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Seven Takeaways from Breakout Classic, The Showdown

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The first of July’s three live periods ended at 5:00 p.m. Sunday. Each of our writers were at an event last week, and each will be giving you seven takeaways from those events. 

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia University was home to a pair of high-level events during the first July live period, with Reebok hosting the Breakout Classic, a camp featuring more than 100 of the best high school players in the country, being followed by The Showdown, an invitational tournament held by Elevate Hoops.

Here are seven thoughts on the action from the City of Brotherly Love:

1. Playing hard will get you noticed: It seems obvious, doesn’t it? But it bears repeating, over and over again. The best example of this may be Horace Spencer, a top 75 recruit from Philly that spent much of his junior season riding the pine for Findlay Prep. A lot of people are going to brand Spencer a breakout player from the first week of July because he had a couple of big games. What they won’t realize is that he had those big games because his motor never stopped running. He got easy dunks because he beat people down the floor and worked for offensive rebounds. He kept his team in games because he blocked shots and went after loose balls and defensive rebounds like he was playing in the Final Four.

MOREAll our content from the 2014 July Live Recruiting Period

Another example is Nate Morris, a top 75 big man in the class of 2016. Morris was on the receiving end of one of the nastiest dunks from the Breakout Classic, but that didn’t stop him from challenging everything shot the rim. Getting posterized comes with the territory for shot blockers. The high major head coach I was sitting with at the time was much more impressed with Morris challenging shots at the rim on two of the next three possessions than he was with the player that dunked on Morris.

2. Jawun Evans is staking his claim for best point guard in his class: People that read this site or that follow me on twitter will be familiar with Evans because I’ve become infatuated with the No. 32 recruit in the class of 2015. He’s not built in the mold of guys like Russell Westbrook and John Wall; he’s 6-foot on a good day and his athleticism manifests more in his quickness than it does vertical explosiveness. But he’s a rock-solid ball-handler that always makes the right decision, he’s a playmaker off the bounce and he’s a pest defensively. John Groce of Illinois and Rick Barnes of Texas were among the head coaches that make their way to Philly to get a glimpse of the Kimball, Texas, native.

3. None of the three elite big men in Philly were dominant: There were three elite class of 2015 big men in Philly this week — No. 6 Diamond Stone, No. 11 Elijah Thomas and No. 14 Skal Labissiere — and none of the three were overly impressive. Stone looked great early on against Labissiere in the marquee matchup of the first day of the Breakout Classic, but a combination of stomach issues and struggles against the strength of Thomas made it tough for him to shine. Thomas is immovable when he establishes position on the block, but he lack of vertical explosiveness hindered him against some of the more athletic players at the camp. Labissiere has the length and athleticism — and soft touch — to be an elite player down the road, but the only time he looked dominant was when he played against a team from Richmond during The Showdown that didn’t have anyone over 6-foot-6 on their front line.

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4. Dwayne Bacon continues to impress with his ability to score: You’d be hard-pressed to find a player in the class of 2015 that has continually impressed as much as Dwayne Bacon has. Bacon, who is headed to Oak Hill for his senior season, might be the best wing-scorer in the class. He had an excellent three days during the Breakout Class and capped off his week with a 43-point performance against Justin Simon and Gamepoint on Sunday during The Showdown. He’s a smooth, 6-foot-6 scorer that can get to the rim in the half court and is deadly when he gets into a rhythm shooting the ball.

5. P.J. Dozier is a player to keep an eye on in 2015: Dozier is coming off of knee surgery that cost him his junior season, but he returned this spring and has put together a very strong performance thus far in the most important summer of his career to date. Dozier has sprouted to 6-foot-6, and given his upbringing as a point guard, this has made him one of the more unique talents in the class of 2015. He’s an elite-level passer, although he can be turnover prone at times while trying to create a Sportscenter-worthy assist, and he has three-point range with time and space. It will be interesting to see what position he ends up playing at the next level. Is he a full-time point guard? Is he a playmaker on the wing? What positions can he guard in college? I can see him playing a role similar to that of Nik Stauskas or Grant Gibbs wherever he ends up going.

6. Derryck Thornton is the real deal: This week was my first glimpse at Thornton, a five-star point guard in the class of 2016 that plays his high school ball for Findlay Prep. He stole the show on Wednesday night, when Breakout Classic organizers orchestrated a matchup between Diamond Stone and Skal Labissiere to kick off the live period, and his play never dwindled throughout his three days at the camp. His ability to get into the paint and keep his dribble alive until he can find space for a shot or an open teammate is reminiscent of one of the NBA point guards that he said he watches a lot of tape on: Chris Paul.

7. When will Derrick Jones make the leap?: Derrick Jones has long been a favorite of the guys that make the youtube mixtapes, as the 6-foot-8 small forward might be the best athlete in the class of 2015. But in order for Jones to make the jump from being a scintillating athlete to becoming an elite college basketball prospect, he needs to do three things: add strength and size to his frame, improve his ability to handle the ball and become a better jump shooter. He showed some glimpses of that during the week in Philly, but he still has a way to go.

Cyclones add big man for 2017

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 15:  Head coach Steve Prohm of the Murray State Racers shouts from the sidelines against the Colorado State Rams  during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 15, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Iowa State secured its first commitment Wednesday of what will be a pivotal class of forwards in 2017.

KeyShawn Faezell of Mississippi committed to Steve Prohm and the Cyclones, he announced Wednesday.

“After praying to God to lead me in the right path and talking with my dad,” Faezell wrote, “I’ve decided to further my education and basketball career under coach Prohm at Iowa State University.”

