Seven Takeaways from Nike’s Peach Jam

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The second of July’s three live periods ended at 5:00 p.m. Sunday. We had writers traversing the southeast, going to and from the Under Armour Association Finals and Nike’s Peach Jam. Here are seven takeaways from Peach Jam:

MOREQuotables Part I | Part II | Part III | All content from the 2014 July Live Period

NURTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — Peach Jam is the premiere event of July, as Nike’s EYBL circuit holds their finals in a South Carolina gym that has been the home to the event for close to two decades. Every high major head coach in the country makes their way through Riverview Park Activities Center, the best games have fans surrounding the court on the floor as well as the track above and the semifinals and title game are broadcast on ESPNU.

There are 24 teams that participate in the event, and if you’re good enough to start for one of those 24 teams, odds are pretty good that you’ll be, at the very least, a scholarship player at the mid-major level. It’s high level basketball, and here are seven takeaways from my three days there:

1. Ben Simmons is No. 1 in 2015, and it’s not all that close: 2015 is considered by many to be a relatively weak class when compared to the kind of talent that was produced in 2013 and 2014 and the amount of elite prospects there are in 2016. Simmons is the one guy in the class that stands out from the rest, proving that fact to just about every scout and evaluator that was present in North Augusta this week. He’s a 6-foot-8 forward with a strong frame and above-average athleticism, but what sets him apart is his ability to handle and pass the ball. He can rebound the ball and play in the post, but he’s at his best when he’s put in the role of point forward, particularly in transition, where he is simply a phenomenal passer.

If you want a good comparison, think about former Iowa State forward Royce White. Their physical tools aren’t the same, but Simmons, like White, is an ambidextrous forward that could one day end up leading a team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals.

RELATED: Ben Simmons proves he’s tops in the class

2. Jayson Tatum is the best prospect in 2016: I’ve now had a chance to see, in person, each member of the top ten in the Class of 2016, per Rivals, and for my money, the 6-foot-8 Missouri-native in the best talent in the class. But where Simmons is clearly the best player in his class, it’s not quite as simple in 2016. Josh Jackson, Thon Maker, Dennis Smith Jr. and Malik Monk are truly impressive talents, and Harry Giles was considered by some to be the best prospect in high school basketball before his knee injury last summer.

He still may be, but as of right now, it’s Tatum that is top of the class. He’s a smooth scorer with long arms and an ability to seemingly glide to the rim through traffic. He needs to add strength and a perimeter shot, and I have questions about just how athletic he is, but he still has two years left in the high school ranks.

RELATED: Will Tatum stay home for college?

3. Isaiah Briscoe isn’t a point guard, but I’d take him over Allonzo Trier: One of the most interesting debates in the Class of 2015 centers around the five combo-guards at the top of the class: Malik Newman, Antonio Blakeney, Tyler Dorsey, Briscoe and Trier. Perhaps no team has more on the line in that debate than Arizona, who has already parted ways with Dorsey, is heavily involved with Briscoe and Trier and who has already taken Justin Simon.

The way I see it, if I’m in Arizona’s position, I’m taking Briscoe. While some have labeled him as a point guard at the next level, I don’t see it. He’s a playmaker — a good one, at that — but I don’t see him as a guy that runs an offense. And while Trier is a very talented scorer, he’s old for his grade, he’s bounced around high schools and he’s a gunner at heart.

For what it’s worth, if I went to rank those five guys, it would be in this order: Newman, Blakeney, Briscoe, Trier, Dorsey.

4. None of 2015’s big men are overly impressive: In the last month, I’ve seen everyone one of the big men in Rivals’ top 40 in the Class of 2015 play in person, and none of them have been all that impressive. (I’m not counting Simmons as a big man as I think he will be a perimeter player down the road.) There are a lot of guys in the class with lots of potential that simply haven’t developed, a number of kids that have fallen in love with trying to play on the perimeter, or and some simply have a massive hole in their game that will be difficult to fix.

