Viewer’s guide to the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit

(Ken Waz/USA Basketball)

(Ken Waz/USA Basketball)

The 2015 Nike Hoop Summit is upon us! Saturday at noon, the World Team and Team USA will face off in the 20th iteration of the game.

The Nike Hoop Summit has become the nation’s premier prep All-Star game. With the implementation of the one-and-done and elimination of preps to pros, the Hoop Summit is the only game where you could see players who could be selected in the upcoming NBA draft. Hundreds of NBA scouts, general managers and other front office personnel have been watching players practice.

In recent years, players like Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schröder, Nets guard Sergey Kerasev, or Rockets big man Clint Capela have used the week as a springboard to get drafted in the first round of the draft a few months later. Others like Dante Exum have used the week to put a great image in the heads of NBA scouts and front office personnel, leading to him going in the top-five.

Last year, three players from Duke’s National Title team played for Team USA in Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor. Other players who are slated to be top picks like Karl Anthony-Towns also participated in last year’s game.

We did a podcast earlier in the week talking about the importance of the Hoop Summit with my friend and Prep Hoops aficionado Seth Johnston.

Team USA has a lot of talent but this year, the talk at the practices has been about the World team. The World team has a bevy of skilled big men as well as the number one player in the nation.

Here’s a break down of things to watch on Saturday. Tickets are $10 bucks but the game will also be televised on ESPN2.

What to watch:

  • LSU commit Ben Simmons, from Australia, came in to the week as the nation’s number one recruit but his World team teammates Skal Labissiere has stolen the show in almost all of the practices. Simmons is the type of versatile forward who should be able to play both forward positions at the pro level. But Labissiere has blown away media and scouts with his defensive ability and offensive versatility. He’s been matched-up against another big man who came in with a lot of hype in Australian national Thon Maker, which hasn’t helped Maker’s stock. Labissiere has dominated that match-up in both practices I’ve seen. Draft Express now lists Labissiere as the number one player of the 2016 draft class. Labissiere is originally from Haiti and plays preps in New York. He’s committed to Kentucky. He’s been the most dominant player on both ends in for the World team.
  • Chinese national Zhou Qi has been battling injuries since the first day of camp but word is he should be ready to go by Saturday. Qi participated in some drills but did not scrimmage in World team practices as recently as Thursday. Qi is projected to be a late first rounder but a good showing against Team USA could certainly help his stock. According to CBSSports’ Sam Vecenie  who was at Friday’s World Team practice, he had a good defensive showing against Labissiere, which really nobody else can say so far this week. Vecenie also posted the measurements of every World Team player. USA Basketball has not yet provided measurements.
  • One of America’s best players, Jaylen Brown, was held out of Thursday’s marquee practice. Team USA, because they operate under the veil of amateurism (thanks, NCAA), only has one practice that is open to NBA scouts and personnel. Brown missed that practice but was back to full participation during USA’s Friday morning session. After practice was over, he threw an alley-oop to himself and then unleashed a wicked reverse dunk. So, I think it’s safe to say he’s okay. Another potential lottery pick in 2016, Malik Newman, has played well in practices but didn’t exactly let it rip during the open practice. Another guy who impressed in the open scrimmage in front of scouts was Luke Kennard, a lefty who is committed to Duke. He can shoot the heck out of the ball and also flashed some bounce.
  • Brazilian point guard George De Paula is an intriguing prospect, standing at 6-6 with a near seven foot wingspan. He’s shown some great skill and he’s made open shots, even though his release is slightly awkward. However, we likely won’t see him running the offense much Saturday. Italian guard Federico Mussini and Canadian Jamal Murray, who has the Oregon Ducks on his final list of schools, have been manning the point guard duties most of the week. Murray looked especially good in Thursday’s practice, hitting some Lillard-esque shots from deep. Mussini plays like a classic point guard. But De Paula’s size and length make him especially intriguing.
  • The match-up of the bigs between The World and Team USA is going to be fun to watch. Stephen Zimmerman, a seven-footer from Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, may be the only big to have the size to contend with the World’s big men. Zimmerman against Labissiere could be an interesting match-up since nobody in the World practices has really been able to slow him down. Ivan Rabb and Caleb Swanigan are also intriguing bigs but they don’t appear to, at least in limited practices, to have the type of length to really match-up with Skal.
  • Seattle native and Arizona commit Allonzo Trier was impressing everybody during Thursday’s evening practice. He was defending hard, hitting jumpers and getting to the rim. He can definitely play and will be a fun guy to watch from a Northwest perspective.
  • Isaiah Briscoe, a point guard committed to Kentucky, is an absolute beast. Lots of muscle on the guy for a point guard and he looked like he can really lock guys down defensively when he wants to.
  • World team forward Cheick Diallo won the MVP award at the McDonald’s All-American game a little over a week ago. He works harder than just about anybody on the court. He runs hard and takes advantage of every opening the defense gives him. He might be a good candidate to win the award on Saturday because he just plays harder than everybody else. He even took out one of his World Team teammates Tai Wynyard with a vicious drive to the basket during Tuesday’s practice.
  • There are tons of talented guys that I didn’t even get to mentioning. This game should be fun and you’ll want to remember them in the future. Because come this June, next March or the 2016 Draft, you’ll be hearing their names.
Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen

Erik Gundersen is the Trail Blazers beat reporter for The Columbian. He's a graduate of the Allen School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon in addition earning a degree in Spanish. He's covered the NBA for four seasons. You can also occasionally find his work on's NBA section for their TrueCities series. He also fist-bumped with Kanye West once. Follow @BlazerBanter on twitter for more Blazers and NBA news.

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