The USA Basketball 2004 Youth Development Festival began Thursday, and Rivals.com was there when the four regional teams practiced in the evening. The teams worked on skill development, various drills, offensive sets, and scrimmaged. Here are some observations about many of the nation's top prospects.
Martell Webster is back in action from his foot injury. Concerning his foot Webster said it was fine, but also said it was 85 to 90 percent. He looked strong during the practice. Towards the end, however, he did look to tire.
Brayden Bell can stroke it from three point range. He is vey skilled but not explosive athlete.
Andray Blatche displayed the mobility and scoring prowess that have people and Blatche talking about the NBA after one more year.
Greg Paulus shot the ball extremely well from behind the arc. He did struggle in defending Eric Price.
Eric Price scored from behind the line and made things happen in the lane a few times.
Vernon Macklin has a great build and is one of the longer players at the event. He is still struggling to finish against top competition.
Derrick Caracter is a man child who has the physique and talent to dominate. Most impressive was his stroke from behind the arc.
Shane Clark is an explosive athlete with very good length. His shot needs a lot of work, however.
Brandon Costner has a very smooth lefty shooting stroke from behind the arc.
Eric Devendorf handled the ball well, playing quite a bit of point guard during the practice. The smooth athlete does have an awkward release on his jumper that produces a sideways rotation on the ball, but he still puts up big numbers.
DeAndre Thomas looks to be losing a little weight and looked good during his practice. He has very good hands and feet.
Julian Wright looked very athletic and was active on defense. He has the length and quickness to guard a multitude of positions. Offensively, he attacked the basket nicely off the dribble.
Bobby Frasor was good with the ball, but his jumper was not falling.
Pierre Niles has an impressive physique and displayed legitimate small forward skills.
Brandan Wright stood out as having the length and athleticism to play above everyone else on the court. He does need to assert himself more as a scorer.
Louis Williams & Mike Mercer are as athletic as any high school guards. They repeatedly got into the lane and created scoring opportunities. Occasionally, their game does get a little too far towards the risky without the reward.
Richard Hendrix moved well on the court and was efficient around the basket. Matched up against Wright, he did look small at times.
A.J. Abrams can really shoot the ball. He also made some nice passes in the open court, but he struggled a couple time initiating the offense against pressure when he was running the point.
Official game action begins Friday morning with Rivals.com in attendance. Full rosters and more information can be found at www.usabasketball.com.