It did not register as much of a surprise that a team of some of the best 16- and 17-year-old basketball players in the United States was swiftly dismantled against older European competition at the 2014 adidas Eurocamp this past weekend in Treviso, Italy. The younger American players simply couldn't match the size and strength of their Euro counterparts.
The final margins were ugly. The Americans lost once by 10 points and twice by 34 points in their three games. The results never really mattered as much as the experience itself, though. This was a good opportunity for some of the best under-18 players in the country to see the world, take coaching from the likes of Lionel Hollins and Maurice Cheeks, and measure themselves against more experienced, professional competition.
As the summer AAU period pauses a bit before it gets going again in July, Eurocamp showcased some of the better recruits in the class of 2015 and 2016. Even if the games usually ended in blowouts, there were still some impressive individual performances across the three-day event.
Jaylen Brown breaks out
Brown is a 6'7, 220-pound wing from Alpharetta, Ga. who is currently ranked as the No. 8 player in the class of 2015 by ESPN. He has offers from Arizona, Kansas, Louisville, UCLA and plenty of others. His game draws comparisons to incoming Arizona freshman Stanley Johnson, and there is a sense that he could be an even better prospect.
Brown put in serious work at Eurocamp, asserting himself at the offensive end and establishing himself as the best player on the team. He drew rave reviews:
Jaylen Brown absolutely dominating early for US high schoolers. Looking like a future top-10 pick, maybe higher.— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) June 8, 2014
Jaylen Brown with first missed J in 5 attempts. If he really can shoot as well as it has looked these last 2 days he's a monster prospect— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) June 8, 2014
Brown finished with 15 points and eight rebounds on 4-of-11 shooting in the Americans' first game against France U-20, but he really broke out on the second day. Against a team largely consisting of draft-eligible professionals from Europe, Brown scored 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting in 27 minutes. He was a force getting to the foul line and impressed defensively, too.
Thon Maker proves his shooting touch is no exaggeration
Per Draft Express, Maker measured at 7-feet tall without shoes at the Nike Elite 100 camp last year. A player that size is almost always going to be placed in the frontcourt, but Maker made the case at Eurocamp that he truly belongs on the perimeter.
Thon Maker can really shoot the basketball, and he proved it in Italy. His touch from the outside is extremely unusual for a player his size and his age (he turned 17 in February).
I like Thon Maker but the KG comparisons are very lazy and aren't based on anything more than physical appearance. He's super skilled though— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) June 8, 2014
Maker continuing to show off his pure shot. Also willing to at least try to bang despite thin frame.— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) June 8, 2014
Even the gold standard for jump-shooting big men in the NBA like Chris Bosh and Serge Ibaka weren't this advanced at shooting from the perimeter at Maker's age. No one is going to be able to live up to comparisons like Kevin Durant and Kevin Garnett, but it's becoming clear that Maker is an extremely gifted and unique player. He's still too skinny, and it will likely stay that way for a long time, but his touch combined with his physical gifts makes him arguably the most intriguing high school prospect in the country.
Maker had 22 points on 10-of-17 shooting in the first game, and 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting in the second game. He struggled to find the ball in the third game, but that was always a product of his teammates being unable to feed him as much as anything else.
Dennis Smith was up-and-down
Smith is a 6'2 point guard out of North Carolina who is currently ranked as the No. 9 player in the class of 2016 by ESPN. NBADraft.net compared his athleticism to Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook before Eurocamp. There is some video evidence to prove he's a big-time athlete.
The coronation may have been a bit premature, though. Smith struggled the first two days of action before getting it in gear on day three with a team-high 14 points.
Smith is still just 16 years old and remains far from a finished product, which is only natural. Draft Express documented his uneven showing at Eurocamp:
A consensus top-20 recruit in the high school class of 2016, Smith got off to a slow start over the first two days, appearing a bit apathetic, making some poor decisions when attacking the rim, and struggling to handle pressure, but settled in nicely today. Competing with the sense of urgency he seemed to lack early on, Smith showed the ability to create space and probe the paint by changing speeds and being aggressive.
Smith has offers from Arizona, Kansas and Duke. You can bet he'll get plenty more.