NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — The most interesting position in the 2017 recruiting class is point guard.
Trevon Duval is widely considered the best lead guard in the class, but his recruitment will likely take some twists and turns along the way, a direct result of Duval’s decision to transfer to API — the same school that left Emmanuel Mudiay and Terrance Ferguson with eligibility question marks — for his junior year.
After Duval, there are a handful of guards that can stake their claim to being second-best, evidence being the interest pouring in from the likes of Duke, Kentucky and Kansas. Two of them — Tremont Waters and Trae Young — squared off on Thursday at Peach Jam.
Waters got the best of the box score, but it was Young who shook off a slow start to lead MoKan Elite to a come-from-behind win despite the fact that a sprained ankle had rendered Michael Porter Jr., a top two player in the class, little more than a spot up shooter.
It’s Porter’s presence that makes Young perhaps the most intriguing player at the point guard position.
Young is a terrific prospect in his own right. He’s on the small side, but he’s a lights-out shooter with deep range that is a joy to watch in transition. He’s more Brandon Knight than he is Tyler Ulis, but there is a reason Kentucky has made him a priority. But his connection to Porter — the two are quite close and have long discussed playing their college ball together — has helped raise his profile.
Porter is probably headed to Washington. He hasn’t committed yet, but his younger brother is committed, his father was just hired as an assistant on Lorenzo Romar’s staff and the family is relocating from Columbia, Missouri to Seattle. The writing is on the wall, so the question then becomes whether or not Young will make the trek up to the Pacific Northwest as well.
“They were already recruiting me before Mike’s dad got there,” Young said, but it’s ramped up to another level since. Landing that duo would be quite the coup for Romar — and well worth using an assistant’s spot on Porter Sr. — and it would make the resulting dominoes something to track. Duke, Kentucky and Kansas (depending on how you view Malik Newman) will all likely be in the market for a point guard. Who lands Quade Green? Where does Waters end up? Is Matt Coleman good enough? Is Collin Sexton a point guard?
Young said he is waiting until after Peach Jam to cut his list and that he may wait to commit until the spring. When the decision finally comes, it’s safe to say he’ll be the x-factor in 2017’s point guard crop.
VIDEO: Michael Porter Jr. throws down windmill at Peach Jam
1. DeAndre Ayton: Everyone should be pretty familiar with Ayton’s name by now, as he’s long been thought to be the best prospect in the class. He’s 7-feet tall with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, the kind of athleticism that Amare Stoudamire dreamed of having and good enough touch to hit threes. The question with Ayton, the prospect, is his his motor and whether he loves to play. The question with Ayton, the one-and-done player, is whether or not he’ll be eligible to play in college.
2. Michael Porter Jr.: An intriguing talent whose recruitment has probably already come to an end. A 6-foot-9 small forward, Porter has the physical tools that should endear him to NBA scouts that love versatile players with perimeter skill sets and the ability to defend multiple positions. His father, a former women’s assistant coach at Missouri, recently left to join Lorenzo Romar’s staff at Washington, where Michael’s brother Jontay is committed.
3. Marvin Bagley III: The Class of 2018 is generally considered to be pretty weak — our own Scott Phillips called it worse than the Class of 2015, which spawned all kinds of “Make American Basketball Great Again” narratives after the NBA Draft — but Bagley is the exception. Not only is he considered far and away the best prospect in the class, there are those that believe he is the best prospect in high school basketball. Period. The 6-foot-10 forward and Arizona native has cut his list to six: Duke, Kentucky, UCLA, Oregon, Arizona and Arizona State.
4. Mohammed Bamba: Bamba, a 6-foot-11 forward that plays his high school ball in Pennsylvania, is probably best known for his wingspan at this point: it’s a ridiculous 7-foot-8. He’ll evoke comparisons to the likes of Kevin Garnett and Anthony Davis given his penchant for playing facing-up and the fact that he weighs all of 215 pounds. Duke and Kentucky are both hot on his trail.
5. Hamidou Diallo: Diallo is widely considered the best off-guard in this class. He’s a typical New York City wing: tough, athletic, aggressive and a joy to watch in transition and in space. He needs to develop his handle and extend the range on his jumper, but that will come with time. His upside is why he’ll be able to pick from any college in the country.
6. Kevin Knox: Knox is being targeted by every program in the country that builds around one-and-done players. A 6-foot-8 small forward, he’s the kind of smooth athlete with a developed offensive game that will have a major impact at whatever program he decides to sign with.
7. Wendell Carter: Carter, a 6-foot-10, 240 pound power forward that doubles as a top five prospect in the Class of 2017, is one of the most interesting prospects in the class. He skipped an EYBL session during a live period to take part in a class play and values academics enough that the three schools chasing him are Duke, Kentucky and Harvard.
