Friday, July 25, 2014

USA 17U Tryouts (Session II)

Session Two is in the books. I don’t know if it was the college coaches in attendance or just a good night of sleep, but the action was a lot more intense in both the drills and scrimmages.

Today marked the one day that college coaches could attend the USA tryouts and almost every head coach from a big time program was in attendance. The ACC was well represented with Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, Coach K (in his USA polo), Gottfried, Jamie Dixon, and assistants from Wake and Notre Dame. As far as other schools go you had Izzo, Ollie, JT3, Calipari, Alford, Miller, Bo Ryan, Bill Self, Matt Painter, Tom Crean, John Beilein, Mark Fox, and many others. The only two schools with three head coaches were Duke and Michigan. 

The drills were more active today with the score being kept for the majority of them. Loser runs sprints. Shooting drills kicked the day off which turned into 4 on 4 play in the half-court set. In one set, passing was the focus. Once a player scored he had to point toward the man who passed the ball or else the basket wouldn’t count. In the second set, every possession had to have at least one pick and roll. 

Top Performers: 

Harry Giles, 6’9”, PF, Wesleyan Christian (NC), 2016
Yesterday, Jayson Tatum was the main story, but today it was his close friend Harry Giles. While not fully recovered from his ACL injury, Giles played with an aggressive mindset that was missing last night. In a back and forth with Caleb Swanigan, Giles scored 10 points in the first scrimmage. First he threw down a powerful dunk in traffic and then started making moves off the dribble. A baseline drive resulted in a powerful one hand dunk that was mainly a result of the long arms Giles sports. He also isolated Swanigan just above the free throw line extended and after two strong dribbles to the left, Giles elevated up and knocked in a pull-up jump shot. After his first fine performance, Giles subsequently threw several good looking passes and swished a three from the top of the key in his next game.

Giles also missed a few shots pretty badly, but it was exciting to see him get a little bounce in his step back.

V.J. King, 6’6”, SF, Paul VI (VA), 2016
Giles was the story in the first scrimmage, but King was the story in the second scrimmage scoring in double figures. He started off the game with a quick basket and a three from the top of the corner, but then continued with several dunks and a fancy up and under in the middle of the lane. King was certainly feeling it and led his squad to a victory in the second stanza.

Derryck Thornton, 6’2”, PG, Findlay Prep (NV), 2016
Junior point guard Derryck Thornton was impressive throughout the morning session and was fairly dominant during the drill portion. Teaming with Malik Newman in the 4 on 4 drills the duo won the most games. Thornton had his outside shot on point throughout hitting threes from both sides of the court. His jump shot never gets a lot of back spin, but it is usually always online with the basket and today it was falling with regularity. Another thing to note with Thornton is that while he is a right handed player but loves to dribble and pass with his left. He is definitely the best at using his off-hand and his ball handling ability allows him to get to so many places on the court whether it’s breaking the press or penetrating into the paint. 

Other Notes:
While I touched on Giles, King, and Thornton above there were many players that had strong performances and probably too many to list.

Yesterday, TJ Leaf was forced to the sidelines from almost the first moment of camp. Today he was able to participate and while it took him awhile to get going he certainly made his mark during the scrimmages scoring on several consecutive possessions. He buried a three, converted a basket after a drive from the right wing, and finished a drop off pass two feet from the basket with several defenders surrounding him. He might have been forgotten last night, but he got his name back out there today.

6’8” Caleb Swanigan was a beast once again. While Giles scored 10 points in their scrimmage, Swanigan was the high man on the winning team with eight points. He dominated down low and over powered defenders on the offensive end. Several times he basically backed his man under the goal which resulted in an uncontested lay-up.

Henry Ellenson was back at it again. Getting out on the break and hitting outside jump shots. The Wisconsin big man is playing with confidence and showcased his unique skill-set to the college coaches in attendance and to the people in charge of making cuts for the US team.

2016 point guards Dennis Smith, DeAron Fox, and Devearl Ramsey all had their outside shot working today. Smith connected on several jump shots during the drills and scrimmages and Fox was hitting nothing but the bottom of the net on his attempts. In the last scrimmage, Ramsey caught fire hitting two three’s and a deep jumper in a matter of minutes. 6’0” Peyton Pritchard also had his shot falling during the competitive drill sessions, but tallied off towards the end.

