Las Vegas Wednesday Recap: Corey Sanders working to become a better leader

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LAS VEGAS — The final open period of the month is now underway, with many prospects having one last opportunity to display their skills in front of college coaches this summer. One team on the receiving end of attention from multiple assistants at high-major programs was the Showtime Ballers, thanks in large part to the guard tandem of Corey Sanders and Dwayne Bacon. While the first half of their showcase game against the Upward Stars was relatively quiet, both Bacon  and Sanders were the catalysts in the second half.

They worked well together, with Bacon being at his best when in “attack mode.” As for Sanders he displayed the ability to penetrate the defense, using his handle to get to the basket on multiple occasions while also having the willingness to move the basketball to teammates in better positions to score. And in speaking with Sanders following the game, the area where he’s looking to make the greatest strides this summer is one that is of great importance to successful point guards.

“The number one thing [I’ve been working on] is leadership,” Sanders told NBCSports.com. “Being able to run the team and get my teammates open; just making sure my teammates are involved so they play with me. [Leadership has] been the most important thing I’ve been working on this summer.”

Sanders is in a slightly different position than Bacon this summer, due to the fact that he’s gone through the experience of verbally committing to a school and then changing his mind. Sanders verbally committed to attend UCF back in September, only to reopen things a month later. And while the time Sanders spent as a committed recruit wasn’t particularly long, it served as a learning experience for a player who now finds himself juggling multiple options entering the final open period of the summer.

“Make sure you take your time [with the process],” Sanders said when asked what he took away from that experience. “Look through everything and all the schools that want you, and let them do their job and recruit you.”

Sanders also noted consistency as an important factor when it comes to the recruiting process, and that can be an issue for many recruits. While there certainly are programs that exercise great caution in handing out offers, there are others who aren’t as judicious in doing so. As a result there can be confusion for some prospects, as they look to figure out which schools are truly interested and which ones are merely offering multiple options at the drop of a hat.

In regards to Sanders’ ongoing recruitment, he mentioned DePaul, Texas A&M, UNLV, Rutgers, USF and Wichita State when asked which schools have been recruiting him the hardest. As for what he’s looking for, a strong coaching staff that will help him improve his game and solid academics are two keys according to Sanders. The point guard is hoping to narrow things down at the end of the month, which will allow him to focus even more of the schools that make his list heading into his senior year of high school.

Dorsey solid but Brunson displays better lead guard skills in win: One of the most intriguing individual matchups in the Fab 48 showcase games was that between Mac Irvin Fire floor general Jalen Brunson and Belmont Shore’s Tyler Dorsey. While both players were productive, with Brunson’s sparking a second-half comeback for the Fire, it was evident which player is further along when it comes to being able to run a team at the college level. That would be Brunson, who displayed a solid balance of attacking the defense in search of his own looks with the need to make sure his teammates wound up with the ball in advantageous positions himself.

Dorsey’s more of a scorer at this point, but there were cases in which he made a concerted effort to get his teammates quality looks. However it’s still a work in progress for Dorsey, who will make the move from St. John Bosco to Marantha High (Pasadena, California) this coming season where he’ll play alongside 6-foot-10 forward Trevor Stanback. With Dorsey playing with two talented options in Jordan Dallas and Vance Jackson this week, he’ll have opportunities to set up his teammates. While he’s definitely a talented scorer, it’s premature to assume that Dorsey improving as a distributor is out of the question.

Among the programs represented at this game: Texas, Kansas, Minnesota, Illinois, Wichita State, Arizona State, UNLV, St. John’s, Oklahoma State, Creighton and Nebraska.

DeAndre Ayton shows glimpses of skills that have many excited: While Ayton and fellow 2017 prospect Troy Brown don’t play the same position, with the 6-foot-11 Ayton plying his trade in the front court and the 6-foot-6 Brown doing so on the perimeter, the fact that they were on the same court attracted many interested observers. And when it came to which player had the greater impact on the matchup between the Las Vegas Prospects and Supreme Court Force, Ayton was clearly the more impactful player of the two.

While there were times in the open floor when Ayton seemed to be going a bit too fast for his handle, skills such as his ability to catch just about anything thrown to him (including a couple impressive one-handed alley-oops) and rebound outside of his area were on full display. As mentioned above both are 2017 prospects, so we’ll be hearing a bit about these two as they work to become even better players in the years to come. Among the schools watching this game were UCLA*, Arizona*, San Diego State*, USC, Wyoming*, Oregon State*, UNLV and Florida (* – head coach was present).

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.