It did not take long for the action to heat up inside the Quest Multiplex in Chicago, IL this morning. The McDonald’s All-American festivities began on Sunday, but the practice on Monday served as the first gathering for all team members. With media and NBA personnel on hand, both the East and West teams were going at it from the get go. The two hour practice provided an in-depth look at the top seniors in the country and while all eyes were initially on LSU signee Ben Simmons and undecided Jaylen Brown they quickly shifted to the surprise performer of the day.
The West team is coached by Chicago’s own, Robert Smith from perennial power Simeon. He had the West team in 3 on 2 and 2 on 1 drills right off the bat which quickly led to intense one on one battles. The strength of the West team lies in there abundance of talented big men, but the perimeter players certainly proved their worth as well.
Team A: Team B:
Malik Newman (Undecided) Jalen Brunson (Villanova)
Perry Dozier (South Carolina) Allonzo Trier (Arizona)
Brandon Ingram (Undecided) Malachi Richardson (Syracuse)
Ivan Rabb (Undecided) Deyonta Davis (Michigan State)
Caleb Swanigan (Undecided) Stephen Zimmerman (Undecided)
Chase Jeter (Duke) Carlton Bragg (Kansas)
Brandon Ingram, 6’8”, SF, Kinston (NC)
The long and lanky Kinston, NC native had his coming out party back in early July in Chicago at the Adidas Unrivaled camp and he certainly did not miss a beat during the Monday practice session. Faced off with sweet shooting Malachi Richardson, Ingram was the one that had his jumper working. Extremely comfortable from 12-15 feet, Ingram’s feathery shot found the net numerous times from mid-range coming off the catch, the dribble, and pick and rolls. Even in drills it was hard for Ingram to miss from this area and given his height and length he got the shot off almost anytime he wanted. His range also extended out to the three point line as he hit several three’s during the half-court and full-court scrimmages. On the defensive side of the ball, Ingram struggled at times staying in front of his opponent whether it was in one-one-one drills or scrimmages, but his length helped negate any ground he gave up. With a long wing-span, Ingram was able to disrupt shots and also created numerous steals by getting his hands in the passing lane. The early eyes were on Jaylen Brown and Ben Simmons, but it was Brandon Ingram that continued his stellar play at the Quest Multiplex.
Malik Newman, 6’4”, G, Callaway (MS)
While still not a pure point guard, Newman ran the point guard position for his team and faced off against Villanova bound Jalen Brunson. Newman used his speed and athleticism to hit difficult shots in the paint and used the pick and roll to get space for his floater or jump shot. He was also able to attack the basket and was aggressive on the boards as well. He never seemed to catch fire, but anytime he missed from the field it was almost certain that Newman would find a way to knock down his next shot.
Ivan Rabb, 6’10”, PF, Bishop O’ Dowd (CA)
Last year it was Stanley Johnson that led his Mater Dei team to a California state championship and then immediate flew to Chicago for the McDonald’s All-American practices. This year it’s big man Ivan Rabb. On Saturday night, Rabb knocked in the game winning free throw to win a state title and just two days later he was one of the most energetic players on the court. He ripped down rebounds, hit a few soft shots in the paint with both hands, and threw down an emphatic two hand dunk on fellow teammate Stephen Zimmerman. Right now Rabb is healthy and it showed in his play and early effort level.
Caleb Swanigan vs. Stephen Zimmerman
There was a lot to like when it came to the various big men match-ups on the West side, but watching the contrasting styles of Swanigan and Zimmerman was the most entertaining. At 6’8”, Swanigan is a bull in a china shop while the almost 7 foot Zimmerman prefers to use his soft touch outside. Throughout the practice, Swanigan had trouble scoring on his first attempt in the post and was routinely getting his shot blocked. Despite a failed first attempt, he almost always managed to coral the loose ball and go up for a second or third attempt until he finished the play. Zimmerman had his share of blocks, but Swanigan would eventually manage to use his strength to get the basket. On the other side, Zimmerman was playing loose and knocking down outside jump shots. He scored in the post at times, but the four-time state champ was enjoying the open looks he was getting at the top of the key. At the end, this match-up was basically deemed a draw, with Swanigan getting the better of Zimmerman on the inside and vice versa on the outside.
