CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Most years when I attend an elite summer basketball camp, I get captivated by some guard who didn’t come in with a top-10 reputation.
One year at ABCD camp in Teaneck, N.J., Scottie Reynolds wowed me with his jaw-dropping scoring ability, long before the famous basket that sent Villanova to the 2009 Final Four.
Another year at the Nike camp in Indianapolis, a flashy player named Greivis Vasquez caught my eye with his vision and court presence. Vasquez is returning to Maryland now for his senior season and has the Terps in position to challenge for a top spot in the ACC.
This year’s surprise, though, was unlike any of the others. I’d heard few opinions about Reynolds or Vasquez before I saw them play, so I didn’t know what to expect. But heading into this year’s NBA Players Association camp at the University of Virginia, I’d heard plenty about point guard Kendall Marshall of Arlington, Va., and a lot of it wasn’t good.
Marshall had a strike against him from the start because he committed to North Carolina in September of 2007, when he was just beginning his sophomore year. In general, I consider commitments before a prospect’s junior year of high school to be a mistake because neither the player nor the college coach knows how much that player is going to grow and mature by the time he actually arrives on campus.
A lot of early commitments result in unhappy marriages. Judging by what I’d heard about Marshall recently, there was a danger that this was going to be the case with him. I’d heard that he doesn’t fit the world-class sprinter mold that made Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson the perfect catalysts for Roy Williams’ fast breaking offense as the Tar Heels captured the 2005 and 2009 NCAA titles.
In the almost two years since Marshall has committed to North Carolina, his ranking generally has fallen from top-10 to top-30 because he lacks that explosive athletic ability. So when I prepared to watch him last week at the NBPA camp, I was fairly certain I’d conclude that offering him a scholarship was a mistake for Roy Williams.
Boy, was I wrong. After watching Marshall, I’ve concluded that I wouldn’t want any other point guard in the class if I was starting a college team. In terms of sheer talent, Marshall can’t come close to matching the scoring ability and defensive prowess of Brandon Knight of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who’s the top point guard prospect in the class.
But nobody at the camp came close to running a team the way Marshall does. On the fast break he consistently found the right teammate for a dunk or a layup. In the halfcourt offense, he ran off ball screens with precision. He used a clever change of pace – starting slow, then exploding with a quick first step – to drive past more athletic defenders.
Teammates knew that if they moved without the ball, he would find them. And he did – often – for easy baskets. Throughout the camp, all he cared about was winning. His team, which also featured highly rated Class of 2011 forward Michael Gilchrist, finished undefeated and won the tournament championship. And Marshall took home the Most Valuable Player award, even though he averaged just seven points a game, because of his leadership and ability to run a team.
After all that, I’ll gladly add Marshall to my all-time list of favorite elite summer camp guards.
Here are some evaluations of other players of interest in the Carolinas who were at the NBPA camp:
Andre Dawkins: With rising senior Jon Scheyer leaving after next season, Duke appears to have a capable replacement for 2010-11 at shooting guard in Dawkins. Both players are 6-foot-5, and Dawkins is a superior athlete even though he lacks Scheyer’s cunning and ability to play point guard in a pinch. Dawkins, who made the NBPA camp all-star game, should be able to contribute immediately as a freshman.
Josh Hairston: Some observers who saw Duke commitment Hairston play last summer say he hasn’t made the progress they expected. I didn’t see Hairston last summer, but I think he is a moderately high level ACC-caliber player. He can make mid-range jump shots and even scores from the 3-point arc at 6-foot-8, so he seems suited for the versatile forward role Kyle Singler plays for Duke. Hairston isn’t close to being as dynamic or physical as Singler, but is much more gifted on offense than Lance Thomas. Hairston should be a solid forward for Duke.
C.J. Leslie: When uncommitted Holly Springs native Leslie puts his heart into a game, he can be sensational. At 6-foot-9 he attacks the basket on a fast break like a point guard, and he blocks shots and scores on the block with regularity. Exactly which position he will play in college is a matter of debate. But if you don’t get hung up on his position, the guy can just flat-out play.
Reggie Bullock: A North Carolina commitment from Kinston, Bullock is the epitome of a steady player on the wing. He probably didn’t help his status as much as Marshall, Dawkins or Leslie at the NBPA camp, but Bullock is solid in all phases of his game. He knocks down open 3-point shots, rebounds well for a shooting guard at 6-7 and can create off the dribble if needed.
J.T. Terrell: A Burlington native who’s committed to play shooting guard at Wake Forest, Terrell seldom meets a shot he doesn’t like. He can be careless with the ball and needs to improve his defense, but also can score in bunches, as evidenced by a camp-high-tying game of 26 points early in the camp.
Jarell Eddie: The Concord Cannon forward and Virginia Tech commitment impressed scouts with his ability to shoot from the perimeter at the camp. He was listed at 6-foot-7 but seems a bit taller and might have the ability to bang underneath as a power forward even though he’s listed as a small forward.
- Ken Tysiac