WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Chris Paul has no qualms about leaking trade secrets. The Hornets star holds (and funds) the CP3 Elite Guard Camp at a YWCA here in his hometown each summer -- this year he invited 17 of the country's best college players, and a North Carolina-heavy roster of 26 high schoolers -- with the express purpose of teaching them the tricks he uses as a point guard the NBA, because, he says, he wishes someone would have done it for him before he got to the league. While we watched Paul and Warriors rookie Stephen Curry, a former camper, hold court with a group of 16- and 17-year-old prospects on Saturday, Scout.com recruiting guru Dave Telep said, "Chris feels like it's his responsibility to do this for these kids -- and who else out there can you say that about?"
Paul has already seen the information be used against him. He told me the story of how he tutored Jeff Teague while he was at Wake Forest from 2007-09 -- in part on how to cut across the floor after running off a ball screen, in order to be more difficult to defend. "When we played the Hawks earlier this year," Paul said, "Jeff came off a screen exactly how I do, and a couple of my teammates on the bench started laughing and said, 'He took your move!' "
The crew of college point guards at this weekend's camp included Villanova's Corey Fisher, Georgetown's Chris Wright, UConn's Kemba Walker, Richmond's Kevin Anderson, Washington's Isaiah Thomas and Syracuse's Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine. I saw Wright, who had a strong camp, make an effort to engage Paul on a few topics; the Hoyas senior told me he feels the onus is on him to become a consistent scorer in his final season, with Greg Monroe gone to the NBA. "This might be the first time since Iverson," Wright said, "that Georgetown is a guard-dominated team."
One thing Wright asked Paul for was advice on film study -- a question that launched Paul into an explanation of the extensive time he spent analyzing Steve Nash's habits in pick-and-roll situations, and how that translated into numerous steals. "It's a big mind game," Paul said, "You need to know all their tendencies, and be aware they know yours, too, so sometimes you're setting them up to do the opposite."
It was after this that Paul admitted his lone ulterior motive for holding the camp: It gave him a chance to study soon-to-be first-rounders like Duke's Kyle Singer and North Carolina's Harrison Barnes in the flesh. While Paul was teaching them individual moves -- such as how to drive from the wing, and extend the ball away from the defender while simultaneously pinning him with one's off-hand -- he was also learning their tendencies, so when they get to the pros, he'll be ready to pounce.
Here's what I observed over the course of three days in the stands at Paul's camp:
• The player I was most intrigued to see was Seth Curry, the Liberty transfer who was lying in wait on Duke's bench, in dress clothes, during their national title run. Both he and his brother, Stephen, were in the gym on Sunday, and their three-point shooting forms differ: Stephen's shot is now a textbook wrist-flick with perfect rotation, while Seth's is often a knuckleball with little spin. It's a highly accurate knuckleball, though; Seth seemed to knock down as many (or more) threes than anyone in the camp over the course of drills (the camp was probably 85 percent drills) and scrimmaging. He should be a deadly weapon in Duke's backcourt, especially given how much attention defenses will pay to teammates Nolan Smith, Singler and Kyrie Irving. "Seth is going to bring so much to our team with his shooting and playmaking ability," Smith said. (See a few clips of Curry from the camp in the video below.)
• Smith, I should mention, looked excellent in the camp. As one NBA scout there said, "He's playing with the confidence of a guy who just won a national championship." Smith had the quickest catch-and-release shooting form of any of the college players there; unlike most of them, he's able to catch high and shoot without bringing the ball down near his waist first. You wonder how many extra threes that translates into him making over the course of a season.
• It is worth noting, however, that Smith has questionable bowling form. Paul took the entire camp to a bowling alley just outside of Winston-Salem on Saturday night, and Smith resorted to chest-passing bowling balls down the center of the lane, finishing in a Superman pose. The two highest college scores I saw came from Singler and Curry, who opt for a more traditional throwing method.
