The Kevin Durant Skills Academy tipped off Friday night on the pristine campus of Sidwell Friends High School in Northwest DC. Coming a few days after Nike’s point guard and big man skills academy, this event featured 19 of the top college wing forwards and 30 of the top high school wing forwards. The college players were up first and as a result they received an up close and personal view of Kevin Durant as he joined in on many of the drills and scrimmages.
In a who’s who of college basketball, a few players that stuck out during drills and scrimmages were Geron Johnson of Memphis and Cleanthony Early of Wichita State.
Johnson was measured at 6’3.5” and 203 pounds with a 6’8.5” inch wingspan. After averaging 10.4 points per game during his first year at Memphis, Johnson is looking forward to the spotlight now that he is familiar with the college game. Early on, Johnson used the one on one full court drills to show off his quickness and power constantly blowing by defenders for easy baskets. As a 35% three point shooter last year, Johnson was also one of the top outside shooters in the camp and during the scrimmages he showed off his range hitting several deep three’s.
After making a name for himself during Wichita State’s Final Four run this past year, Early is looking to enhance his reputation this year. Standing at 6’7”, Early had the chance to go against both the shorter and taller wings in the camp. He knocked in several jump shots, attacked the basket, and was one of the most active players throughout the two hour session. For a few possessions Early got to go against Kevin Durant and during these opportunities he did not back down from the NBA superstar.
Both DeAndre Daniels from UConn and Glenn Robinson III from Michigan arrived late to the Skills Academy. Despite missing their time to warm-up and various drills, both players jumped right into the activity. Daniels drove hard to the basket during the scrimmages and was the best finisher at the rim, while Robinson hit several outside shots and used his strength for rebounds on the defensive end.
These two players combined to average 6.5 points per game during their freshman seasons, but both Tyler Harris from Providence and Winston Shepard from San Diego State could be primed for breakout sophomore seasons. Shepard is the more refined of the two players as he played 20 minutes a game for one of the top teams on the west coast. Shepard struggled from the field during his freshman campaign shooting 39.3% but with his size (6’8”) and athletic ability, he remains a tantalizing prospect. During the shooting drills at the camp, Shepard still struggled but when it came time to scrimmage he got to the rim and showed off his athleticism with several highlight reel dunks. He also displayed his fast twitch muscle fibers when it came time for rebounds as he was usually the quickest player off of the court for tip-ins.
While Shepard played 20 minutes a game last year, Harris red-shirted the season after transferring from N.C. State. In Raleigh, the 6’8” forward only played in 19 games and averaged 1.8 points per game. While he still looked raw during the Skills Academy, one could tell that the year off helped his game. Harris has a 6’10” wing span and performed adequately during the dribbling and shooting drills. While he only weighs 204 pounds, it was obvious that Harris has potential to become a player for the Friars in the future.
One NBA scout was overheard making fun of Marshall Henderson’s alligator arms. Henderson measured at 6’2” with a wing span of 5’11.5.” As he was the smallest player on the court at all times, Henderson struggled to find room for shots, but he did display the nicest stroke in all of the drills early on.
Another NBA scout noted that he really liked Damyean Dotson during his freshman year at Oregon and was a player that he planned on watching with a keen eye. Dotson is a 6’6” wing that was second on the team in scoring with 11.4 points per game.
Jabari Parker is used to the attention and rightfully so after winning four consecutive Illinois state titles and earning a Sports Illustrated cover. These high accolades also earned him the attention of Kevin Durant during many of the one-on-one drills and scrimmages. As the only incoming freshman on the roster, Parker knew that he would have to adapt quickly to the size and strength of the college players, but he didn’t anticipate trying to adapt to Kevin Durant right off the bat. Durant picked Parker up in the one-on-one full court drills, and while Durant was not going 100% he was still playing pretty hard. On the first two possessions, Parker scored on Durant with a left-handed lay-up and kept Durant from scoring on the other end. The two went back and forth during the drills and scrimmages. Parker struggled from the outside, but he also forced Durant into some of his own struggles. Several times Durant looked like he was going to take Parker off the dribble and was forced to settle for a contested outside jump shot. Parker looks like he worked on improving his quickness during the spring time and will need that added burst when he starts play in Durham. Standing at 6’8.5” and 240 pounds, Parker still has a ways to go conditioning wise but already proved that he is ready for the challenges coming his way.
High School Notes:
The high school kids did not get as much on-court time as the college kids and they also didn’t get to play with Kevin Durant, but pretty much all of the top ranked shooting guards and small forwards were in attendance. The top shooting guard in the country, Rashad Vaughn was a late arrival and forced to jump straight into the 3-on-3 drills. Despite a lack of warm-up, Vaughn used his left hand dribble to get to the basket at will. He didn’t get a chance to show off his stroke, but still displayed the athleticism that will have NBA scouts watching his every move.
One of the top players this spring was forward Devin Robinson from Richmond. Before the spring, two schools were recruiting him the hardest in VCU and Virginia Tech. After a strong performance Indiana dropped its hat in the ring offering Robinson a scholarship. Still growing into his body, Robinson has a ways to go to reach his potential as he currently stands 6’8” and 169 pounds.
6’7” Terry Larrier from Team Scan was another spring riser and also one of the most impressive players in the short scrimmages held at the end of camp. Larrier drove strongly to the basket several times from the left wing and threw down a handful of thunderous dunks down the middle of the lane that caught everyone’s attention.
Riley Norris’ shooting touch was on display during the NBPA camp and the 6’7 wing from Alabama started to receive increased attention from college coaches. After the NBPA camp, Norris heard from the coaching staff’s of both UNC and Indiana who plan on watching him during July. So far Norris has visited the campuses of Florida, Vanderbilt, and Alabama.
Ahmed Hill, a 6’4” shooting guard out of Georgia struggled during the NBPA Top 100 camp but is looking forward to bouncing back during July where his Southern Stampede team will play in both Augusta and Orlando. Currently schools such as Florida, Florida State, Georgia, and Indiana are going after Hill the hardest.
The Kevin Durant Skills camp continues on Saturday and Sunday which should give the NBA scouts a plethora of opportunities to watch the top high school wings in the country go at each other including Rashad Vaughn, Daniel Hamilton, Devin Booker, Justin Jackson, and Stanley Johnson go at one another.
For those fans that wish college basketball was a year-round sport, the College Basketball Newcomers Guide paperback and Kindle book previews the incoming recruits for every team nationally. There’s no need to wait until Fall to learn about the new names in college basketball that will be starring on the hardwood.