CHICAGO -- There was a strong finish to the workouts, as the first session of the Nike Skills Academy concluded. Nike has spent the last seven years creating this first-class basketball academy and the departed players have vastly improved and become students of the game. Much of the credit goes to academy director Jeff Rogers and his outstanding staff for all their hard work. The kids benefited greatly from this experience.
A look at some of the top players from each of the academies.
Amar'e Stoudemire Skills Academy (Power forwards/centers)
2011 PF, 6-8, 200
San Diego, Calif./Herbert Hoover
He was impressive on Day 3 in drills and live action. He seemed to be focused and locked in to every word from the coaches. This long and lean lefty has an excellent jump hook over his right shoulder, which is his go-to move. The Skills Academy should help him add to his back-to-the-basket scoring arsenal, which will increase his offensive production. Chol is a raw, but mobile and explosive athlete with terrific reaction time to the ball. His shooting form is not bad, and he could develop into a good elbow jump shooter from the short corner, if he applies what he has learned over the last three days and repeats the drills when working out on his own. Chol has great upside and is one to watch.
Deron Williams Skills Academy (PGs)
2011 PG, 5-10, 165
He is a quick, explosive point guard that is one of the best scorers in the country at his position. Smith is known for his highlight reel dunks in transition or the half-court set. His quickness and explosiveness allow him to get into the lane practically at will. What's impressive is how he finishes inside, despite his rather small stature. The Mississippi State commit also raised some eyebrows with his ability to out-jump some bigs for rebounds. His high school coach Wayne Brent is a former SEC assistant and knows how to develop players for the next level.
• Success for bigs is often measured by their hands and footwork. If a big man can't catch, he can't score inside and can have trouble rebounding. Most of the prospects at the Amar'e Stoudemire Academy have great hands, but the best hands of the group belong to 6-8 DaJuan Coleman (Syracuse, N.Y./Jamesville-DeWitt) and 6-8 Sidiki Johnson (Bronx, N.Y./Oak Hill Academy). They both have soft hands to score and strong hands secure the ball.
• Heading into the Amar'e Stoudemire Camp, Marshall Plumlee (Warsaw, Ind./Christ School) already knew some of the finer points of low-post play, thanks to his coach, David Gaines. However, he continued to make progress with every drill. As a result, he will be playing high major Division I ball, like his older brothers Mason and Miles.
• Elite athleticism is not a prerequisite for point guards, but it definitely helps. The best vertical athletes at the Deron Williams Academy were Class of 2011 prospects 5-9 Jahii Carson (Phoenix/Mesa), 6-3 Nick Johnson (Gilbert, Ariz./Findlay Prep) and Smith. Johnson probably has the most hops of the group.
• Tyrone Johnson (Plainfield, N.J.) was impressive again on Day 3, winning the one-on-one point guard contest. He is considering the following schools: Georgetown, Villanova, West Virginia, Rutgers, Miami, Georgia Tech, UConn, Oklahoma State and Kansas.
Reggie Rankin and John Stovall contributed to this piece.