Barely a week after the 2010 NBA draft, college basketball's top returning players took part in the LeBron James Skills Academy as counselors to the top high school players participating in the camp. And, while Lebron's impending announcement of his new team hung over the camp like a cloud, the college guys were more focused on impressing the bevy of NBA scouts there to watch them work out.
While the job of an NBA scouting is a continuous one over a 12-month period, the camp unofficially begins next season's evaluation cycle. All of the college players at the camp are destined for outstanding seasons, but here are a few of the recognizable names who really impressed me:
Singler is one of the few players left in college from the vaunted high school class of 2007 that included Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, O.J. Mayo and Michael Beasley. Singler's stock was never as high as those four players, but he is the only one with a national title. And, he's a prime candidate for National Player of the Year this season.
Singler was the best all-around player at the camp last week and showed himself to be what scouts know he can be -- a versatile combo forward, if an average NBA athlete, who can shoot 3s. He is just big enough to be a stretch "power forward" but his major liability will be defending the quickness of NBA small forwards and strength of NBA power forwards. Overall, he did not hurt himself last week, although he doesn't have a huge ceiling.
Singleton has always intrigued NBA scouts because, at his size, he is easily an NBA athlete who can guard the 2, 3 and 4 spots on the floor. And, it doesn't hurt that he comes from a defensive-oriented system at Florida State. He's also shown at the college level that he can proficiently shoot the 3-point shot.
If there is an area of Singleton's game that needs improvement it's his ability to beat defenders off the dribble and create shot opportunities for himself. Overall, however, the consensus at LeBron's camp is that he will be a first-round pick next June.
The camp was loaded with some very good guards, like Kemba Walker, Jacob Pullen, Nolan Smith and Iman Shumpert. But Mack really impressed me. He is a point guard with NBA strength right now, and he utilizes it to bull his way into the lane and effortlessly shoot the NBA 3-point shot. That strength also made a name for him on the defensive end throughout Butler's Final Four run.
Morris is still a little light to be a full-time NBA power forward, but there is no doubting his skill level, both inside the lane and out. He has a very soft shooting touch around the basket and shoots with accuracy out to the college 3-point line. In addition, he handles the ball well in the open court, but is not yet as elusive in crowds. Becoming a more dominant rebounder for Bill Self's Jayhawks will certainly boost his draft status.
Nolan Smith, 6-2, Sr., Duke Blue Devils
NBA people will be debating all season long about whether he is a point guard or shooting guard, but there is no debate that he is a winner. Smith is a quintessential jack-of-all-trades who is better than average at a lot of things. It will be interesting to see where he ends up in next June's draft.
It was clear at the camp that he has the size and athletic ability to be an NBA power forward some day. If there's a criticism of the young Wildcat it's that he, at times, fell in love with his jump shot when he could have dominated inside. As long as he's patient and learns to play tougher, he's got a nice future.
Thompson was the best shooter at the camp last week, and he's got the size to playing shooting guard in the NBA. He caught a number of teams' eyes.
Pullen is a gifted scoring point guard and a willing passer with deep range who was finally recognized for his play this past season. He is a bulldog.
Walker has started to slow down and make better decisions in traffic. If his jump shot gains more consistency, his stock will rise.
Curtis Kelly, 6-9, Sr., Kansas State Wildcats
Thanks to Coach Frank Martin, there's a noticeable improvement in his intensity. While he is no "lock" first-rounder, he helped himself at the camp.
Macklin is not a fluid athlete but is tough around the basket and gives a very good effort. He's a big key for a Gator resurgence this season.
Chandler Parsons, 6-8, Florida Gators
Parsons played well at the camp, showing an ability to slash to the rim and make jump shots, as well. For a right-hander, he's a very dominant left-handed driver. I would work on that right hand the rest of the summer if I were Parsons.
Hopson is an NBA-level shooting guard as an athlete, but proved to be a streaky volume shooter at the camp. Still, he's poised for a big season in the Vols' system.
Because McGhee plays within himself and has the size to defend NBA centers, he helped himself with NBA people last week. He is a poster child for Pittsburgh work ethic and toughness and could even give the Panthers some offense inside this year, as well.
What else can you say? Wright is a warrior. The key question about his NBA future will be if he has the skills to play small forward, but there is no question about his heart.
McCamey has had to play different roles for Bruce Weber's Illini the past three seasons, but he is at his best as a playmaker. His senior leadership will be vital if Illinois reestablishes itself this season.
Wright attacks the basket like a running back attacking a hole. His playmaking needs to improve, but he puts the ball in the basket.
This may be a case where his versatility hurts him. Shumpert has the size to play shooting guard but not the consistent jump shot yet.
At times, he looked out of place, but there were flashes of brilliance, as well. Burks is an underrated athlete who can put the ball in the basket.
Powell is undersized as an NBA prospect right now, but he's going to be a tough matchup in the SEC this coming season.
Battle had the quickness and moxie to get into the paint off the dribble any time he wanted at the camp, and he did so against some very good competition. It looks as if he has improved his jump shot and, if that's the case, he'll very difficult to defend this season.