Saturday, August 29, 2015

Weekend visits of high major players
With school back in session, seniors across the country are taking official visits, which means commitment season is about to kick off. This weekend isn't the busiest visit weekend that we'll see in the next few months but it is an important one headlined by five-star Frank Jackson's visit to Duke.
Will there be action with Jackson?
Frank Jackson is visiting Duke.
The highest ranked official visitor this weekend is No. 10 in 2016 Frank Jackson, who is heading across the country to visit Duke. The 6-foot-3 point guard from Highland (Utah) Lone Peak also includes BYU (where he was once committed, Stanford and Utah in his final four programs, but the feel for a while has been that the Blue Devils hold an edge over the competition. The visit to Durham should tell us an awful lot about just how serious Jackson is about Duke and a commitment could be imminent. If he does commit to Duke, he will give the Blue Devils an impressive start to 2016's class, considering they have already landed the nation's No. 3 player Jayson Tatum. Building off of a National Championship in 2015 and the No. 1 and No. 2 recruiting classes in 2014 and 2015, it's hard to find a hotter program than Duke. BYU, Stanford and Utah aren't giving up hope here, but they have to be crossing their fingers that Jackson makes it home without giving a commitment.
Big Ten teams host important duos
Illinois and Indiana will each host a pair of Rivals150 visitors. Four-star prospects Xavier Simpson and Xavier Sneed will visit with the Illini while five-star Miles Bridges and four-star Curtis Jones check out the Hoosiers. In Champaign, John Groce and staff have been searching for a high end point guard to run their offense since they arrived on campus and they are hoping Simpson fits the bill because of his playmaking. The No. 88 player from Lima (Ohio) Senior has already seen Iowa State and has a visit scheduled to Miami for next weekend. He recently added a Wisconsin offer. Ranked No. 102 in 2016, Sneed has the Illini in his top five along with Creighton, Xavier, Kansas State and Wichita State. An athletic 6-foot-5 wing from Florissant (Mo.) Hazelwood Central, Sneed is likely to make at least a few of his official visits. However, the Illini have put themselves into good position and appear to be in a tight race with Kansas State and Xavier. Indiana coach Tom Crean and his staff are hoping to make a big impression. Taking the first of his five scheduled official visits -- Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State and North Carolina also have dates set -- Bridges is an athletic and tough five-star swingman who would be an immediate difference-maker for the Hoosiers. Ranked No. 60 and a teammate of Bridges at Huntington (W.V.) Prep, Jones is a 6-foot-4 shooting guard who has also set visits with Georgetown and Oklahoma State for the next two weekends. Word for the past few months has been that the Hoosiers have put themselves into really good position with Jones and having former teammate Thomas Bryant on campus could help them out. It isn't a lock that Jones will make a decision during or shortly after his visit, but he's a major priority and it wouldn't be a shock if he ended it for the Hoosiers sooner than later.
Other key weekend visits
Kentucky is targeting Kobi Simmons.
Pittsburgh will host point guard Cassius Winston as he takes his second visit. The No. 28 ranked player in 2016, he's already been to Stanford and has September visits set for Harvard, Michigan State and Michigan. The general consensus is that Detroit (Mich.) Jesuit product will be tough to pull out of his home state, but the Panthers have some ties to Winston's summer program The Famiy, where current assistant coach Marlon Williamson coached before moving to the college ranks. There was a time that it looked like five-star guard Kobi Simmons was a virtual lock to commit to Kentucky. There is still a chance that he could pop, but most likely he'll also at least take the visits he has scheduled to UNLV and Ohio State over the next two weekends. Four-star big man James Banks takes his first official visit this weekend when he visits Texas. So far, the No. 79 player has only scheduled an additional visit to Vanderbilt (9/11), so there is some room for the Longhorns to establish a stronghold on him with a great visit. San Diego State has two nice visitors in four-star shooting guard Jonah Mathews and three-star four man Jalen McDaniels . Soon to be a member of the Rivals150, McDaniels is a long and skilled faceup four man whose best basketball is ahead of him. He confirmed to Rivals that SDSU is his only set visit to date and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him commit during or soon after his visit. Mathews is one of the West Coast's premier shooters. Also on high alert for a potential commitment this weekend is point guard Shamorie Ponds. He's officially down to Creighton (where he visited earlier this month), St. John's, Providence and Minnesota but the New Yorker who ranks No. 44 in the class of 2016 has been considered a heavy lean to Chris Mullin and the Red Storm. Power forward Solomon Young, a former Rivals150 prospect who is a slightly undersized but tough and very athletic, will head to Iowa State this weekend. Wake Forest will host four-star combo guard Koby McEwen on his first official visit. Tough off the dribble and versatile, McEwen has flown somewhat under the radar despite being ranked No. 106 nationally, but Baylor and Utah State look like they are also players in this one. Finally, Wichita State will host a three-star combo guard with big upside in Jeff Dowtin. The Washington D.C. area product also has visits set with Rhode Island and George Mason.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Rosters set for Elite 24
THE RIVALS150 - 2016 | 2017
With just under a week to go until the game takes place, Under Armour has set the rosters for the tenth anniversary of their popular Elite 24 game.

