CHICAGO -- On the first day of the Nike Amar'e Stoudemire and Deron Williams Skills Academies, the players were drilled in the fundamentals of the game by a passionate and energetic coaching staff led by Kevin Eastman and John Lucas. The coaches focused on many aspects of point guard and post play, including weak-hand development, ball handling, executing a fast break, post feeds and shooting.
A look at some of the top players from each of the academies.
Amar'e Stoudemire Skills Academy (Power forwards/centers)
2011 PF, 6-9, 230
Bryan Athyn, Penn./Academy New Church Boys
Christmas grabbed everyone's attention in the drills with his great length, ability to run the floor and explosiveness around the basket. His footwork, hands and touch are pretty good as he continues to develop his skills. Although he needs to add strength, his overall talent and ability to be an immediate impact player at the college level are undeniable.
2011 C, 6-11, 215
Warsaw, Ind./Christ School (N.C.)
Plumlee's energy and effort was terrific in every drill station. He runs very well and is a much better athlete than he appears. Plumlee has good bounce, hands and touch to go along with his with skill. Plumlee appeared to be very focused as he noticeably attempted to perform every drill perfectly. Plumlee worked extremely hard and if his effort continues, he will greatly benefit from the academy.
2011 PF, 6-9, 195
Zeller is another post with great size, length and mobility, but what made him standout was his footwork both inside and out. Zeller seemed very comfortable performing the post moves being taught and has good shot preparation along the baseline and out to about 15 feet. He runs extremely well and has terrific upside with continued hard work and added strength.
Deron Williams Skills Academy (Point guards)
2011 PG, 6-3, 200
Huntsville, Ala./S.R. Butler
Lacey showed some outstanding point guard instincts with good vision along with an unselfish approach. In time he could play the point because he has a very good floor skills, understands the game and has the ability to score. He was impressive shooting the ball from the 3-point line as well as mid-range jumpers. He has good size and a strong body. He shows a complete all-around perimeter game. He also demonstrates a maturity about himself on the floor as he never gets caught up with personal battles with his defender.
2011 SG/PG, 6-3, 185
Phoenix, Ariz./Findlay Prep (Nev.)
Johnson, who is a very intense player, is presently a shooting guard but possesses plenty of room to grow into a point guard. Johnson handles it well in the open floor as he pushes the ball with great pace. He can score going to the rim or find an open teammate. In the halfcourt, Johnson is comfortable in pick-and-roll action, creating separation between him and his defender and making the correct play. As he continues to learn the traits of the position, Johnson will continue to enhance his overall game.
2011 PG, 5-10, 155
Patterson, N.J./St. Anthony
Mack is a scoring point guard who can really knock down jumpers from all different spots on the floor. He is confident pulling a 3 pointer in transition or comfortable falling into the 3 via the inside-out game, or spotting up from his teammate's penetration. He understands how to feed the post and basket cut, then replace him behind the arc. Mack is battle-tested player who embraces competition and plays to win.
Mikael Hopkins was working hard to improve his hands working out with strength and conditioning expert Allen Stien. Stien was throwing tennis balls to him in a variety of ways to work on his hand-eye coordination. Hopkins has hit the weight room this spring and it shows.
The lineage of some of the kids at the academy is interesting:
• Tre Demps is the son of Dell Demps (assistant GM for the San Antonio Spurs).
• Tyrell Corbin is the son of Tyrone Corbin (assistant coach of Utah Jazz).
• Nick Johnson is the son of Joey Johnson (brother of ex-NBA player Dennis Johnson).
• Shannon Scott is the son of ex-NBA player Charlie Scott.