practice, we stress it every day in shootaround. We know defense is what you build on. Itís our foundation. We try to keep it simple. We get stops and we try to get it out and push it. When we struggle to get stops, it really struggles our offense sometimes.

Tonight it was clicking for us. I thought Jerome Dyson was really good. He was getting the stops, he was vocal and he was in all the spots defensively. He was making the right decisions on the fast break.

Kevin Scheitrum, NBADLeague.com: Heís a great defender Ė one of the best there is in the league. Do you think heís an NBA prospect at this point?

Dale Osbourne: Yes I do. I do. Itís only gonna take somebody to like him. I keep stressing that to him. Heís not a 1, heís not a 2, heís just a really good basketball player. You gotta look at his strong points and not his weak points, but I thought he was really good tonight.

Kevin Scheitrum, NBADLeague.com: Shootingís one of his weak points Ė or at least has been this year.

Dale Osbourne: Heís worked on that a lot. Itís gotten a lot better. He continues to work on that. He knows if heís gonna get to the NBA itís probably gonna be as a point guard, so heís gotta make the right decisions, and I thought he made them exceptionally well tonight.

Kevin Scheitrum, NBADLeague.com: He looked at his best tonight, moving the ball around --

Dale Osbourne: Heís really, really good in the open court, so when we get stops we want to get the ball in his hands and when we get into the open court we try to stress him to make good decisions, and I thought he was really good tonight.

Kevin Scheitrum, NBADLeague.com: Outside of defense, what are his strong points?

Dale Osbourne: He was vocal tonight, he was a great leader tonight. As we say, heís a good on-the-ball defender, and in the open court heís just so fast with the basketball. Heís an incredible athlete and he can finish in the lane.

Kevin Scheitrum, NBADLeague.com: How important is Marcus Lewis to you guys?

Dale Osbourne: Very important. Our foundation is defense, and heís one of the main guys in back. Heís like a one-man zone back there. He does a great job of rebounding, he finishes around the post. Heís one of the better players in the D-League.

Kevin Scheitrum, NBADLeague.com: Every coach preaches defense. What separates you in actually making it happen?

Dale Osbourne: I think we work on it. We donít preach it, we work on it. Itís like I said Ė we work on it about 70 percent of the time in practice, we work on it in shootarounds. We work on closing out. We work on terminology. We talk about it. I ask them what do they think is important on defense. We ask some questions and we look for answers. Itís something we really, really work on. We donít just talk about it.

Kevin Scheitrum, NBADLeague.com: Do you think thatís the ticket to jump from the NBA D-League?

Dale Osbourne: I think it is. I tell guys a lot if you canít guard guys in the D-League you canít guard guys in the NBA. I try to stress that and hopefully thatís getting through to them. We like to try to sacrifice individual goals on the team for total team collective success.

Lewis talks to NBA TV after a dominating effort in Thursday's second game
The No. 14 pick in the Draft, on assignment with the Vipers from the Rockets, leaves game due to ankle injury
Just 1:35 into the Rio Grande Valley Vipers' game with the Springfield Armor on Thursday, Marcus Morris had to be helped off the Reno Events Center floor after going up for a jump shot and landing awkwardly on his defender's foot. Morris, a lottery pick in the 2011 Draft who had been with the Vipers since Jan. 3, lay on the floor for a minute, holding his upper left ankle. Stay tuned for updates.
In the final NBA TV game of Showcase, Marcus Lewis owned the paint

Stepping Up

Marcus Lewis -- On Tuesday, Marcus Lewis had to compete against a huge Texas frontcourt. On Thursday, he wasnít in anybody elseís league. Going 11-for-12 from the floor (for 23 points) and pulling down 12 rebounds, he didnít miss a shot until 2:35 remained in the third quarter, opening at 8-for-8 due largely to an array of post moves that ensured he was always shooting from pretty much on top of the hoop. He even made a nifty over-the-shoulder grab in front of the basket on a fast break, then finished left with harm. He spent most of the day playing, as always, about four inches taller than he is, and the only thing that moved him from the lane was the final whistle.

