(Scott Phillips/NBCSports.com)

AAU Nationals Friday Recap: Event moves to Louisville, Bruce Brown plays well, Noah Dickerson updates recruitment

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LOUISVILLE — The end of the July live evaluation period is fast approaching, and besides Vegas, most of the college coaches in the country are attending AAU Nationals and the Super Showcase in Kentucky. Many players are worn out, playing through injury or just sitting out completely, but there are still a lot of talented players making an effort to be seen and earn scholarship offers.

AAU moves to Louisville — This season, AAU (the actual organization, not the incorrect label many tag onto grassroots or club basketball) moved its main boys basketball operation from Orlando and Disney to the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville.

With 18 courts under one roof — including court one being Freedom Hall, the former Louisville Cardinals arena — Louisville has the facility to host the four events going on at the same time.

Being played this week are the 17U and 16U Nationals and each age division also has a Super Showcase Tournament. While having the 18 floors in one building is nice to limit traveling between gyms for coaches, players, fans and media, it’s also chaotic at times and difficult to sift through. I’ll have more on the Amateur Athletic Union this week.

Noah Dickerson still open to Georgetown — Class of 2015 four-star big man Noah Dickerson recently decommitted from Georgetown before the live evaluation period began in July.

As the No. 56 overall prospect in Rivals‘ 2015 national rankings, Dickerson has drawn a lot of interest this July playing with the Georgia Stars.

But Dickerson told NBCSports.com that he’s open to a return to the Hoyas, as well. Dickerson said he couldn’t name all of the scholarship offers he’s accumulated but mentioned Georgetown, Michigan, Virginia and Louisville as schools that are standing out.

“I still really like Georgetown a lot,” Dickerson said to NBCSports.com. “I [decommitted] not because I didn’t want to go to Georgetown, I did it because I didn’t get a chance to take a look at all of the other schools like I looked at Georgetown. I have to take visits to these other schools to see what they’re like because I know Georgetown like the back of my hand. I don’t know the other schools like that.”

Michigan has yet to offer, but Dickerson mentioned that they’ve been evaluating him for two years now.

It will be interesting to see where Dickerson’s recruitment goes from here and he also mentioned that he’s going to make a decision this spring.

Bruce Brown continues a strong July — Last week at Peach Jam, BABC guard Bruce Brown put together some strong showings.

That trend has continued this week at AAU. The Class of 2016 guard was very good on both ends of the floor in a BABC win over the Jackson Tigers in a Super Showcase tournament game on Friday night.

Brown used his physicality and intensity to make multiple steals and take them coast-to-coast for baskets while also putting in a tip dunk on a putback. As the No. 53 overall prospect in Rivals‘ 2016 rankings, Brown is a known commodity, but he’s had some good showings the last few weeks and will be a fun guard to track going into his junior season.

Battle 4 Atlantis title proves Syracuse will be relevant this season

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Michael Gbinije scored 20 points and Trevor Cooney added 15 points and five assists as Syracuse left the Bahamas with a title, beating No. 25 Texas A&M 74-67 in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

I guess it’s time to start taking the Orange seriously.

There’s a lot to like about this group. Gbinije and Cooney are both fifth-year seniors that not only understand how to operate at the top of the 2-3 zone that Jim Boeheim runs, but they both have developed into versatile offensive weapons. Cooney was known as nothing more than a jump-shooter when he arrived up north, but he’s now averaging 3.5 assists on the season.

And Gbinije?

He has been one of the best players in the country through the first two weeks of the season. Through six games, he’s averaged 19.7 points, 4.2 assists, 3.0 boards and 2.8 steals while shooting 51.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Freshman Malachi Richardson, who had 16 points in the win over A&M, has scored double-figures in all six games this season while another freshman, Tyler Lydon, was against terrific on Friday, finishing with 13 points and eight boards. He’s now shooting 58.8 percent from beyond the arc this season.

And that’s where this team is going to do the majority of their damage this season.

Through six games, they’re shooting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc. In the three wins in the Bahamas, the Orange knocked were 34-for-73 from beyond the arc, a 46.5 percent clip. The question isn’t whether or not that rate can continue — four of the six players that saw action on Friday are dangerous three-point shooters while the other two, Tyler Roberson  and DaJuan Coleman, aren’t going to be shooting threes — but what happens on the nights where the threes aren’t going down.

There are going to be nights where they shoot 5-for-25 instead of 11-for-25. Will they have enough firepower then? Will their defense be good enough? Will guys like Roberson and Coleman be able to supply a scoring punch? Will Cooney, Gbinije and Richardson attack the paint instead of settling for jumpers?

Because at the very least, these three games in the Bahamas have proven that the Orange are going to be relevant this season, even in the loaded ACC. Whether that means they’re going to push for a top four finish or simply end the year as a tournament team remains to be seen, but this much is clear: Jim Boeheim has himself a squad Upstate.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.