Cassidy's Takeaways: Day 1 of the Iverson Classic
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Friday at the Iverson All-Star Classic featured an afternoon scrimmage and an evening skills competition. The top prospects in the 2021 class competed in both and discussed various topics in their downtime. Rivals.com’s Rob Cassidy was on hand for everything and provided his takeaway from the day that was in Memphis.
2023 Rankings: Top 30
NOLAN HICKMAN WON’T BE UNCOMMITTED FOR LONG
One of the top performers in Friday’s scrimmage, Nolan Hickman drew audible reactions from NBA scouts gathered in the bleachers. He managed to stand out of a pack that featured a handful of highly ranked prospects by creating the dribble, dropping effective pocket passes, playing tenacious defense on the perimeter, where he blocked a pair of shots. What he said following the workout was every bit as intriguing as his play on the floor, as the former Kentucky commit announced he plans to make a decision on his college future next week.
“It’s going to happen right after this event,” Hickman said. “As soon as I get back to the crib, I am going to talk with my family, pray about it and then come out with my commitment right away.”
Hickman has not named a list of finalists but says a number of programs have been in recent contact since he backed off his commitment to Kentucky on May 2.
“Honestly, a lot of people have been hitting me up and it’s hard to cut my list down,” he said “It’s nice that I’m wanted, though. I’ve talked to Auburn, UCLA, Arizona State, Gonzaga and Washington lately.”
Hickman expanded most on his conversations with Auburn and UCLA and seems high on both programs as he heads toward his announcement. That said, he didn’t tip his hand much on where he might be leaning.
IOWA STATE SIGNEE IMPRESSES NBA VET
Iowa State commit Tyrese Hunter may not boast the length or reputation of some of the other guards at the event, but 12-year NBA veteran and Iverson Classic coach Bonzi Wells was incredibly high on the future Cyclone.
Wells spent the afternoon referring to Hunter as “Gameface,” and pausing his toughness. The four-star guard has a knack for getting to the rack and showed an ability to finish through hard contact on Friday, converting a handful of and-ones. Hunter was as hard nosed as any guard at the event and even challenged 7-foot-1 center Chet Holmgren at the rim a time or two.
WATSON IMPROVES HIS STOCK
The future Bruin has been one of the most consistently effective players in practice this week, and flashed some range to go along with his length, athleticism and highlight-reel dunking ability. Watson also showed some defensive versatility, holding a handful of top prospects in check. The Bruin-to-be attributes his improvement to a boost in confidence that has taken place over the last calendar year.
“A year ago, I might have been intimidated to guard some guys of this stature,” Watson said after Friday’s scrimmage. “Now, I’m not intimidated at all. Now I realize I am one of these guys. I can guard one through five.”
HOLMGREN SHINES ON DEFENSE
No.1 overall prospect Chet Holmgren was somewhat quiet on the offensive end during Friday’s scrimmage but was the best defender on the floor, shining as rim protector from start to finish.
Holmgren was challenged both at the rim and on the perimeter by a number of highly-rated prospects, and conceded just one bucket. There is no better rim-protector in the country, as the athletic 7-foot-1 center significantly changes the shots he fails to block. The fact that the Gonzaga commit can completely change a game in which he isn’t scoring is one of the reasons he sits atop the Rivals150. Holmgren, who is able to defend stronger players in the post without fouling, blocked more than five shots in a short scrimmage.
YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU MIGHT SEE IN MEMPHIS
Memphis-born rapper NLE Choppa emerged from the bleachers in the third quarter of the 24K Showcase game, which was played prior to Friday’s skills competition. The 18-year-old artist removed his jewelry, was given a uniform and checked into the game. He finished with a handful of points and was loudly cheered by the hometown crowd. It should be noted that the rapper wasn’t exactly closely guarded, but the situation seemed totally unplanned and injected a significant level of energy into the building.