Walker Russell -- At times, Russell and teammate Darnell Lazare looked like the only ones able to make anything happen for the Mad Ants. Finishing with 19 points and 4 assists, Lazare could have boosted the latter number if Fort Wayne shot better than the 40 percent from the field they did through three quarters. His performance didnít have the stat-sheet voltage of Mondayís, but it did show Russell as he is: a veteran leader who wonít turn the ball over.

Larry Owens -- Owens is heating up. Now in his third year with Tulsa (including two brief stints in the NBA), he hasnít dazzled a whole lot this year. But he turned it on at Showcase, giving big back-to-back scoring and rebounding efforts, with 37 points and 14 rebounds combined in his last two games.

A Step Back

Famous was consistently near the top of our Prospect Watch for the early part of the season. He barely showed up on score sheet on Thursday. In 36 minutes, the 6-11 Famous pulled down only four rebounds, took only six shots and made only one of them. What happened to the man whoíd gone 20-9 and 12-11 in his past two games? Against Marcus Lewis, Famous disappeared.
The 2010-11 Coach of the Year sees a whole lot of call-ups on the way -- especially at the point guard position.

NBADLeague.com: Howís Showcase been for you so far?

Nurse: Itís really been great. First of all, from the playing side itís been in my five years by far the most talented Showcase that Iíve seen. Everything else just has a really good feel for it. Everything in the proximity to the arenas makes life easier on everybody. Itís been real fun.

NBADLeague.com: We had two call-ups Wednesday. What does that say about the NBA and its relationship to the D-League?

Nurse: I think again, right back to the fact that the D-Leagueís as talented as itís ever been. Everybody would agree, it was kind of a strange training camp-DLeague thing weíve never really experienced before, and after all that changeover has kind of taken place, itís ended up with a lot of talent around and a lot of uncertainty on a lot of NBA rosters, so Iíd imagine thereíll be a lot of call-ups this year and itís nice to see the ball rolling.

NBADLeague.com: Has there been anybody this week not on your team this week thatís really impressed you as a potential NBA call-up?

Nurse: One of my favorite guys in the league is the kid from Dakota, Edwin Ubiles. Iím maybe saying that because he dropped 36 on us the other night in the Valley, but oh man if I sat down Ė in fact I did the other night, I circled my top 20 best players, but thatís a big number Ė but I think thereís a lot of guys depending on needs and injuries thatíll have an opportunity to go up.

NBADLeague.com: Our list right now is 15, but weíre seeing essentially about 60 guys given the right chance right time who can be called up by anybody. How about Blake Ahearn? Do you think this could be the year for him?

Nurse: Well, Blakeís had a couple opportunities, and all I can say about Blake is that heís probably having his best D-League season ever, and thatís saying something, because heís had some great seasons. He can really shoot the basketball, itís just a matter of whether anybody thinks heís ready to make the step up.

NBADLeague.com: Whatís the knock against him?

Nurse: Iíd say most people would be concerned about defensively, whoís he gonna match up with? That kind of stuff.

NBADLeague.com: As far as big men are concerned, weíve got a talented one in Sioux Fallsí Garcia, whoís not quite battle-tested yet, but is there anybody whoís stood out this week? Besides [RGV center Greg Smith]?

Nurse: Obviously Gregís been good. Heís really young and talented. Heís got a lot to learn and a long way to go, but for other bigs, I thought Jarrid Famous was pretty good. Heís played pretty well.

Letís talk about Greg real quick. This is a guy who came out probably a year or two early. The charge against him was that he wasnít that hard of a worker and didnít progress that much from freshman to sophomore year Ė would you refute those claims?

Iíve only had him a few weeks, but heís been excellent. Heís got a really neat personality. Heís got an energy and personality to be honest. Heís played in practice hard. Heís got a competitive edge to him. Heís just very young and this is exactly what he needs. He needs some quality minutes in the D-League to develop a work ethic and become more of a pro. Things you do as you get older. Hopefully heíll be an NBA player someday.

NBADLeague.com: Is there a position this year thatís best-suited to getting called up?

