Seven takeaways from adidas Gauntlet Indianapolis

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(2016 point guard Dennis Smith, Jr. Credit: adidas)

INDIANAPOLIS — After taking in the action at the adidas Gauntlet stop in Indianapolis over the weekend, here are seven takeaways I have from the event.

1. Jaylen Brown is the best small forward in the 2015 class: Georgia native Jaylen Brown is already a five-star prospect and the No. 11 player in the 2015 class according to Rivals but there had been rumblings during the high school season that other wings like Las Vegas native Ray Smith, Philadelphia native Derrick Jones and North Carolina native Brandon Ingram had emerged enough to make it a debate. While I haven’t seen Jones in-person since last summer, I’d be hard-pressed to say any player is better at small forward than the 6-foot-7 Brown. With his power drive game from the wing and an emerging perimeter jumper, Brown is going to draw some comparisons to Arizona commit and McDonald’s All-American Stanley Johnson, but he’s his own player. After the 48-point explosion Friday night and another impressive stretch on Saturday, Brown cemented his status as the current top small forward in the 2015 class.

RELATED: Five-star Jaylen Brown wants to end recruitment this summer

2. Ray Smith and Brandon Ingram have improved: I mentioned Smith and Ingram in the previous paragraph in regards to Jaylen Brown, and although they may not be on-par with Brown right now, both possess tremendous upside going forward. Las Vegas native Smith ran with Dream Vision and the 6-foot-6 wing has one of the purest perimeter strokes off-the-catch in the class. Especially from the left wing, Smith is deadly. Smith can also play above the rim and handle a bit in the open floor, but his defense is a cause for concern at the moment. Smith just had too many mental lapses on that end of the floor and doesn’t possess the necessary strength to stop bigger wings at the current moment. Ingram is an interesting case because he’s grown a few inches during the high school season and now stands at 6-foot-7. Ingram acknowledged to NBCSports.com that he’s still trying to figure out his new frame, but he had some brilliant flashes of play this weekend in Indianapolis. Ingram is bouncy enough to play above the rim and grab rebounds off of his quick second jump and skilled enough to play on the perimeter and handle a bit. He tends to float too much on the perimeter sometimes and still needs strength, but like Smith, he has a lot of upside going forward.

RELATED: adidas Gauntlet Saturday: Chase Jeter shows steady improvement

3. Tyler Dorsey and Justin Simon will be an interesting backcourt for Arizona: When I asked five-star guard Tyler Dorsey about new Wildcat commit Justin Simon on Saturday, even he acknowledged that both guards did similar things.

“I saw one highlight reel during the season when he played at Temecula,” Dorsey said to NBCSports.com. “We have similar games but I think we’ll be a good backcourt for the future.”

Dorsey’s opinion isn’t far off. Both he and Simon are more combo guard than true point guard at this point, but they both do different things well. Dorsey is a much better defender and scores shooting the ball off-the-catch and has a really good pull-up jumper at the elbow while Simon is more apt to go to the rim and make a play for himself or others. Both have good size and feel for the game and it’ll be interesting to see how they mesh together at Arizona in the future.

4. Carlton Bragg needs to bring it every game: There is no question that Ohio Basketball Club forward Carlton Bragg is a top-10 talent in the 2015 class but the 6-foot-8 forward has a hard time consistently bringing it every single game.

While the five-star forward closed out the adidas Gauntlet with a dominant 36-point performance on 13-of-20 shooting in a win on Sunday, Bragg didn’t attempt more than 12 field goal attempts in any of OBC’s four other games during the weekend — three of them losses. Some of that falls on his guards for not putting Bragg in proper position to go to work on the block so he can face-up and shoot his devastating mid-range face-up jumper, but Bragg has to be more assertive demanding the ball and making sure the offense runs through him.

5. Dennis Smith, Jr. is the real deal: I hadn’t seen 2016 point guard Dennis Smith, Jr. prior to the weekend in-person, but after speaking with scouts and college coaches during the week, it was clear that buzz was growing for the 6-foot-1 North Carolina native. Smith lived up to the hype in my eyes this weekend as he played well against 2015 top-25 guard Justin Simon on Friday night in a Team Loaded (North Carolina) win. Smith plays above the rim but he’s also adept at using jabs and fakes to blow by his first defender and create for himself or others. He’s a bit of a gambler on defense but he has good timing as a shot blocker and rebounder at guard and his hands are quick enough to force some steals. It’ll be fun to track his development going forward and he’s a highlight-reel waiting to happen.

RELATED: Five-star 2016 point guard Dennis Smith, Jr. is the next great guard out of North Carolina

6. Thon Maker is getting more accustomed to physical play: One of the big positives from this weekend’s adidas Gauntlet was seeing 2016 top-5 prospect Thon Maker play with more physicality in the post. Maker moves so well for a 7-footer, covering ground laterally and vertically so quickly on the defensive end, but he’s had problems in the past with physical play thanks to his slight build. Maker still needs to add strength to avoid getting stripped of the ball, but he fought with much more ferocity in the post this weekend than I had seen in the past. Maker is skilled enough to be a pick-and-pop big man on the perimeter, and he can put it on the floor a bit, but he still has to get stronger to maximize his potential.

