Backcourt battle adds intrigue

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Tuesday afternoon's practice session was the final one leading up to the McDonald's All-American Game on Wednesday. Here are some of the players who had the gym buzzing.

Staying on point

It's been quite enjoyable to watch some of the nation's elite point guards go at each other. Most notably, the three-way battle between Josh Selby (Baltimore/Lake Clifton), Joe Jackson (Memphis/White Station) and Kyrie Irving (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick) has had all onlookers captivated.

I think Selby's played the best during the practices I've attended. He can score, and his athletic ability is a great asset. A relentless attacker, Selby doesn't stop until he gets to the rim.

Irving is smooth and knows how to play the position. He makes difficult plays looks easy with his court awareness. Duke needs a point guard who can set up people, create for himself and play hard-nosed defense. Irving does all of those things.

Not to be out done, Jackson has had his share of highlight-reel plays. The Memphis recruit is similar to Selby in that he's an attack-first, scoring point guard. Jackson is the kind of player who always has the defense on its heels.

Matchup mayhem

Here's a look at some of the practice matchups that caught my eye today.

Deshaun Thomas (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers)-C.J. Leslie (Raleigh, N.C./Word of God):
Deshaun Thomas made open shots today by running the floor. Leslie was a terror in the open floor. He came from the weak side and blocked shots and was excellent finishing on the break.

Perry Jones (Duncanville, Texas)-Jared Sullinger (Columbus, Ohio/Northland): This was a matchup of power versus off-the-charts athletic ability. Sullinger finishes through contact and Jones elevates and uses his size and skill. It was fun to watch these two contrasting post players.

Josh Smith (Kent, Wash./Kentwood)-Fabricio Melo (Weston, Fla./The Sagemont School): Melo looks to be in really good shape and he plays so hard. He runs the floor and rebounds -- though he is still a work in progress skill-wise. Smith is a big, wide body who is powerful. Frankly, he needs to get in better shape. Still, his talent, explosiveness and size are undeniable.

Doron Lamb (New York/Oak Hill)-Keith Appling (Detroit/Pershing): This is a showdown of two scoring wings who can create shots and beat you off the dribble. For about four consecutive possessions they took it right at each other. They are both scoring wings who can create off the dribble.

Best and the brightest

I broke the McDonald's All-Americans down into the categories in which I feel they excel.

Top shooters: Cory Joseph (Toronto/Findlay Prep) and Reggie Bullock (Kinston, N.C.)

Best scorers: Selby, Appling and Lamb

Best coaches on the floor (highest hoops IQ): Irving, Ray McCallum (Detroit/Country Day) and Kendall Marshall (Dumfries, Va./Bishop O'Connell)

Best back-to-the basket game: Sullinger. He's so far superior to his peers in this area that no one else gets mentioned.

Most versatile: Harrison Barnes (Ames, Iowa), Tobias Harris (Dix Hills, N.Y./Half Hollow Hills West) and Thomas

Best upside: Melo, Jereme Richmond (Waukegan, Ill.) and Jones.


• I'm hearing Kansas is in great shape with Selby. Tennessee, where he was previously committed, is trying to creep back through the door.

• I spoke with a few NBA talent evaluators who were in attendance and there are quite a few players who are on their radar before they've even played a college game. The names I heard mentioned most often were Selby, Irving -- one scout told me he makes the game look easy -- Perry Jones, Harris, Barnes and Cory Joseph. Fresh off the heels of winning last night's 3-point shootout, Joseph is drawing pro praise for his all-around ability.

• The future of UNC's perimeter is here with Marshall, Bullock and Barnes. Whichever direction Marshall, the most gifted passer in the prep ranks, goes with the ball, he can't go wrong with those two.

Reggie Rankin was an assistant coach at seven schools for 13 seasons, most recently at Dayton. He played at Ohio University from 1986-90 and was an All-MAC first-teamer his senior season.