Nurse: It seems to me from the calls Iíve fielded from around the NBA Ė people calling me, other teams, etc Ė it seems Iím getting a lot of calls about the point guard position. Like Ďgive me your top five D-League point guards.í It seems Iím getting more calls on that than anything.

Always the big guys are being evaluated, too. Thereís never enough size to go around, it seems like. And it doesnít seem like there are enough point guards to go around, either.

NBADLeague.com: Do you have a Top 5 NBA D-League point guard list?

Nurse: There are so many guys that could go on it, but a lot of the names people like are obviously Justin Dentmon Ė people like him a lot, heís a quality scoring point Ė and I just added two guys that have had NBA time: Willie Warren and Ben Uzoh. [Courtney] Fortsonís been great in LA. Heís been awesome for them. Obviously you mentioned Blake Ahearn, heís gotta be in that conversation as well.

Man, when you try to think about all 16 teams there are a lot of guys.

NBADLeague.com: What about [Maine point guard Jerome] Randle? He can play, but heís 5-11.

Nurse: Yeah, there are a couple of littler guys. Jerome Randleís a very, very talented scoring point. Fast. I think heíll be watched really closely. You probably have to throw him in that conversation. Even youíve got older guys Ė Walker Russell continues to play great for Fort Wayne. And one guy who I hope gets his chance this year is my old guy Curtis Stinson. I think he can certainly help an NBA team, and I hope he gets in a rhythm here and shows people heís back and playing and somebody gives him a chance this year.

The Bulls' GM talks prospects and his recent call-up from Reno
Thursdayís opener gave scouts one last chance to see three of the top-shelf NBA D-League prospects. They should leave happy.
Stepping Up

Edwin Ubiles Ė After spending too much of Tuesday hanging out on the wing, Ubiles attacked from the start. Showing the driving and finishing ability that made him Sienaís third all-time leading scorer Ė not to mention a couple shakes that allowed him to blow past his defender. Ubiles creates separation with ease, and if covers a ton of ground in just a few strides. He missed most of the last quarter due to cramping in his left leg, but still finished with 22 points.

Justin Dentmon Ė The six turnovers wonít help. But Dentmon did a great job running the offense all day long, as evidenced by Austinís five starters all in double-figures in scoring. He also scored 27 points (including an 11-of-12 mark from the foul line), piercing the middle of the Dakota defense all day long solidifying his status as the best combo guard in the NBA D-League.

Lance Thomas -- Edwin Ubiles spent most of the day looking like the best player on the floor. Thomas spent the day looking like the best prospect. Doing virtually everything that an NBA team would want from a bench player, he took smart shots (and scored 22), grabbed eight rebounds and once again turned the ball over just once. He had seven rebounds by the half, playing out of position at No. 5 for most of the day Ė an adaptability he showed back at Duke, and one that should serve him well, given the NBA trend of having smaller, more athletic big men.

A Step Back
Curtis Withers Ė Dakotaís center struggled on Thursday, playing only 17 minutes due to foul trouble and going scoreless. He did have five rebounds.

Spread the Love

Dakotaís Tommy Smith, the former Bulls forward, picked up 14 points and seven rebounds (and a block Ė his greatest asset) in 30 minutes. Austinís DaíSean Butler, the West Virginia great whoís finally healthy after a gruesome knee injury and could very soon be in the Prospect Watch, grabbed 10 rebounds in 30 minutes. Eric Dawson, Austinís big man, grabbed 10 boards and only missed one shot, racking up 16 points.
With Top 15 Prospects featured heavily all day long, Thursday promises to send the Showcase off with a bang
Nine of our top 15 Prospects will be in action Thursday -- and they'll all be trying to send the scouts home with something to remember them by

When the Austin Toros and Dakota Wizards tip off at 1 p.m. ET (on NBA TV) on Thursday, three of the top seven prospects in the NBA D-League will be there. From a battle between forwards Lance Thomas and Edwin Ubiles -- our No. 3 and 4 guys, respectively -- to No. 7 prospect Justin Dentmon's final chance in Reno to show four dozen scouts that he can facilitate as well as he can finish, the day couldn't start any better.

