recruiting

Five Takeaways from the adidas Gauntlet Dallas

Leave a comment

FORT WORTH, Tx. — The April Live Evaluation period had its first of two weekends as events took place all over the country. Many of the nation’s top college coaches were stationed at shoe-company events held by adidas, Nike and Under Armour.

I spent the weekend watching a lot of the top Class of 2018, 2019 and even some 2020 prospects at the adidas Gauntlet in Fort Worth.

Here are some takeaways from the event, including some thoughts on Zion Williamson, Romeo Langford and more.

1. Zion Williamson draws a huge crowd but still has some work on his game

Although he only played a game and a half due to a lingering knee injury that ended his weekend early, the national hype machine for YouTube sensation and Class of 2018 star Zion Williamson is very real. Not many players draw large crowds of outsiders during grassroots events but players from other events and local fans turned out en masse to try and see some of the highlights that Williamson has put together these past few months.

He wasn’t quite 100 percent because of the knee, but the South Carolina native still showed the type of rare burst off the floor that allows the 6-foot-6 Williamson to snare rebounds and score over bigger players. People who hadn’t seen Williamson live before were also stunned at how big and strong he actually appears in person compared to the average high school basketball prospect.

Even though Williamson still has to polish his overall skill level and jumper, there are just times that he looks like a man among boys out on the floor.

Williamson will likely be a destructive force at the college level because of his ability to operate around the rim and in transition but he’s also going to have to make sure he tries to develop some range to keep defenders honest. Still shooting a pretty hard ball on jumpers, Williamson has to work on 3-pointers and free throws during these next few months.

2. Romeo Langford is still working on consistency

Consensus top-five Class of 2018 prospect Romeo Langford is an elite shooting guard prospect thanks to his overall package of athleticism and skills and he’s mostly focused on making sure that he brings his best effort every game.

In the past, Langford was the type of player who could go for 40 in one game and then play sluggish in the next as he needed to make sure that he was dialed in during each contest. Although he led the adidas Gauntlet in scoring playing in three games this weekend, it came with more of the same results as we’ve seen in the past.

In two games, scoring came easy for Langford as he was able to do a lot of damage off of isolations while drawing a lot of fouls. Langford shot 24-for-27 over three games at the free-throw line so that type of scoring ability should translate well at all levels.

When Langford starts to get double-teamed and teams play against him in a physical manner, that is when things start to get difficult for him. Langford can get frustrated with contact at times and he’s also prone to some lapses in intensity.

It’s also fair to say that Langford is very talented and that he’ll also adjust as he adds more strength over time. In a class that doesn’t have many top-flight guards, Langford stands out from the rest because his ceiling is just higher.

3. Immanuel Quickley’s improved perimeter shooting puts him in top 2018 lead guard conversation

One of the biggest revelations from an individual player standpoint came from Baltimore native and lead guard Immanuel Quickley. Already considered a five-star prospect in the Class of 2018, the big knock on the 6-foot-4 Quickley was his lack of a perimeter jumper.

While Quickley’s great size and feel for the game enabled him to dominate at times when he could get in the paint and make plays, opposing defenses found they could sag on him and force him to shoot perimeter jumpers because he was inconsistent.

Quickley appears to have shored up his big weakness. Shooting 48 percent from three-point range (14-for-29) this weekend, Quickley really shoot the ball well as he had confidence off the catch and off the dribble. Since Quickley is already a pick-and-roll maestro who can thread tight passes to teammates, this ability to hit deep jumpers opens up so much more to his game.

Quickley isn’t an elite above-the-rim athlete but he has a ton of things to really like about his game and he’s going to be in the mix among the top lead guards in the Class of 2018. Quickley is down to a final seven of Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Miami, Providence and Virginia.

This was the type of weekend that should give Quickley a lot of confidence going forward. Quickley got the better of five-star guards Quentin Grimes and Romeo Langford in back-to-back matchups (going head-to-head with those players on some possessions) so he’s been ready to take on all challengers so far this spring.

