(Scott Phillips/NBC Sports)

Seven takeaways from AAU Nationals and Super Showcase

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Deng Adel (adidas)

LOUISVILLE — The last week of the July live evaluation period ended on Sunday as the Amateur Athletic Union hosted its 10th and 11th grade Division I national championships to go along with a Super Showcase for each grade, as well.

With 18 courts under one roof at the Kentucky Expo Center, it was an ideal setup for college coaches and media to see a lot of basketball action in one week.

RELATED: AAU National Recaps: Friday | Saturday

1. The Amateur Athletic Union and Kentucky Expo Center is ripping people off: Between the $600-plus entry fee for teams to play in AAU Nationals and the $450-plus Division I college coaches had to spend on coaches’ packets — among the highest prices in July for both — the Amateur Athletic Union was ripping off a lot of people. And that doesn’t include the Kentucky Expo Center charging an $8 (no re-entry) daily parking pass that everyone had to pay each day, the outrageous wi-fi prices and the marked up food prices in the Kentucky Expo Center. Multiple food stands in the expo center had their prices taped over and marked up as people were forced to stay in the building with steep parking prices and a no return policy and pay $3.50 for a 20-ounce soda or $5-plus for a slice of pizza. College coaches, AAU coaches, media and fans all complained about the high prices for an extremely disorganized and poorly run event.

2. “In-home visits” were rampant at Nationals: Generally when a college coach illegally meets with parents or AAU coaches during the July evaluation period — in the gym or at places like restaurants or hotels — it is jokingly referred to by many in the recruiting industry as an “in-home visit.” This kind of face-to-face contact is not permitted during July between college coaches and parents and AAU coaches but with AAU Nationals being so poorly organized, fans were allowed to sit and stand near college coaches with little-to-no action being done by tournament officials. NBCSports.com saw at least a dozen instances of illegal contact between parents and college coaches inside the Kentucky Expo Center, sometimes in upwards of 30 minutes, as the NCAA couldn’t police 18 courts going on at the same time with boundaries being so poorly set. This sort of thing happens at other events, such as Rivals‘ recruiting analyst Eric Bossi mentioning the Las Vegas airport, but this sort of cheating has never been this obvious at the gym the event was taking place at.

RELATEDAll content from the 2014 July Live Period

3. The talent is way down at AAU Nationals: While USA Basketball had a hand in taking away some of the best players from the AAU events in Louisville, the event also didn’t pack a lot of punch in terms of overall quality of teams. The Las Vegas events have clearly dominated the scene in the final week for a long time now, but it seems like there were very few teams west of the Mississippi River that choose to make the trip to Louisville. And two Nike EYBL teams that didn’t even make it to Peach Jam, Expressions Elite and Alabama Challenge, found themselves in the final four of the more loaded field of the 17U AAU Super Showcase. There was still plenty of Division I talent in attendance, but the lack of high-major talent — and high-major coaches — was noticeable.

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(Scott Phillips/NBC Sports)

4. The Louisville Cardinals are winners of the July evaluation period: With July commitments coming from wing guard Deng Adel and wing forward Raymond Spalding, Louisville and head coach Rick Pitino are the clear winners of the July live evaluation period. Other programs will see the benefits of July recruiting and evaluating down the line, but the Cardinals were able to lock up two top-50 talents during the three-week evaluation period in the 6-foot-7 Adel and 6-foot-9 Spalding. Both of them appear to be on the underrated side based on their July play when looking at Rivals‘ rankings and Pitino has two more long and athletic wings that have upside and can really move.

5. Notre Dame is another winner this July: The Cardinals weren’t the only ACC program to get two commitments during July. That honor also went to Notre Dame and head coach Mike Brey, as they locked up Albany City Rocks teammates Matt Ryan and Elijah Burns in the 2015 class. Ryan and Burns don’t have the national reputation that the Louisville duo has earned, but both of them should be nice system fits for Brey’s offense and both have their best basketball ahead of them. The 6-foot-5 Ryan is finally getting healthy after two hip surgeries and the 6-foot-8 Burns has a lot of upside as multiple college coaches told NBCSports.com that they believed Burns was a solid get for the Irish after a good week in Louisville.