Then, after two more games -- each one featuring at least one rep of the Top 15 -- the day (and Showcase) wrap up with another vaunted trio, as Keith McLeod, Curtis Stinson and No. 1 Prospect Manny Harris do battle in the late game.

Kevin Scheitrum and Sam Farber keep tabs on a day of call-ups, breakout performances and long-awaited returns
What do Wednesday's call-ups mean for the NBA D-League, and who's heading up next?
With his son on the court for Sioux Falls, Anthony Mason, Sr. talks the balance between adaptability and staying true to yourself

Kevin Scheitrum, NBADLeague.com: How you feelin about the way Anthony, Jr. is playing?

Mason: Heís playing pretty good. I know his talent and some stuff heís not doing that he can do, but heís playing with a pretty selfish team. They donít really play with each other, they just put up a lot of shots, and heís trying to play regular basketball.

But heís rebounding pretty well. Iím loving the way heís crashing the boards, getting second chances and keeping the ball alive. Thatís something I felt like if heíd have done with Miami a little bit more, heíd have probably ended up there. Everybody knows he can shoot, everybody knows he can score, but with those teams you need the intangibles because youíve got superstars.

When you get somebody who can really hustle and get rebounds and play defense, then you fit in.

NBADLeague.com: We wrote a story about him a couple weeks ago, about how hard heís working, how heís in the gym all the time. Is that something you really tried to impart to him, too?

Mason: I always told him practice makes perfect, as my mother used to tell me. I just wanted him to keep working on his weaknesses and the stuff as he has as strengths, to keep practicing that also, so the game will come as second nature as opposed to thinking about it.

This is one of the fastest games in sports. So to get caught up thinking about it, thatís dangerous Ė you gotta make it so things become natural.

NBADLeague.com: Itís always tough for sons to listen to what their dads have to say in sports. And you guys had such different gamesÖ

Mason: See, thatís where everybody makes the mistake. I played the same game in college. I was 2-3 all the way my senior year, and when you get into the league, wherever they put you is where you play.

So I was happy to be a person that was able to adapt and play the power forward position. I played the 3, shot 60 percent from the 3-point line for parts of the year. I finished around 47, but we played the same game in school.

NBADLeague.com: Did you tell him to put on some weight like you did?

Mason: Nah, if heís comfortable where heís at, Iíd just tell him to get his strength up. You donít have to get big to get stronger. And in this game, you donít need to be big. I happened to do that because they switched me to power forward, and I had to do what I had to do.

NBADLeague.com: Patrickís sonís playing today, too. How special is that for you and your old teammate?

Mason: Iíve seen [Patrick, Jr.] when he was little, and now to see him out there with my son on a professional level is amazing.

NBADLeague.com: Who do you thinkís got a better chance at the NBA?

Mason: Out of those two? My son of course. [Laughs]

Nah, theyíre both talented. Itís not even about whoís got the best chance, itís about whoís got the best situation. When I was in the CBA, you had people go up and come back, go up and come back, and youíd have somebody go up that wasnít that good and ended up in the perfect situation and ended up sticking.

Suppose you need just a hustle guy, just a plain hustle guy, you donít want him to score, you just want him to aggravate people. If a team needs that, thatís whoís gonna stick.

A lot of these guys that I watch, the way they play in the D-League, and they used to be guilty of it in the CBA, too, is just jacking the ball up figuring if you score 30 Iím gonna go up there. Most teams have a scorer or two or three. They want the intangibles, and thatís more valuable.

Even with my accolades and my success, All-Star and all of that, I got in on playing defense and hustling, thatís what Riley liked about me. I developed my game more when I got in there.

NBADLeague.com: When you were in the CBA, were you ever nervous that you wouldnít get to the NBA?

Mason: I was 30 and 15, so I wasnít even really worried about it. I wanted to go to the right situation. I got called up to Denver and came back, thank God Ė back then, Denver wasÖwoooh.

