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Four Takeaways from the NBPA Top 100 Camp

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NBPA Top 100 Camp is annually one of the most important events during the summer recruiting calendar because it brings together the most talent of any event before the July live evaluation period.

With many of the nation’s elite prospects going to battle at the University of Virginia, here’s a look at some main takeaways from the event as I focus on the Class of 2018 players in attendance.

1. The battle for best point guard in the Class of 2018 will be the July storyline to keep an eye on

It’s been noted many times on CBT, and elsewhere, that the Class of 2018 doesn’t have a lot of top-end, one-and-done type of talent. While the lack of NBA-level star power might hurt the college game for one season — with the sport’s heavy reliance on elite freshmen now — the overall depth at point guard is certainly shaping up to be very solid for the Class of 2018. And that point guard depth will also help college basketball in a major way in the coming years.

Even with a few elite lead guards like Darius Garland and Tre Jones not competing in Virginia, the point guards took center stage at Top 100 Camp. And it made for some excellent individual battles that should set up for a very fun July.

Five-star Immanuel Quickley was perhaps the best long-term prospect among the group, but that title was challenged by a bevy of competitors that included Rivals top-40 prospects such as DePaul commit Tyger Campbell, Ayo Dosunmu, Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes, Louisville commit Courtney Ramey, Javonte Smart, Jahvon Quinerly and Elijah Weaver. And that’s not even factoring in the top-flight Class of 2019 point guards like Cole Anthony and Ashton Hagans who were in attendance as well.

Beyond that first group, the depth in the class also shined at camp as West Virginia commit Jordan McCabe, Notre Dame commit Prentiss Hubb and TCU commit Kendric Davis were all among the camp’s leaders in assists.

Camps can be sloppy and have moments of uninspired play, but this year’s camp felt slightly more competitive thanks to all of these point guards going to war. Here’s to hoping that these guys continue to play this competitively in July and beyond.

2. Simi Shittu is a monster (with a potentially fascinating recruiting battle)

One of the notable stock risers of this spring in the Class of 2018 has been Canadian forward Simi Shittu (pictured above). Elevating into the top 10 of most major national rankings, the 6-foot-9 Shittu did nothing but backup his lofty status with his outstanding play at the Top 100 Camp.

Far-and-away the most productive player in the camp, Shittu was a complete monster during the entirety of the event. Shittu was a double-double machine who was nearly impossible to keep off the offensive glass. Leading the camp in both points and rebounds, Shittu’s recruitment is going to be fascinating to watch this July because many of the traditional bluebloods are jumping in later than normal for a top-ten prospect.

While Shittu has mentioned schools like Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, Syracuse and UConn during the spring, N.C. State recently offered a scholarship while Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina have all made recent inquiries. Seeing which head coaches — specifically the newer schools entering the recruitment late — make Shittu an early priority in July will be something to watch for.

3. Besides Shittu, where did all the big men go?

For as many good point guards as there were at this year’s Top 100 Camp, there was also a noticeable lack of elite post players in attendance outside of Shittu as the Class of 2018 doesn’t appear to have a lot of instant-impact bigs.

There are certainly some top-end talents in the class like Marvin Bagley, Bol Bol and Moses Brown, but with none of those guys playing in Virginia, it meant for a guard-dominated camp. Guards typically dominate the ball in camp settings to begin with, but this year, they really didn’t have much reason to throw the ball into the post.

Five-star big man Nazreon Reid was the most talented 2018 big man in the building, besides Shittu, but he still has a lot of work to do with his shot selection in order to be fully counted on at the next level. There were flashes when the 6-foot-10 Reid displayed frightening athleticism and ability for a player his size and then he would settle for a one-footed stepback from 17 feet away that came up as an airball all within the same minute of play.

Four-star center David McCormack also continues to make strides in his game this spring as he showed post scoring ability that few players in the camp could match. But McCormack only played a limited number of games after playing the previous week in Italy for adidas Eurocamp, so the limited post play was made even worse.

Since the game continues to evolve into more and more of a perimeter-oriented contest, it could mean that we see fewer post prospects, but I have a feeling that this is just an instance of one particular class just not having a lot of high-level big men.

4. Despite last week, Louisville is in great position with regards to future recruiting

Most of the major headlines in college basketball last week were geared around Louisville and the fallout from their scandal. Even with the Cardinals facing so many potential sanctions from that scandal, it doesn’t seem to be slowing them down when it comes to future recruiting.

The team’s Class of 2018 recruiting haul both had solid moments at Top 100 as shooting guard Anfernee Simons, in particular, looked like a solid future ACC presence. With his ability to knock down perimeter jumpers while also attacking the basket, the 6-foot-2 Simons was one of the toughest covers at the event as he has the look of a potential go-to scorer for the Cardinals.

The 6-foot-3 Ramey was also steady during most of the camp, as he showed that he can score and distribute with equal effectiveness.

While Louisville has its backcourt of the future already committed in the Class of 2018, Class of 2019 prospects also seemed receptive to what the Cardinals have to offer.  With June 15th being the first day college coaches could directly contact Class of 2019 prospects — falling right in the midst of Top 100 Camp — many of the elite prospects in attendance mentioned that Louisville had called for them in the opening 24 hours of being able to do so.

It is still early to tell how that recruiting class at Louisville might unfold but many of those prospects were just excited to hear from Rick Pitino. Judging strictly on prospect perception, there seems to be minimal fallout (if any) from the Katina Powell scandal and Louisville should keep landing high-level players.

Top 2018 recruit R.J. Barrett names final five schools

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A top player in 2018 is down to five schools.

R.J. Barrett, a 6-foot-6 guard out of Monteverde Academy in Florida, announced Wednesday he’ll consider Arizona, Duke, Michigan, Oregon and Kentucky as his college destination.

Barrett is among those in the mix for the top spot in his class now with Marvin Bagley III reclassifying to 2017 this week and committing to Duke. He starred in Canada’s run to a gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championships this summer, dropping 38 points on Team USA in a shocking semifinals win for the Canadians, who went on to defeat Italy in the finals. He averaged 21.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 rebounds per game during the event.

The schools to make the cut for certainly are of little surprise. They’re among the biggest brands in basketball and have been among the recruiting elites for years.

Barrett was originally part of the 2019 class, but decided to reclassify earlier this summer.”Really, it’s been a thought of mine for the last year,” Barrett wrote for USA TODAY, “but I wanted to wait and see how the season would go and how school would go and when everything went well it became more and more real so I made the decision to go ahead and do it.

“I’m right on track to graduate in 2018 and academically everything is great.”

 

Big Ten reveals conference schedule with early-December games

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We knew it was coming, but seeing it in black-and-white is still plenty jarring.
The Big Ten is going to play conference games in early December.

The league announced its full conference schedule Wednesday, unveiling 14 first-week-of-December games ahead of nearly a month-long hiatus before Big Ten play picks up again in January.

It’s a move that was forced after the Big Ten decided it needed to expand its east coast presence after its expansion to Rutgers and Maryland, and will be playing its conference tournament on the eastern seaboard for the second-consecutive year, this time at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

The problem with MSG is that the Big East hosts its annual conference tournament there, meaning the B1G will have to play its tournament a week early, March 1-4. That means a week less of January, February and March for the conference to play its 18 league games. Thus the early December start. NBC Sports’ Rob Dauster broke down the situation in even more detail – and bite – last spring here.

Every team in the league will play both a home and a road game during that league’s first week, a soft opening if you will. Whether teams like the change or not will likely come down to circumstance  – what players they have injured or suspended, what players their opponents have injured or suspended and any other host of issues, but it’s hard to believe with all things being equal, Big Ten coaches will like this move. They’re playing extremely meaningful league games less than three weeks into the season with other conferences getting nearly 2 months of preparation before facing their toughest slate of games.

The B1G, though, will have more favorable and interesting games – even if they’re programmed against college football championship games (including their own) – that week than any other conference can boast, which likely means some nice TV ratings. Given why this change is being made, that’s probably the priority anyway.

South Carolina adds Maine grad-transfer Myers

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South Carolina is adding some immediate help in its follow-up season to a Final Four run.

