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March 31, 2014

McDonald's game: Practice

THE RIVALS150: Class of 2014 - Class of 2015

CHICAGO -- The first day of practice at the McDonald's All-American game was actually the second. However, Monday was the first day media could be in attendance and report on the event and both the East and the West delivered with pretty crisp passes. Because they practice side by side, it is hard to see everything that players do and there can be varying opinions on who excelled depending on when they were looking at each court. That withstanding, Rashad Vaughn was certainly among the standouts and led a strong group of wings.

Wings have their way

Already the No. 7 player in the class of 2014, it isn't like Rashad Vaughn really has anything to prove. However, the UNLV-bound shooting guard sure looked like he was determined to have a good practice on Monday. The 6-foot-5 '2' guard from Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep had the steadiest day of anybody.

Vaughn missed time during the season with a knee injury and struggled some with loss of explosion before getting shut down for half of December and January to heal. He looks pretty much 100 percent healthy and he was one of several wings who performed well. Vaughn showed little trouble shooting out to the NBA three-point line. He defended at a high level and he looked to be the most adept of any wing when it came to creating off the dribble.

There's no question that the other wings were competing as well. Fresh off of his fourth straight state title, Arizona-bound Stanley Johnson was playing well. He defended, played extremely physical and was shooting the ball pretty well. The No. 3 player in 2014 just doesn't take any plays, much less days, off, and it seemed to visibly frustrate a few others during practice.

On the West with Vaughn and Johnson, Duke-bound Grayson Allen and Kentucky-bound Devin Booker both had good moments shooting the ball and have good size for shooting guards. Booker's shot is a little more crisp, while Allen has a little pop in his legs and is a pretty good defender.

On the East side, Justise Winslow was impressive with his hustle and defense. He is a high-level athlete who can really move his feet, takes pride in shutting his opponent down and he will crash the glass. He has functional athleticism in that he can take a hit and still finish or rise. In many ways, he has some Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to his game.

Future foe Theo Pinson had nice flashes alongside Winslow. The North Carolina commit is quick -- even in a setting with several other impressive wings -- and he has the ability to be a defensive stopper as well. Pinson sometimes over dribbles a little, but he can legitimately create for himself going right or left off the bounce.

Turner remains undecided

Myles Turner sat down to discuss his recruitment on Monday. Turner hasn't set a decision date. He understands he has many high-level coaches waiting on his decision, but he isn't going to be rushed and will not to commit to naming either a leader or even a group of schools that may have edged their way out front.

On the floor, Turner had a pretty solid day. He continues to get stronger and does a good job on both sides of the floor. He can score pretty consistently out to 17 feet, he finished well around the rim, blocked some shots and did an effective job on the glass.

More practice notes

Current No. 1 Jahlil Okafor had a very strong day. The center was all business in his hometown and very active. UCLA-bound Thomas Welsh did a pretty good job of holding his ground and looked like he belonged with the other elite bigs. However, matched up against the seven-foot and 240 pounder, Okafor was having a great deal of success scoring the ball. Given that he doesn't get many chances to play against that type of size, that he was so successful said a lot. He's not giving up his top spot without a fight.

Another hometown player like Okafor, Kentucky-bound Tyler Ulis represented Chicago well. He isn't the biggest point guard around, but he has gotten stronger and is a real leader on the floor. His first step and overall quickness are tremendous and he doesn't seem scared to go up against anybody. Based on his Monday play, No. 33 in the country looks to be a bit on the low side for him.

For the purposes of practice, the West has had to move Emmanuel Mudiay off the ball. Those times where he did get matched up with the other West point guards like Ulis or North Carolina-bound Joel Berry, he was able to go wherever he wanted and his ability to either beast opposing guards physically or beat them with changes of pace is impressive. Often times, he found himself matched up with Vaughn and the two really got after each other.

First of all, Karl Towns looks to be a bit more athletic than the last time we saw him. He's always run pretty well, but Towns was making a few more plays at and above the rim than we've seen in the past. Offensively, he can trail the break and hit jumpers and he is quite skilled. When he operates in the post, he really has a high skill level and an arsenal of moves and counters. At times, though, he settled too easily for the deep jumper and he had some defensive struggles.

Another player with a sound and solid performance when we watched was Kevon Looney. He rebounded, made good decisions and showed that he can stretch the floor a little bit against other big men. He should be able to help right away at UCLA next year.

Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.



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