- Point guard Jalen Brunson is the lone player from Illinois in the all-star game this year and also the only true point guard on the West side. Throughout the practice, Brunson was a smooth floor general and used quick in-and-out moves to get to the basket. He miss-fired on several lay-ups in the paint early on, but settled down knocking in a few outside shots.
- Perry Dozier, the 6’6” wing from South Carolina was the sneaky good player of the day. Surrounded by more heralded players, Dozier picked his spots and showed off his smooth and refined game. He utilized the pick and roll well and hit several 15 foot jumpers along with soft floaters in the paint. Dozier did not look as comfortable from the three point line, but his length and ball-handling skills were certainly impressive.
- Future Michigan State Spartan, Deyonta Davis did not get a lot of half-court action, but the 6’9” power forward did manage to hit two deep jumpers from the top of the key. A bouncy prospect, it looked like Davis had also added some mass to his upper body while going through his senior year.
Team A: Team B:
Isaiah Briscoe (Kentucky) Jawun Evans (Oklahoma State)
Antonio Blakeney (LSU) Luke Kennard (Duke)
Jaylen Brown (Undecided) Dwayne Bacon (Florida State)
Ben Simmons (LSU) Dedric Lawson (Memphis)
Diamond Stone (Maryland) Cheick Diallo (Undecided)
Thomas Bryant (Undecided)
The East team has the superstar combo of Jaylen Brown and Ben Simmons and early on both were competing in one on one half-court and full-court drills. The smooth nature of Simmons’ game was on display as was the power and brute force from Jaylen Brown. Early on, it was Brown that was looking good knocking in outside shots and corralling rebounds, but then he started to get sloppy with the ball and turned it over several times. He did finish with some rim rattling dunks, but also came up short on several of his contested jump shots. Simmons showed off his passing skills, but didn’t look comfortable shooting from the outside and did not exert his dominance on the game.
Thomas Bryant, 6’9”, C, Huntington Prep (WV)
It was a fairly productive morning for the 6’9” Bryant who always has his motor running on high. Looking a little smoother than normal, Bryant was knocking in deep jump shots during the skills portion of the practice which continued into the scrimmages (even though this led to one or two forced shots). Bryant was active on the boards and defended Diamond Stone well towards the end.
Antonio Blakeney, 6’4”, SG, Oak Ridge (FL)
As one of the top scorers on the East team, Blakeney had his outside shot finding the bottom of the net and was also soaring down the lane for two handed dunks on the break. Blakeney minimized the amount of tough shots he normally takes and also put pressure on Luke Kennard when guarding him in the half-court set.
- Diamond Stone started the practice off strong hitting a short hook with his left hand and following that up with a longer hook with his right. Stone was confident when going at Bryant and Cheick Diallo in the drills and held his own on the defensive end. About half way through, Stone was still getting open looks but he his jump shots started careening towards the side of the rim and he failed to finish down low.
- Despite not shining, Brown easily got the better of Dwayne Bacon who was quiet up until the last few minutes. Brown used his first step to get his should ahead of Bacon and then was able to finish with contact in the lane. He also sought out defensive rebounds calling them his out loud before actually wrapping them up.
- Isaiah Briscoe and Jawun Evans were matched up throughout the practice. Evans used his speed to push the pace and was feisty on defense. On occasion, Evans would slither into the paint and was able to finish with a floater or soft lay-up. Then there was Briscoe who used his grown man strength to attack the basket and finish with contact. He struggled shooting from the outside, but was routinely at the rim converting shots or dishing to open teammates.
Both the East and West practices were intense with a lot of action. The talented players went at each other time and time again and while there were several fine performances, it was the lights out shooting of Brandon Ingram that had everyone talking once the final buzzer sounded.