Updated: Aug 5, 2021
Minneapolis, Minnesota was the site of the 2019 NCAA Final Four, coupled with that, the NBA and USA Basketball launched initiatives to highlight some of the future stars of the game both domestically and abroad. USA Basketball invited 60 of the top rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors. While the NBA Academies brought in some of their best talent, comprising four teams Africa, China, Latin American and Global to compete with and against each other for four days during Final Four Weekend. USA Basketball had several highly ranked players from all three classes while the NBA Academies showcased players that are being recruited by some of the top Universities in the country.
USA Basketball |R.J. Hampton | 6’5 170lbs Guard | 18yrs C/O 2020
R.J. is an elite athlete with long arms and an extreme desire to compete on the defensive end. He can create for himself off the dribble and finishes around the rim with ease.
USA Basketball |Nimari Burnett | 6’3 190lbs Guard | 17yrs C/O 2020
This was the third time I have seen Nimari in person, I highlighted up during the High School season when I saw him at the Tark Classic in Las Vegas. He is an explosive athlete who is quick off his feet, he can get to the rack with limited resistance and is a streaky shooter if he is knocking down shots from the perimeter he is practically unguardable.
USA Basketball |Isaiah Todd | 6’10 195lbs Forward/Center | 17yrs C/O 2020
Isaiah displayed a great ability to alter shots at the rim without fouling the offensive players. He is also a modern big, who can cover a lot of ground and defend the perimeter. On the offensive side of the ball, he gets a lot of his opportunities from running the floor, put-back offensive rebounds and dump-offs from the guards.
USA Basketball | Jalen Green | 6’6 185lbs Guard | 17yrs C/O 2020
Jalen has the total package of size and length, coupled with the ability to dribble, shoot, pass, rebound and defend multiple positions all at a high level. He seems to be floating on the court with the gracious way he moves but that can quickly turn violent with a thunderous dunk in traffic. He seems poised for the next level and as college is only one year away.
USA Basketball | Evan Mobley | 7’0 200lbs Forward/Center | 17yrs C/O 2020
Evan was by the best player in the gym, his ability to be disruptive on the defensive in the paint, skill to switch out and defend on the perimeter. He also has the ability to pull down a rebound push in transition, create for himself off the bounce and finish at the rim to go along with one of the highest basketball IQ’s I have seen on a kid his age. To say it plainly, He’s the Real Deal!
NBA Academy Africa | Babacar Faye | 6’7 SG/SF | C/O 2021 (Senegal)
Babacar stood out to me, not because of showstopping highlights but more because of the way he moved on the court. He just seemed to be a little different compared to everyone else on his team. He has extreme length and once he puts on a little weight and continues to grow and become more confident he will be a player to be reckoned with.
NBA Academy Africa | Joseph Nelly | 6'10 Power Forward | C/O 2020 (Nigeria)
Joseph is a tough hard-nosed big that bangs on the interior to pull down offensive and defensive rebounds. He is also a very good rim protector that does his best to challenge and alter shots on a regular basis. He runs the floor well and gets out on rim-run opportunities and has surprisingly good hands.
NBA Academy Global | Li Tianrong | 6’7 SG/SF | 17yrs C/O 2019 (China)
Li is an elite wing that can create off the dribble and has the ability to score at all three levels. He can knock down the three off pin-downs or pull-ups. He likes to push in transition to put pressure on the defense and score before they get set. He is being recruited by several high-level Division I programs and I'm sure he'll make a name for himself once he is stateside.
NBA Academy Latin America | Vescovi Vannet Santiago | 6’2 PG | C/O 2019 (Uruguay)
This is my fourth or fifth time seeing Vescovi this season and every time he steps on the floor you know what you're going to see. He's going to play hard on both sides of the floor, he'll knock down big shots and if you turn your head he might just catch a body. The kid is a stud and I look forward to watching his development when he attends college in the states next year.
Overall my time in Minneapolis was great, I had the chance to mix and mingle with some of the best college basketball programs in the country and also was able to get eyes on the best up and coming young talent in the world. USA Basketball and NBA Academy put on a great showcase and I look forward to attending next year when the festivities will be in my backyard in Atlanta. Until next time.......