Jon Lopez/Nike

Four Things We Learned From Peach Jam: From Marvin Bagley III to the Death of the Tweener

Leave a comment

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — Marvin Bagley III is probably going to end up playing college basketball this season.

Peach Jam, which is typically the best event on the club basketball circuit in the spring and the summer, lacked any of the buzz that we are used to seeing and hearing about, but it made up for it with what could end up being season-defining news for a top ten team.

Here are the basics to get you caught up: Bagley is a 6-foot-11 combo-forward and arguably the best prospect in the world that is not currently on an NBA roster. He also turned 18 years old in March — meaning he is old for his grade — and would be eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft if he could find a way to graduate from high school prior to the start of the 2017-18 school year.

On Friday, NBC Sports reported that the Bagley family is in the processing of determining whether or not it is actually possible for Marvin to enroll in college this fall. Members of two staffs currently recruiting Bagley have since told NBC Sports that it is doable, and there is a growing expectation that Bagley will do his one-and-done season in 2017-18. His father, speaking to FanRag Sports, went with the dismissive non-denial when asked over the weekend: “Hey, ask the guy who started the rumor, they know more than what I can tell you. You should probably ask CBS Sports; it seems like they know more than I know. That’s my answer, ask CBS Sports.”

The question then becomes eligibility, and it’s two-fold: The first part is collegiate eligibility. Will he make it through the NCAA’s eligibility clearinghouse in time for the start of the season, and while that is big news or whoever ends up getting him, it is more or less irrelevant for Bagley himself. The reason this is something the family is going to try to do is to get him eligible for the NBA Draft a year early. He’s old enough, he just needs to be a season removed from his high school graduation. If he earns that diploma but misses the first six weeks of the season while waiting to be cleared, he’ll still get picked next June.

Which means he’ll get his first NBA paycheck at 19.

Which means he’ll get his first NBA extension at 23.

Which means he’ll be eligible to get max-level extensions at 28 and 33 instead of 29 and 34.

That extra year of earning power at the end of his career combined with the fact that those contracts will come a year earlier could end up being worth in the mid-eight figures if Bagley lives up to his potential.

So where will Bagley end up playing?

Marvin Bagley III (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)

He told reporters at Peach Jam that he will be taking his official visit to Duke this week — he’s an Arizona native playing for a Southern California high school team — and will also take officials to USC and Arizona. Kentucky, Kansas and UCLA are also in the mix, but they aren’t considered to be leaders. Bagley has the potential to be an all-american in college this season, and he would fit perfectly as a small-ball four at Duke in the Jayson Tatum role, alongside Deandre Ayton at Arizona or in USC’s high-octane, uptempo offense.

If you forced me to bet my life on where Bagley will end up playing next season, it would be at Duke.


IF BAGLEY RECLASSIFIES, IS ANYONE IN 2018 WORTH BEING EXCITED ABOUT: Bagley is far and away the best prospect in the Class of 2018, and while much of that is because he’s awesome, the truth is that there really isn’t all that much talent in 2018.

Zion Williamson is as thrilling of an athlete as you’ll ever see, but there are real concerns about just how much of a basketball player he is. Bol Bol is a 7-foot-3 shot-blocker with three-point range, but anyone questioning his motor and his toughness is justified. Cam Reddish, Romeo Langford, Moses Brown, Jordan Brown. These are good players, but after seeing the talent at the top of the 2016 and 2017 classes, this is a drop-off.


COACHES RECRUIT TWEENERS NOW: As recently as five or six years ago, the label “tweener” was dreaded in basketball circles. If a player wasn’t quite big enough to guard fours or quick enough to guards threes, or if a ball-handler was just a little too score-first, or if a shot-blocker was just a little too concerned with shooting threes, it was a negative.

One top 25 head coach put it to me like this:

Before, the question was, “Who are they going to guard at the next level?”

The question now, however, is, “How is anyone going to guard them?”

Bol Bol (Jon Lopez/Nike)

I’m working on a larger piece that will come out later this month on how the increasingly-positionless and pace-and-space oriented ‘Modern NBA’ is changing the way that basketball at the lower level is being played, and one of the keys, according to coaches that I spoke to, is how talent is evaluated before the college level. Bol Bol is the perfect example. One the defensive end of the floor, he can protect the rim with the best of them. Offensively, he shot 44.1 percent from three on 59 attempts and 82.4 percent from the free throw line in 19 EYBL games. Not only is he a human eraser on one end of the floor, but his ability to shoot creates space in the lane by pulling his rim-protecting counterpart away from the basket.

Those particular set of skills make him incredibly valuable, whereas in the past, the fact that he doesn’t have much of a post game, he isn’t all that strong in the paint, his motor tends to run hot and cold and he loves standing around the three-point line waiting to jack up a three would all be red flags.

Jontay Porter, Michael Porter Jr.’s “little” brother who is 6-foot-10, 240 pounds and expected to enroll at Missouri this fall, is another prime example. He’s 6-foot-11 and 240 pounds, yet he’s a guy that thrives with his ability to play on the perimeter, whether it’s his ability to shoot, make plays off the bounce or pass the ball. Two coaches raved about the way that Simi Shittu — a 6-foot-9, 220 pound combo-forward with an athletic, muscular build — led the break himself after grabbing defensive rebounds. He can handle the ball and pass, and letting him get a defensive rebound and go makes the transition game that much more efficient; finding a point guard for an outlet pass is a thing of the past.