Here are my top five bigs in the class, in order: Diamond Stone, Henry Ellenson, Chase Jeter, Stephen Zimmerman, Ivan Raab.

5. How will Jalen Brunson handle everything going on in his life right now?: I feel for Jalen Brunson. It’s the most important summer of his high school basketball career and he’s playing it with his father’s arrest hanging over his head. A month ago, it seemed certain that Rick Brunson was going to be hired at Temple and Jalen was going to be following him there, and according to those that watch Brunson the most — including our Scott Phillips — Jalen just hasn’t looked like himself since then. He’s still probably the most sought-after point guard in the country, but it will be interesting to see if this is the kind of thing that hangs over his head for a long period of time.

6. Deyonta Davis needs to learn how to be tougher: When it comes to raw talent, there are many players in the class with the skillset that Davis has. He’s long and athletic and he’s got three-point range. The problem is that he rarely plays hard enough to have an impact on a game. When you’re that skilled and you can disappear as quickly as Davis can, it’s a major red flag. Hopefully, when Tom Izzo gets his hands on Davis, he can bring out more of that aggressiveness.

7. Four names that need more attention after their play at Peach Jam:

  • Quinndary Weatherspoon: I watched the 6-foot-5 wing from the Jackson Tigers put up 32 points against the Southern Stampede. He also dropped 27 on Peach Jam finalist Team Penny.
  • Braxton Beverly: The Class of 2016 point guard from Hazard, Ky., played very well in both of the games that I watched him. He’s tough as nails, he doesn’t turn the ball over and he can get to the rim and finish amongst the trees despite being 5-foot-11.
  • Alterique Gilbert: Another Class of 2016 point guard that shined during the event. The Miller Grove, Ga., native is a nightmare to try to stay in front of and has a steady demeanor on the floor that is ideal for a lead guard.
  • Temple Gibbs: Gibbs was really impressive in helping the Playaz to the Peach Jam title. The Class of 2016 guard is a combo of his brothers, former Pitt guard Ashton and current Seton Hall guard Sterling. He may be the best of the three.

VIDEO: Presbyterian’s Toss for Tots night earns technical foul for charity

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Presbyterian College held an cool and unique fundraiser this week.

In a game against Toccoa Falls, the Blue Hose held what will now be an annual Toss for Tots event. It was simple: after the first basket of their game on Thursday night, fans in attendance were asked to throw a stuffed animal onto the court, with every stuffed animal earmarked for a local elementary school.

Presbyterian ate the technical foul for the cause:

In total, 108 stuffed animals were “donated”.

The program had partnered with Bailey Elementary School, where there are 103 students. On Friday, the team delivered every student at the school one of the stuffed animals for Christmas. Head coach Dustin Kerns told NBC Sports that the team spent some times with the kids today as well, reading to the team and putting a smile on their face.

“Proud of our team,” Kerns, who is in his first year with the program, said. The win against Toccoa Falls was the fifth in a row for the Blue Hose, the first time the program has accomplished that since going to the Division I level. They are not 6-5 on the season after winning five games a year ago. “It was fun seeing out program give back.”

Presbyterian Sports Information Dept
Presbyterian Sports Information Dept

Rape charges will not be filed after last year’s incident in Kansas basketball dorm

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The Douglas County District Attorney’s office will not file sexual assault charges stemming from a report that a 16-year old girl was raped nearly a year ago in the Kansas basketball dorm.

“After an exhaustive review of all available reports, evidence and testimony, our office has determined there is not sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a sexual assault occurred,” District Attorney Charles Branson told the Lawrence Journal-World. “Unless additional evidence or reports come to light there is insufficient evidence to prove a crime was committed.”

What’s more, a suspect in the investigation was never actually identified, the paper reported. All five witnesses in the rape report were members of the men’s basketball team. The incident allegedly occurred in McCarthy Hall, which is a dorm where 40 Kansas students live, including all members of the men’s basketball team.

