Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

Seven Takeaways from Nike’s Peach Jam

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Kelly Kline/Under Armour

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.

Former Southern Miss forward Jonathan Mills shot and killed

Southern Mississippi forward Jonathan Mills (24) reacts at the buzzer in Memphis' 60-58 win in an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Lance Murphey)
AP Photo/Lance Murphey
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In two seasons as a member of the Southern Miss basketball program from 2011-13, forward Jonathan Mills made an impression based on how hard he played the game. Monday afternoon it was reported that Mills was shot and killed in Chicago, not too far away from his alma mater of North Lawndale High School.

Before attending Eastern Utah CC and Southern Miss, Mills plied his trade at North Lawndale where he helped the school win a state title in 2008 and the Chicago Public League title as a senior in 2009. North Lawndale HS coach Lewis Thorpe told the Chicago Tribune that he and Mills had plans to work out at the school Monday afternoon, only for Thorpe to receive a phone call from his nephew informing him of Mills’ death.

Mills was going through workouts with his high school coach in preparation for a move overseas to play professionally.

The coach said he heard from witnesses at the scene that Mills had gone to a corner store with some friends and, when they came out, a car drove up and someone inside shot him.

“I’m so messed up. I am so shocked,” he said. “When I say he was well liked…everybody loved him.’’

Thorpe said Mills called him “Pops” when he coached him in high school.

After word of Mills’ death made the rounds many paid tribute to him via social media including Donnie Tyndall, who coached Mills at Southern Miss.

Richmond announces change to European trip itinerary

Chris Mooney - UR
AP Photo/Skip Rowland
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With the NCAA allowing college basketball programs to take one trip outside of the country every four years, some coaches look at it as an opportunity to get a head start on preparations for the upcoming season. Chris Mooney’s Richmond Spiders are one team taking a trip this summer, as they’re due to leave the United States for Europe on August 8 with three exhibitions scheduled for their 12-day tour.

The trip was originally scheduled to begin in France, with the Spiders spending their first week there before making stops in the Netherlands and Germany. Monday afternoon the program announced a change to the itinerary, with the Spiders now spending their first week in Ireland and not France.

“We continue to be excited about the opportunity to travel abroad this summer,” Mooney said in the release. “We were able to make some changes to our travel itinerary, and we believe that this new itinerary will give our team a great opportunity to grow together and see other parts of the world.”

It isn’t stated as the reason for the change in the release but this news comes just over a week after a man drove a truck into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, claiming the lives of 84 people and leaving more than 200 others injured.

Richmond, which returns two of its top three scorers from a season ago in forward T.J. Cline and guard ShawnDre’ Jones, is schedule to return to the United States August 20. Per NCAA rules they’re also afforded the opportunity to practice for two weeks leading up to the trip, and heading to Europe can help the team build stronger connections in unfamiliar surroundings.

July Live Period Superlatives: Who impressed during the most important recruiting months?

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For much of the last three weeks, the nation’s best high school players have been jet-setting across the country — and the world — as they showcased what they can do in front of college coaches everywhere from North Augusta, S.C., to Las Vegas.

Here are the players that stood out the most:

MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER: Michael Porter Jr.

In a close call, I’m going with the future Washington Husky, Michael Porter Jr.

After an unstoppable Peach Jam in which he helped MoKan Elite win the event by completely dominating, Porter was one of the key players in helping the USA U18 team win the FIBA Americas as the team’s leading scorer.

RELATED: How the Michael Porter Package Deal came to fruition

Some have questioned Porter’s toughness, but he’s been a tenacious rebounder from the wing all spring and summer and he’s nearly impossible to contain off the bounce. When his perimeter jumper is going, Porter is an advanced three-level scorer who can make getting buckets look easy on some very difficult moves. In three bracket games at Peach Jam, Porter averaged 29.7 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game while shooting insane splits (68% FG, 93% FT, 56% 3PT).

BEST GUARD: Trae Young

Part of the reason that Porter was so good during Peach Jam is that he had Trae Young beside him on MoKan. A 6-foot-1 guard with deep shooting range on pull-ups, Young is underrated as a setup guy as his aggressive scoring capabilities open up a lot of offense for his teammates. Also a member of the USA U18 team that won gold with Porter, if Young shoots it that efficiently from three-point range in the future, he’ll be in the discussion among the best guards in the class.

They were good, too

  • Trevon Duval: The point guard with the most potential in 2017, Duval had a tough time finishing at the rim but still showed incredible athleticism and a warrior’s mentality.
  • Collin Sexton: After winning MVP of the FIBA U17 World Championships and a gold medal with USA Basketball, Sexton tore up the circuit and showed incredible intensity and scoring capabilities.

BEST WING: Gary Trent, Jr.

When Gary Trent Jr. takes the court, he wants to completely destroy you. No five-star player went as consistently hard as Trent did during the month of July and that is coming after Trent spent a month away from home winning gold with USA Basketball in Spain at the FIBA U17 World Championships. There were times in Vegas that opposing coaches and teams knew what moves were coming and Trent would still score on them. He’s a cold-blooded scorer who always brings intensity.