2016's No. 1 player Josh Jackson headlines the Elite 24.
The outdoor game takes place on Saturday the 22nd of August in Brooklyn, NY at Pier Two with the Manhattan skyline serving as a backdrop and will be televised by ESPN.

As usual, the game is loaded with talent. Headlining the rosters are the No. 1 players from both the classes of 2016 and 2017 as Josh Jackson and DeAndre Ayton who will team up to make a formidable duo.

Of the total roster of 24 players made up from the classes of 2016 and 2017, 18 participants are currently rated as five-star prospects. They will compete against each other on Team EZ Pass coached by former NBA player Jeff McInnis whose Team Charlotte won the Under Armour Finals in July and Team Doo Be Doo coached by L.J. Goolsby of the KC Run GMC summer program.

In addition to the game, there will be a three-point shooting and dunk contest held at the game location on Friday night.

Team EZ Pass
DeAndre Ayton (No. 1 in 2017)
Troy Brown (No. 7 in 2017)
Hamidou Diallo (No. 19 in 2017)
Trevon Duval (No. 5 in 2017)
Terrance Ferguson (No. 11 in 2016)
Dewan Huell (No. 22 in 2016)
Frank Jackson (No. 10 in 2016)
Josh Jackson (No. 1 in 2016)
Justin Jackson UNLV (No. 32 in 2016)
T.J. Leaf (No. 12 in 2016)
Thon Maker (Five-star)
Seventh Woods (No. 25 in 2016)

Team Doo Be Doo
Edrice Adebayo (No. 7 in 2016)
Rawle Alkins (No. 15 in 2016)
Jarrett Allen (No. 17 in 2016)
Udoka Azubuike (No. 26 in 2016)
Jalek Felton (No. 16 in 2017)
Markelle Fultz (No. 23 in 2016)
Wenyen Gabriel (No. 84 in 2016)
Mario Kegler (No. 29 in 2016)
Shamorie Ponds (No. 45 in 2016)
Billy Preston (No. 6 in 2017)
Kobi Simmons (No. 8 in 2016)
M.J. Walker (No. 25 in 2017)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Adidas Nation: What we learned