No. 8 Kentucky maturing, more challenges ahead for freshmen

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky coach John Calipari hasn’t hidden his frustration about the learning curve of his latest group of talented freshmen.

And while the No. 8 Wildcats are starting play better, they’re bracing for more challenges ahead.

Kentucky has struggled to put away opponents such as Utah Valley, Vermont, Troy and Harvard, efforts that players and Calipari acknowledge have contributed to a perceived lack of national respect. On the other hand, their lone loss — a 65-61 setback to Kansas — showed their ability to compete with college basketball’s heavyweights.

“It was one of the big games they got to see,” sophomore forward Wenyen Gabriel said. “The feeling and high intensity of the game, people watching, the fight in a big game like that, it really started to hit. Some players really started to get rolling off of that.

“We’re starting to get better as a team, individuals are getting better and we’re trending upward and trying to stay on that path.”

Kentucky (8-1) has begun running away from opponents, a promising trend it hopes to continue against upcoming Power Five conference foes.

Saturday’s home game against Virginia Tech (9-1) opens a daunting year-ending stretch for the Wildcats that includes next weekend’s matchup against UCLA in New Orleans; their annual in-state rivalry showdown against Louisville on Dec. 29; and their Southeastern Conference opener against Georgia on New Year’s Eve.

Though Calipari still hopes February will reveal Kentucky’s true strengths, he’s eager to see how the Wildcats stack up against the Atlantic Coast Conference Hokies, who lead the nation in scoring at 96.2 points per game and rank second in 3-point shooting at 47 percent.

“They have three or four guys that can absolutely make 3s,” Calipari said Friday while listing other Tech strengths. “They’re looking for layups and kicking it out for 3s and they’re getting to the line because of it.

“They’re not afraid. They go on the road in big games. Their home games are craziness. This is plugged into our schedule at a time where we need to learn about us, and we will.”

After a busy November without much practice time, Kentucky has welcomed a lighter December schedule that has allowed the Wildcats more time for workouts and to build chemistry.

The Wildcats have a long way to go, but games such as last week’s 93-76 win over Monmouth are encouraging for Kentucky fans.

Besides continuing their solid shooting — the Wildcats rank 22nd at nearly 51 percent — redshirt freshman guard Hamidou Diallo (23 points) and forward PJ Washington (20) posted career scoring highs against Monmouth. Kentucky also succeeded with a smaller lineup and has been effective playing a zone defense, which Calipari disdains but has used because of his team’s length.

“They’re as long as anybody in the country,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said of Kentucky. “We’ll have to work really hard to get the same shots we’ve been getting.”

Kentucky remains short-handed with freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt (foot) and guard Jemarl Baker (knee) sidelined by injuries. But the Wildcats appear to be developing depth.

They faced Monmouth without sophomore forward Sacha Killeya-Jones (sprained ankle) before starting guard Quade Green left in the second half after being poked in the eye. Both will be available against the Hokies and return knowing that the bench can fill the void after it combined for a season-high 27 points.

Granted, Monmouth is not a barometer for success against the likes of Tech, UCLA or Louisville. But considering Kentucky’s early struggles, any growth is welcome.

“We think highly of ourselves as a team,” Gabriel added. “I think we deserve more credit than we’re getting, so we’re going to go out there and try to earn it.”

Arizona State rising fast beyond the desert

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona State has taken college basketball by devilish hurricane, running and gunning its way into the national consciousness while igniting an often-blase local fan base.

Even the Sun Devils’ rivals down south have taken notice.

“Bobby Hurley, he’s en route right now to be one of the coaches talked about for national coach of the year because of what he’s done with their program,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said of the coach of his biggest rival. “He’s played a tough nonconference schedule. It shows some guts to play who they play. Their results speak really clearly. They might be underrated where they’re at right now.”

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, at least not yet.