8. Trevon Duval: Duval has slowly climbed his way up the rankings to emerge as the best guard in the Class of 2017 and the best point guard by a good margin. The problem? Duval transferred to API for his junior year, which is the same high school team that Terrance Ferguson played for and the same program that Emmanuel Mudiay was associated with. Duke, Kansas, Arizona, UCLA and Maryland are among the programs pursuing him. But will he be eligible to play for any of them?
9, 10. Quade Green and Trae Young: With Duval’s recruitment expected to be something of a roller coaster, Kentucky and Duke and set their sights on the rest of the point guards in this class. Green, from Philly, and Young, from Oklahoma, are generally considered to be the best of the rest. There’s some added intrigue with Young. A teammate of Michael Porter Jr.’s on the MoKan Elite AAU team, there has been some talk of the two playing together in college.
11-14. Kris Wilkes, Paul Scruggs, Malik Williams and Jaren Jackson
15, 16. Brian Bowen and Jeremiah Tilman: Tom Crean has reached something of a crossroads in his Indiana tenure. He turned a team that looked like it would be a disaster into one of the most popular in Hoosier history, and while he managed to bring back a pair of potential lottery picks in Thomas Bryant and O.G. Anunoby, he lost Yogi Ferrell. It’s not a secret that there is a love-hate — sometimes mostly hate — relationship between the people of Indiana and Crean, and that extends to the coaches and confidantes of some of the best high school players in the state.
There are six players in Indiana in the high school Class of 2017 that are considered elite recruits — Wilkes, Scruggs, Williams and Jackson are all Indiana natives while Bowen and Tilman play for prep powerhouse La Lumiere in Indiana. The question that matters more than anything for the long-term future of Crean’s program is whether or not it is cool for Indiana kids to go to Indiana again. We’ll likely find out with this group.
17. M.J. Walker: Walker is a 6-foot-5 off-guard from Georgia that is probably going to star somewhere in the SEC or the ACC in college. He’ll be doing so on the hardwood, which is notable because Walker was an SEC-caliber recruit on the football field as well.
18. Billy Preston: Another API product, Preston is a powerfully built, 6-foot-8 forward with some perimeter skills and even more question marks about whether or not he’ll ever move into a college dorm room.
19. Brandon McCoy: McCoy is a 7-footer whose defense surpasses his offense at this point, but his athleticism makes his a priority target and a potential top 10 prospect in the class. Arizona, UCLA, Oregon, Kansas and Louisville, among many others, all have offered.
20. Gary Trent Jr.: The Shaq of the Mac, Jr., is one of the best scoring guards in the class. His dad was known as a bruiser while Junior is an elite shooter. A product of the same high school that produced Tyus Jones, Trent holds offers from Duke, Kentucky and Kansas.
21. Troy Brown: Brown’s an interesting prospect. He’s a 6-foot-6 small forward, but he’s at his best with the ball in his hands as a passer.
22. Jarred Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt is a versatile, 6-foot-7 player that refers to himself as a point forward. He’s a good passer, a good rebounder and can play — or guard — multiple positions. How dangerous is he as a shooter?
23. P.J. Washington: Washington is an undersized four with the standard game of an undersized four: long arms, soft touch and a developed face-up game.
24. Mitchell Robinson: A 7-footer with the length and athleticism to be an absolute nightmare defensively, Robinson decommitted from Texas A&M after Rick Stansbury left only to commit to Stansbury at Western Kentucky.
25. Collin Sexton: A new-age lead guard, Sexton is a scorer and a slasher that is put in the point guard role because he can handle the ball. He’s a borderline top 25 recruit that could end up being a top 10 prospect by the end of July.
What is the July Live Period and why is it so important?
Wednesday, July 6th, at 5:00 p.m. kicks off the first of three July evaluation periods, one of the most crucial stretches of the year for any college basketball team across the country.
But there are many fans out there that may not be aware of what a “live period” is or what it means for coaches and the players they are recruiting or plan to recruit in the future.
The NCAA rulebook is thick and it is scary and it is often confusing, but when it comes to the recruiting calendar, things are fairly cut and dry, particularly during the spring and summer months. The way it works is like this: there are only certain times during certain months where coaches are allowed to be on the road scouting and evaluating players. These are called evaluation periods, or “live periods”, and during a usual calendar year, there will be five of them: two three-day periods in April and three five-day sessions during July.
The two live periods in the spring span just 48 hours each, stretching from 5:00 p.m. on a Friday through 5:00 p.m. on a Sunday.
In the summer, it’s a bit different. For three consecutive weekends during July, coaches are allowed to evaluate prospects from 5:00 p.m. on a Wednesday until 5:00 p.m. on a Sunday. What that means is that during a 19-day stretch in the middle of the summer, these high school players will be in gyms across the country, essentially auditioning for the coaches that they hope to one day play for.
Audition is the proper word to use here as well.
No in-person contact is allowed between the college coaches and the recruits or the families of the recruits. It’s strictly an opportunity for scouting and evaluation, which creates a surreal environment at the events that take place. Family, friends, AAU coaches and the athletes themselves are all ushered onto one side of the court after entering the gym through one entrance. The college coaches are fenced in on the other side of the court after entering through a different entrance. The college coaches and the players aren’t even allowed to use the same door to get into the building. They can’t use the same parking lot.