It should also be noted that Quickley’s teammates, Class of 2018 guard Montez Mathis, also had an outstanding weekend scoring the ball as he has immediately vaulted himself into a larger high-major discussion.

4. College coaches are still starving for perimeter shooters

As the 3-point revolution continues to sweep across many levels of basketball, college coaches are looking for any kind of shooters out on the circuit this spring. The adidas Gauntlet didn’t yield as many perimeter options as some college coaches would have liked.

As Hoop Seen’s Justin Young pointed out, only a handful of players at adidas made 10 or more three-pointers this weekend and most players played in three or four games.

It’ll be interesting to see if any more shooters emerge the second weekend of the April period because there doesn’t seem to be a lot of floor spacing out there right now.

5. Keep an eye on late 2017 signees like McKinley Wright

One of the interesting things about the April period being back is that it gives unsigned Class of 2017 players a chance to compete in front of college coaches. College coaches started to call Minnesota native McKinley Wright when he decommitted from Dayton after Archie Miller took the Indiana job.

So Wright now gets to play high-level competition in front of a number of college coaches who need an available point guard to come in and potentially play next season.

Since opening things up from Dayton and decommitting, Baylor, Butler, Clemson, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas State, Minnesota, Santa Clara and Utah are the primary schools involved. Wright still has three official visits left as he’s o

“I’ve been talking to a couple of schools about maybe setting up a visit but I haven’t really scheduled one yet. But I’m planning on using at least two.”

Wright is hoping to find a situation where he can play right away. He looked good at adidas, but you also have to keep in mind that he’s one class older than most of his competition. Still, with a lot of colleges looking for anyone who can handle the ball and potentially knock down shots, Wright is an intriguing spring recruit that could be a rotation player next season.

Maryland lands four-star Class of 2017 big man

Leave a comment

Maryland picked up its first commitment in the Class of 2017 over the weekend as four-star big man Bruno Fernando made a pledge to the Terps.

The 6-foot-10 Fernando was at one time an SMU commit, but he opted for a postgrad year and re-opened his recruitment before deciding on Maryland. Regarded as the No. 112 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Fernando should add to a solid stable of big men that the Terps have had the last few years.

Coming off of a class where they picked up four, four-star prospects, Maryland is off to a very good start in the Class of 2017 with Fernando. With Damonte Dodd being a senior and Michal Cekovsky starting his junior year, Maryland can develop Fernando as a rotation player the next few years before he needs to play bigger minutes.

Texas lands four-star Class of 2017 guard Jase Febres

Leave a comment

Texas and head coach Shaka Smart continue to recruit at a high level, especially in the state of Texas, as the Longhorns landed a commitment from Class of 2017 four-star guard Jase Febres on Friday night.

The 6-foot-5 Febres is considered the No. 63 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings as he burst on the national radar this summer with some strong shooting performances. Febres shot over 40 percent from three-point range during the month of July after battling through injury during the spring. Besides owning good size for a wing shooter, Febres also takes pride in defending and he can rebound a bit from the wing as well.

Febres is going to have to improve his overall offensive package if a defense plays him off the three-point line, but he has upside as a three-and-D guy with the Longhorns.

The Class of 2017 is starting to round into shape for Texas as Febres joins four-star power forward Jericho Sims and four-star forward Royce Hamm. Since taking over the Texas job, Smart has done a great job of keeping local talent home as he now has five four- and five-star prospects from the state in the last two classes.

 

Five observations from the Pangos All-American Camp

Scott Kurtz
Leave a comment

NORWALK, Ca. — The Pangos All-American Camp is one of the most fun events in grassroots basketball because of its old-school approach to certain things. The camp brings together tons of national prospects — regardless of shoe-company affiliation — and the event is littered with a lot of fun head-to-head matchups.

Always coming the weekend after Memorial Day, the 14th annual Pangos All-American Camp had the most talent the event has ever seen as more than a dozen five-star prospects took the floor for a lot of run-and-gun camp basketball. As most camps tend to go, the ball isn’t exactly crisp at times, but it’s still a nice indicator of where a lot of players stand heading into July.

1. DeAndre Ayton is great but what kind of player will he turn into?

DeAndre Ayton has the tools to be an elite, elite center. Like, we’re talking once or twice in a decade type of athleticism out of a player his size. Just watch this tip slam from Pangos on Friday night and you’ll see what I mean.

The 7-foot Ayton has the kind of quick lift off the floor you seldom see in a big man, but there are some questions as to what type of player he will be (or wants to be) at the next level. Ayton has publicly stated that he wants to try to play a bit on the wing before, but that doesn’t seem realistic given his athletic gifts for his size. No coach is going to let a dude that big and athletic not play near the basket for a good chunk of time.

There are also some questions about Ayton’s ability to protect the rim at an elite level.

Ayton hasn’t shown much interest in being a shot blocker. He’s the type of big man who will happily switch onto a smaller perimeter player (and he usually can with his lateral quickness), but he’s not one for absorbing blows at the rim and re-directing shots as some sort of menacing rim protector. With the way basketball is beginning to embrace switching one through five on defense, Ayton could be some sort of defensive freak who can stay with a lot of guys on the perimeter, but that would also depend on a coach using that style of play and having the right personnel around Ayton to make that possible.

Either way, Ayton’s continued development is going to be a ton of fun to watch. He’s currently the No. 1 player in a very solid class and he’ll definitely be pushed for that spot if he wants to hold onto it.

2. Michael Porter Jr. continues to get better (and push for No. 1)

One of the Class of 2017 prospects sitting right behind Ayton in the national rankings is Michael Porter Jr., a jumbo wing with an ever-improving all-around game.

The 6-foot-9 Porter can score from multiple levels of the floor with a smooth jumper and he’s also improved his toughness over the years to become an effective rebounder in traffic. Porter was the only player in the Nike EYBL this spring to finish in the top five in both points and rebounds per game.

If Porter continues that kind of production and shows that his perimeter skill is getting more consistent, then he’ll push for the top spot in the 2017 class because it’s so difficult to find wings with his size, skill level and athleticism.

With Michael Porter Sr. taking a men’s assistant coaching spot on Lorenzo Romar’s staff at Washington the writing on the wall would appear that Porter Jr. is going to eventually be a Husky. If Washington gets that one done, you’d have to argue that they’re adapting to the one-and-done culture as well as any program in the country with their last few recruiting classes.

3. Trevon Duval is a consistent jumper away from being impossible to cover

In the Class of 2017, 6-foot-3 point guard Trevon Duval has firmly established himself as the leader when it comes to point guards. With freakish athleticism and ridiculous ball-handling ability, Duval is the type of guard who gets anywhere he wants on the floor whenever he wants. Duval is impossible to keep out of the lane and he’s a contortionist at the rim if he needs to finish in traffic.

Because he has the ball on a string, Duval can make dribble moves others only pull off in 2K and he’s able to rifle some absurd one-handed passes with either hand off of those moves.

The next step for Duval is a consistent jumper. Duval’s jumper is workable and it will go down at times, but there are also stretches where he can go cold. My theory is that he’s still understanding the pure speed of his game, and once things slow down for him, then pull-up jumpers will become easier for him. A lot of Duval’s jumpers are usually taken when he’s on the move, so if he can get more consistent and score off jumpers while stopping on a dime, then it’s going to be impossible to guard him with only one player.

4. The Class of 2019 has some promising players led by Charles Bassey

One of the nice things about the Pangos All-American Camp is that it’s a chance for a lot of younger prospects to play against older competition and get their feet wet on the national stage.

The class of soon-to-be sophomores already has some very strong prospects, led at the top by big man Charles Bassey. Originally from Nigeria and playing his high school ball in San Antonio, Bassey is pushing 6-foot-10 and moves well for a young big man.

