CHICAGO -- With the Deron Williams (point guards) and Amar'e Stoudemire (power forwards/centers) Academies in the books, the wing players arrived for Day 1 of the Paul Pierce (shooting guards) and Kevin Durant (small forwards) Skills Academies.
The high level of coaching and player talent was just as impressive. This elite group of wing players has tremendous size, length, athletic ability and skill. They started off the academies with great energy in a variety of intense drill work that included learning to score off the catch and the dribble, moving without the ball, penetrating and passing, and full-court ballhandling.
A look at some of the top players from the academies.
2011 SG, 6-1, 180
Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter's
He is an undersized shooting guard who is strong for his size and can flat-out make shots with range to the arc. He seemed to pick up the drills very easily and executed them in live action. Davis can handle and pass at high speeds and works with good energy and pace. However, what makes him special is his ability to shoot the ball.
2011 SG, 6-4, 170
He is a true shooting guard who does a great job using his great size and length to score. Caldwell is a long 6-4 and can shoot over smaller opponents with ease. He is a good ball handler, and the coaching over the next three days will help him even more in that department. He is smooth and seems to pick up drills immediately. Caldwell has 3-point range and the athletic ability and skill to be an immediate impact player on the major college level with continued improvement.
2011 SG, 6-4, 180
Madison, Ala./Bob Jones
He is another true shooting guard who has tremendous skill and feel for the game. Randolph is smooth and can score from beyond the arc or with his midrange game. He went through drill work with great effort and carryover. The Alabama commit can handle, pass and make contested shots. Randolph is talented and reminds us at times of a young Joe Johnson of the Atlanta Hawks.
2011 SF, 6-6, 175
His skill was really impressive, especially during the shooting on the move drills, in which he displayed excellent shot preparation and footwork on midrange shots. Nickerson also can hit open 3s, but he is dangerous inside the arc with his ability to score over or around defenders off the dribble. He must add strength to go with his great length, but he has tremendous upside.
• The involvement of the pro players here at the Kevin Durant and Paul Pierce academies is imperative and outstanding. The two All-Stars are very hands-on, participating in the drills and challenging the high school players. They have even been available for individual instruction and professional hints for those players who seek their advice. That is a unique opportunity and great gift for these kids.
• Jakarr Sampson (Akron, Ohio/St. Vincent-St. Mary's) is a very skilled and athletic wing. His list of schools includes Cincinnati, Dayton, Xavier, St. John's, Ohio State, Michigan State, USC, Miami and Louisville.
• Tyler Harris (Brookville, N.Y./Half Hollow Hills West) is one of the most improved high school players over the last 12 months. He is now a legitimate 6-7. The lefty has a healthy list of schools, including North Carolina, Duke, West Virginia, South Florida, Wisconsin, Washington, Syracuse, Rutgers, Virginia Tech, NC State, Iowa, Siena, Tennessee, Boston College and Seton Hall.
John Stovall contributed to this piece.