How a staff will go about traversing the country and utilizing their time during the live period will differ between programs.
A team like Kentucky or Duke already knows which players in the rising-senior class they are targeting. With the kids in that class, they aren’t evaluating or scouting as much as they are following; the best players in a given class are generally pretty well-known by their sophomore year in high school. It’s a matter of the staff figuring out which players they want, and that’s normally done well before a player’s final summer.
When you see Mike Krzyzewski and two of his assistants sitting court side for someone like Kevin Knox or Wendell Carter, you know it’s because Coach K is looking to add that particular big man. A general rule of thumb: the more staff members that are at a game, the more of a priority that recruit is.
But that’s not the only reason you’ll see a coach stalking a recruit. If a recruit is already committed, don’t be surprised to see an assistant — or, if he’s important enough, the head coach — front and center at every game he plays during the live period, a tactic known as “babysitting”. They want to make sure that kid knows that he’s still a priority.
At the high-major level, assistant coaches are generally the ones that do the leg work, identifying talents and picking out who they think would be the best fit within the team. When the head coach shows up in the stands, it’s usually to determine whether or not they want to extend an offer. How much has the kid developed since the last time the staff saw him play? Did he grow? Has he added a jumper? Did he spend the spring in the weight room? That’s why they are called “live evaluation periods”.
If the head coach is at every game, it’s generally to show just how badly that program wants that player. Tom Izzo can only be in one place at a time. If a kid that Michigan State is recruiting consistently sees him at his games, that’s generally a sign that they want him to be a Spartan.
It’s also worth noting here that only four members of a coaching staff — the head coach and his three assistants — are allowed to be on the road at a given time. So even if it’s just an assistant from, say, Kentucky watching Trae Young play, it should still be a sign to Young that Kentucky prioritizes him. UK can only be in four gyms at a given time.
There’s a major difference in how top 25 programs and teams from smaller leagues use July. The bigger names are there to be seen.
For smaller programs, the idea is to get out and see as many players as possible, trying to identify who can play at their level and who will fit in with their program and style of play. Quite often, the player that stands out during a game isn’t the player that a particular coach was trying to recruit. For example, former Delaware head coach Monte’ Ross once told me a story about recruiting former Blue Hens sharpshooter Kyle Anderson. He walked in a gym during an AAU tournament to see a team play on one court, but as he was walking to his seat, he saw Anderson, who was very lightly recruited in high school, hit a pair of threes. He decided to watch the game for a minute, and Anderson ended up having a huge game.
He started for the Blue Hens as a freshman.
Delaware is also a perfect example for why mid-major programs aren’t in a gym to be seen. The Blue Hens had a long, drawn-out coaching search during the spring, so long that they didn’t actually have a head coach in charge of the program during the April live periods. But that didn’t hurt their program as much as it would hurt a school like Oklahoma State. New head coach Martin Inglesby was a longtime Notre Dame assistant coach. He’s been on the road recruiting, he’s seen all of these players and he probably has a good feel for who he would be able to recruit to the CAA school.
There’s another difference between high-major and low-major programs: budget. The scope of grassroots basketball is bigger than you probably realize. During each of these live periods, there are hundreds events going on all across the country — the NCAA’s list of certified events is 53 pages long — and some programs are going to be recruiting players that are playing at the same time in cities hundreds or thousands of miles apart.
For a power program, this means private jets. Don’t be surprised to hear about Coach Cal making an appearance at the morning session in Georgia only to show up for the afternoon games in Indianapolis. The ability to fly thousands of miles on a whim allows the biggest and richest programs to recruit players from all over the country.
For the mid-major teams, a priority is put on proper evaluation and landing local talent. For example, Northern Iowa nearly reached the Sweet 16 in the 2016 tournament. Nine of the 13 players on their roster were from Iowa. They also had two from Wisconsin, one from Minnesota and one from Illinois.
Coaches aren’t only looking to find hidden gems, however. With the proliferation of grassroots basketball, the Internet and social media, and the myriad of scouting websites, players that are overlooked are generally few and far between. That’s why stories like those of Otto Porter and Ron Baker are so incredible.
No, what these coaches are looking for is a development track. They’ve seen a lot of these guys play when they were younger. They watched high school games in person or on film. They’ve attended workouts. How have the recruits progressed? Is the skinny kid getting stronger? Did the chubby two-guard lose some weight? Has the dunker’s jumper gotten better? Did he improve his ball-handling? Or add a jump hook? Or utilize his ability in the pick-and-roll?
That’s a lot for a coaching staff to work their way through, and they only have 15 days to do it.
And that’s what makes July’s live-recruiting period so important.
And I totally agree. I do not understand how people are able to make sand sculptures that look like that. There are corners and edges and flat surfaces that should not be possible when dealing with sand, and that’s before you consider just how big this sculpture is: