Saturday, June 27, 2015

NBPA Top 100: Bamba creates stir
Technically speaking, Bamba's ascension to national prominence began during the winter. However, it has been his play with his club team, the PSA Cardinals, and in individual camps such as NBPA that has turned him into one of the truly elite prospects in the class of 2017. The No. 15 player in his class, Bamba has been steady in his production and effort. Bamba, a skinny 6-foot-11, 205-pounder from Harlem, N.Y., makes up for what he lacks in bulk with ability and long-term upside.
Mohamed Bamba credits his recent rise to his work ethic.
He has shown a willingness to bang around in the paint, he's altered shots defensively, been a factor on the glass and proven that he can step out to around 12 feet and comfortably make shots. Bamba, who plays his high school ball at the Westtown (Pa.) School, is happy to see the work paying off. "It all started with hard work," Bamba said. "Last summer I was in the gym, then this winter I was in the gym and I'll be in the gym this summer too." With offers from Kentucky, Kansas, Villanova, St. John's, Connecticut, Missouri, Syracuse, Texas and many more, Bamba is as hot a prospect as there is in the rising junior class. His lofty ranking is likely to keep moving up and he's still far from satisfied. "It absolutely makes me want to go harder," Bamba said. "If people have something that they expect me to be I want to do everything I can do to exceed those expectations." Friday morning notes and news Class of 2017 five-star power forward Billy Preston has been good all camp. However, the 6-foot-9 scorer was at his very best during an extremely impressive 24-point, 13-rebound effort. He's got size, he's skilled and he's playing like he has something to prove. There's a reason programs Kansas, Texas, Baylor, N.C. State, Texas A&M and many more have made their desire to get him known. Notre Dame commitment Temple Gibbs has been solid but not spectacular all camp. Friday morning, he had his best game, scoring 19 points and grabbing four rebounds. He's a strong off-guard who shoots well with his feet set and he has the type of high basketball IQ that should make him a good fit in South Bend. The recipient of recent offers from N.C. State and Iowa State, four-star point guard Jaylen Fisher from the class of 2016, had his best game. Showing better command of his quickness and improved feel for the game, Fisher did a nice job of blending drives with medium to deep jumpers. He was very good on the glass for a point guard and made smart passes during a 17-point, eight-rebound and three-assist game. Georgia nabbed a good one in four-star guard Tyree Crump. He's between a shooting guard and point guard in that he's got point guard size but is more comfortable playing off the ball as a two. But, Crump is one of those guys who should just be considered a basketball player who produces and to whom traditional position values don't really apply. He is quick, he can defend and he plays at full speed. Class of 2017's Trae Young came up clutch on Friday morning. The top 30 player first hit a three from the left wing as time expired to force overtime. Then in the sudden death OT he started and ended things with a salty drive-and-finish through traffic. It was likely his best game of camp and he finished with 18 points and two assists.
Mamadi Diakite has been a leader with his summer team.
One of the most entertaining players at camp, Mamadi Diakite, has done a lot of the little things that go unnoticed. In particular, the four-star power forward has been as good a communicator with teammates as anybody in the camp. There's been multiple times where he's barked at guards for not getting the big men involved or delivering passes. Diakite is still skinny, but the rising senior is quick, runs the floor like a sprinter and is a pogo stick around the rim. Committed to Gonzaga, 6-foot-11 center Zach Collins has been solid all camp. He has rebounded, scored with jump hooks and short finishes off the glass and he's run the floor. Friday, he showed a little bit of edge as he and Javin Delaurier got mixed up and had some words. Collins finished with eight points and 12 rebounds. The No. 131 player in the class of 2016, power forward Lucas Siewert, is another who has quietly gone about his business and had a solid camp. A face-up four-man who is a dangerous shooter to the three-point line, it hasn't been a surprise to see him swishing jumpers. Instead it's been his rebounding that has been the most pleasant surprise. Siewert has made the extra effort to crash the glass and play with some physicality. He was good for 13 points and eight rebounds on Friday.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Starting Five: USA golden again
USA Basketball continued to dominate the FIBA Americas 16U tourney, Butler picked up and important commitment and the NBPA Top 100 Camp kicks off in the middle of the week. We take a look at that and much more in this week's Starting Five.
USA 16U wins gold
In the summer of 2009, FIBA Americas held its inaugural 16U tournament. At stake was a berth in the following year's 17U World Championships. Coached by Don Showalter, USA Basketball's entry won in 2009, 2011 and 2013. Go ahead and add 2015 to the list after rising juniors Jarred Vanderbilt and Gary Trent Jr.each scored 19 points to help the USA take out Canada 77-60 and win another gold medal during Sunday's championship game in Argentina.
Gary Trent Jr. had 19 points in the gold medal game.
To say the USA has been dominant in the event would be an understatement. Sunday's win ran USA Basketball's all-time record in the FIBA Americas tournament to an impressive 20-0. After wining three pool play games and their semifinal by an average of 49.5 points, Team USA got all they could handle and more from the Canadians. Thanks to Canada's tough defense the United States shot poorly and had one ball handling mistake after another. After trailing 37-27 at the half, the United States still trailed 56-51 with about 8:30 to play in the fourth quarter. That's when Vanderbilt and Trent took the game over. The No. 3 ranked player in the class of 2017 and a versatile small forward, Vanderbilt attacked the rim and crashed the glass. Trent hit some key jumpers and scored in transition as the rest of the United States squad turned up the defense and finished the game on a 26-4 run to claim the gold medal. Vanderbilt added 10 rebounds and Trent six to go along with their 19 points. For his efforts, Trent was named the MVP of the tournament after averaging 16.8 points and just under three rebounds per game. A 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Apple Valley (Minn.) High, Trent currently ranks No. 45 in the class of 2017 but will soon be making a huge jump in the rankings. Rounding out the USA effort in the finals, 2017's No. 8 player, big man Wendell Carter, added 11 points and 10 rebounds. For the Canadian squad, it was impossible not to be impressed by the effort and production of 6-foot-7 forward Simisola Shittu. The product of Burlington (Ontario) Corpus Christi was a man possessed on the glass and kept coming at his opponents. He isn't yet a great shooter, but he is athletic, tough, has a nose for the ball and plays with relentless energy. A class of 2018 prospect with great promise, Shittu was good for 18 points and 14 rebounds in the championship game and 13.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game throughout the course of the tourney.
Brunk commits to Butler
One of the most improved post players in the class of 2016 came off the board on Sunday afternoon when current three-star center Joey Brunk --the No. 138 player in the Rivals150 -- informed that he has committed to Butler. From a prospect standpoint, it is important to focus on the "current" part of that three-star rating and No. 138 slot in the class of 2016 because he's going to be moving up. A 6-foot-10 center from Indianapolis (Ind.) Southport, Brunk has backed up a very good junior year with a terrific run on the grassroots circuit. His Indy Hoosiers squad has scuffled a bit in the 17U division of the Under Armour Association, but Brunk has been a true standout, averaging 17 points and 8.3 rebounds a game while shooting 61 percent from the floor. To go with his size, Brunk is a strong kid who already carries 240 pounds with ease and he has good hands and soft touch. At Butler, Brunk should be able to develop into a go-to post player and a very reliable scorer and rebounder. Look for him to move into four-star territory during the next rankings update.
Summer's must-see event
One of the most important events of the summer kicks off at Virginia on Wednesday. The NBPA Top 100 is a must-see annual event that is always loaded with talent. Each year, the camp is heavy on rising seniors and most of them are highly ranked. There are also some talented underclassmen that get a chance to impress, playing against the older players. However, what is important is that in a grassroots basketball world that is becoming more and more divided along shoe company lines, Top 100 Camp brings in players from every shoe company. There just aren't any other individual camps out there that feature top players from Adidas, Nike and Under Armour programs along with some from independent teams going head to head. Because of that, the Top 100 Camp allows us to see many matchups that we simply wouldn't see anywhere else. Be on the lookout for thorough coverage beginning late Wednesday.
Porter trims list to ... 17
Michael Porter announced his top 17.
At midnight on June 14, college coaches were allowed to begin making phone calls directly to members of the class of 2017. In an effort to try and limit the madness, the No. 2 player in the class, Michael Porter made a first "cut" to his list. A 6-foot-8 small forward from Columbia (Mo.) Father Tolton with a sweet jump shot and deep range, Porter trimmed his list to a group of 17 schools. Obviously, there are going to be many on this list that won't stand much of a chance, but it is a list Porter reported as his cut list. Making the cut were Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Syracuse, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, UCLA, Virginia and Washington.
Unoffocial visit for Fultz
On Monday, the class of 2016's No. 24 player Markelle Fultz will be on campus at Virginia Tech for an unofficial visit. A 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha, Fultz was one of the biggest stories of the winter when he made a rise from playing junior varsity as a sophomore to being named MVP of the WCAC, one of the nation's most competitive high school leagues. Since then it has been one high major offer after another for Fultz, who is seemingly being courted by the entire country. Fultz was supposed to visit Arizona earlier in June but has postponed the visit so his trip to see Buzz Williams and the Hokies is his first campus visit in a while. Recently, Duke has gotten in contact with Fultz and is expecting him to be one of the most closely tracked players during July's live evaluation period. Look for him to cut down his list after July.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Peters gets pick out of the way
Since arriving in Starkville as the new head coach, Ben Howland has been on a roll. It continued on Saturday night as Howland and his staff landed a commitment from 2016 Rivals150 point guard Lamar Peters.