And his skill level is very intriguing.

Because he owns a great set of hands, Bassey can corral passes that other big men can’t catch and he also showed some strong court awareness on some difficult touch passes. When DeAndre Ayton went head-to-head against Bassey in a Saturday morning game, the young big man didn’t back down one bit from facing potentially the top player in the country. There is still a ton of time left for this group, but Bassey appears to be a serious contender for the No. 1 spot in a few years if he continues to develop.

Some other promising Class of 2019 prospects at Pangos included 6-foot-2 point guard Cole Anthony (the son of Greg Anthony) and 6-foot-5 shooting guard Cassius Stanley. Both Anthony and Stanley already play above the rim and show the kind of skill and athleticism that could make them five-star prospects with continued development.

5. Events like this are still important

One of the great things about the Pangos All-American Camp is that it brings players together who don’t normally play against each other on the grassroots circuit. With players from adidas, Under Armour, Nike and independent teams, it makes for some awesome head-to-head matchups.

And camp founder Dinos Trigonis makes sure to give the people what they want in terms of marquee head-to-head matchups.

Elite point guards like Trevon Duval, Jaylen Hands, Quade Green and Trae Young got to play against each other. Five-star shooting guards Hamidou Diallo and Gary Trent Jr. matched up for one game. Although they don’t play the same position, one game had DeAndre Ayton’s team playing Michael Porter’s squad. Porter also got to face another talented five-star forward in Billy Preston. It seemed like every session of play had monster matchups that were fun to gauge in terms of where certain guys stack up with other elite prospects.

Obviously, in a camp like this, the games can devolve into street-ball like atmospheres but most of the five-star guys embraced the opportunity to play other top players. There are a lot of very competitive guys in the Class of 2017 and that’s never a bad thing.

N.C. State signs Turkish star center Omer Yurtseven

(Photo by Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

N.C. State added a very intriguing piece to its Class of 2016 on Monday as Turkish star forward Omer Yurtseven has signed with the Wolfpack, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

Scout.com’s Evan Daniels has said that Yurtseven would have been the equivalent of a top-10 prospect in the Class of 2016, and in a loaded class like this, that is really saying something.

The 7-foot-0 240-pound center is skilled in pick-and-roll settings and could be a potentially devastating duo along with freshman point guard Dennis Smith. The Wolfpack now have two legitimate five-star talents in this freshman class and will be an intriguing team to watch in the ACC this season.

Yurtseven has played with the Turkish club Fenerbahce the last few years as he’s been a known prospect in Europe since he was a teenager.

Five-star 2016 center Udoka Azubuike selects Kansas

(Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Five-star Class of 2016 center Udoka Azubuike, one of the best remaining senior basketball prospects in the nation, ended his recruitment on Thursday and pledged to Kansas in a televised announcement.

The 6-foot-11, 270-pound Azubuike is considered the No. 27 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, according to Rivalsand he was recently announced to the prestigious Jordan Brand Classic and the McDonald’s All-American Game.

Choosing from his final four of Florida State, Kansas, N.C. State and North Carolina, Azubuike gives the Jayhawks a bruising center who can seal and score within five feet of the basket with the best of the them. Although Azubuike will need to improve his hands, range and touch, he’s a massive post prospect who should be able to rebound, score near the hoop and clog up the paint on defense.

With Kansas losing Perry Ellis, Hunter Mickelson and Jamari Traylor, Azubuike gives the Jayhawks another big body on the interior and he’s also an important commitment in case Cheick Diallo or Carlton Bragg decide to turn pro.

Azubuike helped a very good Georgia Stars team win the Peach Jam in the Nike EYBL this summer as he played in 25 games. The center averaged 13.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game while shooting 66 percent from the field in EYBL play.

Azubuike joins three-star forward Mitch Lightfoot in Kansas recruiting efforts for the Class of 2016.