But I mean I got called up in different situations, and it just wasnít right. When I got called up to the Knicks, they had their stars in Patrick Ewing and [John] Starks and they had Oakley, but they needed other role players and forces and I fit right in.

NBADLeague.com: Have you had a chance to see any other games this week? Has anybody impressed you?

Mason: [Erie guard] D.J. Kennedy, Anthonyís old teammate from St. Johnís, heís pretty impressive. Heís playing the same kind of game he was playing at St. Johnís.

One of the biggest things, too, is make it or donít make it, but play your game. Be who you are. To me, the one thing that baffles me about the next level is some people bring people to their team and find out what they can do after they get there. If Iím a coach on that level, I wanna know this guyís a big man that can shoot, or a small guy that can rebound. Itís not gonna be a surprise.

I tell these guys stay on your game until you end up in the right situation. A lot of guys try to conform, like, ĎOK, Iíll play careful,í or ĎI wonít do what I usually do.í And you usually donít look good doing it.

Reno's star point guard -- and longtime NBA D-League staple -- punctuates a masterful night with a big jam on the break

Stepping Up
Blake Ahearn -- Ahearnís vision, timing and passing ability were on full display against the Energy, as the Bighorns guard owned the game from start to finish, scoring 21 points with six assists. Even when he dribbled himself into a corner Ė a quicker Curtis Stinson made it tough for him to get where he wanted to be Ė Ahearn knew exactly where a teammate would be. And time and time again, he found him. Watching Ahearn is like watching a quarterback at work. Always aware and in the moment, nobody controls the pace like he does. Plus, he threw down on a Bighorns fast break, showing that not only can he touch the rim, he can get at least a couple inches over it.

Andre Emmett -- Emmett's fast-becoming one of the most potent offensive forces in the league. The all-time leading scorer in Texas Tech history and 35th pick in the 2005 NBA Draft has bounced around over the past few years -- spending a lot of that time in China -- but he showed the defensive intensity tonight that could get him to the next level and ball skills and the body control that could keep him there.

A Step Back

Moses Ehambe -- One of the league's best shooters had a rough night, going 3-for-12 from the field for eight points. And to make things worse, he only logged one rebound and no assists to go along with three turnovers. He's got a pretty jumper, but Ehambe can't vanish the way he did tonight if he's going to stay a serious prospect.

The Return
2011 NBA D-League MVP Curtis Stinsons's return to the lineup didn't go necessarily as planned, but he showed glimpses of the brilliance he showed in leading Iowa to the title last year. With almost no preparation time, Stinson held his own on the offensive end, and showed solid fundamentals and tenacity on the other side of the floor.
Previous Entries
A day-by-day breakdown of our coverage from the NBA D-League's premier event

2012 Showcase Schedule

Monday, Jan. 9, 2012
Erie 103, Idaho 101 - Game Info | Highlights
L.A. 97, Springfield 82 - Game Info | Highlights
Ft. Wayne 100, Bakersfield 96 - Game Info | Highlights
Reno 116, Rio Grade Valley 99 - Game Info | Highlights
Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012
Maine 98, Sioux Falls 92 - Game Info | Highlights
Austin 111, Erie 88 - Game Info | Highlights
Texas 94, Tulsa 86 -- Game Info | Highlights
Canton 99, Dakota 94 -- Game Info | Highlights
Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012
Los Angeles 106, Dakota 94 -- Game Info | Highlights
Bakersfield 113, Idaho 98 -- Game Info | Highlights
Texas 98, Sioux Falls 95 -- Game Info | Highlights
Reno 107, Iowa 72 -- Game Info | Highlights
Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012
Austin 108, Dakota 94 -- Game Info | Highlights
Tulsa 111, 92 -- Game Info | Highlights
Springfield 100, RGV 99 -- Game Info | Highlights
Iowa 102, Canton 97 -- Game Info | Highlights
FULL SCHEDULE *All times local (Pacific)

Names to Know

No other event on Earth brings together as many scouts, general managers and bona fide NBA Prospects as the NBA D-League Showcase. Before action tips Monday, get acquainted with these names.