They were good, too

  • Hamidou Diallo: The high-flying guard can get a lot done on both ends of the floor and his upside might be among highest in the class.
  • Brian Bowen: Scoring the ball well and rebounding from the wing was the 6-foot-7 wing from Michigan, who looked unstoppable at times during July.

BEST BIG: DeAndre Ayton

If anyone beats Porter as the best player of July it is Ayton. The 7-footer was incredible during certain moments of Peach Jam in helping lead California Supreme to the final four as he beat Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter and Mitchell Robinson in consecutive games.

With soft touch, a workable jumper and the kind of quick hops that get rim easy dunks and rebounds, Ayton is the best long-term prospect in this class because of how well he moves for his size while also owning a good skill level. Ayton has a desire to play in college and hopefully he’ll get the chance because he has a shot to be one of the best big men college basketball has seen in the last decade.

They were good, too

  • Wendell Carter: The 6-foot-10 center was good at Peach Jam and closed out strong by helping Team CP3 win The Eight in Las Vegas.
  • Mitchell Robinson: This 7-footer changes directions and runs like a guard and is the best shot blocker in the country. I haven’t seen one guy block this many three-pointers since Anthony Davis.
Deandre Ayton, Jon Lopez/Nike
Deandre Ayton, Jon Lopez/Nike

BIGGEST STOCK RISER: Malik Williams

Indiana native Malik Williams is an interesting story because he was the only top 40 Class of 2017 player who didn’t play in a shoe-company league this spring. After a July in which the 6-foot-11 Williams made perimeter moves, blocked shots and rebounded his entire area, he looked like a five-star lock who should be in serious consideration for the All-American games. Williams is undoubtedly talented enough for those distinctions, but he also needs to prove himself more against the elite big men of the Class of 2017 before we know how good he can really be.

Some of the best college basketball programs in the country like Indiana, Louisville, Michigan State and Purdue — among many others — are making Williams a priority recruit.

They impressed, too

  • Chuma Okeke: Auburn just snagged this top-60 wing forward on Monday and he’s coming off a monster July. A versatile wing who can handle and score, Okeke can also rebound well from the wing.
  • Nick Weatherspoon: The younger brother of Mississippi State freshman Quinndary Weatherspoon is making a name for himself as a 6-foot-1 playmaking guard who can really score.

FOUR NON-ELITE NAMES WITH NBA POTENTIAL

  • Derek Culver: The 6-foot-10 native of Ohio is an intriguing talent because of his size, athleticism and passing ability.
  • Brandon Randolph: A smooth scorer with good size at 6-foot-6, Randolph hit 40 percent of his threes at Peach Jam and can fill it up from deep.
  • Chaundee Brown: One of the most efficient scorers at Peach Jam, the 6-foot-5 guard can also pull down rebounds with the best of them.
  • Jordan Goodwin: Undoubtedly one of the toughest dudes in the country, this Marcus Smart-type guard is improving his jumper but he’s a warrior with everything else.
Trae Young, Jon Lopez/Nike
Trae Young, Jon Lopez/Nike

Cody Riley cuts list to five schools

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Cody Riley has cut his list to five schools, according to Scout.com.

A four-star four man, Riley is now considering just UConn, Kansas, Oklahoma, UCLA and USC.

Ranked the No. 29 player in the Class of 2017 by Rivals, Riley is an undersized-but-powerful forward. His bread and butter is on the block, where his strength and low center of gravity make him a nightmare to deal with, but he’s also skilled enough to do damage as a face-up four.

Riley is from California and will be playing his senior season alongside Marvin Bagley III, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2018, at Sierra Canyon.

Auburn continues to stockpile talent, adds top 50 prospect in 2017

Bruce Pearl
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
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Auburn’s hire of Bruce Pearl was almost universally lauded as the first step towards the return of relevance for the Tiger basketball program.

And while the results have yet to shine through on the floor, Pearl is unequivocally stockpiling the kind of talent that will allow him to push for trips to the NCAA tournament and maybe one day contend for a league crown with Kentucky.

The latest step came on Sunday, when Pearl landed a commitment from Chuma Okeke, a top 50 wing prospect out of Georgia.

“He is a versatile wing who can handle and score,” said NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips. “Coming off of a big July, Okeke could move up the national rankings and Auburn pounced on him right away.”

Okeke joins big man Austin Wiley, a top ten player in the class, and Davion Mitchell, who is likely one of the five best point guards in the country, in what is currently the nation’s best recruiting class in 2017. That’s before you consider that Pearl already has Mustapha Heron, a top 25 prospect, joining the mix this season.

“This group has the makings of a monster recruiting class for Auburn,” Phillips said.

Okeke picked the Tigers over Florida State, Georgia and a number of other programs across the southeast.