July Live Period Preview: 15 names that you need to know

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Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

Wednesday, July 9th, at 5:00 p.m. will mark the start of July’s live recruiting period, a series of three five-day stretches where coaches are allowed to be on the road evaluating and scouting some of the nation’s top prospects. Over the course of the next three days, we will be getting you prepped with everything that you need to know heading into these 15 days.

First up, 15 names that you’ll want to keep an eye on this month:

CLASS OF 2015:

Jaylen Brown: “No one would blame you if you confused Jaylen Brown with Stanley Johnson: Same size, same build, some power wing style of play, they even have the same haircut. I’m not sure if Brown is the best prospect in this class, but there isn’t a player that works harder or has a more professional mindset and attitude when it comes to preparing. Oh, and he just so happens to be filthy.” – Rob Dauster

Jalen Brunson: “Brunson is the best point guard in the class and the only player in the top 25 that can truly be considered a pure point guard instead of being a scoring guard that wants the ball in his hands. And it doesn’t hurt that Brunson’s recruitment is one of the most intriguing: most had him pegged as following his dad to Temple … before his dad was arrested.” – RD

RELATED: What is the July live period, and why is it important?

Henry Ellenson: “Although the 2015 class is loaded with five-star big men, Ellenson is one of the few that can stretch the floor with consistency. With a brother who recently landed at Marquette via transfer, does the big man stay in his home state, or does his recruitment go national, with recent offers from Duke, North Carolina and UCLA?” – Scott Phillips

Malik Newman: “The top guard in a long list of forwards atop the class, the 6-foot-3 Newman is arguably the most gifted scorer on the grassroots circuit. He lost his top spot in the Rivals Top 150 to Ben Simmons, but can he regain it with a big July? Oh, and what about that package deal with Diamond Stone?” – Terrence Payne

Ivan Rabb: “The native of Oakland is the No. 1 player in the 2015 class, according to some, and the big man could separate himself from the pack with a strong month. Athletically gifted, Rabb needs to be a bit more assertive in July to be a potential No. 1 player.” – SP

source: AP
Diamond Stone (AP)

Ben Simmons: “The Australian native is a versatile 6-foot-8 forward that has already committed to LSU and has claimed the top spot in a front court-heavy Class of 2015. He led Montverde Academy to an undefeated season, and was the MVP of the NBPA Top 100 Camp.” – TP

Ray Smith: “The five-star wing from Las Vegas has vaulted up the Class of 2015 rankings in the last year and he’s one of the few elite small forwards in his class. He’s now ranked in the top ten by Rivals.com. Does his recruitment go national with a big July?” – SP

Diamond Stone: “Stone is a big-bodied center that is supremely skilled offensively, which makes him an elite recruit … and a coach’s dream alongside Malik Newman. I think many tend to take the “package deal” talk with a grain of salt given how fluid of a situation recruiting can be. Will Newman and Stone wind up on the same campus when it’s time to attend college? Who knows, but that won’t stop prominent programs from attempting to make that happen.” – Raphielle Johnson

Allonzo Trier: “Trier started all five games for Billy Donovan and USA Basketball at the FIBA Americas U18 Championships. He’s also the leading scorer in the Nike EYBL at 29.4 points per game. Trier, who was a New York Times magazine coverboy at 13, is one of the fastest-rising guards in 2015.” – TP

Stephen Zimmerman: “Zimmerman, the No. 7 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals.com, is one of the most unique players in the Class. He’s 6-foot-11, he’s left-handed, he’s got 15-foot range, he’s lanky and athletic, and he’s an excellent passer. Zimmerman has cut his list down to eight schools.” – RD

CLASS OF 2016:

Josh Jackson: “The No. 1 player in the 2016 class, Jackson deserves more national media attention because he’s a complete wing that can really get rolling as a scorer. Jackson also defends and rebounds and has some natural passing ability as well.” – SP

Thon Maker: “No wild player comparisons here, but the 7-foot-1 Maker is clearly a player to watch this month. Sure there’s the skill level, which makes him one of the most sought-after players regardless of class, but there’s also the question of which class he’ll be a part of. Will he stay in the 2016 class, or will he reclassify into the 2015 class?” – RJ

Dennis Smith, Jr.: “Smith has been on the receiving end of a lot of praise this spring and summer, and his skill level has made him one of the top players in his class. And given the fact that he’s from North Carolina, ACC programs will make sure to be in attendance for many (if not all) of his games this month.” – RJ

Jayson Tatum: “Tatum’s got all kinds of potential. A smooth and skilled 6-foot-7 wing, Tatum can play and defend multiple positions. He needs to add strength to his frame, but the top five recruit and St. Louis-native will have his pick of colleges.” – RD

Derryck Thornton: “Thornton’s had a very good spring and summer to date, emerging as one of the best distributors regardless of class and winning MVP at the Stephen Curry Point Guard Camp. With the nation’s coaches out and about this month, July could be a big month for a player already held in high regard.” – RJ

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.