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.
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.
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.