A six-footer from New Orleans (La.) Landry-Walker, Peters announced via his twitter account that he has decided to end his recruitment and will be playing his college ball at Mississippi State.

Lamar Peters is committed to Mississippi State.
Currently ranked No. 135 in the 2016 Rivals150, Peters emerged as a prime target for Howland and his staff as soon as they arrived in Starkville. After leading Landry-Walker to their second straight title and being named player of the year in the state of Louisiana, Peters has proven himself against the nation's top players while competing on the Adidas Gauntlet circuit with New Orleans Elite.

Tough and quick, Peters has always been able to get to the rim and either score or find teammates for open shots. He has also been a strong on the ball defender. During the spring, though, Peters showed new wrinkles to his game as he looked more comfortable taking and making jumpers from deep and showed off a much improved mid range game.

The first commitment for Mississippi State from the class of 2016, Peters will be making the jump to four-star prospect when the class of 2016 rankings get updated in the latter part of June.

Since taking the Bulldogs job on March 23rd, Ben Howland has been flexing some serious recruiting muscle. He convinced 2015 five-star Malik Newman to stay home and also talked 2016 four-star power forward Aric Holman to not only commit but to go ahead and head to Starkville as a class of 2015 prospect instead of attending prep school. Now he has Peters in the fold and there's no reason to think that Howland and his staff won't be able to land more highly regarded talent.