THE RIVALS150: 2016 | 2017
CERRITOS, Calif. -- With a pair of ESPNU televised games, the 2015 Adidas Nations came to a conclusion on Monday night. The ending of the Nations event is an unofficial end to the summer. Before Rivals moves on to hand out summer-ending awards, we'd like to take one last look back at what we learned from Nations.
Smith 2016's top point
Dennis Smith filled up the box score at Nations.
Though he missed Monday night's televised games due to a knee injury suffered Sunday evening, Dennis Smith has secured his spot as the top point guard in the class of 2016. After very good spring and summer campaigns on the Grassroots hoops circuit with Team Loaded North Carolina, Smith was at his best during play at Nations. Smith averaged 16 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game during an incredibly well-rounded run at Nations. He shot the ball well (54.2 percent) and had a solid 2:1 assist-to-turnover ration. As athletic as they come with 6-foot-3 size, he once again reminded Rivals of a young Baron Davis with his explosive drives to the rim and quick first step.
Good week for Diallos
If you were playing for Team Africa and your last name was Diallo, you had yourself one heck of a run at Nations. Both rising junior five-star wing Hamidou Diallo and currently unranked rising senior wing Alpha Diallo were on top of their games. Already a well-known prospect and ranked No. 19 in the class of 2017, Hamidou Diallo lived up to his billing as a top-notch wing scorer. At 6-foot-4, the New Yorker who attends Putnam (Conn.) Science is an electric athlete who is wired to get buckets. He was most effective attacking off the dribble and even played some point. His jump shooting still needs some work, but don't be surprised to see Diallo get a bit of a bump up in the rankings after averaging 19.5 points and 3.2 rebounds per game during his week at Nations. A 6-foot-5 wing who had to sit out his junior season at Denver (Colo.) Lincoln, Alpha Diallo is more of an unknown. He had a strong travel circuit season with the Colorado Hawks, but the three-star didn't exactly show up at Nations heavily recruited or with a big reputation. Given the way he played at Nations, teams will be scrambling for more info on the rising senior. Diallo was a force to be reckoned with all week as he averaged 20.5 points and 10.7 rebounds. He attacks the rim in transition, is a fine athlete and has the tools to be a very good defender. For now, it appears prep school is on the horizon for the 2015-16 season.
Gabriel no fluke
When a player like Wenyen Gabriel raises his level of play two or three levels in the span of a few weeks, you want to be sure that it's not a fluke. After tearing up Adidas Nations and playing dominantly in his fourth straight national event, it is quite clear that the 6-foot-9 forward is no fluke. Capable of shooting jumpers, attacking off the dribble and being a force on the glass, Gabriel was at his best against top competition. Playing with incredible energy after a long summer, he led the event in rebounding with 14.7 per game while adding 17.7 points. As the event wore on, Gabriel appeared to run out of steam and his shooting percentages suffered a bit (36-for-88 overall from the field), but it is clear to see why Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina joined Maryland, Providence, Boston College and more by offering scholarships based on his July play. Currently ranked No. 84 in the 2016 Rivals150, Gabriel is a stone cold lock to make a massive leap in the rankings and go from four to five-star prospect.
Ball can compete with anyone
Lonzo Ball is committed to UCLA.
Not that he needed to prove it to, but UCLA-bound point guard Lonzo Ball showed he belongs among the class of 2016's elite prospects. Yes, his jump shot is a little funky and no he didn't play in very many national events. But talent is talent and there is no questioning that Ball is a major talent at the point guard position. His 6-foot-5 size, command of the ball and second-to-none floor vision all translate to the next level and he should be an instant impact player for Steve Alford and the Bruins. The question is now whether or not Ball can retain his No. 5 overall national ranking. It's not a matter of ability or potential, it's a matter of the class of 2016 being absolutely loaded at the top, which we will discuss below.
Alkins deserves bump
If Rivals had a vote for MVP of Adidas Nations our vote would absolutely go to shooting guard Rawle Alkins. The No. 15 overall player in the class of 2016 was simply spectacular in all phases. He scored well at 21.8 points per game, he rebounded well with 5.6 per game and he did a great job of sharing the ball while racking up 5.4 assists per game. He was also efficient, shooting 54.5 percent from the field that included a very respectable 35 percent from three-point range. A powerful wing, Alkins is a ready-made scorer for the college level who is nearly impossible to match as a high schooler because of his power and strength. At No. 15, he might be a few spots too low and he's put together a pretty strong argument to get moved up some in 2016's overall hierarchy.
Power at the top's trip to Adidas Nations reinforced what we have been thinking all summer -- ranking the class of 2016 at the top end is going to be incredibly difficult. The class is full of college-ready difference-makers who have size and ability that translate to professional level positions. Odds are that many of them will be able to make that launch pretty quickly. We will do our post-summer ranking in either late August or very early September and deciding where to place everybody will be tough. In this class, as many as 20 players have legitimate arguments to be considered top-10 type players and there are probably 35 or so who deserve serious top 25 consideration. So we are going to have a situation where a top 10 or 15 player could have improved over the course of the summer, but experiences a slight drop in the rankings because the class is just that stacked from a talent perspective. This is certainly a good problem and it is one that has been anticipated for a while now. Ever since members of this class were freshman, it was expected that they would turn into a monster class and so far they have backed up that thinking.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Adidas Nations: Saturday A.M. news and notes
GARDEN GROVE, CALIF. -- With his team down almost 20 points, five-star point guard Dennis Smith turned up the heat and led his team to a comeback win. He was one of several big timers doing big things during Saturday's first session at the loaded Adidas Nations camp.

