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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(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.

Five-star 2018 recruit Anfernee Simons could test NBA Draft process

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Five-star Class of 2018 guard Anfernee Simons is interested in potentially entering the 2018 NBA Draft.

According to a report from Jonathan Givony of ESPN, the former Louisville commit will likely be eligible to jump to the NBA straight out of high school since he graduated high school last year while turning 19 next June. The 6-foot-4 Simons, considered the No. 16 overall prospect in the Rivals’ Class of 2018 national rankings, is playing a post-grad season at IMG Academy for 2017-18 after reclassifying as a sophomore.

If Simons opts to go pro than college basketball loses a potential star as he’s been shooting up the national rankings over the past year. Simons was committed to the Cardinals since the beginning of his junior year but he opened things up once former head coach Rick Pitino lost his job in a fallout from the FBI investigation on college basketball.

Simons started his season at the National Prep Showcase this weekend as six NBA teams sent people to watch him play, according to Givony’s report.

It’ll be fascinating to see what happens in this situation as Simons hasn’t done much with the recruiting process over the last several months. Now that NBA teams are already watching him play, Simons could follow in Thon Maker’s footsteps and turn pro right away.

LaVar Ball on Trump’s involvement in bringing son home: ‘Who?’

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The war of words none of us wanted is now upon us.

LaVar Ball downplayed the impact that Donald Trump had in ensuring that his son, LiAngelo, along with two other UCLA players were released from custody and returned to the United States following a shoplifting incident on the team’s trip to China.

“Who?” the eldest Ball told ESPN on Friday night when asked about Trump’s involvement. “What was he over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

When the players arrived back in Los Angeles, and before they had a chance to speak publicly, Trump had already taken to twitter to complain about the fact that the trio had not yet thanked him. Trump happened to be in China at the same time and, in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he reportedly asked for his counterpart’s help in assuring an expedited legal process.

Trump got the thank you that he so desperately needed when UCLA held a press conference announcing that the three players would be suspended indefinitely, but LaVar was not going to let the President have the last word. And you can bet that Trump is not going to let this be the end of it, either, which means that two men that have risen to prominence through their willingness to say the audacious whenever the spotlight is on them will have the floor.

And unless someone has managed to change the passcode on Trump’s cellphone, you can rest assured that this will not be the end of it.

Bridges perfect from 3, No. 5 Villanova blows out Lafayette

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ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Mikal Bridges set a school record by hitting all six of his 3-point shots and scored a career-high 24 points in No. 5 Villanova’s 104-57 rout of Lafayette on Friday night.

Jalen Brunson added 22 points and hit 4 of 6 3s in another dominant performance by the Wildcats (3-0), who made 16 of 30 from long range.

Three nights after setting a school record with 13 blocked shots in a blowout of Nicholls, the versatile and deep Wildcats showed another strength and overwhelmed the Leopards (0-3).

Led by Bridges’ 4 of 4 long-distance shooting, Villanova hit 11 of its first 14 3s in racing to a 39-16 lead. The Wildcats had a stretch of nine straight baskets being 3s en route to a 56-23 halftime lead.

Matt Klinewski had 16 points and six rebounds for Lafayette, which was 7 of 29 from 3-point range.

Bridges finished 9 of 10 from the field before he sat out the final 10 minutes. The junior bested his previous career-high by one point set Tuesday.

While it was a Villanova home game, it was played about 50 miles from campus at the PPL Center, home of minor league hockey’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms. It was a 20-mile drive for Lafayette, but the Wildcats sure seemed at home.

Villanova spent much of the second half going inside to score. Omari Spellman had 15 points and nine rebounds and Eric Paschall had 14 points and eight boards.

BIG PICTURE

Lafayette: Try as a Patriot League school squaring off against one of the best teams in the nation and watching the opponent shoot like that, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s alma mater never had a chance.

Villanova: The Wildcats have perimeter shooting, depth inside and play good defense. They’ve been dominant against inferior competition, and will finally get tested next week.

SO MANY 3-POINTERS

Bridges surpassed Doug West in 1988 and John Celestand in 1999, each of whom went 5 of 5 from long range. Villanova finished one shy of the school record of 17 3s set against Lehigh on Nov. 27, 2005.

NO LUCK

Lafayette coach Fran O’Hanlon fell to 0-6 against his alma mater. O’Hanlon still holds the Villanova record for assists in a game with 16 set against Toledo on Feb. 24, 1970.

Only six Division I coaches have been at their schools longer than O’Hanlon, in his 23rd season.

UP NEXT

Lafayette visits Princeton on Wednesday.

Villanova faces Western Kentucky on Wednesday in the first of three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. No. 19 Purdue and No. 3 Arizona are possible opponents the following two days.

