Peach Jam Saturday Recap: Rabb, Zimmerman go big, Chris Clarke goes hard, Lawson bros advance

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NORTH AUGUSTA, SC — Tournament play is underway at the Nike Peach Jam and that meant for some intense games on Saturday as the quarterfinals began and teams tried to stay alive for Sunday.

Lawson brothers come up big in quarterfinals: Team Penny was facing a major test when they had to face Ben Simmons and E1T1 in the quarterfinals of the 17U bracket on Saturday night.

But the Lawson brothers, K.J. and Dedric, came prepared.

The brothers each scored 23 points as Team Penny pulled away in the second half of a 93-76 win. Dedric, a 6-foot-8 Class of 2016 forward, was particularly impressive. His 23 points seemed rather quiet, but he owned the glass with 16 rebounds and also did all of that damage on 10-for-16 shooting in only 23 minutes of play.

K.J., a Memphis commit and Class of 2015 wing forward, was a less efficient 8-for-20 from the field, but also added 13 rebounds and the entire Team Penny team did a nice job of clogging the middle and slowing down the No. 1 player in the 2015 class, Ben Simmons.

Simmons, an LSU commit, logged 24 points and 10 rebounds, but most of those points came either at the free-throw line or in garbage time.

With the Lawson brothers’ father, Keelon, being hired as an assistant at Memphis just this week, it is very likely both brothers eventually end up at Memphis. K.J. is already committed and Dedric is thought to be choosing between the Tigers and Kentucky, with Memphis having a big family advantage.

Chris Clarke, the warrior: There aren’t many players in the 2015 class that play as hard as Boo Williams 6-foot-6 wing Chris Clarke. The hard-playing wing doesn’t have the prettiest offensive game, but he’ll defend his tail off, make a ton of hustle plays and hit the glass hard.

Clarke was an absolute terror in a morning pool play win over Spiece and he was simply everywhere on the floor. The four-star prospect registered 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting (2-for-2 3PT), nine rebounds and seven assists. It isn’t just filling up the box score that is impressive about Clarke, it is the intensity at which he plays. His level of play elevates teammates and he’s a big reason why Boo Williams is still alive entering Sunday’s final four at Peach Jam.

UConn offered Clarke on Saturday and it will be interesting to see if other blueblood programs inquire about Clarke in the coming weeks.

Ivan Rabb and Stephen Zimmerman come up big: The Oakland Soldiers were facing a potential elimination from Peach Jam on Saturday until their two five-star big men, Ivan Rabb and Stephen Zimmerman, made big plays and carried them to victory.

While each of them only scored 14 points, the duo’s savvy and toughness on the inside helped will the Soldiers to victory.

With Team Final throwing a small lineup on the floor, Rabb had 14 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks and altered numerous other shots with his length and athleticism. Although he missed some bunnies at the rim, the 6-foot-9 Rabb has such a good secondary jump, that he’s able to tip in his own misses rather frequently and it also doesn’t hurt that he’s comfortable with either hand on the offensive end.

Zimmerman, a 7-footer and fellow five-star Class of 2015 big man, also had 14 points, but made some big scoring plays in the post against the smaller lineup for some key crunch time baskets.

Two plays in particular stand out for Zimmerman. On one, he turned and faced a smaller opponent before realizing his mismatch and backing him down for an easy basket inside. On another, Rabb had picked up his dribble and Zimmerman gave him an out by sealing his man on the block. Rabb found Zimmerman with the entry feed and an easy bucket ensued.

Rabb and Zimmerman didn’t have the gaudiest of stat lines on Saturday in the win, but their high IQ plays down the stretch helped lead the Soldiers to victory and the final eight of the Peach Jam.

Syracuse’s Tyus Battle to test NBA draft waters

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Syracuse announced on Friday afternoon that sophomore guard Tyus Battle will be declaring for the NBA draft without signing with an agent, giving him until the NCAA’s May 30th deadline to withdraw from contention and return to school.

Battle averaged 19.2 points as a sophomore for the Orange, who made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

He is a projected late-first round or early-second round pick given his size, shooting ability and skill with the ball in his hands.

Losing Battle would be a massive blow to a Syracuse team that is already going to be without Matthew Moyer, who transferred out of the program, and Dareus Bazley, who is heading to the G League instead of enrolling in college.

Maryland’s Kevin Huerter declares for NBA draft, won’t hire agent

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Maryland wing Kevin Huerter announced on Friday afternoon that he will be declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, giving him the option of returning to school by May 30th.