RELATED: adidas Gauntlet Friday: Jaylen Brown goes for 48 points

7. A great start for the adidas Gauntlet: With Nike switching its grassroots initiative to a league format with the EYBL, it changed the way spring and summer high school basketball is being played in America. This year adidas trotted out their version of a grassroots league, the adidas Gauntlet, and they’ve done a nice job for a first-year league. There was a lot of big-time talent, the college officials are so much better than typical grassroots referees and having a shot clock and full stats gives scouts and fans a better glimpse of how players might fare in college basketball. And since it isn’t a tournament format where kids can sometimes play a ridiculous number of games in the same weekend, legs are a bit fresher throughout the weekend than in a tournament setting. The EYBL is still the gold standard, thanks to having a few years under their belt, but adidas is doing a really nice job of bridging that gap and creating a really nice league of their own.

Missouri lands five-star forward Jontay Porter

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Missouri has another member of the Porter family in the fold as forward Jontay Porter officially committed to the Tigers on Monday night.

Following in the footsteps of older brother Michael Porter Jr., and father Michael Porter Sr., Jontay is currently a member of the Class of 2018 who is rumored to be reclassifying to the Class of 2017.

A 6-foot-10 forward who was recently elevated to five-star status on Rivals.com, Porter is having a monster spring in the Nike EYBL with MoKan Elite. Porter has been one of the best players in the league, as he’s putting up 18.1 points and 12.7 rebounds per game while shooting 40 percent from three-point range.

If Jontay is able to join Missouri next season then he gives the Tigers another intriguing piece to play alongside his brother Michael, who is good enough to be a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Although Jontay isn’t the go-to player that his brother is, he could be a very effective SEC role player early in his career, as his ability to rebound and stretch the floor makes him an extremely intriguing piece on the floor.

Kevin Stallings is a tone-deaf clown

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Pitt guard Cameron Johnson is the most coveted transfer in college basketball this offseason.

The 6-foot-8 Johnson is coming off of a strong campaign with the Panthers in which he put up 11.9 points per game while shooting 42 percent from three-point range.

Not only is Johnson a proven double-figure scorer in a league like the ACC, but he’s eligible to play right away thanks to his graduation from Pitt. Johnson graduating from school in three years and missing one season due to injury also makes him the rare graduate transfer who has two seasons of eligibility remaining. So, not only can Johnson come in and make an immediate impact, but he’s also able to stay for another year after.

This sort of thing almost never happens, let alone with a 6-foot-8 shooter that could sway the national title race.

It’s why blueblood programs like Kentucky and UCLA are in hot pursuit of Johnson. It’s why another ACC school, reigning national champion North Carolina, is also intrigued by Johnson being on the market.

Except Johnson won’t be allowed to attend North Carolina, or any other school in the ACC, without first sitting out a season and losing one season of eligibility. At least that’s how things currently stand thanks to Pitt’s power over Johnson — despite Johnson graduating from the school and having no more formal educational ties to the school.

Here’s what Pitt said on the matter in a release to the News-Observer.

“Cameron Johnson and his father were informed of our policy as well as the appeals process when they elected to seek to transfer. They went through our transfer appeals process and were granted permission to contact ACC schools; however, the committee upheld the policy to limit immediate eligibility within the conference.

If Cameron were to transfer within the ACC, he would be eligible to receive financial aid immediately but would have to sit out a year of competition due to standard NCAA transfer regulations. Throughout this process, we have remained consistent to our department policy and we will continue to do so.”

Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings had a peculiar interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that was published about two weeks ago. During the interview, of which the full transcript was made public, Stallings went in-depth about Johnson’s transfer and the current state of college basketball. Stallings also made remarks about how the media holds programs accountable for trying to bully certain players.

Here’s a small sample of what Stallings had to say.

“But the unexpected departures are the things that are becoming more common than uncommon in college basketball. You have guys constantly trying to transfer up. You have guys going pro that have never played a minute of college basketball after they’ve sat out a year at a school. You have guys asking out of their letters of intent with frequency. We’re dealing in a landscape in college basketball right now that is as probably as difficult and peculiar as it’s ever been. It used to be if a kid signed his letter of intent and he wanted out of it, you had to play a year of junior-college ball to get out of it.

“The media didn’t basically force institutions to let people break a binding agreement. It’s kind of interesting now the media tries to put so much pressure on programs, whether it be athletic directors or coaches, saying ‘Well, the coaches can move.’ Well, hey, guess what? I’ve got a great big buyout in my deal that prevents me from moving. I’ve got something in my contract saying I can’t go to another league school. It’s not as easy for coaches to go. That’s everyone’s rationale — ‘Well, the coaches can leave.’ We’re dealing in an environment right now that is as fluid as it’s ever been. It’s just where we’re at in the whole thing with the unexpected departures.”

