I have been really fortunate to be a Skills Instructor at the Nike Skills Academies since 1995, and I have been lucky to work every LeBron James Skills Academy. I not only get to work with and watch the best high school and college players up close, but I have the honor of learning from some of the finest coaches and teachers in the game like John Lucas, Kevin Eastman, Tates Locke, Jim Burson, Don Showalter, Norm Persin, Herman Harried and many, many others. The Nike Skills Academies also boast some great basketball minds like Todd Day and Miles Simon, and the high school and college players selected get the chance to compete against the best players in their class while getting instruction and encouragement from some excellent coaches.
Lucas ran the college workouts, and he is a master of chaos theory. Lucas tries to make things stressful and have the players figure it out on the run. He will often play with a 12-second shot clock in 5-on-5 situations, but also has 1-on-1 full-court drills that build up toward 5-on-5 play. Lucas not only coached successfully on the NBA level, he was the No. 1 overall selection in the NBA draft in 1976 and was an ACC tennis champion as well. Lucas is wonderful to be around, as he can be dead serious, incredibly silly and funny, and, at times, impossible to understand. The players asked if subtitles could be provided so they could move more quickly from drill to drill.
The college players at the 2014 LeBron James Skills Academy were not the most talented group we have ever had. But there were some outstanding players who played incredibly hard and well, and several with NBA futures. However, this was one of the hardest working groups we have ever had and were nothing but great people who were a pleasure to be around. A terrific group of young men, from the first day to the last.
Here are my thoughts on the players who competed this week in Las Vegas.
Dekker was the best player at this year's Nike Skills Academy. From the first day, he was aggressive and versatile and showed a skill level that few could match. He played very effectively on the perimeter, moved without the ball and did a great job. He needs to be more effective in the low post, holding position and initiating contact, but if there were a draft among the players at the camp, Dekker would be the first overall selection.