Innocence vs. Experience in Chicago
He began the week as the sacrificial lamb, plucked from the herd of high school players and turned loose among a stable of thoroughbreds in Chicago.
And when the dust settled on Tuesday night’s super intense drill session, Brandon Rush appeared ready to be put out to pasture. While most of the players continued to mess around on the court or gathered in groups to exchange war stories, Rush found the nearest folding chair along the wall, grabbed a towel and buried himself in it.
In the two days since, Rush has clearly made strides, showing glimpses of the potential some feel he has -- which leads to an interesting scenario.
If Rush decided to stay in the draft, he’s clearly not a first-round selection. A general manager with a pick in the middle to late portion of the second round may have to ask himself the following question: Do I take Rush and hope he becomes what I think he could be, or do I grab a guy like Alan Anderson, who played four years at Michigan State and is possibly ready to contribute?
Anderson had another solid performance in Thursday’s opener, finishing with 11 points and four steals in a losing effort as Team One defeated Team Four, 88-78.
As one personnel guy put it, Anderson doesn’t rate a 10 in any one particular category. He simply piles up sevens and eights across the board. His ability to see time at the one, two and three in college, and here at the camp, bodes well for his professional future.
UTEP’s Omar Thomas led all scorers with 17 points. As he did in Portsmouth, Thomas simply finds ways to score. He’s a bit one-dimensional in this respect and undersized at the two, but he has an undeniable knack for putting the ball in the hoop.
Charlotte’s Eddie Basden picked up another four steals to go with 13 points, continuing a solid effort here this week.
Team Five 97, Team Two 81
When the week began, Illinois’ Luther Head was clearly identified as a player to watch. And he hasn’t disappointed his growing fan base.
Head was everywhere in this game, finishing with a 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting, while adding four steals, three assists and three rebounds. It was easily the most impressive performance of the camp thus far. Head came in with a reputation as a player who would most certainly be drafted in the second round. He’s starting to look like a player teams with a late first-round pick may have to consider, depending on how many underclassmen pull out.
Florida Atlantic’s Mike Bell added 17 points for Team Five. Bell opened some eyes with a strong showing in Portsmouth. He hasn’t enjoyed the same success here, as the talent level has significantly increased. Still, Bell has intriguing raw materials and will be earning good money somewhere next season.
Louisville’s Larry O’Bannon led Team Two with 16 points. Croatia’s Drago Pasalic added 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Pasalic, an early entry candidate for the second year in a row, participated in this camp in 2004 and held his own. This year, he’s clearly one of the better big players in the field. Checking in at 6-11 with shoes, Pasalic has an excellent nose for the ball and can also step outside and make shots. Based on how he’s performed this week, he’d definitely in the second round picture.
North Carolina’s Jawad Williams finished with 12 points, but shot only 1-for-7 from the field. Williams was up and down in Portsmouth. So far, he’s done nothing to distinguish himself here. Some question his fire. His overall body of work suggests someone will burn a second-rounder on him, but he hasn’t exactly blown teams away.
Team Six 109, Team Three 92
There were several noteworthy performances in Game Three Thursday, beginning with La Salle’s Steven Smith, who finished with a game-high 23 points.
After sharing Atlantic 10 Player of the Year honors with Pat Carroll of St. Joseph’s, Smith decided it was in his best interests to see where his stock stood. Like Anthony Roberson and Dee Brown, before he broke his foot and had to pull out of the camp, Smith is on the record saying he wouldn’t necessarily withdraw if he was unable to get into the first round. While it’s doubtful he’ll make such an ascent, Smith has had a pretty solid week, measuring bigger than he was listed (closer to 6-9) and showing impressive inside-out skills. While it’s probably in his best interests to go back to school and improve his chances, Smith would likely garner second round consideration.
His teammate, Wake Forest’s Eric Williams has pretty much said all along he intends to return to Wake Forest if he’s not comfortable with where he sits after this week. Williams had another solid game, finishing with 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting.
Williams checked in at 282 pounds, but is surprisingly nimble and agile. He could really be a force in the ACC next year and plant himself in the first-round picture for next.
George Washington’s Pops Mensah-Bonsu added 13 points for Team Six. The word on Pops is that despite saying publicly he was here for a look-see, he’s already hired an agent. He has shown flashed of the athleticism that makes him an interesting prospect.
Washington Will Conroy led Team Three with 17 point to go with six assists. As he did in Portsmouth, Conroy continues to impress here in Chicago. Unlike many guards in the camp, Conroy concentrates on running the team and getting others involved. Though he’s probably a longshot to get drafted, it would probably surprise no one if he showed up on an NBA roster in the near future.
During the break between the morning and evening sessions Thursday, the Moody Bible Institute was transformed into workout central, as teams got a first-hand look at some international prospects.
First to take the court was Lithuania’s Martynas Andriuskevicius, who many have projected as a possible top-10 pick. While it’s difficult to discern what type of player he is in a workout setting, Andriuskevicius appears extremely skilled and athletic for 7-2 player. The rumor is he’s looking for a promise in the lottery. The prevailing feeling is that on sight alone, some team will grant him his wish.
Also working out were Spain’s Rudy Fernandez and Turkey’s Ersan Ilyasova. Fernandez appears athletic and bouncy, but is super thin. Ilyasova is put together well for an 18-year-old and looked strong in shooting drills. Both would probably need assurances they’ll be taken in the first round to stay in this year’s draft.
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