LAS VEGAS – For five days, Las Vegas went from being the gathering place for various vices to the epicenter of AAU basketball (during the day, at least). With the Adidas Super 64 and the Fab 48, the majority of the best players and teams in the country descended on the desert for two of the summer’s best tournaments. The individual match-ups that took place at the Super 64 were unparalleled, while the Fab 48 featured plenty of top talent as well.
At the Super 64, the final four consisted of Indiana Elite, Dream Vision, Utah Pump N Run and Texas Assault. Behind the play of Jordan Loveridge, Utah Pump N Run defeated the Atlanta Celtics, Compton Magic and Michigan Mustangs in the tournament. EBC Elite made a run to the Elite Eight with upsets over Family First and DC Assault, while the Nor Cal Pharaohs also made a surprising run.
The Fab 48 was marred somewhat by two brawls, but the Cinderella stories by Wisconsin Swing and Team Breakdown to reach the Final Four were fun to watch. In the end, though, Ishmail Wainright and the KC 76ers rolled to the championship, dispatching of anyone in their path. The favorites heading into the event included the Oakland Soldiers, Belmont Shore, NJ Playaz and Mac Irvin Fire – all three were gone by the final eight, with the Soldiers and Playaz getting shocked in the playoff opener.
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Ishmail Wainright, 2013, KC 76ers: Arguably the most impressive overall performer of the week, Wainright led his team to a surprising Fab 48 title. The muscular junior has always been a great defender and energy guy, but he carried the 76ers offensively, including getting the upper hand on Jabari Parker in a head-to-head battle.
Shabazz Muhammad, 2012, Dream Vision: Muhammad had his slow games, but overall, he again showed why he is the best player in the class. He carried Dream Vision to the title game, getting baskets in a variety of ways. Simply unstoppable when going to the rim.
Andre Drummond, 2012, Connecticut Basketball Club: When Drummond is motivated or goes against another top player, he is outstanding. He beat Kaleb Tarczewski head-to-head, adding to his hit list amongst the top big men in the country.
Javan Felix, 2012, New Orleans Elite: With the point guard class down this year, the demand for someone like Felix becomes much higher – especially when he plays like he did this week. He was knocking down shots off screens and was also getting to the rim.
Chris McCullough, 2014, Team Scan 15s: Although many people got their first glimpse of McCullough this week, he is certainly a top-10 player in his class. He is long and athletic, and has a ceiling that is simply through the roof. Raw for now, but his name will be heard for a long time.
Brandon Ashley, 2012, Oakland Soldiers: Ashley has consistently been one of the most impressive players this summer, and this week was no different. He scored around the rim, ran the floor and showed a willingness to handle the ball and knockdown face-up jumpers.
Kaleb Tarczewski, 2012, New England Playaz: Didn’t get the upper hand against Andre Drummond, but he played well the rest of the week. Most of his points come on dunks or layups around the rim, but his defense, work ethic and rebounding ability bode well.
Buddy Hield, 2012, Kansas Pray and Play Players: Overshadowed slightly by Perry Ellis, Hield was the one that shined throughout the week. Hield is a big-time offensive player that can knock down shots from behind the arc or drive the lane and finish in impressive fashion.
Denzel Valentine, 2012, Michigan Mustangs: He wasn’t that impressive at the NBPA Top 100 camp in June, but Valentine has looked good in the two Adidas events in July. He knows how to handle the ball in traffic and uses his body exceptionally well when driving the lane.
Marcus Smart, 2012, Texas Assault: Smart consistently put the Assault on his back at both ends of the floor, and his energy and nonstop motor permeated the rest of the team en route to the semifinals. Smart is an outstanding defender who has steadily improved his shooting and ball-handling
Indiana Elite made a run to the Final Four, but no one in particular stood out overall. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera had his moments, while Jeremy Hollowell was also solid . . . Kuran Iverson is supremely talented, but his lack of interest on defense make some question his work ethic . . . With Drummond on the inside, Kris Dunn was able to make plays in transition and on the perimeter . . . For Belmont Shore, Katin Reinhardt continued to improve his point guard ability, while Grant Jerrett showed his versatile offensive game . . . New York guard Isaiah Whitehead knows how to make tough shots, plain and simple . . . Joe Rahon, the younger brother of San Diego State guard James Rahon, continues to impress. He can hit shots and run a team . . . Going up against Drummond, Coreontae DeBerry held his own defensively . . . Nate Britt again looked good, initiating offense and showing great body control in the lane . . . Kentucky native Taylor Barnette is fun to watch when his shot is falling; his range is unparalleled . . . Got my first glances at Grant Verhoeven and Christian Wood. Verhoeven is a very good defender and scores in the lane, while Wood needs room to grow but is certainly talented . . . One coach told me Chris Walker reminds him of a young Antonio McDyess . . . Charles Mitchell doesn’t have ideal size for a big man, but his hands and length make up for it . . . Mitchell's teammate, Chris Bolden, showed off an improved driving game to go with his knockdown shooting . . . 2013 forward Jordan Bell had 17 blocks in one game. That’s ridiculous . . . The attacking ability of Montay Brandon is impressive; if he gets a jumper, look out . . . One of the breakout players of the event was Jordan Loveridge, who led the Utah Pump N Run team to the semifinals – he knows how to score . . . Double Pump Elite’s Tyrone Wallace is quickly rising up the point guard ranks – he is 6-foot-4 and long . . . Texas shooter Phil Forte simply doesn’t miss . . . Team Breakdown didn’t have too many studs, but guard Brandon Channer used his strength and finishing ability to provide a boost . . . Slightly overshadowed by Chris Thomas’ antics, but Colorado commit Wesley Gordon is a big man who moves well without the ball and can finish . . . Sanjay Lumpkin is a tough matchup for guards at 6-foot-6, and also held his own against forward Gavin Thurman.
Photos: Kansas City Star (Wainwright), 247 Sports (Felix), Utah Pump N Run (Loveridge)