LAS VEGAS -- Typically, when the LeBron James Skills Academy rolls into town, the most talent in the area code is in that gym. With the U.S. Olympic team practicing down the road, that wasn’t the case this time around in Vegas. However, second place to that group isn’t too shabby.
However, ESPN 100 PF Devin Williams (Cincinnati, Ohio/Montverde) accomplished one feat that no one on the Olympic team did: a broken backboard. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward attacked the rim from the side and that sent the Clark County school district maintenance crew scrambling for a new backboard. The coolest part about the destruction is that it never fully shattered to the ground. Instead you could hear crackling, as if you were waiting for a volcano to erupt.
When 80 of the best players in the country lace them up for three days, there’s much to see and learn. Here’s my take:
Wes Clark (Romulus, Mich./Romulus) didn’t need to cover himself in body paint and join the Blue Man Group to announce his presence in Sin City. On paper, he was one of the more efficient players to play in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League. On the court at LeBron he was a revelation. Toughness and presence at the point guard position are skills that cannot be faked. This kid boosted his stock as much as anyone in attendance. We don't have him in our ESPN 100, but that will change.
Nigel Williams-Goss (Henderson, Nev./Findlay) deserves his own category: winner. He’s not a traditional point guard but his uncommon size (6-3, 180 pounds), toughness, defensive presence and knack for winning carry big collegiate value. As a point guard, your job is to lead and win. I can’t help but to think the Washington Huskies may sign a higher-rated prospect this year, but they won’t add a player more important to the success of Lorenzo Romar’s team.
• Parker Jackson-Cartwright (Los Angeles, Calif./Loyola) is no more than 140 pounds dripping wet, but he’s got the mindset of a lightweight boxer.
• Anthony Barber (Hampton, Va./Hampton) dominated the first day and a half and will move up in the Class of 2013 PG hierarchy because of it.
• Duane Wilson (Milwaukee, Wis./Dominican) shot the ball as well, if not better than any of the other point guards in attendance. The next step for the Marquette commit is limiting bad possessions. Buzz Williams recruited a kindred spirit in this tough kid.
It didn’t take the instructors long to figure out which player had the most natural talent in the building. That distinction belonged to Canadian Andrew Wiggins (Toronto, Ontario/Huntington Prep). The top dog in the 2014 class didn’t dominate the camp from tap to the final whistle, but he did take the opportunity to distinguish himself.
His shot came around toward the end of the event, but his work at the rim was his most consistent feat. He’s a mixture of size, athletic ability and that extra juice that separates elite from premium. Wiggins has the type of tantalizing talent that isn’t a given in every class. He’s got a gift. Next year, he’ll have this camp at his fingertips and the bar will be raised. If he commits to being a beast in drills and hounding opponents at both ends, he’ll truly evolve into a special recruit. There’s a school of thought that says Kentucky and Florida State are the teams to beat.
Wayne Selden (Boston, Mass./Tilton) has hit his stride. Since switching to the 2013 class, not only has his game opened up, his leadership abilities blossomed. Selden’s a competitive kid and a natural leader on the floor. He is capable of being a centerpiece of a team and one you build around for a few seasons.
• Devin Booker (Moss Point, Miss./Moss Point) was one of the more mature and steady players. He carries himself like Danny Green; not a super athlete but the definition of player.
• Matt Jones (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) is no longer a stand-still shooter. The Duke commit unlocked his upper body, added game off the dribble and cemented his top-25 status. Many kids regress after committing early; Jones hasn’t.
• Theo Pinson's (Greensboro, N.C./Wesleyan Christian) feel, vision and contributions on both ends define him. The best situation for him is on a good team with weapons, where he may or may not be the top scorer. He sees the game differently than his peers and is starting to remind me of former Florida great Corey Brewer.
• Jabari Bird (Richmond, Calif./Salesian) has been banged up most of the spring, but he took flight here. He was easy off the dribble and his expression never changed.
• Sindarius Thornwell (Lancaster, S.C./Oak Hill) tends to put his head down en route to rim. There was a point when guys were running scared because he was putting his shoulders through them. Making himself a threat to pass is the next step.
• James Young (Troy, Mich./Troy) was good, no quarrels there. When he attacks he’s a top-5 player; when he settles for jump shots, he’s in the top 10. He has been able to achieve a nice balance.
• Kameron Williams (Baltimore, Md./Mount St. Joseph) thinks he’s the best player on the court. Good for him. This is the type of player big boys pass on and then after he puts 25 on you, the coach turns to his assistants and asks why they didn’t recruit him.