The first day of the LeBron James Skills Academy doesn’t allow for much in the way of reporting. Players aren’t available for interviews, and if you break that rule, you lose your credential. Nike makes this very clear, and the company has shown over the years it’s not afraid of suppressing the media. (You do remember the Jordan Crawford dunk you weren’t supposed to see, don’t you?)
Regardless, Indiana had a pair of in-state recruits at this camp in Branden Dawson and Gary Harris. Both seemed to acquit themselves relatively against strong competition.
The high school players had a two-hour workout on Monday with the first half being all about skill instruction (shooting drills, passing drills, ball-handling drills) and the second consisting of pick-up games. Dawson at times seemed a tad too loose during the skill instruction, but showed off his considerable length and range, moving quickly to spots and making deep jumpers. He also hit a nifty turnaround jumper during a pick-up game that served as his highlight of game action.
Considering the dynamic of the camp, Harris seemed more interested in sitting back and learning than trying to dominate play. He continues to show improvement in his all-around game. During drills, he hit shots from all over the court, and looked natural in his ball-handling. There were times during the pick-up games that he seemed to willing to sit on the perimeter and wait for something to happen, but he did crash the boards and snuck in for a put-back against taller opponents in one instance.
The high school players were divided up into two groups on Monday, with one playing in the main gym at James Rhodes Arena at Arkon University and another across the street at the school’s recreation center. Harris and Dawson were both in the latter group. Among the players from that group who stood out to me was Ricardo Gathers, a 6-foot-6, 235-pounder from Riverside Academy in LaPlace, La. Rated No. 20 overall in the Class of 2012 by Rivals.com, Gethers bullied skinnier players around the basket and stuck most of his arm in the rim on a fast-break dunk. Anthony Davis, the 6-foot-9 star from Chicago and an Indiana recruit, had his moments, but at 187 pounds, he’s extremely skinny.
Some other notes from Day 1:
- During the college players’ workout at James Rhodes Arena, LeBron James worked out with several current and former Cleveland Cavaliers teammates including Damion Jones and Jawad Williams. He and his crew added Chris Paul for several pick-up games. Pretty sure they won all of those, though the college guys were showing they had a lot more to play for.
- James reportedly declined comment about his free agency after the camp.
- Illinois point guard Demetri McCamey and Penn State guard Talor Battle represented the Big Ten among the college players. Ohio State’s William Buford, who was listed on the camp roster was not present.