Faezell, a 6-foot-9 consensus top-150 forward in the 2017 class, joins wing Terrence Lewis as the first two members of a class that figures to number at least six for ISU. The addition of Faezell is key because ISU will be losing three members of its frontcourt it will likely be leaning on heavily in 2015-16 in Deonte Burton, Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie. A 2016 big man, Cameron Lard, has also yet to enroll in classes this fall due to academic issues, making Faezell’s commitment even more important should Lard be unable to get clearance.

“They need some people to come in and compete,” Feazell told the Ames Tribune. “I think I fit in the program.”

Prohm’s teams dating back to his Murray State days have always been guard-oriented and guard-heavy, but beginning to stack the roster with quality big men will be key as he looks to continue the Cyclones’ success in the Big 12, which includes a school-record five-straight NCAA tournament appearances.

BYU adds commit for 2019

Dave Rose
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BYU added a commitment from a high school senior this week, but the Cougars won’t be seeing him on campus until 2019.

Kolby Lee, a 6-foot-9 forward from Idaho, pledged to BYU on Monday evening, but won’t suit up until after serving a two-year mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints, according to the Deseret News.

“I had a great feeling about BYU, and I prayed about it,” Lee told the paper. “I just feel like it’s the right fit for me. It just seems right. It feels right.”

Lee chose BYU over offers from  Utah State, Boise State and UC Davis. He was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN and three by Scout.

His decision to forego immediately joining BYU certainly isn’t a new wrinkle for the Cougars, who routinely see their players either delay their initial eligibility or pause it mid-career while serving on missions.

Self pays freshman Jackson a major compliment

Josh Jackson, from Napa, Calif.,, dunks over Nancy Mulkey, from Cypress, Texas, as he competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
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Freshman phenom production under Bill Self has been something of a contentious topic. Many fault the coach, who has won one national title and 12-straight Big 12 championships, for not developing one-and-done talent to their fullest potential during their single-season stays in Lawrence. Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo are Exhibit 1-A and 1-B for this argument in recent years.

Whatever outside criticism there is (Andrew Wiggins did go No. 1 overall just 2 years ago, after all), Self isn’t shying away from hyping the latest freshman with big expectations to come to KU. When asked who the greatest athlete of all-time is at the school’s annual Tradition Night last week, Self had a simple, if tongue-and-cheek, response.

“I’ll say Josh Jackson,” Self said of the the 6-foot-8 shooting guard ranked No. 1 in his class, according to Lawrence Journal-World.

With others answering with the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali, it’s pretty fair to say Self was playing to the crowd with the answer, but it’s still telling that he was willing to deliver such a sound bite, even if it was before a welcoming audience. Self didn’t try to seriously depress expectations for Wiggins, a player Jackson is often compared to, and it looks like he won’t for Jackson as well.

Jackson, though, won’t have the burden Wiggins had as there’s one of the country’s best backcourts in Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham to help shoulder the workload for the Jayhawks.

 

ACC non-commital on HB2 stance

John Swofford
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With North Carolina unwilling to rescind their controversial so-called bathroom bill, the NBA has withdrawn its All-Star Game from the state this year and numerous high-profile music acts have canceled performances as a result.

The ACC is declining to join them with a hard-line, or really any, position.

“We don’t want to damage our league with any premature decisions,” commissioner John Swofford said on The David Glenn Show. “We’ll just see how it plays out.”

The ACC, of course, has quite the presence in the state with North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest all in the Tar Heel State. Swofford’s comments are sure to draw the interest of the LGBT community, which has roundly been critical of the bill, which requires people to use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, and has recently been active in college athletics, opposing the Big 12’s potential inclusion of BYU in its expansion plans over concerns of the Church of Latter Day Saints school’s honor code.

North Carolina’s bill has also drawn the eye of the NCAA, which is requiring potential championship sights to provide information on local anti-discrimination laws.

One of the loudest voices in the ACC, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, has come out against the law.

“It’s an embarrassing bill,” Coach K said last month.

The Champions Classic renewed through 2019

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 27: Bill Self head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks claps for his team as they celebrate winning the Big 12 Conference Championship after they defeated Texas Tech Red Raiders 67-58 at Allen Fieldhouse on February 27, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. With the win, Kansas clinched its 12th straight conference championship. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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The Champions Classic is back, baby!!!

On Wednesday, the four schools that participate in the event — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State — announced that they have signed deals to extend the life of the doubleheader for another three years.

This is terrific news. The Champions Classic is always the best early-season event of the season, an annual double-header that always ends up putting together two of the best non-conference games in packed NBA arenas. This year, it features Duke, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, squaring off with Kansas, who is a consensus top three team with the No. 1 freshman in the class, Josh Jackson, on their roster, in one game.

The other game? Kentucky, the third consensus top three team nationally, going up against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, who will be, at worst, a top 15 team in the preseason polls.

So yeah, we’re going to get a pair of sensational basketball games in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15th. MSG also just so happens to be the best arena to watch a great neutral site basketball game.

It’s going to be awesome.

There’s only one possible way to make it better: turn it into a two-day event, with the winners squaring off for the Champions Classic title the following night.

Make it happen.

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

Nov. 14, 2017 (United Center, Chicago)
Kansas vs. Kentucky
Duke vs. Michigan State

Nov. 13, 2018 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Michigan State vs. Kansas
Duke vs. Kentucky

Nov. 12, 2019 (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Kansas vs. Duke
Michigan State vs. Kentucky