USA 17U Tryouts: Session 1

A plethora of top notch talent from the 2015 and 2016 classes was in attendance last night for the first session of the 17U USA training camp in Colorado Springs. All of the players are vying for a spot on the eventual 12 man roster that will compete in the FIBA World Championships held in Dubai come August. The first four sessions are used as tryouts to cut the team down before practices begin in full on Sunday evening. College coaches are allowed to watch both the second and third sessions that take place Friday morning and afternoon.

The camp got off to a slow start as introductions were made and players settled in. Stretching and some light drills kicked things off. Soon players were separated out by position and went to various baskets for skill work. After that they started with 4 on 4 and 3 on 2 drills. Towards the end of the session the group was separated into four teams with each team playing three games to close out the night. 

It didn’t take long for players to start dropping out of the drills. 6’8” power forward TJ Leaf was the first to bow out with an apparent leg injury and 6’10” center Diamond Stone came out shortly after. Unfortunately for Leaf, injuries seem to be the norm for the No. 10 prospect in the class of 2016. Previously in October the California native was only able to participate in the opening session of the Developmental National Team training. As for Stone, he is all but assured a spot on the team regardless of injury. Last year on the 16U team, the No. 1 ranked recruit in 2015 started all five games in the FIBA America tournament averaging 13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Stone noted that he hurt his hip flexor in the Under Armour Finals last week and re-aggravated it as practice began. He thought the injury would need at least 3-4 days of rest before being able to get back out on the court. 

Top Practice Player:

Jayson Tatum, 6’7”, G/F, Chaminade College Prep (MO), 2016
Last year Jayson Tatum came off the bench for the 16U team averaging 10 points per game, but this year the 6’7” junior is looking to become a leader. He took a good first step Thursday night with his performance. The newly ranked top prospect in his class, Tatum certainly lived up to his ranking. During drills Tatum pushed the ball up the court and delivered several pin point passes leading to easy dunks for his teammates. Later, when it came time to scrimmage, Tatum showed off his diverse offensive skill-set. 

The first two words that come to mind when watching Tatum play are smooth and skilled. While not the most explosive athlete, Tatum usually has either a quickness or a height advantage on most defenders. When going against a long wing such as 6’6” Terrance Ferguson, Tatum would take two dribbles before releasing a soft floater in the paint. When faced with a smaller defender, Tatum went to the post backing his man down. At one point he made a 15 foot fade-away jumping off one foot. The fade-away was an extremely difficult shot for almost anyone, but one that looked natural for Tatum. He did get carried away in the last scrimmage as he tried to post up the 6’9” Ellenson. Tatum ended up taking another 15 foot fade away from the left baseline and luckily got bailed out by the ref who blew his whistle. 

There aren’t many weaknesses in Tatum’s offensive game, but if you want to nitpick it’s easy to point to his three-point shooting. During the Nike EYBL he shot just 28%; however during the scrimmages he knocked in outside shots from both corners which also happened to be from the international three point line as opposed to the college or high school line. 

Given his size and skills, Tatum currently is a match-up nightmare. He is comfortable playing point guard and distributing the ball, but he also loves to play in attack mode. Advanced footwork in the post and an improved form on his outside shot led to a strong first session for Jayson Tatum.

Three More Top Performers:

Eric Davis, 6’3”, G, Arthur Hill (MI), 2015
Throughout the scrimmages and drills, Eric Davis was extremely consistent. While more comfortable at the shooting guard position, Davis also played point and took great care of the ball. There was nothing flashy to his game, but he didn’t commit any unforced errors. Davis was also extremely efficient scoring wise. As one of the better shooters in camp, Davis hit several outside shots from the top of the key and the corner’s. His jump shot has good rotation after its release and he only took shots within the flow of the offense. Along with his outside shooting, the 6’3” guard also used his first step for penetration. Primarily driving from the left wing, Davis got to the basket and was seen finishing in the paint with either soft floaters or lay-ups. One month ago at the Top 100 Davis was either hot or cold, but last night he stayed hot pretty much the entire time.