MORE: Las Vegas Recaps: Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday

6. 2016’s guard play is superior to 2015: It’s been mentioned before by me and others at CBT that the 2016 class looks better than the 2015 class, but this becomes abundantly clear when looking at the guards of both classes. While 2015 has a lot of elite big men in the top 50, it is sorely lacking on guards, specifically point guards. The more and more I saw 2016 guards in the last three weeks, the more it became clear that this group was way better than 2015. Four-star guard Bruce Brown had another good week for BABC and another four-star 2016 guard, Trent Forrest, was very good in multiple outings for the Alabama Challenge. When you consider those guys are currently in the 40-60 range in most rankings for their class, it seems the guards in ’16 are significantly better as a whole than ’15.

7. The 2017 class has some emerging wing talent: Two of the more fun-to-watch players in Louisville were Howard Pulley guard Gary Trent, Jr. and KC Run GMC southpaw wing Mitchell Ballock. Both players already have a bit of a national reputation and both players shined in certain moments playing up on the 16U level at the AAU events. Trent, Jr. has good bloodlines as the son of former MAC star Gary Trent and the 6-foot-3 guard is confident with the ball in his hands as a scorer or passer. The 6-foot-4 Ballock has a smooth-looking lefty shot on the perimeter and also is a very good leaper in transition. Obviously a long way to go in this class, but they were two guys to watch.

Duke knocks off No. 13 Louisville in first game of critical four-game stretch

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half and Brandon Ingram added 18 points, 10 boards and four assists as Duke picked up a critical win over No. 13 Louisville in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night, 72-65.

A call this a critical win for the Blue Devils because it kicks off what may be the most important two-week stretch of Duke’s schedule This weekend, the Blue Devils square off with No. 9 Virginia. Next Wednesday, they’re at the Dean Dome to take on No. 7 North Carolina. Four days after that, they head to the Bluegrass State to pay a visit to Louisville.

 

With the way that Duke has been struggling on the defensive end of the floor without Amile Jefferson, that’s a stretch that could derail Duke’s season; entering Monday, all four of those games were losable. But a four-game winning streak — or even going 3-1 in that stretch — could completely change the tenor of what has been a fairly disappointing year for the defending champs, and that’s before they get Jefferson back to 100 percent.

And the difference was defensively, at least in the first half.

I’ve written in this space a number of times about how opponents know what they’re going to get from Duke defensively. Coach K, traditionally, plays half court man-to-man defense, switching every exchange — ball-screen, off-ball pick or simply when two players run by one another — that doesn’t involve the center. In recent years, he’s played some zone in situations where he defense has struggled or, like this season, when he doesn’t have the depth to risk foul trouble. We’ve even seen some 2-2-1 pressure from him of late.

But on Monday night, Duke played straight man-to-man for much of the game, and in the first half, it seemed to fluster the Cardinals. They scored just 24 points in the first 20 minutes, and while Louisville did find a way to break Duke down defensively in the second half — they shot better than 55 percent from the floor after the break — but part of the reason Duke was able to win this game was the lead they built. After a three from Allen opened scoring in the second half, the Blue Devils were up by 14, and while Louisville made a run down the stretch, they could never get control of the game.

Duke is becoming appointment viewing for basketball nerds like me that pay too much attention to X’s-and-O’s to see what kind of wrinkle Coach K is going to put in to try and compensate defensively, so I’m not sure that this performance sticks. But it is worth noting that this was the first time in eight games the Blue Devils gave up less than 1.0 PPP, and the first time since Dec. 19th they did so against an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

As far as Louisville is concerned, you have to tip your hat to those kids. They played their hearts out and fought back from a big deficit in one of the toughest places in the country to play. They did all that three days after their school ripped their hearts out with an NCAA tournament ban for this season.

So good for them. You never know how a team is going to react to something like that, but the Cardinal players showed that they have some serious fight in them.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.