Saturday morning stars

Dennis Smith - The highest-ranked point guard in the class of 2016 and the No. 4 overall player, Smith had a forgettable first half as his team fell down nearly 20 points. In the second he got focused and got cooking. He got into the lane for baskets, pushed the tempo and turned up the heat defensively while finishing with 26 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and a win.

Smith finished with 26 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in his team's win on Saturday morning.
Wenyen Gabriel - Clearly, Gabriel's play from the final two live periods is no fluke. All the 6-foot-9 combo forward did on Saturday morning was go for 26 points and 23 rebounds. He was all over the floor, hit jumpers, scored through double teams and continued to take his game to a new level.

Kyle Guy - While Dennis Smith was doing the driving, the future Virginia shooting guard was doing the damage from deep. Guy made eight of his 12 three-point attempts and finished with 30 points and five rebounds. He has firmly established himself as one of 2016's elite shooters but Guy is also a very good athlete. He just needs strength.

Rawle Alkins - Alkins is another who didn't want his team to lose on Saturday morning. A physical scorer who is known for putting up big numbers he did so scoring 20 points. However, it has been his passing that has really stuck out at Nations. Alkins had eight assists on Saturday morning and is leading the camp in assists through two games. For good measure, he added six rebounds to round out a very solid all-around performance. Alkins also released his final 10 schools on Saturday listing Kansas, Louisville, Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana, St. John's, N.C. State, Maryland, UNLV and Texas.

De'Ron Davis - A big and strong post player who recently cut his school list down to Arizona, Indiana, and Texas, Davis was aggressive in a 17-point and seven-rebound outing. He used his strength to bury defenders in the low post and then aggressively demanded the ball.

Hamidou Diallo - Because his Team Africa squad doesn't have a true point guard, the 2017 five-star shooting guard has had to play a lot at that position. He's shown that he's not bad in that role but his forte remains scoring the ball. He was explosive with the ball and showed that he loves to finish off the glass as much or more than anybody in the country with short to medium range shots.

Edrice Adebayo - Big Bam continues to dominate with his athleticism and toughness. He doesn't have many refined post moves yet but he will learn those in college and he does have good feet and astounding quickness for a kid who is 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds. Just another day at the office while scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.

Koby McEwen - Playing for the Canadian camp team, the Rivals150 guard was part of a total domination of one of the United States two class of 2017 teams in camp. He can play on or off the ball, is a strong athlete and he gets to the free throw line. McEwen scored 17 points and said that he's set official visits to Utah State (Sept. 4) and Wake Forest (Sept. 27).

Simisola Shittu - A class of 2018 product from Canada who will play at Montverde (Fla.) Academy this upcoming season, Shittu is one to watch in that class. A 6-foot-7 athlete with long arms, above average athleticism and a big time motor, he was all over the glass and ran the floor. Shittu was impressive during the summer playing for Canada's national team in the 19U world championships and his play at Nations backed it up.

Jaylen Hands - The top 25 rising junior was just ok from the field but he made lots happen off the dribble. He's very explosive turning the corner in pick and roll situations and delivers the ball with crisp passes. Hands looks like he has grown some this summer and remains a big time prospect.