Caleb Swanigan, 6’8”, PF, Homestead (IN), 2015
This event was Swanigan’s first experience in a USA setting and despite a travel day that started with a 6am flight the beefy big man did not show any signs of being tired. “You just have to make it through three days, that’s it,” said Swanigan. “I want to do all the things that other players don’t want to do. It all starts with rebounding and effort.”

Rebounding and effort were definitely two things that Swanigan showed early on. While there were eight other big men participating that were at least 6’8”, Swanigan was one of the few that enjoyed banging down low in the post. He pushed weaker opponents aside and was always around the basket looking for rebounding opportunities on both sides of the court. Now, with his body size Swanigan is definitely not the quickest of leapers and he did have trouble converting second chance opportunities at times. Despite several tough shots in the paint, Swanigan was never deterred and always kept attacking. 

While not a jump shooter by any means, Swanigan impressed with his soft feet and fundamental form during shooting drills for the big men group. In both short catch and shoot / one-dribble situations, Swanigan looked comfortable and confident. 

Daniel Giddens, 6’10”, Wheeler (GA), 2015, Ohio State
Daniel Giddens
On the Fourth of July, Daniel Giddens ended his college recruitment and committed to Thad Matta and Ohio State. Now he is focused on retaining his spot with the USA team after getting 13 minutes of action per game last year. The 6’10” power forward / center is well-known for his defensive abilities and chiseled frame, but last night Giddens looked very comfortable and confident on the offensive end. Early on he connected on a jump shot from 14 feet out and later on he backed down a weaker defender and finished with a right handed hook shot in the paint. He also attacked the glass with his quick first leap and was an overall solid contributor in all of the scrimmages. If Giddens can combine some of the scoring skills he flashed in the first session with his shot blocking abilities, he might just make his second straight appearance on Team USA.

Other Notes:

6’4” shooting guard Malik Newman was the leading scorer for the 16U team last year averaging 16.2 points per game on 47% shooting. He was forced to miss the Peach Jam last week and appeared at camp with a heavily bandaged hand. Newman started slow taking several tough step-back jump shots usually with a hand in his face, but he turned it on towards the end. In the last scrimmage he blew by Eric Davis on the right side of the court and finished with an emphatic slam. This led to a few more blow by’s and dunks as none of the opposing big men wanted to challenge the athletic Newman in the air. After some time off the top scoring guard in the country looked a bit rusty, but he seemed to grow more confident as the night went on.

Last October after the USA Developmental Camp it was safe to say that Henry Ellenson didn’t have much of a shot making the final 17U team. Fast forward 10 months and the 6’9” forward from Rice Lake is probably a lock. Ellenson got out on the break for easy baskets and showed off his shooting touch in drill work and occasionally during the games. He definitely gets a little too comfortable behind the three point line but on back to back possessions he drove by Caleb Swanigan for a dunk and then finished with contact using his left hand. Last week at the Nike Elite Invitational, Ellenson primarily played outside of the paint, but these tryouts will force him to bang down low while proving the opportunity for a pick and pop when the time is right. 

6’9” Harry Giles started the first two games in last year’s 16U tournament before tearing his ACL. He is slowly starting to get more comfortable on the court with his movements, but still is a long way from being 100% healthy. The rising junior ran the court well and was the recipient of several Tatum assists throughout the day. In the drills, Giles looked smooth but it also appeared he was thinking about every move in his mind instead of just reacting naturally. Little by little Giles will get there.

Ivan Rabb is rated the No. 1 player in the country by ESPN, but you wouldn’t have known that last night as the 6’10” power forward from Oakland blended into the big man crowd. At times he looked to be limping which could have been an injury or a carryover from a strenuous Peach Jam. Initially he tried to take some defenders off the dribble but was usually cut off before he could get in a good scoring position. In the last scrimmage, Rabb did come alive displaying his fundamental footwork in the post. He is comfortable finishing and shooting with either hand and converted several shots in a crowded paint area. 

