NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — The most anticipated matchup of the day on Saturday featured two of the best guards in the country: Allonzo Trier and Isaiah Briscoe.
And no matter how you slice it, Trier won the battle. He finished with 42 points on the afternoon, hitting five threes and getting to the free throws line 20 times as Athletes First knocked off the N.J. Playaz in a thrilling and fun overtime game. Briscoe played well, notching 19 points and three assists as he sat out long stretches of the first half in an effort to save his legs for the night game.
There is a significance here, as both players are being pursued heavily by Arizona and just so happen to occupy essentially the same position. That means the Wildcats will likely end up with whoever they decide is the better of the two, so it should come as no surprise that Sean Miller was sitting front and center for this one.
There is one important stat to keep in mind before thinking that Trier’s performance locks him into a scholarship to Arizona: he was 10-for-30 from the floor and also shot those 20 free throws while adding just a single assist. Some of that is a result of the team that he plays on in the EYBL — he HAS to take a lot of shots if they are going to be competitive — but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a scorer that needs the ball in his hands.
Briscoe needs the ball as well, but he’s a more well-rounded lead guard. He’s an excellent passer, to the point that some scouts believe his true position is as a point guard at the college level. He is strong with the ball and capable of making a play in the post. He’s not the best athlete in the country, but he’s got long arms and massive hands. Think Wichita State’s Ron Baker.
The thing to remember is this: Arizona already has a commitment from Justin Simon, another five-star combo-guard, in the Class of 2015 and has point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright joining the program this season. Regardless of who — if either — they end up with, the Wildcats will have plenty of guard play in the future.
Braxton Beverly stands out in matchup with Jalen Brunson: If you follow recruiting, you’ve heard the name Jalen Brunson before. He’s a five-star point guard, arguably the best at his position in the Class of 2015. You’ve probably never heard of Braxton Beverly before, but the Class of 2016 point guard from Hazard, Ky., was the best lead guard on the floor when his Travelers teams squared off with the Mac Irvin Fire on Saturday.
Beverly finished with 14 points and eight assists, which is impressive even before I put those numbers into context for you. The Mac Irvin Fire is one of the best AAU programs in the country and spent the entire second half using their myriad of athletes in an all out, full court press. Beverly never rattled, even when he rolled an ankle midway through the half. And to make things even more impressive, he closed out the win with three consecutive tough drives through the lane. The 5-foot-11 point guard lists offers from Western Kentucky, Northern Kentucky, Samford, Cleveland State and Marshall, but he’s had some high-majors poking around of late. Saturday’s performance will likely bring more.
Give me Jayson Tatum over Malik Monk: I saw Malik Monk put on a showstopping performance on Friday night at Peach Jam playing 17s. On Saturday, I watched Jayson Tatum do the same, except he was doing it against overmatched 16-year olds in a game his team lost. Regardless, I think I would still take Tatum over Monk if forced to pick. Tatum is a 6-foot-8 forward with length that is as smooth as they come on the perimeter. He got to the rim whenever he wanted to this week, and while I have concerns about his strength and his overall athleticism, the bottom-line is that this kid can flat out play.
It’s also worth noting here that Monk had eight points and 12 points while shooting a combined 6-for-31 in the two games surrounding his 40-point outburst. On Saturday, he went 3-for-20 from the floor and 0-for-9 from three with six turnovers.
First impressions on DeAndre Ayton: I got my first look at DeAndre Ayton, one of the best prospects in the Class of 2017, on Saturday afternoon in a consolation game in the EYBL’s 16U division. Ayton has an the ideal frame and physical gifts for a big man prospect and the kind of coordination that you rarely see out of a kid that size and age. But he has got a long, long way to go in his development. He doesn’t have the confidence in his post game to demand the ball when he gets position, he not strong enough to be the presence on the glass that he should be and the native Bahamian still looks like he is learning the game. That said … those physical gifts are really tantalizing, and his shooting stroke actually looked pretty decent.