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July 2, 2008

USA U18 trials: session one

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The USA Basketball U18 National Team Trials got under way Tuesday evening at the Washington Wizards practice facility in the Verizon Center. A mix of incoming college freshmen and 2009 prospects took the court, and Dominic Cheek made a statement as the top wing player during the first session.

With the players divided into three teams of six, Cheek scored 17 points during approximately 20 minutes of running time. He knocked down three 3-pointers, was productive on the offensive boards and passed the ball extremely well. Presently ranked No. 11 in the Rivals150, Cheek is putting some heavy pressure on the prospects just ahead of him in the top 10.

While Cheek was the top performer from the wing, Ryan Kelly stood out amongst the post players. He didn't take many shots, but the few shots he did take found the bottom of the net. Along with his confident and precise shooting, Kelly delivered a number of assists from the high post as a perfect complement to grinding low post player JaMychal Green. Green scored seven points and had the most physical presence on the blocks.

Yet to make a college decision, Kelly's school list still stands at nine schools - Georgetown, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wake Forest and Davidson. Kelly, the No. 17 ranked prospect in the Rivals150 has unofficial visited all nine schools and noted after practice that he felt all nine could be a good fit for him. The plan at this point is to trim the list to five schools at the end of July in preparation for official visits in the fall.

In other recruiting news from the trials, Ari Stewart is closely considering Oregon, Wake Forest, Xavier, Miami, Virginia and South Florida. His top desire is to play for a program with an up-tempo style of play. With head coach Bob McKillop of Davidson emphasizing a fast style of play during the practice, the athletic Stewart had his moments running the court and hitting the offensive glass. All six of his points during the scrimmage came at the rim.

Here is a quick rundown on the other players trying out for the USA U18 National Team:

Kemba Walker (Connecticut)- Established himself as the top point guard on the court with his aggressive and physical play. He got into the lane with regularity, displayed top-notch leadership qualities and knocked down a couple 3-pointers for his six points in the scrimmage.

Maalik Wayns (Villanova commitment)- Wayns matched up well with Walker, and in a sense is the Walker of the 2009 class. He has terrific strength with the basketball and has a burst of speed. He passed the ball well but didn't score during the scrimmage.

Malcolm Lee (UCLA)- Lee scored four points before suffering an injury during the late stages of the scrimmage. With only two true point guards trying out for the team, Lee ran the point for the third team. More suited for the shooting guard position, Lee didn't assert himself much by penetrating from the point guard position, but did finish with four points.

Lance Stephenson- Simply put, Stephenson had a tough day at the office. He couldn't get his shot to fall, managing only two points, didn't assert himself on the boards and turned the ball over at an alarming rate. Perhaps just trying to do too much, Stephenson played at a frenetic speed that just wasn't meshing with his teammates. He clearly was frustrated.

Travis Releford (Kansas)- Aggressively looking to penetrate and get his shot, Releford scored 10 points in the scrimmage. He was one of the top guards during the session, and he did a nice job balancing his aggressiveness within the structure of team play. Expect Releford to be a productive and stabilizing force for Kansas next year with his mature game.

Hollis Thompson (Georgetown commitment)- Thompson struggled at times with the physical play. He finished with two points in the scrimmage.

Matthew Humphrey (Oregon)- Humphrey stood out as an outside scoring threat, knocking down two 3-pointers and finishing with eight points.

Leslie McDonald (North Carolina commitment)- McDonald looked good in transition by both unselfishly passing the ball up the court and running the floor on the wing, getting his six points at the basket in transition.

Wesley Witherspoon (Memphis)- Witherspoon struggled shooting the ball from the field, but did manage four points from the free-throw line.

Reeves Nelson (UCLA commitment)- After seeing Nelson for the first time this spring/summer, it appears that he might just be getting too strong. He was very good on the defensive glass, but struggled to muster up anything offensively. He did get one baseline dunk for his two points.

Mason Plumlee (Duke commitment)- Plumlee was quite active around the basket. He gave opposing players difficulty with his size (he was the tallest player on the court). Plumlee rebounded the ball well, showed savvy passing the ball and scored six points.

Kenny Hall (Tennessee commitment)- Hall competed with energy on the boards and did a nice job finishing at the rim for eight points.

David Wear (North Carolina commitment)- Wear played with energy but only managed one bucket ,which came from behind the arc.

Travis Wear (North Carolina commitment)- Wear had moments where he stood out running the court. He had a scoring flurry of eight points late in the scrimmage.


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