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July Live Period Week Two Superlatives

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The second July Live Period came to an end on Sunday. Scott Phillips and I were in Georgia for the Under Armour Finals and the Nike Peach Jam. Here are our awards from the week:

MORE: Week one superlatives

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

  • Ben Simmons: With his performance at Peach Jam, Simmons proved he’s the No. 1 player in the 2015 class. He passes well with both hands, attacks the rim with either hand and has great handles. He also defends laterally pretty well and rebounds and pushes tempo. If his perimeter jumper improves, look out. (SP)
  • Isaiah Briscoe: Simmons is the best prospect in the Class of 2015, but Briscoe was the best player this week. He averaged 22.4 points — second best at Peach Jam only to Allonzo Trier — and 3.8 assists while leading the Playaz to a title. (RD)

BEST PROSPECT:

  • Jayson Tatum: This is currently a tough category to fill, since I saw so many elite 2015 and 2016 prospects this week, but with Tatum’s skill level and size, it’s easy to see why some have him at No. 1 in 2016. While Josh Jackson and Malik Monk were up-and-down this week and Harry Giles is still recovering from his knee injury, Tatum kept on chugging along and putting up great numbers. (SP)
  • Ben Simmons: I think I actually agree with Scott here, but in the interest of differing opinions I’ll go with Simmons. The 6-foot-8 forward certified himself as the best player in the class in North Augusta. (RD)

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

MOST UNDERRATED RECRUIT:

  • Quinndary Weatherspoon: A borderline top 100 recruit, the 6-foot-5 Weatherspoon put on a pair of scoring displays at Peach Jam. He can be a bit inconsistent, but any high-major program that needs perimeter firepower should be tracking this kid.
  • Levan Alston: The 2015 guard from Team Final is tough on both ends of the floor and a fiery competitor. Coming in just outside of Rivals top 100, I’ve seen a lot of guards ranked ahead of him that I wouldn’t take over him.

NON-TOP 150 SLEEPER:

  • Braxton Beverly: A 2016 point guard from Hazard, Ky., Beverly was terrific at Peach Jam. He finished third in the tournament in assists while protecting the ball and showing he could his a three-pointer with time and space. He’s tough, too. I saw him fight through a sprained ankle to beat Mac Irvin Fire with three driving buckets in the final five minutes. (RD)
  • Jalen Poyser: The CIA Bounce 6-foot-4 Class of 2015 guard surpassed his EYBL high scoring mark twice at Peach Jam and had multiple productive outings in the event. Multiple college coaches were intrigued by Poyser’s ability to attack and he has a natural smoothness about him. (SP)

RELATED: Peach Jam takeaways: ScottRob | UAA Finals takeaways

LEFT ME WANTING MORE:

  • Josh Jackson: It’s not that I wanted more out of Jackson’s talent, of which he has plenty, but I wanted to see the elite 2016 wing take better shots and use his passing more to set up teammates. The 6-foot-6 Jackson was benched during one game at the UAA Finals with five minutes left in a one-point game and that should never happen to an elite player. (SP)
  • DeAndre Ayton: Ayton is believed by some to be the best prospect is all of high school basketball, but the 6-foot-11 big man from the Class of 2017 is nothing more than a prospect at this point. He’s got terrific physical tools but the rest of his game still needs polishing. The good news? He’s got plenty of time. (RD)

BEST LEAD GUARD:

  • Jawun Evans: Since I already went with Briscoe as the Player of the Week, I’m going to mix it up at the lead guard spot, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that follows this site that I am picking Evans as the best lead guard from this week. The 5-foot-11 Texas native is, for my money, the best pure point guard in the Class of 2015, and he played that was in Atlanta for the UAA Finals. (RD)
  • Donovan Mitchell: There are better point guard prospects in the 2015 class, but nobody had a better week than Donovan Mitchell. Whether it was the elementary school day campers at Suwanee Sports Academy or national championship-winning head coaches, they all went nuts over Mitchell’s play this week. (SP)

BEST OFF-GUARD:

  • Malik Monk: The 40-point performance at Peach Jam was epic and once Monk gets more strength, he’ll be able to put up performances like this with more consistency. Sometimes Monk hunts highlights too often, and while the 2016 class is talented, I don’t see how Monk isn’t a top-5 player at this current juncture. (SP)
  • Allonzo Trier: Trier was the leading scorer at Peach Jam, averaging more than 30 points in the give games that he played, including the 42 that he put up while handing Briscoe and the Playaz their only loss of the event. Trier’s had a great spring and summer while shooting up the national rankings. (RD)

BEST WING FORWARD:

  • Jayson Tatum: The game just comes easy to Tatum. Although the 6-foot-8 wing was a man among boys playing in the 16U ranks at Peach Jam, you can still see he has all the necessary tools to be a star. (SP)
  • Ben Simmons: I see Simmons playing a role similar to that of Royce White at the collegiate level, which would make him more of a point forward than a wing forward. (RD)

BEST SHOOTER:

  • D.J. Hogg: There aren’t many great shooters in this class but Hogg can fill it up when he gets hot and he has a shooter’s mentality with good size at 6-foot-7. Once he gets in better shape, Hogg’s shot will be more consistent because right now. (SP)
  • Camron Justice: Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings was front and center while tracking his his commitment. The No. 136 recruit in the Class of 2015 shot very well throughout Peach Jam. (RD)

BEST LOW POST BIG:

  • Tyler Davis: Again, not the best prospect I saw as a low post player, but Davis was the most productive big man I saw last week. The 6-foot-10 Davis is impossible to move off the block, owns a good set of hands and has improving footwork and counter moves in the post. He’s right on the cusp of elite status. (SP)
  • Diamond Stone: Davis was easily the best low-post big man at Peach Jam, and Stone was just as impressive at the UAA Finals. He’s getting into a habit where he is settling too much for perimeter shots, but some of that is a result of Stone trying to prove that he has expanded his game. He’s known for his ability to score on the block already. (RD)

BEST DEFENDER:

  • KeVaughn Allen: Allen was one of the biggest stock-risers in Georgia this week, averaging 19.0 points in eight Peach Jam games. The Florida-commit showed off an improved three-point stroke, but where he was most impressive was on the defensive side of the ball. He will thrive in Gainesville. (RD)
  • Chris Clarke: I would take Chris Clarke on my team in any game. The Class of 2015 wing plays hard, defends on the perimeter, hustles after every loose ball and generally lifts the energy of the teammates on the floor with him. He’s just the kind of player that makes winning plays. (SP)

ONE MORE GUY DESERVING OF ATTENTION:

  • Franklin Howard: Franklin Howard is already ranked and committed to Syracuse, but I was impressed by his recovery from a major knee injury that forced him to miss the high school season. Howard doubled his minutes during the Peach Jam from the EYBL and looked pretty good despite shooting the ball poorly. (SP)
  • Alterique Gilbert: A 5-foot-9 PG, Gilbert is No. 92 in the Class of 2016 on Rivals. He’s a quick, shifty point guard that can get to the rim and finish in traffic. He also doesn’t appear to get rattled by big moments or big plays. He averaged 18.2 points in the event. (RD)

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.

Arizona and Texas headline Lone Star Shootout

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
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Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.

The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.

The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.

“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.

Five-star 2017 guard Lonnie Walker cuts list to five schools

Men's U18 trials head shots and team photo on 6.15.16
Bart Young/USA Basketball
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Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.

The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.

Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.

An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.