The Sun Devils were expected to be better in Hurley’s third season in the desert. They returned three senior guards and finally got them some front-court help with the addition of Romello White and De’Quon Lake.

Kodi Justice, ASU’s 6-foot-5 guard, would no longer have to guard 7-footers. Arizona State would be better defensively and on the glass. The guards would not have to carry the entire load.

Even so, the Sun Devils were projected to be at the middle of the Pac-12, picked to finish sixth.

The big jump was supposed to be next season, when a trio of transfers will be eligible and could possibly lead the Sun Devils to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014.

This breakneck band of Devils spun the narrative forward a year early.

Playing with a confidence bordering on cocky and with an offensive freedom afforded them by their coach, the Sun Devils have pushed their way into the national spotlight.

They made a blip by beating Xavier, No. 15 at the time but now No. 10 in the AP Top 25 . Blew the Musketeers away, actually, turning a 15-point first-half deficit into a 102-86 rout with an onslaught of fast breaks and 3-pointers.

Arizona State next moved into the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2008-09, coming in at No. 20 after the win over Xavier. The Sun Devils climbed four spots the next week.

The catapult launched last Sunday: Arizona State 95, No. 2 Kansas 85. At Allen Fieldhouse.

One of the biggest wins in program history led to another bit of history: A No. 5 ranking this week, ASU’s highest since reaching No. 3 in 1980-81. The Sun Devils even garnered the first No. 1 votes as a program. Five of ’em, actually.

Now Arizona State is 9-0 and being mentioned as a possible national-title contender. Yeah, really.

“I knew the success was going to be better, but you don’t expect necessarily when you look at a schedule to run the table up to this point, and beat the type of teams we’ve beaten,” Hurley said. “So you just appreciate it and then you kind of move on and get ready for the next battle.”

Arizona State’s success starts with its quartet of fearless guards, turning Arizona State into “Guard U.”

With carte blanche from Hurley to shoot from anywhere at almost any time, they’ve gone from carrying the load last season to ferrying the Sun Devils closer to college basketball’s upper echelon.

Tra Holder has transformed himself from steady freshman to unquestioned, sometimes nasty senior floor leader. He scored 40 points against Xavier and leads Arizona State with 21.2 points per game. He also grabs 5.6 rebounds, dishes out 5.2 assists and won consecutive Pac-12 player of the week honors, a first by a Sun Devil since James Harden in 2008.

Shannon Evans II followed Hurley from Buffalo, had to sit out a season as a transfer and was solid as a junior, averaging 15 points per game. The 6-1 guard had become go-to guy 1-A this season, second on the team with 19 points while matching Holder in assists. Big shots? He’s go those, too, including a clutch 3 to kill a Kansas rally in one of the loudest atmospheres in the game.

Justice plays with Pete Maravichian flair, has a range that seems to extend to the opposing team’s free-throw line.

Then there’s Remy Martin. The freshman guard is more spiced rum than cognac, playing with a confidence and intensity well beyond his years.

Martin treats irritation by the opposing team’s point guard as the highest honor, often nodding his bouncy hair in approval when he officially finds his way under their skin. He was the spark off the bench against Kansas, finishing with 21 points and five steals.

“They are now freed up to be who they are more,” Hurley said. “I think they would have shown that on a more regular basis last year if I had done my job a little better and sooner and gotten them some help.”

That help is here and the Sun Devils are running and gunning with it.

Follow John Marshall on Twitter @jmarshallap

Oklahoma State dismisses two players

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STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma State has dismissed junior Davon Dillard and freshman Zack Dawson from the team for failing to meet unspecified standards set by the program.

Coach Mike Boynton says he could not “make compromises in our core values when it comes to individual players.” Dillard and Dawson were suspended before the season for reasons the school has not disclosed. Dawson missed one game and Dillard missed the first five.

Oklahoma State (7-2) faces No. 19 Florida State (9-0) in Sunrise, Florida, on Saturday.