INDIANAPOLIS — The second session of the adidas Gauntlet tipped off on Friday and the event featured a lot of high-level performances from top prospects. While the evening was highlighted by a tremendous matchup at guard between recent Arizona commit Justin Simon and electric 2016 guard Dennis Smith, Jr., it was five-star class of 2015 wing Jaylen Brown who stole the show on Friday night.
Playing with Game Elite, Brown went for a cool 48 points on Friday night in a win over Kansas Pray and Play. Scoring 48 points is always impressive, but it was the ruthless efficiency displayed by Rivals.com‘s No. 11 player in the class that made the performance special. The 6-foot-7 Brown was 15-for-22 from the field, 6-for-1o from three-point range and 12-for-13 from the free-throw line while also collecting eight rebounds and grabbing five steals.
Brown has always been able to get to the rack using his tremendous athleticism, but his jumper has improved a lot since the last time I saw him last summer.
After the game, Brown told NBCSports.com that some new schools have gotten involved this spring.
“Kentucky, UCLA — the whole staff from Kentucky and UCLA — Kansas and Ohio State. Those are the latest but everyone else is pretty much the same,” Brown said.
Brown also said he is very open in the recruiting process and wants to commit this summer.
Simon vs. Smith, Jr. highlights the nightcap: The most highly-anticipated Friday night matchup at the adidas Gauntlet was a matchup of top 25 guards as recent Arizona 2015 commit Justin Simon and Gamepoint matched up with Team Loaded (North Carolina) and 2016 guard Dennis Smith, Jr.
The game was delayed until after 10 p.m. thanks to a missed flight, but for the dozen or so people that were in attendance to watch this one, it was well worth the late start. Team Loaded landed the 73-71 win, but Simon and Smith, Jr. were both solid and had their moments.
The 6-foot-4 Simon is still more of a combo guard than point guard, but with his tremendous wingspan and feel for the game, he’s a matchup nightmare with the ball in his hands. Simon is the type of guard that is never idle with the ball and he doesn’t waste movements very often with the dribble. The California native’s jumper could get more consistent, but for now Simon is a really good all-around guard.
Smith, Jr. has burst onto the scene recently thanks to some ridiculous mixtape material and his tremendous vision and athleticism. Sometimes the sophomore guard tries too hard to make the flashy pass, but he has outstanding burst and is a complete terror in the open floor. Smith, Jr. also loves running high pick-and-rolls on the wings and creating for himself or others off of those types of sets.
Smith, Jr. told NBCSports.com that he has scholarship offers from Charlotte, Kansas, N.C. State, VCU and Wake Forest with recent interest this spring coming from Arizona, Duke, Louisville, Michigan and North Carolina.
Maker makes his mark: The largest crowd that I saw on Friday night was for class of 2016 five-star 7-footer Thon Maker, who ran with Team Loaded (Virginia). Maker was in the news this winter for some absurd mixtape comparisons that were sloppily made by writers and editors who had never seen him play, but make no mistake about it, Maker is a very talented prospect with a ton of upside.
Watching Maker get up and down the floor with ease is a sight to behold and he moves so quickly laterally and covers so much ground that he’s a nightmare on the defensive end. Maker led the Nike EYBL in blocks last season and is likely to do the same in the adidas Gauntlet thanks to his tremendous timing and quick burst off the floor.
One the offensive end, Maker is still getting a feel for who he is. He is better at establishing post position than he was in the past but Maker still needs to add strength and he also operated a lot from the left elbow. He’s also effective as a pick-and-pop option out past the three-point line and Maker can also put it on the floor a bit — although he needs to get stronger to avoid being stripped down low so often.
Once Maker adds some strength and learns to keep the ball high all the time, he could be a terrifying prospect. He finished with 22 points, five blocks and four rebounds in the win.