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July 9, 2012

Wiggins making a strong case


MORE: Is Wiggins the best?

LAS VEGAS -- Players have been in Las Vegas for the 2012 edition of the LeBron James Skills Academy since Friday. They've drilled, they've watched USA Basketball practice and on Sunday they got to play games and much of the action was high level. From top to bottom the camp roster is stacked and guys such as 2014's No. 1 and No. 3 ranked players, respectively, Andrew Wiggins and Noah Vonleh, were backing up their status while others such as 2013 point guard Wesley Clark were using it to boost their reputations.

2014 stars shine

The debate has raged about whether Andrew Wiggins is the No. 1 player in the class of 2014 or the No. 1 player, regardless. Sunday, Wiggins put together another pretty convincing argument that he's the best prospect in the land regardless of class.

The 6-foot-7 wing from Huntington (W.V.) Prep was chatted up by LeBron James prior to tip off and then went to work.

He's a freakshow athlete, but everybody knows this. He's also a slasher and high level transition finisher.

Now, Wiggins is also becoming a much more accomplished ball handler and proficient shooter. What's most impressive about Wiggins handle is that he dribbles for function, not fashion.

The best players never need more than one or two dribbles once they are inside of 25 feet and that's all he ever needs to create a shot or get to the rim. It happens so quickly, defenders are helpless.

Also impressive was the No. 3 player in the class of 2014, Noah Vonleh. His jumper was on point from deep, he attacked rebounds with two hands above the rim and he posted defenders with ease.

There are times where he will float to the perimeter and settle some, but he's got the skill to play facing the hoop.

Around the basket, though, it's curtains for most defenders trying to contain him. He has power, good skill and is a clever low post scorer who has counters for just about anything.

Vonleh isn't too far along in the recruiting process and said that he would likely cut things down a bit more after the summer. Also, as with Wiggins, the rumor mill has been suggesting that Vonleh could ultimately end up a class of 2013 prospect. But Vonleh has denied that.

Clark brings it

It would be unfair to call Wesley Clark an unknown headed into Sunday's action. Perhaps it would be more fitting to call the 6-foot point guard from Romulus (Mich.) High a bit overlooked.

The three-star guard was solid all spring with The Family, but teammates James Young and E.C. Matthews (who are both at LBJ as well) have gotten the majority of the coverage. If Clark keeps playing like he did on Sunday, though, he's going to be getting a lot more attention.

A competitor on both ends of the floor, Clark wasn't backing down from anybody and played as well as any point guard here. He defended, got into the paint and made plays for others at will and then scored it when he needed to.

Clark listed USC, Dayton, Xavier and Creighton.

Nichols to cut list

Class of 2013 big man Austin Nichols is the object of plenty of attention from college coaches. It's easy to see why.

The four-star power forward from Memphis was terrific on Sunday. He will get to the rim and dunk in traffic, runs the floor extremely well and can step out and make some jumpers facing up.

A wiry kid, he's also not afraid to get inside and mix things up and plays with a physical edge to him.

On the recruiting front, Nichols listed Duke, Florida, North Carolina, Memphis, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia. However, he's planning to cut his list down to five or six programs within the next month or so.

Quick hitters

After a quiet game during the afternoon session, recent UCLA pledge Zach LaVine picked it up during the evening session. The 6-foot-4 guard has one of the best first steps in the class of 2013 and is an extremely confident scorer. When he gets out in transition, he finds ways to get to the rim and he can rack up points quickly.

Power forward Julius Randle was operating quite a bit from the wing on Sunday and was doing a lot off the dribble. Because of his power and quickness, he tends to get by his initial defender, but sometimes runs into a crowd around the rim and forces some things. But, for the most part he does what he wants, when he wants to. Physically, Randle looks to be in the best shape he's ever been in.

Donte Clark is a scorer. If he sees the ball go through the net a few times, the four-star shooting guard really comes after defenders and stays in attack mode. A streaky shooter, he's an athletic driver who doesn't waste dribbles.

Slender big man Kentan Facey made a good impression on Sunday. At 6-foot-8, he can run the floor, is quick around the rim and has good length and athleticism. He's gotten offers from Connecticut, Providence, St. John's, Rhode Island, Duquesne and Drexel. Others showing recent interest include Virginia Tech, Georgetown, Florida, USC, Colorado and Maryland.

Kuran Iverson picked up exactly where he'd left off at the NBPA Top 100 Camp. The 6-foot-8 small forward was making plays off the dribble, hitting some shots and doing a little bit of everything. Right now he's looking like a potential five-star prospect and he listed Florida, Memphis, Connecticut, Oklahoma State and Seton Hall.

California big man Marcus Lee was strong during the evening session. At times, the 6-foot-10 leaper can be passive on the offensive end and get pushed around some because of his lack of strength but that wasn't the case on Sunday. Lee was active around the rim, looked to score, contested shots and competed on the glass.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright looks like the type of point guard who would be a lot of fun to have as a teammate. A vocal leader and true floor general, he is all about getting his teammates involved, competing and he plays with a high level of skill. Yes, he is a bit small at around 5-foot-8 or so, but he plays with the ferocity of somebody much bigger and stronger and never backs down. He's not the leaper that Missouri point guard Phil Pressey is, but some of what he does is very similar to a younger Pressey.



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