Seven takeaways from AAU Nationals and Super Showcase

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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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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.

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.

Alabama’s Braxton Key reportedly seeking transfer

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Alabama is expected to lose Braxton Key to a transfer this offseason, according to a report from the Tuscaloosa News.

Key is a 6-foot-7 sophomore forward for the Crimson Tide that was impressive during his rookie season, when he averaged 12.0 points and 5.7 boards before testing the NBA draft waters.

But Key dealt with a knee injury prior too the start of his sophomore season, missing 10 games, and finished the year averaging just 7.0 boards and 5.3 boards before opting to try and find a new program.

He will have to sit out the 2018-19 season but will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2019-20. He’ll be one of the most sought-after transfers on the market this spring.

Kansas big man Azubuike to declare without an agent

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Kansas center Udoka Azubuike is declaring for the NBA draft but will not be signing with an agent, the school announced on Friday morning.

The 7-foot Azubuike averaged 13.0 points, 7.0 boards and 1.7 blocks this season while shooting 77 percent from the floor, the majority of which were dunks that nearly broke the rim off of the backboard.

“I want to declare for this year’s (NBA) draft, but I am not going to hire an agent,” Azubuike said in a release. “I’m going to wait and see where I stand among other bigs out there. I appreciate everyone’s support, but I’m not saying goodbye. I’m saying I want to find out. Like many other players, I’m curious.”

“I improved a lot this past season. All my teammates and all my coaches have helped me to grow in all areas of my life and I really appreciate what they did for me to get to this point.”

Azubuike is projected as a second round pick.

This decision became more important for Kansas in the last two weeks, as the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball revealed that the guardian of Silvio De Sousa allegedly accepted at least $20,000 to get the 6-foot-10 center to attend Kansas. De Sousa was the security blanket if Azubuike opted to enter this draft, but it seems unlikely that De Sousa will play for Kansas next season. for comparison’s sake, the father of Brian Bowen was alleged to have received a similar amount of money, and Bowen is still waiting to be cleared at his second school seven months after those accusations first saw the light of day.

Without Azubuike and De Sousa, Kansas will likely be relying on junior Mitch Lightfoot and freshman David McCormack to man the five-spot alongside Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson.

The Jayhawks are currently projected as the No. 1 team in the NBC Sports preseason top 25 despite the fact that they could lose all five starters off of last season’s team. That’s what happens when there is talent like the Lawson brothers and Charlie Moore sitting out as transfers and a fourth transfer — Sam Cunliffe — struggling to break into the rotation.

Throw in a pair of five-star guards — Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes — and the potential that the Jayhawks could still end up landing Romeo Langford, and things aren’t as bad as they could be in Lawrence right now.