PEACH JAM IS STILL THE BEST: The place is getting a little bit overcrowded — if you’re a media member and you don’t get to a seat at Court 3 or 4 early for a game, you won’t be getting into the gym — but when was the last time you saw a summer basketball event with a crowd like this?:

Photo by Jon Lopez/Nike

Sex assault count dropped against ex-Creighton player Watson

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped a first-degree sexual assault charge against former Creighton point guard Maurice Watson after questions arose about the accuser’s story.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine announced Friday that his office had dropped the felony charge, filed earlier this year when a 19-year-old woman accused Watson of assaulting her early Feb. 4 at a party in an Omaha home. Watson has denied that allegation.

The 24-year-old Watson pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor assault for an encounter the same night with a different Creighton student, who said Watson touched her thigh and tried to make her touch his genitals. Watson was sentenced to the five days he’d already served in jail.

Watson was a senior when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in January, just days before the party.

Storm damage forces Paradise Jam out of Virgin Islands

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MIAMI (AP) — The Paradise Jam basketball tournament will not be played in the U.S. Virgin Islands this year because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

The tournament will be played in the U.S., with a new site expected to be announced by Sept. 29.

The Paradise Jam field this year includes Wake Forest, Colorado, Drake, Drexel, Houston, Liberty, Mercer and Quinnipiac, and each of those schools was given the chance to bid for the right to host the tournament.

Tournament officials say they looked at multiple other options, such as moving to another island and using a cruise ship for accommodations, before deciding to move the event to the U.S.

For now, the tournament is scheduled to be played from Nov. 17-20.

Kentucky lands commitment from five-star point guard

Immanuel Quickley (USA Basketball)
1 Comment

Kentucky landed a commitment from Immanuel Quickley on Friday night, a top ten prospect and arguably the best point guard in the Class of 2018.

Quickley picked the Wildcats over Kansas, who he visited earlier this month, and Miami, who he was scheduled to visit before Hurricane Irma struck south Florida.

The 6-foot-3 point guard is the first commitment in the class of head coach John Calipari, and it really comes as no surprise. He’s been considered a Kentucky lean for months, and Quickley played for Calipari on the USA U19 team during the 2017 FIBA World Cup.

While Quickley has the size and the build – he’s 180 pounds with broad shoulders and long arms – of some of Kentucky’s former elite point guards, he’s not the same kind of point guard as, say, De’Aaron Fox or John Wall. He’s more of a smooth athlete than an explosive one, and while his long strides allow him to get out into transition, he’s not the finisher at the rim that those two were. What he is, however, is an intelligent player. He’s good in ball-screens, he’s an excellent passer and facilitator and he is a good enough shooter that he forces defenses to stay honest. He also has the potential to be a plus defender given his physical tools and the fact that he’ll try on that end of the floor.

Where this commitment gets interesting is the current point guard in Kentucky’s back court, Quade Green. Green was a five-star recruit in his own right, but he’s not quite built as a potential one-and-done prospect. Calipari has maneuvered through two point guards in the past, and each of the last five national champions have played major minutes with two point guards on the floor at the same time, but if Green is back next season that will be something to monitor.

That, however, is a long ways away.

What matters now is that Kentucky has gotten this commitment out of the way, and it paves the way for them to also receive a commitment from Zion Williamson. There has long been talk of those two attending college together, and with Quickley on the board, that likely keeps Kentucky in the driver’s seat as they pursue the South Carolina native.

If Kentucky can also wrangle a commitment out of R.J. Barrett, the No. 1 player in the 2018 recruiting class, that would likely be the end of the discussion of whether or not Duke has surpassed the Wildcats on the recruiting trail.

Five-star forward King picks Oregon

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Oregon has nabbed one of the top players in the 2018 class.

Louis King, a top-20 forward, committed to Dana Altman and the Ducks on Thursday via a video on social media.

“It’s been a tough, strenuous process,” King said, “but today makes all of that worth it. I’ve been blessed with great opportunities.”

The 6-foot-8 New Jersey native selected Oregon over other finalists Seton Hall, NC State, Purdue and Kansas.

“I would like to thank each of them for all the time and effort they put into my recruitment,” King said. “I would like to thank my coaches and my teammates that have pushed me and helped get me to this point in my career. My friends for all their love and support, but most of all I would like to thank my family, who has been by my side through it all.”

King is Altman’s second commit in 2018, joining four-star big man Miles Norris, a top-75 recruit in the class. It’s the beginning of what could be an absolutely dynamic class for Oregon, which still has two scholarships remaining.

“Out of all of my schools I felt like it was best for me and my family,” King said to MADE Hoops. “Coach Altman said that I would have the ball in my hands throughout the season. When I get there, it will be an easy adjustment for me with how I handle rock and get my teammates open. Our goal is to win a national championship next year.”

 

Four-star forward Miller Kopp commits to Northwestern

Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images
Leave a comment

Northwestern has a second four-star recruit in its 2018 class.

The Wildcats received a commitment from Miller Kopp, a 6-foot-6 forward, on Thursday, he announced via social media.

“I built a really strong relationship with (coach) Chris Collins and I fell in love with the campus,” Kopp told Scout. “I knew it would be a nice campus and have that stuff, but I think me and him are wired the same way. II think that his personality fits mine and I think we complement each other. I’m definitely excited to be able to go to a program on the rise and be able to make some history.”

Kopp picked the Wildcats over offers from Georgetown, Butler, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. The Houston native is ranked in the top-100 of his class by most recruiting services.

He gives Collins and the Wildcats an exceedingly strong 2018 class, which already featured four-star guard Pete Nance of Ohio along with three-star recruits Jordan Lathon and Ryan Young. It represents a major leap forward for Northwestern. It would appear that the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament appearance last March has brought momentum to the recruiting trail.