Mykhailiuk helps No. 4 Kansas rout South Dakota State, 98-64

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Svi Mykhailiuk scored a career-high 27 points, Lagerald Vick finished with 22 and fourth-ranked Kansas routed Summit League favorite South Dakota State 98-64 on Friday night.

Udoka Azubuike added 17 points and Malik Newman had 13 for the Jayhawks (3-0), who shot 60 percent from the field and didn’t commit a turnover until midway through the second half.

By that point, the Jackrabbits (3-1) were staring at a 30-point deficit.

Mike Daum led South Dakota State with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Tevin King contributed 12 points and David Jenkins Jr. scored 10 off the bench.

Once again without heralded freshman Billy Preston, the Jayhawks were forced to use the same reduced rotation that managed to top seventh-ranked Kentucky on Tuesday night. But their perilous lack of depth became crippling in the first half when Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot picked up two fouls each.

That forced coach Bill Self to use walk-on Clay Young in the post.

The 6-foot-5 senior turned out to be a bright spot, too, keeping the ball moving on offense and handling the 6-9 Daum inside. The Jackrabbits’ leading scorer at more than 21 points per game had eight on 2-for-8 shooting in the first half, when Young spent a good chunk of time covering him.

Nobody could cover Mykhailiuk, though.

The senior from the Ukraine hit his first three shots — the Jayhawks made eight of their first nine — while getting into an easy rhythm. Even on the seemingly rare occasion that his jumper didn’t splash the net, it often rattled around the rim and dropped through to a thunderous ovation.

Several of his baskets came on feeds from Devonte Graham, who didn’t hit a field goal until deep in the second half. He finished with eight points but also had 11 assists and five boards.

PRESTON SITS

Preston went through early warmups but remained on the bench as Kansas investigates an on-campus incident that raised questions about the “financial picture” of the car he was driving. Self declined to discuss the situation other than to say “we’re definitely going to hold him out until we get to the bottom of this.” Self did say he expects a resolution soon.

BIG PICTURE

South Dakota State can recover from its thumping in paradise with a trip to the Cayman Islands Classic up next. But their next trip to the Sunflower State figures to be just as tough: They visit No. 6 Wichita State on Dec. 5.

Kansas cruised despite a shortened lineup again, and help is only a month away. Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe becomes eligible for a trip to Nebraska on Dec. 16, and there is a chance five-star prospect Silvio De Sousa from Florida’s IMG Academy enrolls at the semester break.

UP NEXT

South Dakota State plays Wyoming on Monday in George Town, Cayman Islands.

Kansas continues a four-game home stand against Texas Southern on Tuesday night.

No. 18 Louisville hangs on over Omaha 87-78

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ray Spalding had a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds, Deng Adel had a game-high 21 points and Anas Mahmoud had eight of his team’s 15 blocked shots as No. 18 Louisville outlasted Omaha 87-78 on Friday night.

Spalding scored 14 points after halftime, and Adel made 7 of 8 shots from both the field and the free-throw line to pace the offense for the Cardinals (2-0), who led by 20 early in the second half but didn’t make a field for the last 4:36 of the game.

Omaha (0-4) was competitive in facing its highest-ranked opponent since becoming an NCAA Division I program in the 2011-12 season. The Mavericks hung around with a 12-0 second-half run and got within 71-64 on KJ Robinson’s 3-pointer with 5:45 left, but Louisville answered with seven straight points to keep the lead large enough to stay unbeaten under interim coach David Padgett.

Louisville’s three primary big men — Spalding (6-foot-10), Mahmoud (7-0) and Malik Williams (6-11) — bothered Omaha with their length around the rim. Mahmoud flirted with a triple-double, posting 10 points and eight rebounds to go with his blocks. Williams, a former five-star recruit who made his first career start in place of Mahmoud, had eight points, four rebounds and three blocks. Spalding blocked three shots, too.

Daniel Norl led five Omaha scorers in double figures with 16 points and eight rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Omaha: The Mavericks averaged 83.9 points in their first three games but dug a hole in the first half when they shot only 24.4 percent to go down 40-25 at halftime. Louisville finished the first half on an 18-7 run, and Omaha made only one of its final nine shots before the break.

Louisville: Adel, who scored 20 points in the season-opening win over George Mason, continues to impress with his slicing drives and up-tempo play and shapes up as one of the top wings in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He made his first seven shots and added eight rebounds.

UP NEXT

Omaha plays at TCU on Monday as part of the Emerald Coast Classic, the fourth of seven straight games away from home to start the season while the Mavericks’ home arena hosts the U.S. Olympic Curling Trials.

Louisville has home games against Southern Illinois on Tuesday and Saint Francis next Friday before traveling to Purdue on Nov. 28 for the Big 10/ACC Challenge.