Tag: July Live Evaluation Period


Four-star 2015 center Tyler Davis loses weight to transform game

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Tyler Davis is on the cusp of being among the Class of 2015’s best big men. The native of Plano, Texas had a strong showing this July and in a class that is filled with five-star front-court players, Davis is sitting right in the next tier of players.

But after multiple big games at Peach Jam, Davis might be in the discussion thanks to his soft hands, developing post game and a good feel for the game. It also doesn’t hurt that the 6-foot-10 big man has put in a tremendous amount of work re-shaping his body with trainers from his Texas Titans grassroots program.

“I’ve lost about 70 pounds. We’ve got a great trainer on the Titans. And he just got on me and got my eating habits right and helped me put in a workout plan and get in the gym a lot more and work out every day,” Davis told NBCSports.com. “Spending more time in the gym obviously is going to help your play. So that’s helped me raise my level of play. The Titans, they have great coaches all around so they help me a lot.”

The work that Davis has put into the gym has definitely paid off. Elite schools from across the country are reaching out to Davis and right now he’s honing in on some visits that he would like to take. Davis mentioned, however, that with July being a focus for him that recruiting would come more into focus this month.

“I’ve been really focused on my game. I’ve had the Peach Jam and LeBron James Academy and Big Man Academy, so I haven’t really had time to talk it over with my family with what’s going on, but after July I’ll be sure to take the time to get that done,” Davis said. “My two biggest [offers] are Kansas and Arizona but I have Baylor, SMU; I’m open to everybody right now. I’ll focus on the recruiting stuff in August.”

Davis mentioned to NBCSports.com that Arizona and Kansas would likely receive official visits from him and he likes the way both programs use their big men. With both programs having recent pro-level talents playing in the front court, it’s easy to see why.

“Just the way they use their bigs. The high-low, obviously [at Kansas.] At Arizona, their bigs do everything, they have a complete offense, so that intrigues me,” Davis said. “College this year I watched Joel Embiid a lot. I watched how they worked with him. That was one big thing.”

MORE: Quotables Part I | Part II | Part III | All content from the 2014 July Live Period

Besides monitoring how certain programs use their big men, Davis is also focusing on some other factors in his recruitment as he has a couple of other things he’s looking for.

“Development, a great coaching staff and I want to have a good relationship with the coaches that are there,” Davis said. “And also, win. I want to win some games in college and possibly move on to the next level.”

Currently a four-star prospect, Davis said that he doesn’t pay too much attention to rankings, although he’s confident in his game and doesn’t shy away from playing big-name players. Rivals currently has Davis as the No. 35 overall player in the Class of 2015.

“Rankings, to me, don’t really mean anything. Whoever they think is up there, that’s fine. As long as I play my game and work hard. I think I can go somewhere,” Davis said. “I think I’m one of the best bigs in the country. So I just keep playing and if I play one of them, we’re going to go at it.”

Louisville commit Raymond Spalding doesn’t feel pressure as the hometown kid

(Scott Phillips/NBC Sports)
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LOUISVILLE — One of the most intriguing stories during the July live evaluation period was the rise of 2015 forward Raymond Spalding and his commitment to Louisville.

The 6-foot-9 Spalding doesn’t play on a shoe company team, so he didn’t get as much attention as the average top 100 high school player did in July, but make no mistake about it, the Louisville native is a good grab with some upside for head coach Rick Pitino. Spalding currently checks in as the No. 69 player in Rivals’ 2015 class, but he will probably rise in the rankings after a strong month of July.

“I’m very excited. I feel like I’ve proved a lot and I also feel like I’ve improved a lot in July,” Spalding said to NBCSports.com last week in Louisville.

One longtime high school basketball scout compared Spalding favorably to former Florida wing and NBA veteran Corey Brewer, and with Raymond’s size, ability to pass and good overall floor game, it’s easy to see why. Although Spalding said he prefers to model his game after Rudy Gay and Kevin Durant — “I just like how smooth they play and I try to play like them,” he said — his upside is certainly intriguing as he enters his senior season of high school.

MORE: Quotables Part I | Part II | Part III | All content from the 2014 July Live Period

But some interesting pressure faces Spalding at the next level. Not only does Spalding have to deal with a rabid Louisville fan base when he enters college, but he also has to handle the pressure of being the hometown kid that committed to play for the Cardinals.

Each of Spalding’s games with his grassroots team, The Ville, was crowded with red gear at AAU Nationals and most of his games during his senior season at Trinity High will probably feel the same way this winter. Spalding takes the local attention — and pressure — in stride and it doesn’t seem to be a major concern for him at this point.

“There’s no pressure for me. I’m just focused on getting better and making my family proud,” Spalding said. “[My family] was pumped. They were really excited for me. They love that I’m able to stay home and spend more time with them.

“Being a local kid, I mean, that’s huge. Hometown star, that means being able to see your family and your friends each and every day while still being able to stay on campus. It’s just great, it’s a blessing to be able to do that.”

It’s hard to say how Spalding’s senior season will play out in front of Louisville fans during the high school season, but he’s just focused on improving before he gets to the ACC.

“The only thing that motivates me is to get better as a basketball player each and every day,” Spalding said. “[I’m trying] to get better in practice and individual workouts and just keep improving.”

Recruitment starting to pick up for top 30 point forward Braxton Blackwell

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
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LAS VEGAS — For high school players the summer months aren’t solely about making a name for one’s self. Those times are also about improving upon their individual skill sets and building on a (hopefully) successful high school season. That was the case for versatile 6-foot-8 forward Braxton Blackwell, who was coming off of a highly successful sophomore season at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. Last season Blackwell posted averages of 19.4 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game on a team that finished with a 34-3 record and reached the semifinals of Tennessee’s Division I Class II state tournament.

For his efforts Blackwell was named Tennessee’s Mr. Basketball, extending an impressive streak for the CPA program to three consecutive Mr. Basketball selections. With his ability to affect games in a variety of ways, Blackwell has been on the receiving end of some of the nation’s top college programs. Being a “point forward” capable of initiating the offense tends to have that kind of effect on a player’s recruitment.

“Being versatile,” Blackwell said at the adidas Super 64 last week when asked about his strengths. “I can get a rebound and go, [playing] kind of a point forward position, passing the basketball and defending well.”

As a sophomore Blackwell also averaged more than two blocks and two steals per game, and in Las Vegas his ability to be in the right place at the right time defensively was another asset on display. Playing on a team that featured fellow 2016 prospect Kobi Simmons, it was just as likely that Blackwell was the player with the basketball in his hands looking to make a play for his teammates. That freed up Simmons, a point guard more likely to score at this stage in his development, to do more scoring for the Atlanta Celtics, and Blackwell’s understanding of the game is something that can benefit future teammates at the college level as well.

When asked what he’s looking to improve upon this summer, Blackwell’s answer was direct and to the point.

“Shooting and being more aggressive offensively,” Blackwell stated, and for the role he hopes to have at the college level those are obviously important tools to strengthen. Having a consistent jump shot can open things up from a spacing standpoint for a player serving as his team’s point forward. And there’s also the need to properly balance finding looks for oneself and making sure teammates are getting looks in the areas where they’ll be most successful as well.

Among the schools mentioned by Blackwell when asked about his recruitment were “Providence, Florida, Indiana, Tennessee, Memphis, Vanderbilt and a lot of other programs.” And being from Nashville, Blackwell’s bound to attract a lot of attention from Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings. How much attention? During one of Blackwell’s games in Las Vegas, the entire Vanderbilt coaching staff was in attendance, taking in the action from the front row of the coaches section. And as is the case with many recruits, that kind of effort doesn’t go unnoticed.

“That just shows that I’m probably one of the priorities in their class,” Blackwell said. “It’s pretty cool to see all four coaches there.”

As Blackwell continues to sharpen the tools that have made him one of the better recruits in the Class of 2016, programs will intensify their pursuit of his signature on a National Letter of Intent. And for the versatile Blackwell, who spoke of studying journalism in college, his ability to do a variety of things on the basketball court has resulted in his having multiple options when it comes to picking a school.