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Nike Peach Jam Wednesday Recap: Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum stand out

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North Augusta, S.C. — The first day of Nike’s Peach Jam is usually pretty tame. Typically, the way it works is that Wednesday is dedicated to the 16-year olds, but with The Family and Team CP3 finding themselves tied in the standings after four EYBL events, it set up a play-in game for the right to continue in the event.

Win or go home, and for Harry Giles, that meant 32 minutes to put on a performance that would allow him team to continue on in the event. And Giles, the No. 2 player in the Class of 2016, per Rivals, turned in a performance worthy of advancing.

Giles finished with 21 points, 15 boards — at least half of which came on the offensive end of the floor — and a pair of blocks.

Those numbers become all the more impressive when you consider that Giles is just 13 months removed from a devastating knee injury where he tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus.

“I’m playing in a brace, but it feels like I’mmnot,” Giles told NBCSports after the win. “I know it’s going to take time, but at the same time it’s starting to feel like it used to feel.”

“It’s the month of July, so I’m pushing [myself]. I have to play hard. This game meant a lot. Win or go home.”

The majority of Giles’ damage was done around the rim, as he has the size, length and massive hands to be a dominant player around the rim. He’s also a better passer than he gets credit for, but he struggled a bit early on with finishing around the rim. But the fact that he was as dominant as he was against The Family is a testament to the work that Giles has put in to rehab his knee.

“I put in a lot of hard work to get where I am,” Giles said. He was able to return to the court in May, playing in two of the EYBL events before taking a month off from games to work on getting the strength and explosiveness back in his lower body. Perhaps more importantly, Giles has gotten past the mental block that often comes for an athlete after suffering a serious injury.

“I’ve got confidence in [my knee],” he added, saying that he estimates he is currently playing between 85-90%.

As far as his recruitment is concerned, the schools that were after him before the injury are still on his trail. The Winston-Salem native listed Ohio State, Syracuse, Texas, UNLV, North Carolina, Duke, N.C. State and Wake Forest when asked who was recruiting him the hardest of late.

If Giles has taken anything out of the injury, it’s that he appreciates what the sport he loves more than ever.

“I don’t really take anything for granted anymore,” he said. “I just love to play basketball.”

Alterique Gilbert was the game-changer: Giles was the guy that everyone came to see play, but the real difference-maker for CP3in their win over The Family was Alterique Gilbert, a 6-foot point guard that is ranked 92nd in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. Gilbert changed the game early in the second half, sparking a massive run by CP3, as they turned a 16-point first half deficit into a 10-point second half lead and, eventually, a 70-59 win. He’s a waterbug with the ball in his hands, making the large crowd that showed for the game ooh-and-add a number of times with his ability to cross people over. His perimeter jumper leaves something to be desired, but it’s clear watching Gilbert play why he currently lists offers from Auburn, Cincinnati, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Memphis, Miami, Texas A&M and Wake Forest.

Jayson Tatum goes crazy: The way the EYBL works is that they hold four events during the spring in which each team that participates in the league has a chance to earn their way into Peach Jam. Tatum plays for the St. Louis Eagles, who failed to qualify. But the No. 4 player in the Class of 2016 was allowed to participate in the event with the U16 team, and he put on a show on Wednesday night.

It wasn’t fair.

Tatum finished with 29 points in a win over Team Final, absolutely dominating overmatched opponents in his age group. With Roy Williams and, among many others, a pair of Duke assistants — Jon Scheyer and Nate James — watching, it’s quite obvious why Tatum is ranked as high as he is.

Brian Bowen is a name to watch: The player that turned the most heads outside of Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles on Wednesday night in North Augusta was Bowen, a 6-foot-6 forward from Saginaw, Mich., that plays for The Family 16s. Bowen, a top ten recruit in the Class of 2017, is a lithe, silky forward that made a number of gorgeous moves slithering through the lane and finishing around the rim. A first cousin of former Michigan State star Jason Richardson, Bowen already boasts offers from the likes of Michigan State and Missouri, among others.

Whitehead to stay in NBA Draft

Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead (15) shoots past Xavier forward Sean O'Mara (54) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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Seton Hall sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead has signed with an agent and will remain in the NBA Draft, according to multiple reports.

Whitehead averaged 18.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game last season for Seton Hall, which went 25-9 and reached the NCAA tournament. He likely projects as a second-round pick with a bit of a shaky shot, but a high usage and assist rates. His strong finish to the season likely lifted him on some draft boards, but his inefficiency will cap his ceiling in June’s draft.

The loss is significant for the Pirates as Whitehead was so much of their offense, but they’ll bring back Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo. It’s a group that will miss Whitehead’s playmaking, but is still a solid enough foundation that Seton Hall will still likely be competitive in the Big East and vying for another NCAA tournament berth.