Just like Caleb Swanigan, this was Dennis Smith’s first USA basketball experience. The 6’1” guard from North Carolina shot up the rankings this past spring and is considered the best point guard in the class of 2016. Playing with USA “veterans” such as Newman, Tatum, and Giles, Smith still managed to stand out. Despite his size he can finish well above the rim which was evident when he threw down a violent right hand dunk. His ball-handling skills are also off the charts and he broke down his defender to create scoring opportunities for his veteran teammates throughout the scrimmages. While he has deep range on his outside shot, this is an area of improvement for Smith as he miss-fired badly to the left and right of the basket on several outside attempts.

One player who is probably a long shot to make the team is 6’10” junior center Terrell Brown from Barrington, RI. Despite this fact, Brown more than held his own against his more highly touted peers. Right now Brown is lacking in the strength department, but he used his length to corral several offensive and defensive rebounds. He ran the court well and even knocked in a corner three towards the end of the night. 

6’6” Terrance Ferguson is another Team USA veteran and the Texas native is athletic with a nice mid-range jump shot in his repertoire. He averaged just under 6 points per game last year on the USA team and is definitely one to keep an eye on through the remaining tryouts. 

Where Are The Shooters?
Last year the USA team as a whole shot 27.8% from three. Seventh Woods (4-11) and Malik Newman (10-28) were the only players that finished above 35%. In the tryouts, there still aren’t any knock down shooters, say like a James Blackmon Jr. from the class of 2014. Tatum’s shot is improving and the 6’9” Ellenson is more than comfortable from behind the arc, but the outside shooting situation is still a little dicey. For my money 6’0” point guard Peyton Pritchard is the best pure shooter in camp, but he will have his hands full making the team with all of the talented point guards in camp.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

32 Thoughts On The Peach Jam / UAA Finals

Peach Jam Champs - NJ Playaz

1. Northeast basketball rules in 2014. This past Sunday, the NJ Playaz AAU team took home their first Peach Jam championship with an 85-83 win over Team Penny. One year after not even making the Peach Jam, the famed Playaz basketball club went 13-3 in the regular season and then 7-1 at the Peach Jam to cap an impressive season. Meanwhile, down in Atlanta the Philly based We-R1won the 17U championship in a blowout against the New Jersey based Sports U squad in the Under Armour finals. The WE-R1 group dominated last year on the 16U level and carried over their winning ways. 

2. Ben Simmons makes his claim as the No. 1 player in the class of 2015. Playing for E1T1 in the Nike Peach Jam, the 6’8” Simmons averaged 18.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. Not too shabby. One month ago, the future LSU Tiger was the clear cut MVP at the NBPA Top 100 camp and carried his strong play into July. Simmons separates himself from the pack with his versatility. He is comfortable grabbing a defensive rebound, bringing the ball up the court, and blowing by his man for a basket in the paint or delivering a nice, crisp pass to a teammate. His passes are thrown with power and accuracy and are a thing of beauty to watch up close. Oh yeah, with good quickness and length he is also a strong defender.

3. Be careful. While everyone is anointing Simmons as the top prospect right now, it always makes sense to take a step back and think about the long term rather than the here and now. In the summer of 2011, everyone had just anointed Shabazz Muhammed as the No. 1 prospect over Andre Drummond. Shabazz outplayed Drummond at the Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis and locked up the top spot for good. Fast forward a few years and Muhammed is still struggling to make it in the NBA while Drummond turned into a steal for the Detroit Pistons. While Simmons has been dominant lately he still has his weaknesses to work on. 5-17 from three during the EYBL and 62.7% from the line means he needs to improve his outside game. Judging from the improvement Simmons made from this past December, I wouldn’t bet against him.

4. Where is Malik? After getting hurt at the LeBron Skills Academy, Malik Newman was shut down and couldn’t participate in the Peach Jam. A shame indeed. Last year Newman wowed coaches and observers alike with his performance. Teams routinely double and triple teamed the athletic shooting guard to no avail. In May 2012, Newman played great in his first EYBL tournament (Dallas) and never looked back. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to watch him turn in one more great EYBL performance. 

