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March 29, 2011

What we learned: West squad edition

MORE: What we learned: East squad

CHICAGO - There are rarely any significant revelations that come out of the McDonald's All American Game practices. Final insights on prospects are gathered, however, before the Rivals150 is tweaked one last time. After three practice sessions and a scrimmage, Austin Rivers has left a strong lasting impression.

Austin Rivers (Duke)- It has always been known that Rivers is one of the best scorers in the 2011, but at the practices this week, Rivers has looked like one of the best shooters in the country. The trick for Rivers appears to be improved shot selection. When Rivers takes on balance shots in rhythm, he goes from being a volume shooter to being an efficient scorer.

Anthony Davis (Kentucky)- Davis has only lengthened the divide between himself and the rest of the big men in the country. There have been concerns that Davis' lack of strength could be a significant issue in college and in the NBA. Certainly Davis will only get better as he gets stronger, but he has the length, basketball IQ and skill level to be an impact player anytime, anywhere.

Branden Dawson (Michigan State)- There might be a certain ceiling on Dawson because of his skill level with the basketball. Regardless, you can always count on Dawson making an impact on the game with his physical and competitive approach to the game. His defensive versatility, explosiveness and rebounding ability make him an ideal third to fourth option player on a winning team.

Myck Kabongo (Texas)- There is no question that Kabongo will be an excellent college point guard. He has tremendous leadership abilities and brings a positive energy to the court with him. Scoring isn't his forte, but he pushes the tempo, integrates his team and defends with the best of them.

Marquis Teague (Kentucky)- Clearly the most physically gifted of all the point guards in the 2011 class, the jury is still out on whether or not Teague has the intangibles to make his team better than the sum of its parts. I do know that Coach Calipari is eager to develop such a talented point guard in that department.

Adonis Thomas (Memphis)- Thomas has taught us that he is spending tons of time in the gym working on his shot. In every setting here in Chicago, Thomas has shot the ball well both off the catch from three and in the midrange off the dribble. Along with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Thomas has improved his stock as much as any prospect here.

Kyle Wiltjer (Kentucky)- Wiltjer has proved he is as skilled as any post prospect in the 2011 class. He is not an athlete, but he is putting on bulk and can stretch the defense as much as any big man in the class. Pencil him in as an unique stretch five-man that Calipari will have the pleasure of figuring out how to integrate into his Dribble Drive offense.

Cody Zeller (Indiana)- Athletic and skilled, Zeller has shown a refreshing toughness in the practices. He has an instinct for where the ball is going to be, and he chases down with agility and strength. A blocked shot is no deterrent to his effort but only a new rebounding opportunity.

LeBryan Nash (Oklahoma State)- He doesn't play with the grit that fellow small forward Mike Gilchrist plays with, but Nash has further displayed that he is one of the most naturally talented wing prospects in the country. The game comes extremely easy to him, and sometimes you wonder if that ease works against him at the end of the day.

Amir Williams (Ohio State)- Big men typically develop later than the perimeter players, and it looks like Williams is hitting a positive stage in his development. He has improved physical strength to go along with game impacting length.

Khem Birch (Pittsburgh)- A super athlete, Birch struggled at times in the half court offense. When it comes to rebounding and blocking shots, though, Birch is as good as the top big men in the 2011 class.

Wayne Blackshear- Unfortunately for Blackshear, he suffered a shoulder injury in Monday's practice. Until then, however Blackshear proved he is as physical as any wing in his class and is always ready to take on a challenge.




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