“This will be a great experience for Kevin to get honest feedback from NBA teams and executives,” said head coach Mark Turgeon. “Taking advantage of this opportunity will allow Kevin and his family to make an informed decision about his future.”

Huerter is a 6-foot-7 wing known for his ability to shoot from the perimeter. He averaged 14.8 points and shot 42 percent from three as a sophomore.

He is also the third player from Maryland to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft. Justin Jackson, a borderline first round pick who missed time last season with a shoulder injury, has signed with an agent while Bruno Fernando is testing the waters. Maryland, who has an excellent recruiting class coming in, will be a preseason top 20 team if Huerter and Fernando both return to school.

Huerter is a borderline first round pick.

Michigan’s Charles Matthews to test NBA draft waters

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Michigan guard Charles Matthews announced on Friday that he will be declaring for the NBA draft, but that he does not intend to sign with an agent, meaning he has until May 30th to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

“After careful consideration with my parents and coaching staff, I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft without hiring an agent,” said Matthews. “I give thanks to the Lord for this amazing opportunity, as well as the entire University of Michigan for their support. Go Blue!”

Matthews, a redshirt sophomore that averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 boards for the national runners-up, was a four-star prospect coming out of Chicago and spent his freshman season at Kentucky.

Matthews is a likely second round pick with the potential to climb into the first round should he prove to be a more consistent three-point shooter. He shot just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc this past season.

Virginia’s Hunter to return to school for sophomore season

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De’Andre Hunter announced on Friday afternoon that he will not be entering his name into the NBA draft and will return to Virginia for his redshirt sophomore season, a decision that will have as much of an impact on the 2018-19 college basketball season as any that is made this spring.

Hunter, now a potential top ten pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, was one of the breakout stars of the 2017-18 season. A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Hunter averaged 9.2 points and 3.5 boards while shooting 38.2 percent from three in just under 20 minutes a night for a Virginia team whose pace severely limits the kind of numbers a player like him can put up.

Throw in his ability to defend on the perimeter and in the paint, and Hunter is precisely the kind of player that NBA teams are looking to land as basketball becomes more and more built on positional versatility and the ability to space the floor.

And it’s that versatility that will make Hunter so important for the Cavaliers next season.

Let’s go beyond the simple fact that he is going to be the only guy on the Virginia roster that can create his own shot against length and athleticism and that there is a chance that he could end up being an all-american next season if things play out the right way. What makes Hunter so important to Virginia his that his defensive versatility is what allows Virginia to matchup with teams that want to try and play small-ball against them.

That’s precisely what UMBC did in the first round of the NCAA tournament, a game that Hunter missed with a broken wrist. We all know how that played out, and I’m not even dumb enough to pin all the blame of a 20-point loss to a No. 16 seed on a guy that played less than 20 minutes a night.

Virginia choked once they realized that there was a chance this could happen, but I would argue that a major reason they couldn’t ever truly assert their dominance was because they were unable to matchup with UMBC’s four-guard lineup without Hunter.

With Hunter back, Virginia is the No. 6 team in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25. If he had declared for the draft and signed with an agent, I’m not sure I would have had the Wahoos in the top 20.

He takes Tony Bennett’s club from simply being good to once against being a contender for the ACC regular season title.

Vanderbilt the sixth Kentucky player declares for the NBA draft

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Jarred Vanderbilt is now the sixth Kentucky Wildcat to declare for the NBA draft this spring, joining P.J. Washington and Wenyen Gabriel in testing the waters without signing with an agent.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo have all declared for the draft and signed with an agent.

Vanderbilt announced his decision on Friday afternoon.

“This season wasn’t easy for me,” Vanderbilt said. “At the end of the day, my goal has always been to make it to the NBA.”

“I know I have more to my game to show, but now I’ve got to figure out if the time is right for me to do it at the next level or if I would be better to return to school.”

Vanderbilt missed the first 17 games of his freshman season with a left foot injury, a foot that he had injured twice before during his high school career. He then missed all four of Kentucky’s postseason games with a left ankle injury, and there is a chance that he could end up needing surgery to correct this issue this offseason.

All told, the 6-foot-9 Vanderbilt played in 14 games as a freshman, averaging 5.9 points and 7.9 boards in just 17 minutes a night. But issues with his ability to shoot from the perimeter and a lower left leg that has proven to be extremely problematic, there is a good chance that Vanderbilt would go undrafted should he decide to turn pro.