A shot to impress at Portsmouth showcase

Rick Jackson, from Neumann-Goretti, helped his cause, the NBA scouting chief said.
Rick Jackson, from Neumann-Goretti, helped his cause, the NBA scouting chief said.
Posted: April 10, 2011

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - With the possibility of an NBA lockout this season, league scouting director Ryan Blake went out of his way to point out that last week's Portsmouth Invitational Tournament might have been the last time this year's crop of college seniors had a chance to impress scouts in a game setting.

"If there's a lockout, then there won't be an NBA summer league this summer," Blake said. "The 15 or 17 or so players who passed because of injury or some other reason probably should have been here."

Temple's Lavoy Allen was one of those who passed, pulling out the night before the competition began.

Four with Philadelphia connections were here, however, for the 59th annual PIT, and they showed their wares in front of NBA scouts and their European counterparts who dotted the stands at Churchland High's gymnasium.

How did they fare? Blake and Chris Ekstrand, in his 21st year as an NBA consultant and the former editor of the NBA draft media guide, broke it down.

Rick Jackson, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward from Syracuse who also played at Neumann-Goretti High, helped lead K&D Round's Landscaping into Saturday night's championship game.

Blake said Jackson helped his cause.

"He's competitive," Blake said. "He struggled at times to get his shot down, but he ran up and down the court well and did a good job getting position deep in the post."

"He clearly knows how to get position and carves out space," said Ekstrand, a Syracuse graduate who pointed out that fact before assessing. "He needs a counter move beyond that lefthanded jump hook. But he was a double-double guy in college, and he's done that here at the PIT too."

Also making Saturday's final was Villanova's Corey Stokes, a 6-5, 220-pound guard who played for CB Holland. Stokes had a game-high 21 points in his team's semifinal victory, but he took 18 shots. Blake and Ekstrand indicated Stokes' stock changed little.

"He's a cold-blooded shooter," Ekstrand said. "And he'll do or die being a shooter."

Ekstrand paralleled Stokes' chances of catching on with an NBA team to those of former Villanova forward Dante Cunningham.

"It only takes one team to like you for you to make it," he said.

Said Blake, "For guys like Stokes, it's a fine line, and it's all about getting that door opened a little bit wider."

Pitt guard Brad Wanamaker, who attended Roman Catholic, raised his stock, Blake said.

"He's a tough kid," Blake said. "He's going to get opportunities. Teams are going to bring him in for individual workouts to look at him."

Ekstrand also liked what he saw.

"He's not a point guard or a two," Ekstrand said. "He's a true hybrid. He gave his best effort on every single possession. He needs to develop a better shot and a better handle. But he's improved with every year in college, and teams like that. It shows he's willing to work."

Villanova guard Corey Fisher may have improved his stock most among the Philadelphia players. Then again, maybe he didn't. Blake and Ekstrand were split in their assessments.

As Blake said, Fisher "filled up the stat sheet" with eight points and 10 assists in his squad's first game and followed it with 10 points and seven assists the second night out.

"He really played to win and shared the ball," Blake said. "He took the right shots and he defended well."

Ekstrand said it was a necessity for Fisher, who is listed at 6-1 and 200 pounds, to play that way.

"Anybody his size had to become more of a point guard, because I've only seen one guy in the league his size be a true scorer, and that was Allen Iverson," Ekstrand said. "If you aren't Allen Iverson, you have to be more of a point guard. He made a statement here, but his impulse is still to shoot the ball. He needs to think pass first."

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