PHILADELPHIA -- The Reebok Breakout Challenge is one of the lone camps where players have an opportunity to earn their way into the event via a series of regional exposure camps. Every now and then the process turns up a nugget, and at the very least it gives kids a chance to make it to the big stage.
Thursday in the City of Brotherly Love featured 13 hours of wall-to-wall ball. Here are the highlights:
Maybe it was the fact that ESPN 100 PF Austin Nichols was on the other side of the lane, or maybe it was just time, but ESPN 100 PF Tyler Roberson (Union, N.J./Roselle Catholic) put together a huge afternoon game.
“What got into Roberson?” a college coach texted.
Roberson’s big effort wasn’t about scoring points; it was about intensity and playing hard. He attacked his matchup, defended his area and created chances inside the arc against good competition. It was the performance many college coaches had hoped to see. Now they want to see more (his evening game was more of the same).
Roberson’s travel team coach Sandy Pyonin directs his development. Pyonin has been at this a long time and has nurtured 32 NBA players -- everyone from Kansas assistant Joe Dooley to Al Harrington to Kyrie Irving. Roberson does a ton of drills with Pyonin, but it wasn’t about the skills this time. It was about the desire to make a point, and everyone noticed. Now the trick is to replicate the effort.
Point guard matchup
The summer is about matchups, and when there’s a chance to slide past a guy or pull even with a peer, you grab it.
Roddy Peters (District Heights, Md./Suitland), a point guard on the upswing, found himself staring down Rysheed Jordan (Philadelphia/Vaux Roberts). Peters used a strong midrange effort and his dribble-drive game to his advantage. Jordan is the quicker of the two and Peters has the size and strength advantage; both could stand to tighten up their decision-making. The higher pre-summer ranking belonged to Jordan, though Peters held the edge in this matchup Thursday.
Jordan, whose camp coach is a former college assistant, scores points for being receptive and attentive to instruction. He’s a scrapper, which makes sense given his Philadelphia upbringing. Neither is a finished prospect, but July is about comparison -- and Thursday was an opportunity to juxtapose two players who are being recruited at a similar level.
File this away regarding Peters: He plays AAU ball for D.C. Assault and former Wizards head coach Eddie Jordan. When he goes to practice he gets to see Nate Britt. Those close to Peters will tell you he’s bought into the coaching and has worked hard to max out his ability. It’s paying off. The next step: limit empty possessions and keep adjusting his mental approach.
“Eddie Jordan’s been the difference,” Peters conceded. Just think, three months ago this kid was a dribbler, now he’s a top-100-level point guard. It’s a good July story.
Each class has its Tyler Hansbrough -- the guy his peers fear or at least are concerned that he might embarrass them. In watching this group the past few years, there’s little doubt that the Harrison twins -- Andrew and Aaron -- are the guys their peers fear the most. In two days here, they’ve gotten into the heads of just about everyone they’ve played against. Maybe it’s their strength or the combination of that and their swagger, but it’s noticeable. They own a mental edge over this group and that seems to follow them to each venue.
“It’s not on purpose, but I’ll take it,” one of the twins said (by the way, I couldn’t ID which twin, since he had his jersey off).
Henry’s skill stands out
One Miami native watched another operate in the post and had to be impressed. With South Carolina head coach Frank Martin looking on, postgraduate power forward Demetrius Henry (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Faith Baptist) went to work.
Since the start of camp, one could make the case Henry has as much aptitude in the post as any big in attendance (Nichols and Jermaine Lawrence notwithstanding). Henry is comfortable backing down and going to work. He’s strong and diverse on the offensive end. You have to respect his ability to work to the rim from midpost in. We ask young posts to have one move, that’s it; Henry’s got a mixture of a few. That is good enough to be a high-major postman in any class.
The next step for Henry is bringing it every night and rebounding to his capabilities. He was outstanding one game, then played to mixed results in a pair. He’s improved since a year ago and still has work to do. The good news is he’s taking his fifth year seriously.
“I wasn’t ready for college,” Henry said. “I needed to work on my body more.”
Kansas State, Miami, Murray State, South Carolina and Virginia Tech are ringing him up and there’s more on the lengthy list.
Announcing their presence
The first time I saw ESPN 60 SG Jared Terrell (Weymouth, Mass./New Hampton) he was a quick triggerman from the perimeter. At this camp, he’s put his strong body to work. Terrell’s so strong up top that the guy who earned his rep with his jumper did work going to the rim.
Speaking of the rim, power forward Johnathan Motley (Houston/North Shore) did his share of chin-ups at Reebok. A combo forward in the making, he’s the guy who’s flying just below the radar but not out of notice from major college recruiters.
Dwayne Bacon (Lakeland, Fla./McKeel) is what these things are about. Who knew? He’s a 2015 prospect with high major stamped across his forehead. The kid has a strong body and he’s just getting his feet under him. He’ll quietly emerge from camp as a player to watch.
And the scholarship goes to …
This was an easy call. Small forward Seth Berger (Seattle, Wash./Ballard) said he didn’t have an offer (hard to believe), so allow me to be the first. Berger’s one of the guys who punched his ticket to Philly through a regional breakout camp. I’ll take this guy on my squad. Smart, can shoot, motivated and he was in constant motion. Gonzaga, Nevada, the Pac-12, Florida State and Drake are looking.