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August 5, 2012

Adidas Nations: Stars shine on Saturday

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. - The 2012 finale of the Adidas Nations program continued Saturday in Garden Grove.

Vonleh leads USA Red 2014 start

Team USA Red has streaked out to a 3-0 start behind successive dominant performances by 2014's No. 3 player, Noah Vonleh. Vonleh is leading the event with 22 points per game on 59 percent shooting from the field while also grabbing a dozen rebounds per game, blocking shots and sharing the ball. Vonleh has finished at the rim all weekend and also has averaged more than eight free-throw attempts per game by attacking the paint from inside and out and getting transition buckets.

Guiding Don McLean's Club from the point has been Emmanuel Mudiay. A physically imposing point guard, Mudiay combines his size with dynamic athleticism and ability. When he keeps it simple and plays in straight lines, 'Mudi' is a guy who is one of the top long-term point guard prospects in the world. Not only can he run the show and score the ball, Mudiay also rebounds and blocks shots with the big fellas while also possessing the type of shut-down defensive ability which can cause nightmares for opposing floor generals. When he's locked in, there are very few shot callers you take over him.

After having missed the majority of the summer with a bad ankle-sprain, Cliff Alexander made his return on Saturday. And after a slow start in the morning, Big Cliff started to get it going as he began attacking the rim and pursuing shot-blocking attempts with reckless abandon. He's not back in game shape yet by any means, but Alexander looked good Saturday night.

Martin strong for USA Blue 2013

Team USA Blue 2013 didn't get started until Sautrday but picked up a pair of wins to finish the day undefeated. The standout performer for Reggie Theus' squad on Saturday was Louisiana big man Jarell Martin. The five-star power forward went for 13 points early in the day before coming up with a big 20-point performance in his squad's OT win over Latin America. Martin consistently kept plays alive in the paint and made efficient use of his possessions, converting 12 of 19 field goal attempts and averaging 10 free-throw attempts per game.

Teaming with Martin on the interior, Jermaine Lawrence has a great frame and certainly has big-time ability. The five-star had it on display in the morning game on Saturday as he filled the stat sheet with 18 points and 11 rebounds. However, Lawrence struggled some from the field and didn't commit himself to the glass during the second session as he did earlier in the day.

In the backcourt, it's hard not to love the long-term potential of four-star UCLA commitment Zach LaVine. He's a long, slender, highly skilled, savvy, athletic guard with playmaking ability and a sweet stroke. He's deceptively explosive, makes silky-smooth high-level plays and didn't get enough touches on the day. As he fills out and gets stronger, LaVine is a guy who will continue to enhance his already lofty reputation.

Walker has big day for USA Red 2013

After losing their opening game on Friday night to Australia, Eddie Johnson's USA 2013 Red Squad bounced back with two wins on Saturday to improve their record to 2-1 entering Sunday. Five-star Chris Walker has been spectacular at times over the course of the first few days.

Walker has a Kevin Garnett type combination of size and athleticism. He's still a little raw, but he's a freak athlete with top-flight potential as a complimentary player at the highest level similar to a guy like Marcus Camby, who has done quite well for himself. Through three games, Walker has averaged 16 points and 10 boards while shooting 21-of-31 from the field. Saturday night, Walker erupted for 25 points and 13 rebounds.

Walker wasn't the only player impressing for the USA Red 2013 squad. Four-star wing Zakarie Irvin provided a steady scoring presence from the wing and has the ability to score at a high-level. Power forward Jordan Mickey was impressive on Saturday using a smooth inside/outside scoring game to get into double-figures in both games. Mickey has a high ceiling because he possesses a frontcourt skill set which will allow him to take his game in any number of directions going forward. Rivals150 wing Byron Zeigler made athletic plays all over the floor in his squad's blowout win over Asia on Saturday night. He piled up rebounds, steals, blocks, and on numerous occasions snuck along the baseline to finish above the rim.

Quick hitters and impressions

Team Australia has been a big story as the Aussies have sprinted out to a 3-0 record behind a balanced attack led by top prospects Ben Simmons and Dante Exum. At about 6-foot-8, Simmons is long, athletic forward with a high IQ game that raises the level of his teammates' play. He gets all over the glass and scores the ball consistently from inside and out. The 2015 prospect has been impressive during performances on American soil. Meanwhile, Exum is in many ways a back-court version of Simmons. He's a 6-foot-5 long-framed athlete possessing a versatile skill-set which allows him to impact the game in a variety of ways and on both ends of the floor.

Purely skilled, Brannen Greene is flat out a threat to score the basketball any time crosses midcourt. He's going to put a lot of points in the book at Kansas. Greene scored 18 points on 6-10 shooting to lead USA 2013 Blue to a 76-67 win over Africa on Saturday morning before sitting in the night game with a minor injury.

Shaqquan Aaron has the type of natural talent that givse him one of the highest ceilings of all the back-court players at camp. In addition to his ability with the rock in his hands, Aaron's supreme length, break-away speed, and explosive athleticism remind of Eddie Jones.

Stanley Johnson is a powerfully-built wing with tremendous athletic ability who attacks the basket with authority and then looks to finish up top with force. A runaway train in transition, Johnson scores the ball in bunches. He's always a threat to blow up the gym with an explosive dunk over a defender as he did on numerous occasions Saturday for USA Red 2014.

Four-star point guard Kaleb Joseph from the class of 2014 has done a nice job playing a facilitating role in the backcourt. He's taking good care of the basketball and creating off the dribble to set up teammates for scoring opportunities while also using his length and quickness to guard the ball on the defensive end.

In the USA Blue 2013 backcourt, both Nate Britt and Nigel Williams-Goss are guys with a lot of ability with the ball in their hands. On Saturday, though, the pair seemed to struggle with getting their squad into an offensive flow.

A long athletic energy forward, Jordan Bell was impressive in the night game. Bell was making several key plays down the stretch and finished the game with 13 points on 5-6 shooting while scooping six boards, blocking a few shots, and winning loose balls.

USA Blue 2014 split their first two games to enter Sunday with a record of 1-1. Indiana commit Tre Lyles has been his club's best player through two games with his free-flowing face-up game. Justise Winslow, Romelo Trimble, and Craig Victor have all been impressive in stretches. Headline big man Jahlil Okafor has been quiet through two games, averaging 6 points (4-14 shooting) and 6 boards, while New York City guard Isaiah Whitehead has been inconsistent getting his club into a rhythm while running the point.

Look for things to heat up on Sunday as the U.S. teams finally get to play each other. After sitting out the first two days with injury, 2014 wing Theo Pinson is hoping to give it a go on Sunday.

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