MILWAUKEE -- Despite missing Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans due to travel complications brought on by weather, the first practice for both the East and the West teams featured a good amount of action. Players from both squads seemed largely unaffected by the relative slow nature of a first practice for an all-star exhibition, which generally consists of coaches installing their sets for the game and players feeling out one another's tendencies and sweet spots on the floor. This group of players from both teams managed to standout during the first practice.
Elliot Williams, 6-4 combo-guard
Williams looks very close to 100 percent after sustaining a knee injury that caused him to miss a handful of games this season. His exceptional lateral quickness and competitive nature could help him develop into a defensive stalwart on the next level. When running the point, Williams displayed great vision and passing ability, which will help him in pick-and-roll, and on-ball screen offensive sets, which more college teams run now. He also has great explosion off the ground, further demonstrating his knee has all but completely healed. Williams has a tendency on his jumper to not finish the shot when he does not hold his follow through on the release. When he holds his follow-through, he normally makes the jumper.
Kemba Walker, 6-0 point guard
Walker has the foot speed and the tenacity to become a defensive wiz for Connecticut. He applies good ball pressure and has the ability to harass opposing guards into turnovers. Walker also displayed his impressive skills off-the-dribble, utilizing an effective handle and deception. He easily uses his considerable quickness by changing speeds and getting his opponents off balance. He efficiently penetrates to the basket by making use of his quick first step and decisiveness as opposed to wasting a number of dribbles to get to basket and bringing his team's offense to screeching halt. Walker also has good passing skills, often surprising some of his unexpecting teammates with a good dish.
Al-Farouq Aminu, 6-9 small forward
College: Wake Forest
Aminu has great length and size for the small forward spot in college. He gets on the break and finishes exceptionally well in transition, due in large part to his length, athleticism and great leaping ability. He has to continue to improve his ball-handling skills as well as both the mid-range and long-range jumper to play the swingman spot on a full-time basis on the next level. Once he adds these skills and becomes stronger physically, opposing teams will not have any success defending Aminu on the perimeter.
Samardo Samuels, 6-9 F/C
Samuels effectively uses his body to carve out position in the paint for scoring and rebounding. Once he gets you on his hip, a defender will not get around him, which guards enjoy because they know they can pass him the ball without fearing a post defender will get around him for the steal. Samuels also demonstrated his ability to take a defender off the dribble from the high post for a strong finish at the rim in addition to a free-throw line jumper from the trail position on the break. These rapidly-developing new skills will aid Samuels in college, as he will have the opportunity to make plays in transition due to Louisville's reliance on the fast break.
JaMychal Green, 6-9 power forward
Though this was only the first practice for an exhibition game, Green competed in the paint at championship-game level, especially when he had to defend Samuels in the post. Green has a never-ending motor and will contest shots in his area as well as out of his area. Hopefully, he will get a few more offensive touches in the coming practices as reward for his work on the defensive end.
Brandon Jennings, 6-1 point guard
It did not take long for Jennings to establish himself as the vocal leader and the collective pulse for his squad. Jennings continues to exhibit his magician-like ball skills, getting to the paint almost at will. Once he got to the rim, he sometimes missed lay-ups he normally makes. Due to his electric quickness, Jennings thrives in the open court and adeptly locates open teammates for finishes due to his impressive vision and passing ability. Jennings, similar to Walker for the East team, surprised teammates with passes, mostly because the majority of Jennings' teammates do not have a guard on their regular high school teams blessed with the passing skills he possesses. Jennings also displayed good shot selection, which he should continue to use because he does not have to carry the offensive load with so many gifted offensive players around him.
Larry Drew II, 6-0 point guard
College: North Carolina
Drew has the skills and temperament coaches covet in a pure point guard and a pass-first mentality teammates love knowing they will receive the ball if they can get themselves open. He has great vision and always delivers the ball to teammates when in position to score, which many point guards do not grasp, especially at this relatively early stage. He always seems under control and poised, not bothered by defensive pressure from opposing guards. Drew will have to continue to improve his outside shooting for the next level.
Scotty Hopson, 6-5 shooting guard
Hopson, along with Tyreke Evans, are the two undecided prospects in the game. Looking at his offensive skill set, schools rightfully continue to line up for Hopson's services. He can easily get to the basket, using his great slashing ability. He also has good leaping ability which makes him even tougher to defend at the rim. Hopson remained in attack mode from the time he stepped on the court until practiced ended. Hopson ranks as a great offensive talent who will continue to get better with improved perimeter shooting.
Demar DeRozan, 6-6 small forward
DeRozan has as much natural ability as any prospect in this class. He has astounding leaping ability, which he demonstrated at times during practice especially on the break. His perimeter game has improved, particularly in the mid-range area, where he can take one or two dribbles and elevate over almost any defender for a jump shot. He as a tendency to shoot a fall-away jump shot off the bounce; when coupled with his hops, it makes him extremely hard to defend. However, the fall-away sometimes hinders his release and he shoots the ball on the way down instead of at his highest point, causing the shot to fall short at times. If he continues to develop his long-range and mid-range shot as well as his ball-handling skills, DeRozan could develop into one of the top pro prospects in this class.
In preparation for the 31st McDonald's All-American High School Basketball Game in Milwaukee, we will provide a scouting report on some of the standout players from each practice.
Antonio Williams is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. He previously worked as an NBA scout for Marty Blake Associates.