5. Allonzo Trier and Isaiah Briscoe were two EYBL vets when the season started, but they were also two of the most overlooked / taken for granted for players. Trier and Briscoe were ranked in the 20’s in the class of 2015, but both guards had fantastic AAU seasons. Briscoe led his Playaz squad to the championship while averaging 19.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 5 assists per game including a near triple double in the championship game. Meanwhile, Trier averaged a whopping 29.8 points per game including a 42 point game in the Peach Jam. He also averaged 4.3 rebounds per game and took 243 free throws on the year. No longer is the duo overlooked or taken for granted.

6. Putting the Under Armour finals in Suwanee was a success. Minus the complete lack of cell phone reception in the field house it was extremely convenient to make the two hour drive from Peach Jam. Coaches drove and flew from event to event and allowing them to watch the top prospects in all age groups.

7. Hitting the jackpot. On Wednesday afternoon the 16U Nike teams kicked off the second July live period at exactly 5pm. With the majority of coaches catching the showcase games in Suwanee it was fairly easy to move from court to court which allowed me to set eyes on Jayson Tatum’s game on one court and DeAndre Ayton’s game on another. While Tatum was busy carving up the Team Final defense in every way imaginable, Ayton was displaying his athletic traits with a spin move down the lane and subsequent three from the wing. You can’t complain about being able to watch the top sophomore and junior in the country on side by side courts.

8. Speaking of Tatum, boy is he fun to watch play. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the talents the 6’7” junior possesses, but it has taken over a year for scouts to rank him at the No. 1 spot. I first saw Tatum play when he dominated 16U play in 2013 at the NY2LA Swish N’ Dish. While not an elite athlete, Tatum is the most skilled player in high school. With advanced footwork and moves, Tatum can score from almost any area on the floor and finish effectively with both hands. All of the top coaches were at Tatum’s games this week and one can expect a brutal battle between goliaths during this recruitment.

9. While I’ve had Tatum No. 1 for awhile this marked my first time getting to see Harry Giles in person. Last year before Giles tore his ACL, Dave Telep noted if he “could give one scholarship to anyone in high school basketball it would be Harry Giles.” The 6’8” forward is still working his way back and struggled at times during the Peach Jam but he looks like a physical specimen on the court. I can’t wait to see him a few months down the road when he is even more comfortable on the leg.

10. Malik Monk was all the rage on Friday night going for 40 points against Team Penny on 14-20 shooting, but the explosive junior shooting guard was only 3-11 the game before and 3-20 the game after. Monk can get his shot almost any time but will now need to work on being more consistent. With his brother on the Arkansas coaching staff, is there any doubt he ends up in Razorback red?

11. Rewind back to December 2013. In the City of Palms tournament, shooting guard Antonio Blakeney was ranked No. 68 in the country and had a match-up with the then No. 7 prospect in Tyler Dorsey. Blakeney scored 30 points in a loss, and while Dorsey had the better overall game it was certainly had to see a big discrepancy between the two. After the game Blakeney noted that he was just trying to pick off the top players and move up the rankings. Now, after the Peach Jam Blakeney might be the No. 2 shooting guard in the country behind Malik Newman. With improved athleticism and a better mid-range game, Blakeney is a true scorer. He sometimes jacks too many bad shots, but when his AAU team needed a basket they could always count on the 6’4” Blakeney to get one as he averaged 19.5 points per game. 
12. 6’10” big man Tyler Davis is a beast. In bracket play at the Peach Jam he averaged 19.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per game including a 36 point, 13 rebound performance. Earlier in the spring, Davis was just working his way back from a knee injury but now the big bodied Texan is dominating in the low post. 

13. Slick Rick has been doing work during the live sessions. After constant viewings of Deng Adel in Chicago, the 6’7” forward committed to Louisville (no surprise) and then one week later power forward Ray Spalding committed. Adel was impressive at the Adidas Unrivaled and Spalding is just beginning to tap into his vast potential. Now Pitino and the Cardinals can focus on that shooting guard they want. My money is on Antonio Blakeney, but the Cards have cast their net wide with viewings of Allonzo Trier, Isaiah Briscoe, and others.