Stallings makes some sound points–particularly about coaches having buyouts and the general perception of coaching changes in basketball.

But Kevin Stallings mostly sounds like a tone-deaf clown here.

Nobody is going to feel sorry for a millionaire coach who willingly makes the decision to change jobs.

Nobody.

Especially if that same millionaire is comparing a choice to change jobs to the transfer decisions of unpaid student-athletes. It’s even more laughable now that Stallings is holding power over an unpaid student-athlete from going to play at another school because of purely basketball reasons.

Pitt and Stallings need to do the right thing and release Johnson to play at any school right away because Johnson has already done everything he needs to do to appease the program.

Things changed dramatically for Johnson during his three years at Pitt. He became one of the ACC’s better players and earned his degree. Johnson held up his end of the bargain when he signed his Letter of Intent.  Now Johnson just wants the chance improve his basketball future by playing with one of the nation’s elite programs.

Stallings can blame the current state of college basketball, the media, or whoever he wants for Johnson’s transfer from Pitt.

But Stallings also has to realize that he’s going to be the one who looks stupid if he continues to leave these restrictions in place for Johnson. Stallings already has a history of this sort of thing when he placed transfer restrictions on former player Sheldon Jeter. If Stallings continues to uphold transfer restrictions on Johnson, then he’s going to gain a permanent reputation in recruiting during a time when players continue to gain more freedom over their basketball futures.

If Johnson does happen to go to an ACC school like North Carolina, it’s not as if Pitt has any sort of competitive roster that is going to be fighting the Tar Heels for league supremacy during the next two seasons.

Stallings and Pitt need to just bite the bullet, let Johnson have his freedom, and hope it doesn’t come back to hurt them for one or two seasons in ACC play.

It surely beats the alternative of being labeled a head coach who limits player freedom after six players left Pitt during a single offseason. That type of burn lasts a lot longer than two years.

Presbyterian hires Wofford assistant Dustin Kerns as new head coach

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Presbyterian finally has its new head coach as the program is set to hire Wofford assistant coach Dustin Kerns, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

Kerns has been an assistant at Wofford for the past seven years during his second stint with the program. Also spending six seasons as an assistant coach at Santa Clara, the Tennessee native is getting his first shot at running his own program.

Finishing last in the Big South last season at 5-25 and 1-17 in conference play, Presbyterian is trying to rebuild after head coach Gregg Nibert resigned in April. Nibert was the head coach of the Blue Hens for 28 seasons, so Kerns is going to be a completely fresh start for the program.

Tennessee lands impact graduate transfer James Daniel

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Tennessee and head coach Rick Barnes earned a commitment from one of the top graduate transfers on the market on Monday when Howard guard James Daniel pledged to the Volunteers.

The 6-foot-0 Daniel was the nation’s leading scorer at 27.1 points per game his junior season in 2015-16. Daniel played in only two games last season as a left ankle injury caused him to have surgery.

With nearly 2,000 career points to his name, Daniel gives Tennessee an additional perimeter scorer who should come in and make an immediate impact right away. While Howard has low shooting percentages and a high usage rate during his time at Howard, it’ll be interesting to see how the year off and more talented teammates will alter his game.

If Howard can be a more efficient scorer in his final season, then he has a chance to be one of the better players for the Volunteers this season.

Two workouts this week could alter Caleb Swanigan’s NBA Draft decision

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Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan has the most important decision among any college basketball player who could return next season from the 2017 NBA Draft process. If Swanigan comes back for his junior season, he’s the frontrunner for National Player of the Year. More importantly, Purdue would have a serious chance to repeat as Big Ten regular season champions, especially if Vince Edwards also returns from the same draft process.

Wednesday night is the decision deadline for players to return to college basketball for next season and Swanigan will use two more workouts scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday to help decide his future. According to multiple reports, Swanigan will workout for the Orlando Magic on Tuesday and the New York Knicks on Wednesday.

Tuesday’s workout with the Magic will also reportedly involve Cal big man Ivan Rabb — an important workout for Swanigan since Rabb is listed ahead of Swanigan on a lot of popular mock drafts. The Magic own three picks between No. 25 and No. 35 — which is listed slightly above the No. 40 slot that Draft Express has Swanigan listed. So if Swanigan has a good workout against Rabb for the Magic, then he could get himself some sort of guarantee from a Magic team that desperately needs talent and has a lot of picks in that range.

The Knicks also have Swanigan scheduled for a Wednesday workout as they own the No. 44 overall pick in the second round. Again, the Knicks are a team in win-now mode with current stars like Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis openly feuding with the team’s front-office, so it wouldn’t be out of the question for Swanigan to land some sort of guarantee from New York in the second round.

Of course, guarantees for draft night are nice to have, but things can change quickly on draft night. Swanigan has to consider all of the information he is receiving before he makes his decision on Wednesday. But if Swanigan has two strong workouts and gets the information that he’s looking for this week, then he could easily bolt for a potential guaranteed contract.