CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The debate over who is the best player in the Class of 2015 will rage on throughout July’s live recruiting period, but what isn’t up for debate is who the best player was on the first day of the NBPA Top 100 Camp.
That was Ben Simmons.
And it wasn’t all that close.
The 6-foot-8 combo-forward finished the day as the camp’s leading scorer, going for 18 points in both games. He was active around the rim, finishing anything and everything he got his hands on despite doing up against talented big men like Chase Jeter and Doral Moore. He made plays in transition and finished above the rim, throwing down a couple of impressive dunks in the process.
Simmons, who is ranked No. 5 in the Class of 2015 by Rivals.com, is considered by some to be the best prospect in the 2015 class. The native of Australia burst onto the scene last spring when he attended the Pangos All-American camp and has since enrolled at Monteverde Academy (FL) and committed to LSU, where his Godfather, David Patrick, is an assistant coach.
The question with Simmons is what position he eventually grows into. At his current size, he’s probably ideally a wing player, especially if he makes it to the NBA. And while he’s skilled for this level, he’ll have to improve on his foot speed and perimeter skill-set to make a full transition to the wing. But if he ends up growing another inch or two, he could end up being a face-up four, which is probably the best natural fit.
That’s still a ways away, however.
For now, Simmons will have to settle for simply being good enough to dominate the competition at this level.
Who else was good?:
While he struggled in his first game, Syracuse-commit Malachi Richardson went off in the nightcap, finishing with 27 points and, at one point, hitting threes on three straight possessions. His ability off-the-dribble needs to get better to keep defenses honest, but Richardson knows what his bread and butter is. His size (6-foot-5) and athleticism, combined with that shooting stroke, is what made Jim Boeheim and company willing to accept a commitment during his sophomore season.
We never got a chance to talk with him, as he was whisked away on an early morning flight to head back to Colorado Springs and play for Team USA in the U18 nationals, but Chase Jeter went bucket for bucket with Simmons in the nightcap. He finished with 18 points, six boards and a pair of blocks, showing off a couple nice low-post moves and athleticism and energy around the basket. Jeter is ranked 17th in the Class of 2015 by Rivals.com.
Wednesday was my first glimpse as Dennis Smith Jr., a point guard in the Class of 2016 that had one of the best spring seasons of anyone in the class. The 6-foot-2 native of North Carolina was able to get into the paint and create for himself and his teammates and even knocked down a couple of threes as well.
Samir Sehic is not a name that is going to show up on a top 100 list, but the 6-foot-7 power forward always produces when he plays. He finished the day averaging 14.5 points and a camp-high 9.0 boards in two games despite matching up with more talented, more athletic, bigger and higher-profile players on every possession.
With the July Live Period coming to an end, it’s time for schools to starts deciding who they’re going to target, who they’re going to offer a scholarship to and who they’re going to cut bait with.
At the same time, we’re going to see a flurry of players starting whittling down the number of schools they’re actually considering.
D.J. Harvey was once considered a top ten prospect in the Class of 2017, and while the DeMatha product has seen his stock slide a bit in the last year, he’s still a top 50 player that has a number of power programs knocking on his door.
Over the weekend, he announced that he has cut his list to ten schools: Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Duke, Texas, Villanova, UConn, UCLA, Maryland, Arizona and Louisville.
Rick Pitino hopped on the air with 93.9 in Louisville recently and discussed the stuff you expect to hear a coach discuss on the radio in July.
He talked about the players that are improving (Jaylen Johnson). He talked about how he’s worried about how his team is going to score next season. He talked about the glut of big men on his roster and how none of them have done much to separate themselves from the pack.
It was all fairly typical.
But this line did catch my eye:
“Defensively, we’re going to press more than we’ve ever pressed,” Pitino said. “We’ve pressed a lot in the past but this team is very long, very athletic. I’m very bullish on this basketball team.”
Pitino’s teams have always pressed but he hasn’t been mentioned with the likes of Shaka Smart (Havoc) or Bobby Huggins (Press Virginia) because it isn’t an all-out press. Typically, the Cards run a 2-2-1 zone press that drops back to a half-zone/half-man amalgam that’s designed, in part, to confuse opponents as much as it is to force turnovers.
Is that going to change this year?
It would make some sense. This team is as athletic, long and versatile as any that he’s coached in recent memory. Think about the kind of physical tools that Ray Spalding and Jaylen Johnson and Deng Adel have. Think about what Donovan Mitchell can do if he’s allowed to ball-hawk the way Peyton Siva and Russ Smith did in the past.
This group can cause a lot of problems if they’re allowed to fly around the floor, and it sounds like Pitino may let them do just that.
In two seasons as a member of the Southern Miss basketball program from 2011-13, forward Jonathan Mills made an impression based on how hard he played the game. Monday afternoon it was reported that Mills was shot and killed in Chicago, not too far away from his alma mater of North Lawndale High School.
Before attending Eastern Utah CC and Southern Miss, Mills plied his trade at North Lawndale where he helped the school win a state title in 2008 and the Chicago Public League title as a senior in 2009. North Lawndale HS coach Lewis Thorpe told the Chicago Tribune that he and Mills had plans to work out at the school Monday afternoon, only for Thorpe to receive a phone call from his nephew informing him of Mills’ death.
Mills was going through workouts with his high school coach in preparation for a move overseas to play professionally.
The coach said he heard from witnesses at the scene that Mills had gone to a corner store with some friends and, when they came out, a car drove up and someone inside shot him.
“I’m so messed up. I am so shocked,” he said. “When I say he was well liked…everybody loved him.’’
Thorpe said Mills called him “Pops” when he coached him in high school.
After word of Mills’ death made the rounds many paid tribute to him via social media including Donnie Tyndall, who coached Mills at Southern Miss.
I can't believe My guy Jonathan Mills was shot n killed today! He was the TOUGHEST kid I ever coached! I love you bro! Prayers 4 family! RIP
With the NCAA allowing college basketball programs to take one trip outside of the country every four years, some coaches look at it as an opportunity to get a head start on preparations for the upcoming season. Chris Mooney’s Richmond Spiders are one team taking a trip this summer, as they’re due to leave the United States for Europe on August 8 with three exhibitions scheduled for their 12-day tour.
The trip was originally scheduled to begin in France, with the Spiders spending their first week there before making stops in the Netherlands and Germany. Monday afternoon the program announced a change to the itinerary, with the Spiders now spending their first week in Ireland and not France.
“We continue to be excited about the opportunity to travel abroad this summer,” Mooney said in the release. “We were able to make some changes to our travel itinerary, and we believe that this new itinerary will give our team a great opportunity to grow together and see other parts of the world.”
It isn’t stated as the reason for the change in the release but this news comes just over a week after a man drove a truck into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, claiming the lives of 84 people and leaving more than 200 others injured.
Richmond, which returns two of its top three scorers from a season ago in forward T.J. Cline and guard ShawnDre’ Jones, is schedule to return to the United States August 20. Per NCAA rules they’re also afforded the opportunity to practice for two weeks leading up to the trip, and heading to Europe can help the team build stronger connections in unfamiliar surroundings.