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July 7, 2012
On Wednesday opened the first of July's three five-day sessions where Div. I coaches can evaluate prospects at NCAA certified events. In advance of that, Nike is running its annual LeBron James Skills Academy on the campus of Rancho High School in Las Vegas. Rivals.com has a few of the story lines to anticipate from the event.
Wiggins vs. the field
Andrew Wiggins is already the undisputed No. 1 player in the class of 2014. However, there are many who feel that the 6-foot-7 wing at Huntington (W.V.) Prep could be the best high school prospect, regardless of class. The LBJ Skills Academy will certainly give the extreme athlete a chance to prove whether or not that is the case.
It's important to point out that the current No. 1 player in 2013, Jabari Parker, is currently playing in Lithuania with the USA's 17 and under national team. But, there will be a ton of other high level talent on hand and if Wiggins is able to dominate in a camp setting as high level as LBJ, then the argument that he's the best in the land regardless of class can really be advanced.
How does Walker stack up?
When Bonifay (Fla.) Holmes County star Chris Walker first hit the national scene as a freshman, he did so playing with the Alabama Challenge on the Nike circuit. However, the 6-foot-9 five-star power forward has spent the past couple of summers competing primarily on the Under Armour and Adidas circuits. Because he'll be in Vegas, we get to see Walker play against an entirely different group of players.
There's not any doubt that the ultra-athletic and lengthy forward is a big-time prospect. However, it will be nice to see him playing against a different group of prospects. Currently ranked as the No. 6 player in the Rivals150 and the No. 2 overall power forward, we are particularly interested in seeing a matchup between Walker and the nation's top ranked power forward, Julius Randle.
Lasting power for LaVine?
One of the biggest movers of the early spring and summer has been UCLA commitment Zach LaVine. The 6-foot-4 combo guard from Bothell (Wa.) High has authored some outstanding performances while moving all the way up from No. 140 to No. 40 in the Rivals150 for the class of 2013.
At LeBron, we'll be able to get another look at the lean and athletic scorer against a stacked deck of competition. The thought is that there is still room for LaVine to move up in the rankings, and how he performs in Las Vegas could go a long way in determining whether he's a legitimate contender to be moved up further, possibly into the five-star range.
What's with Barber?
At the NBPA Top 100 Camp, Anthony Barber was the best point guard not named Andrew Harrison. After a bit of a slow start on Nike's EYBL circuit, the 6-foot-2 point guard has been magnificent the past few months while moving himself into the national top 10 for the class of 2013.
While at NBPA, the jet-quick floor general from Hampton (Va.) High also went on record mentioning Alabama and Kansas as his favorites. More recently, Barber has reportedly cut his list down to just those schools. However, by text earlier in the week, Barber told Rivals.com that he had not cut his list down to just two schools. So, it will be good to actually speak with Barber in person and clear up where exactly he stands.
Perhaps the single most interesting prospect in the class of 2013 is 7-foot-5 center Mamadou Ndiaye. After watching the Senegalise center who plays at Huntington Beach (Calif.) Brethren Christian at the Pangos All-American and NBPA Top 100 camps in June, it's pretty clear that he should be ranked somewhere in the class of 2013.
Because he's such a unique prospect and impacts the game so differently than other players, Rivals.com decided to watch him more in July before moving him into the rankings. Guys his size have come and gone and many of them have done so without much impact beyond the high school level.
However, Ndiaye has a level of skill, strength and physicality that hasn't been seen very often in a guy his size with his youth. Should he be considered a potential game changer? Is he a project with upside? Or is he something in between? That's one of the answers we are hoping to find in Las Vegas.