14.  Coach K is a seat vulture. Sure coaches love to get that first row seat at midcourt in order to get the attention of their top recruits, but for Coach K it is always a priority to be in one of three spots 1) Mid-court 2) Right under the basket 3) Straddling two courts if multiple games are going on. In Chicago, the Duke staff was front and center for Chase Jeter and at Peach Jam they were front and center for Harry Giles, Ivan Rabb, Jayson Tatum and others. When Giles played against Ben Simmons on Thursday night the court was jam packed. Without an open seat, Coach K settled in on the baseline corner and slowly but surely got himself close to center court by the time tipped.

15. Staying on the Coach K tangent for a second, he certainly knows how to grab the spotlight. In Las Vegas it was reported that he had a heart to heart with LeBron and I am going to guess that the talk was down for all the high school campers to see. In North Augusta, Coach K and Jeff Capel were on the court talking to Chris Paul during warm-ups standing just within an arm’s reach of Harry Giles.

16. Moving down the 15-501 we have UNC coach Roy Williams. Ol Roy most likely won the award for most time spent at Peach Jam. While other coaches were checking out the UAA showcase on Wednesday night or the NY2LA Summer Jam in Milwaukee, Williams was front and center for Tatum’s 5pm game and then Giles’ 8pm game. On Friday, Williams took in Rabb and Zimmerman’s morning game before heading to Suwanee for two games to watch Rayjon Tucker and PJ Dozier. Then he was right back to Peach Jam for the night cap. 

17. Over 300 coaches were at the UAA showcase games on Wednesday night, but I counted only four head coaches in the stands for the championship game on Saturday night. Shaka Smart, Tony Bennett, Archie Miller, and Brad Brownell were all in attendance for the 7:20pm tip.

18. Props to the NY2LA Summer Jam. Last year Mequon, WI was the place to be during the second live period with Cliff Alexander and Myles Turner going at it along with Karl Towns Jr. and Kevon Looney. This year, when Under Armour took their tournament down south I assumed that this tournament would struggle. Wrong. They loaded up on top Adidas and Midwest teams and put together another top notch tournament.

19. Time to talk big men. First up is Diamond Stone, a 6’10” center from Milwaukee who is set to announce his college decision on November 12. Throughout the UAA tournament he averaged 18.6 points and 11.4 rebounds, but looked tired and a bit lethargic in his last two games. Both of which were losses. Kevin Ollie and the UConn staff spent a lot of time at Stone’s games this past week and are in good shape going into the stretch run.

20. Oakland Soldiers big man Ivan Rabb is considered the No. 1 recruit in 2015 by ESPN. In my mind, Rabb reminds me of a young Chris Bosh before he turned into a spot up jump shooter in the NBA. Rabb had a strong EYBL season but due to some sub-par guard play struggled at times during the Peach Jam. He still averaged 13.6 points in bracket play, but only scored 4 points on 2-7 shooting in the quarterfinals.

21. Rabb’s teammate, 7’0” center Stephen Zimmerman recently announced the schools for his official visits. UNC, Kentucky, Kansas, and Arizona were four of the schools noted but it’s fair to wonder how Zimm’s game will translate to the next level. He can run the floor, spot up from the elbow, and pass but that “nasty” factor is still missing. Just like Rabb, Zimmerman struggled in his final game scoring just four points. In the total EYBL he averaged 8.4 points per game and scored 15 points just once. 

22. When people talk about 6’9” center Cheick Diallo from Our Savior (NY) the first thing that gets brought up is his motor. There is no doubt that Diallo goes harder than pretty much anyone on the court in every game he plays. This past week, Diallo put together two double-doubles in the quarter-finals and semi’s and finished the EYBL averaging 16.4 points and 9.9 rebounds. 

23. Diallo’s teammate Thomas Bryant was slowly sliding down the recruiting rankings ever since he was a Top 5 player as a freshman. During the EYBL regular season, Bryant averaged 9.6 points per game, but in bracket play he averaged 16 points including a 26 point, 13 rebound performance against Indy Spiece Heat. Just like Diallo, Bryant is a hard worker but sometimes his reactions aren’t the quickest. With his recent play it looks like Bryant might be starting to stop his slide.

