UPDATE: (9:38 PT) Wiltjer and the Oakland Soldiers came away victorious this morning in their opening game against Alabama Challenge by a score of 83-66.
Ever since the whirlwind of commitments earlier in the spring, Gonzaga news has slowed down considerably. The summertime is usually full of recruiting news and evaluations but with a full roster and limited scholarships, it has become pretty clear who the main guys are on the radar even though some other names do continue to pop up. What has been extremely fun to watch is the progress of Gonzaga's big time 2011 prospect, Kyle Wiltjer and his AAU team, the Oakland Soldiers. Wiltjer has been without a doubt one of the hottest players on the circuit this summer and the Soldiers are easily one of, if not the, best team in the country right now. They have proven that once again as they are one of the qualifiers for this week's Nike Peach Jam. The Peach Jam features the best of the best from the AAU ranks and has become one of the premier summertime events.
Since the Peach Jam is one of the best tournaments running, it means that Wiltjer and the Soldiers will face some of the best competition and it all kicks off very, very early tomorrow morning as they will be taking on the Alabama Challenge. The Challenge features a pair of 2011 star Alabama commits in Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper. Both Cooper and Randolph stand at around 6'5''-6'6'' and will assuredly be key components in the future of the Crimson Tide under head coach Anthony Grant. They will give Oakland some serious competition as the two squads tip at 9 AM ET. The day doesn't end there for the Soldiers as they will be back in the gym at 8:30 PM to take on Wisconsin Playground. WP features one of the best 2012 prospects in the nation in wing player J.P. Tokoto. As a junior-to-be, Tokoto already has offers from Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee....basically he can go wherever he wants!
Pool play in the Peach Jam continues through Wednesday morning and then the knockout stage begins which will take only the top two seeds from each pool. You can find out more about the Peach Jam here and check our site for updates throughout the day.
The Peach Jam isn't the only basketball being played right now in the states. As we speak, some of our favorite former Zags are doing all they can to make an NBA roster. Read on to find out more...
Let's start with the guy that has nothing to worry about. Detroit's Austin Daye, who was selected by the club in the first round of last year's NBA Draft, is back for another session of the summer leagues and I would say he has been outstanding. While Daye was always a player that caused plenty of debate among Gonzaga fans, one thing that can't be questioned is his raw talent and astonishing versatility. He has shown that thus far in the NBA Summer Leagues which netted him this review from ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz:
I'm not sure what's more fun -- watching Austin Daye create for himself, or for others. Daye missed 12 of his 20 shots from the floor on Saturday, but he was clearly the best player on the court for the second consecutive game. Daye sees the floor with clarity and and is forever a half-second ahead of the defense, which is an eternity in basketball. He can deliver a pinpoint pass -- no matter how fast he's moving or how fierce the pressure -- and is aware of his teammates' strengths and weaknesses.
This is a tremendous review in my estimation. Many people labeled Daye as a prima donna at GU which, at times, was true. His basketball savvy and IQ, however, never came under attack and it is great to see him flourish as a playmaker where he definitely fits best on the court. His role in Detroit thus far has been limited as he is still working to add size but I see nothing but good things ahead for Austin. Daye and the Pistons next take the court in Vegas tomorrow at 3 PM Pacific to take on the Sacramento Kings.
While Daye has little to worry about, there are three other Gonzaga prospects that have to do some work to make an NBA roster. Two of them are in their second stint at the summer league in Vegas as Jeremy Pargo and Micah Downs hope this audition secures them a spot on an NBA team. Pargo also participated in the Orlando summer league where he was among the leaders in assists per game and sunk a game winner at the buzzer to lift his Charlotte team to a win. In Vegas, he'll suit up for the Minnesota Timberwolves alongside guys like Jonny Flynn, Wayne Ellington, Wes Johnson, and many other college stars. The T-Wolves kick off their summer league tomorrow against the San Antonio Spurs at 3:30 PM Pacific. Jeremy impressed many scouts last season and did great things in Israel so it is well with the realm of possibility to see him land on a squad but he'll need a strong showing in Vegas.
The next former Zag that will be lacing them up this week in the NBA Summer League is Micah Downs. Downs will be playing with the Bucks in Vegas; here is a good preview of Downs' chances this summer from ESPN's Arnovitz:
Micah Downs: Downs impressed last summer on the Suns Summer League squad, proving himself to be one of those can-do-a-little-bit-of-everything forward tweeners. After an efficient season over in Europe, Downs is back in Las Vegas for another audition.
Downs has always been a guy I have loved to watch because his development astounded me. He was labeled selfish in high school and brought a bad reputation with him when he transferred from Kansas but he absolutely blossomed into a multi-tool guy at Gonzaga and proved a lot of his doubters wrong. I felt like he was very close last year to making a squad because he can do so many things well and I really hope he can show improvement from last year and find his way to an NBA roster. The Bucks will be taking on the Dallas Mavericks tomorrow at 5 PM Pacific.
Last but not least is last year's WCC player of the year, Matt Bouldin. Bouldin was picked up right after the draft by the Chicago Bulls and he is definitely a guy many scouts will have their eye on. Labeled as a do-it-all guard, Matt had a nice workout period but fell short of hearing his name called in the draft. He'll have to show that he can handle the pace of an NBA game and can play consistently against competition more athletic than him. His struggles against tough, quick defenders has been well documented so it would be great to see him come out and show that he can perform on both ends of the court in an NBA-style game.
When Matt was drafted by the Bulls, the buzz was that some major free agents were going to land in Chicago. With the new big three assembled in Miami, the Bulls have done a great job shoring up their holes by adding Carlos Boozer and recently Kyle Korver. They have also offered JJ Redick a contract but the Magic are likely to match and keep him in Orlando. There is definitely room for a player like Bouldin on the Bulls, but with such aggressive free agency movements, space will be limited. The good thing is that there are scouts from every team in attendance. While it'd be great to see him land with the Bulls, he has options in the other teams as well. Matt's first game will be Tuesday at 1 PM Pacific against the Denver Nuggets.
Keep checking back in for more on the Nike Peach Jam and NBA Summer League!