Hart returning for Villanova’s title defense

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Villanova’s title defense just got a whole lot stouter.

Josh Hart, the leading scorer of the Wildcats’ national championship team, will return for his senior season, he announced on Twitter.

The decision for Hart to return is a major boost for Villanova in its quest to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007. Hart, a 6-foot-5 guard,  averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.

Most draft pundits had him pegged as a potential end-of-the-first-round pick in next month’s draft though he could have certainly slid into the second should he had decided to forego his senior season. Instead, Hart will be a potential first-team All-American exhausting his eligibility in Philadelphia.

The 2016-17 season is taking shape nicely, and Hart returning to Villanova only increases the strength of the field at the top. Title game hero Kris Jenkins as well as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are also back for the defending champs while the super recruiting classes of Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State, Kansas’ returning core along with Josh Jackson and a solid group of teams including North Carolina, Arizona, Louisville and Wisconsin make for an intriguing upper-tier of teams that could very well make for a top-heavy season following last year’s free for all.

College basketball isn’t the NFL. Parity doesn’t equal strength and quality, and when the sport has a handful high-quality teams, it is at its best. It’s looking like that is a possibility for the 2016-17 campaign.

UConn duo returning to school

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Connecticut may have lost its 6-foot-7 wing scorer but it is keeping its defensive stalwart and leading scorer.

Center Amida Brimah and guard Rodney Purvis have withdrawn their names from NBA Draft consideration and will return to the Huskies for another year, the school announced Tuesday.

The decisions from Brimah, a 7-foot center, and Purvis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, help soften the blow dealt by Daniel Hamilton’s decision to sign with an agent and leave school despite having some shaky draft stock. The Huskies may not open the season as a top-25 team, but they won’t be far behind and will be one of the AAC’s favorites, along with Cincinnati.

Brimah averaged 6.5 points per game last year, but blocked 2.7 shots per game. He missed 11 games last season with a broken finger. Purvis registered 12.8 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor.

Neither Brimah or Purvis were among those invited to this month’s NBA Draft combine nor were either expected to be drafted should they have kept their names in the draft.

Gonzaga’s Karnowski returning for fifth year

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The man in the middle is returning to Gonzaga.

Przemek Karnowski will return to the Bulldogs for his final year after a medical redshirt waiver was granted allowing him a fifth season in Spokane, the school announced Tuesday.

“I’m excited to be coming back,” Karnowski said in a statement. “After talking with the coaches, my parents and the team, I decided this was the best decision for me. I still have a ways to go with my rehab, but I’m staying positive about the upcoming season.”

The 7-foot-1 Karnowski, a Poland native, would have, at minimum, had professional opportunities overseas, but instead will return to play for the Bulldogs once more after a back injury limited him to five games last season. He averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a junior in 2014-15.

With Karnowski returning along with  Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, Gonzaga coach Mark Few will be having newcomers Nigel Williams-Goss, Zach Norvell, Johnathan Williams II and Zach Collins joining an experienced and talented group.

Gonzaga (shocker) will be the West Coast Conference favorite once more, but the Bulldogs will also be fielding a team that should open the season in most everyone’s top-15.

Michigan St. at Duke highlights ACC/Big Ten Challenge

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A matchup in Durham of likely top-10 teams is the headliner of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, whose schedule was released Tuesday.

Michigan State, expected to open the season in the top-10, and Duke, the presumptive preseason No. 1, will meet Tuesday, Nov. 29, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the most intriguing contest of the 14-game event.

The Spartans are losing Denzel Valentin, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello, but the recruiting class of Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford and Nick Ward is one of coach Tom Izzo’s best and has Michigan State positioned as one of the Big Ten’s favorites.

Izzo’s recruiting class, though, pales in comparison to what coach Mike Krzyzewski is bringing to the Blue Devils, with Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden, Frank Jackson and Javin DeLaurier in their 2016 class, which is why, when paired with the likes of Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson and Luke Kennard, make Duke nearly everyone’s No. 1 heading into next season.

Krzyzewski is 9-1 all-time against Izzo’s Spartans.

Among the other highlights of the conference competition is Syracuse at Wisconsin (Nov. 29) Pittsburgh at Maryland (Nov. 29), Purdue at Louisville (Nov. 30) and Ohio State at Virginia (Nov. 30).  

Monday, Nov. 28

Minnesota at Florida State

Wake Forest at Northwestern

Tuesday, Nov. 29

Syracuse at Wisconsin

Michigan State at Duke

Pittsburgh at Maryland

Iowa at Notre Dame

Georgia Tech at Penn State

N.C. State at Illinois

 

Wednesday, Nov. 30

Purdue at Louisville

North Carolina at Indiana

Ohio State at Virginia

Virginia Tech at Michigan

Rutgers at Miami (Fla.)

Nebraska at Clemson