24. Oh Henry! Another Wisconsin big man Henry Ellenson was in Augusta, but unlike his Nike counterparts the 6’10” forward was playing in the Nike Elite Youth Invitational. In early April, Ellenson’s weight loss and improvement were noticeable but with his relentless work ethic the Rice Lake native is now in the conversation as one of the top players in the country. In-state coaches Bo Ryan and Wojo were watching him at every turn, not to mention other schools such as UNC, Duke, Kentucky, etc. Ellenson helped lead his Wisconsin Playground team to the championship. A sweet shooting big that can also play point forward and break the press transformed his body, game, and recruitment in the past 10 months. 

25. Don’t anger Malik Beasley. The 6’4” guard from the Georgia Stars noted he received some trash talk on twitter before his opening Elite Youth game. Whoops. Beasley took out his aggression in an easy win constantly attacking the basket with a purpose. One of the most explosive players in the country threw down some high flying dunks while dropping 24 minutes. “They thought it was going to be fun, but it definitely wasn’t fun for them,” said Beasley afterwards.

26. How does Luke Maye’s game translate to college? The 6’7” forward has one of the quickest releases in the game and can score points in a hurry; however he is a below the rim type player with average athleticism. Davidson would love to get a player like Maye, as would several ACC schools. Maye’s father played at UNC and the UNC staff was seen monitoring several of his games. 

27. What a difference a year makes. Last year, Jawun Evans was making waves in the Peach State tournament by being the fastest player on the court. At the time the Clemson coaching staff was three deep for him on opening night. Now, he is a top 10 prospect per 247 recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer. Evans is extremely quick with a knack for always making the right play. This year he played in the UAA Finals and led his team to the semi-finals with coaches from all over the country watching.

28. There were a lot of players that caught my eye for the first time, but two stood above the others at the Peach Jam. Alterique Gilbert, a 5’11” jet from Lithonia, GA was first seen on Thursday night in a packed house. While everyone was there to see Simmons and Giles, it was the rising junior guard who scored 22 points on 8-16 shooting. With a lethal crossover, Gilbert made people take notice. After this game he went on to score 21, 17, and 31 points in his next three games. While he didn’t play at Gilbert’s level, Mac Irvin Fire small forward Davon Dillard was also impressive with his brute strength and anger attacking the basket. Dillard averaged 7 points per game, but scored 18 against the Oakland Soldiers on 8-11 shooting. 

29. The one non-highly ranked player that made me take notice in Suwanee was 6’9” LaRond Williams who committed to Long Beach State in the spring. Williams was running the floor like a gazelle and trying to block everything that came his way. With long arms, height, and explosiveness, Long Beach State wrapped up a three-star prospect that might turn out to be key contributor for years to come.

30. The Peach Jam featured a plethora of young prospects in the class of 2017, but the Under Armour tournament had a few of their own including two with well known family members. I started Friday with a viewing of Raymond Felton’s nephew, Jalek Felton who already stands 6’4.” Long armed, athletic, and extremely quick in all of his movements the talented shooting guard was a blast to watch. I even skipped the 17U semi-finals to watch him in action again. While he definitely needs to tighten up his game a little bit, the future is bright for Felton. Moving onto Saturday, I was able to catch the long and lean Tomas Murphy, the younger brother of Erik and Alex. Tomas demonstrated a high skill level in the post scoring in different ways and also added a three from the top of the key. In the afternoon he moved up to the 17U level and more than held his own.

31. Troy Brown drew raves from his play at the LeBron camp one week prior and it was apparent right away why. 6’5” with speed and handles, Brown got to the rim at will and made his fellow 15U opponents look helpless. Brown had the last game of the night, but assistants from UCLA, Cal, and Kansas were in the stands to check out one of the most exciting players in the class of 2017.

32. On Monday and Tuesday I got to watch the Vegas Summer league in person before heading off to the Peach Jam. The physicality of the summer league was impressive as the grown men; even the ones that were barely over 19 were fighting for a future paycheck and battling every possession. After seeing all of the young talent coming up through the ranks it will be fun to watch the players in the class of 2015, 2016, and 2017 develop with some becoming Vegas summer league players in the near future.