• One curious division between the ACC and Big East players there: Nearly all the ACC guys (Smith, Curry, Singler, Barnes, UNC's Kendall Marshall, Virginia Tech's Dorenzo Hudson) opted to bowl, while most of the Big East players (Triche, Jardine, Fisher, Walker) abstained. Wright was the only Big East guard who decided to roll. What does that tell you about the ACC vs. the Big East? I'm not really sure. But a different NBA scout made this observation from the goings-on on the court: "It almost seems like all the Big East guys have this toughness, or ruggedness about them, while the ACC guys -- other than Singler -- are more finesse."
• The CP3 camp is a family affair: Paul's brother, C.J., helps run the event, and their entire extended family, from their mother to toddlers wearing Baby Jordans, could be seen hanging around the gym.
• I asked Isaiah Thomas about the budding recruiting rivalry between Washington and Kentucky, now that the Wildcats have landed two recruits who were previously committed to UW, Enes Kanter and Terrence Jones. And Thomas told me a great story about Jones, who famously chose UK at the 11th hour (on May 19) after committing to the Huskies in a press conference a few weeks earlier. I hadn't realized how much Jones had hung out with the UW players on May 18, just hours before his about-face.
"It was the weirdest thing I've ever seen in recruiting," Thomas said, "because everything [Jones] did made it seem like he was coming to Washington.
"I wouldn't have anything to do with a school if I wasn't going there, but [Jones], on the day before he signed with Kentucky, came up to campus for the whole day. He surprised us and the coaches by showing up with his teammate who might walk on at Washington. [Jones] was chilling with us, he worked out, he hooped, he stayed the night ... and I didn't really ask him about the situation, because I know how recruiting is -- everybody asks you questions about it -- but then he picked the Wildcats, and we were like, damn."
Thomas said he hopes Washington gets to face Kentucky in the Maui Invitational this November. "If we play them, I'll be talking mess the whole game," Thomas said.
• Former Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio made an appearance on Saturday, to say hi to Paul, former Demon Deacon Justin Gray, and current players C.J. Harris and AriStewart, who were on the camp's college roster. Because Gaudio was fired after the national title game, it was too late in the game for him to get a look at major-conference gigs, and he passed on a few mid-major opportunities in favor of taking a year off. "After 29 years of running like crazy," he told me, "it's nice to catch your breath for a few minutes." Don't be surprised if you see him broadcasting some ESPN games this season, and then getting in the hunt for coaching gigs for the 2011-12 season.
• I'll have more on UNC's Harrison Barnes, the top-rated recruit in the Class of 2010, in a column later this week. But I'll mention here that his skill set more than holds up in a setting alongside college stars, and he looks fully capable of leading UNC in scoring as a freshman. Because he and Marshall had to leave the camp on Sunday to attend an academic-advising session in Chapel Hill, I didn't get to see them in scrimmages. That leaves me without a verdict on how well Marshall can run the point as an ACC rookie. (See clips of Barnes from the CP3 camp in the video below.)
• When Triche and Jardine played alongside each other in three-on-three drills, they had solid chemistry; Triche aggressively took the ball to the rim, while Jardine knocked down a high percentage of his threes. The 1-2-3-4 quartet of those two, Kris Joseph and Rick Jackson should be quite good next season, and the Orange probably warrant a higher spot in my offseason Power Rankings than I initially gave them.
• What was it like to be a Kansas recruit during the realignment madness? Bill Self had worried that rival coaches would use the Jayhawks' conference uncertainty against them, but at least in the case of Jabari Brown, a five-star shooting guard from Oakland, it wasn't a huge issue. Brown, one of KU's top Class of 2011 targets, told me he had been rooting for them to join the Pac-10, since it was closest to home. But, he said, "Kansas is always going to be Kansas. No matter what conference they're in, they'll always have top recruits and McDonald's guys, and guys that get to the NBA, because coach Self is a great coach." He even said he would have been fine with the Mountain West -- "because Kansas would just dominate that league." Brown was a lot less worried than KU fans were during the Big 12 panic.
• I'll leave you with a Moment of Zen: footage of Nolan Smith's aforementioned bowling form. His joint instructional DVD with Pete Weber will be released soon.