Wesley Myers, a graduate transfer from Maine, is joining the Gamecocks’ program, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

The 6-foot-2 guard gives Frank Martin’s team an instant infusion of scoring as they look to replace SEC player of the year Sindarius Thornwell and PJ Dozier. Myers 16.9 points per game last year on 43.7 percent shooting, including a 34.3 percent mark from 3-point range.

He’s the second grad-transfer Martin has picked up this offseason, joining Florida Atlantic’s Frank Booker. The pair should help ease the transition from last year’s success to a much less experienced team that returns just a pair of starters.

Myers, though, doesn’t arrive in Columbia without some notable history.

Last year, after transferring to Maine from Niagara, was suspended after an altercation with a teammate, according to reports. He and teammate Marko Pirovic argued over locker room music, and the alleged ensuing altercation left Pirovic with a broken jaw, according to reports. Three other Maine players were suspended after telling a team athletic trainer that Pirovic had injured himself in a fall in the shower. Pirovic declined to press charges.

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett: ‘We believe in diversity and unity to its fullest extent’

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Virginia’s Tony Bennett finally spoke out on last weekend’s clash between white supremacists protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee and counter-protesters that resulted in the deaths of a 32-year old woman named Heather Heyer and two police officers involved in a helicopter crash:

Bennett does not exactly take a hard-line stance — the message is more about healing within the community and how much he loves his current hometown than it is about condemning what happened — but he does say “we believe in diversity and unity to its fullest extent.”

Kyle Guy, a sophomore on the Virginia roster, had this to say on Sunday:

UNC academic case finally reaches NCAA infractions hearing

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — It has taken more than two years for North Carolina to appear before an NCAA infractions committee panel since initially being charged with five top-level violations amid its long-running academic scandal.

The two-day hearing begins Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee. The panel will ultimately determine whether the school faces penalties that could include fines, probation or vacated wins and championships, making this a major step toward resolution in an oft-delayed case filled with starts, stops and twice-rewritten charges.

“The hearing stage, no matter what size of a case, it’s a big deal to any university,” said Michael L. Buckner, a Florida-based attorney who has worked on infractions cases. “I’ve been a part of what you’d consider small cases, I’ve been a part of one of the largest cases. And trust me: The client feels the same anxiousness and apprehension no matter what size of a case it is.

“But I can definitely imagine with North Carolina, this is definitely a momentous occasion.”

The charges include lack of institutional control in a case tied to irregular courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. The case is an offshoot of a 2010 football probe, with the NCAA reopening an investigation in summer 2014, filing charges in May 2015, revising them in April 2016 and then again in December.

The panel, which would typically issue a ruling weeks to months later, is chaired by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

UNC’s representatives were seen arriving for the closed-door hearing at a Nashville hotel Wednesday morning. The contingent included athletic director Bubba Cunningham, men’s basketball coach Roy Williams, football coach Larry Fedora and women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell. Jan Boxill and Deborah Crowder, two former UNC employees charged individually in the case, were also seen with their attorneys.

None of the coaches are charged with a violation. But football and men’s basketball are referenced in a broad-based improper benefits charge tied to athlete access to the irregular courses, while women’s basketball is tied to a charge focused on a former professor and academic counselor providing improper assistance on assignments.

Fedora wasn’t working at UNC during the time in question.

“There’s nothing that I can add to what happened before I ever got here,” Fedora said last week. “But I’m there for support. I think me being there is important — not only for the NCAA but the university — that it shows compliance is important to me and our program.”

The focus is independent study-style courses misidentified as lecture classes that didn’t meet and required a research paper or two for typically high grades. In a 2014 investigation, former U.S. Justice Department official Keorneth Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes making up roughly half the enrollments.

The NCAA has said UNC used those courses to help keep athletes eligible.

UNC has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction, saying its accreditation agency — which sanctioned the school with a year of probation — was the proper authority. In a May filing , the school stated it “fundamentally believes that the matters at issue here were of an academic nature” and don’t involve NCAA bylaws.

The NCAA enforcement staff countered in a July filing: “The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA’s business.”

UNC has argued non-athletes had access to the courses and athletes didn’t receive special treatment. It has also challenged Wainstein’s estimate of athlete enrollments, saying Wainstein counted athletes who were no longer team members and putting the figure at less than 30 percent.

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