COLUMBUS, Ohio - Things heated up early at the McDonald's All-American Game practices on Monday. With the West squad running through drills and going over their offense, the East team was the focus as they went five-on-five against each other. While many players were good, the best of the best was unsigned forward C.J. Leslie.
Here is a look at how each member of the East squad performed on Monday morning at the McDonald's All-American Game practice. The team went five-on-five for about an hour after working on plays and drills with head coaches Norm Persin and Dru Joyce looking on.
C.J. Leslie: He played with as much motivation and energy as we have seen out of him in the past three years. Leslie was motivated and it allowed his natural talent to show through. He scored around the rim with his athleticism, attacked the glass, and even hit from deep by knocking down jump shots. When he wanted to convert around the rim, there was simply no one that could stop him. When Leslie plays like this, there are very few players in the country that can match up with him. Overall, his entire skill set, which did include some effort and blocked shots on the defensive end, made him the best player for the East on Monday.
Perry Jones: If Leslie wasn't the most impressive player, then Jones was. It is downright scary how athletic he is for his size. Jones threw down a few very impressive tip dunks, soared for rebounds, blocked shots, and then even added some face-up jump shots, including one that came from three-point range. When it comes to run and jump athletes, there isn't a better one in this class than Jones who at 6 feet 11 looked physically imposing against the other big guys.
Tobias Harris: A lot has been made of a rivalry between Harris and fellow New Yorker Jayvaughn Pinkston. The two of them had a chance to go at each other on Monday, and it was Harris who clearly, clearly got the better end of the battle. Harris was knocking down threes, scoring off the dribble, and showing his basketball IQ to make plays for his teammates. Quite simply Harris dominated Pinkston when they were matched up, and looked as impressive as almost anyone.
Kendall Marshall: If there is one point guard who every big man should want on his team, it would be Marshall. Even in a practice setting he just makes all the right plays. He knows how to pass the ball, when to pass the ball, and how to finish when around the rim. The growth area for Marshall remains his outside jumper, but still he did hit one today when left open. When it comes to being a pure point guard, Marshall fits the bill.
Jared Sullinger: As always Sullinger was his typical self. He made plays down low, rebounded the ball, and was solid fundamentally. Sullinger didn't get a ton of touches - as is expected in an all-star game setting - but when he did get them he usually converted. He had one spin move off the right block where Perry Jones was sent searching for what had just happened to him, and also scored a driving layup with his left hand after beating Jones off the dribble. Overall it was just a solid as usual day for Sullinger.
Kyrie Irving: Another super-solid player, Irving was off with his shooting on Monday, but he did everything else well. He scored on a nice bank shot, was a good defender with active hands, and did a solid job of running an offense and getting the ball down low to his big guys. Aside from his shooting, which is usually no problem for Irving, he needs to show awareness off the ball. When he didn't have the ball in his hands, he didn't have any impact on the action.
Reggie Bullock: While Irving might have been off, Bullock was flat out getting buckets. The North Carolina signee was absolutely filling it up from the perimeter on Monday. He didn't get off a ton of shots, but when he did they were usually good. He still needs to do something besides just take deep jumpers because he is too talented to just settle, but on Monday he was knocking them in.
Deshaun Thomas: On Monday Thomas played mostly at the power forward position as opposed to small forward, and he did what he does well. Thomas knocked in a few jump shots from deep and scored around the rim on offensive rebounds. Thomas also scored on one pull-up jumper which has been a growth area for him. Still, he struggled some on the defensive end, and his handle could use some work as he tries to take his game to the wing full-time.
Jelan Kendrick: Overall it was a fairly nondescript day for Kendrick. He didn't do anything to stand out, but at the same time wasn't really on the receiving end of any business either. Kendrick needs to get stronger, but still his size and length allowed him to get a few buckets going to the rim. Not too much from Kendrick, but still the potential was very easy to see.
Josh Selby: Some of the things that Selby does can be completely unguardable. The elevation he gets on his pull-up jumper is impressive, and because of his beat-you-off-the-bounce ability, it is so tough to challenge him on the shot. Selby at times however simply seemed to be on the court taking shots, and didn't look to get any of his teammates involved. It was a solid day for Selby, but he was behind some other point guards in terms of how he created ball movement and solid offense.
Joe Jackson: Like Selby, Jackson is a dynamic athlete who can be explosive with his athleticism and quickness. Also like Selby, Jackson at times can get shot-happy, and doesn't really fit the bill of a true point guard. Beyond the lack of shot selection, Jackson didn't do a great job on the defensive end of the floor, but still he showed some of the glimpses that make him such an explosive scoring guard.
Jayvaughn Pinkston: Monday was a day that Pinkston quite honestly would like to forget. Not only did Harris clearly get the best of him, but Pinkston just couldn't seem to get into the flow. He tried several perimeter jumpers without much success, and got some of his shots blocked down low by taller and more athletic players. Pinkston has a ton of strength and plays hard, but on Monday he clearly struggled.