July Live Period Week Two Superlatives

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The second July Live Period came to an end on Sunday. Scott Phillips and I were in Georgia for the Under Armour Finals and the Nike Peach Jam. Here are our awards from the week:

MORE: Week one superlatives

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

  • Ben Simmons: With his performance at Peach Jam, Simmons proved he’s the No. 1 player in the 2015 class. He passes well with both hands, attacks the rim with either hand and has great handles. He also defends laterally pretty well and rebounds and pushes tempo. If his perimeter jumper improves, look out. (SP)
  • Isaiah Briscoe: Simmons is the best prospect in the Class of 2015, but Briscoe was the best player this week. He averaged 22.4 points — second best at Peach Jam only to Allonzo Trier — and 3.8 assists while leading the Playaz to a title. (RD)

BEST PROSPECT:

  • Jayson Tatum: This is currently a tough category to fill, since I saw so many elite 2015 and 2016 prospects this week, but with Tatum’s skill level and size, it’s easy to see why some have him at No. 1 in 2016. While Josh Jackson and Malik Monk were up-and-down this week and Harry Giles is still recovering from his knee injury, Tatum kept on chugging along and putting up great numbers. (SP)
  • Ben Simmons: I think I actually agree with Scott here, but in the interest of differing opinions I’ll go with Simmons. The 6-foot-8 forward certified himself as the best player in the class in North Augusta. (RD)

MOREQuotables Part I | Part II | Part III | All content from the 2014 July Live Period

MOST UNDERRATED RECRUIT:

  • Quinndary Weatherspoon: A borderline top 100 recruit, the 6-foot-5 Weatherspoon put on a pair of scoring displays at Peach Jam. He can be a bit inconsistent, but any high-major program that needs perimeter firepower should be tracking this kid.
  • Levan Alston: The 2015 guard from Team Final is tough on both ends of the floor and a fiery competitor. Coming in just outside of Rivals top 100, I’ve seen a lot of guards ranked ahead of him that I wouldn’t take over him.

NON-TOP 150 SLEEPER:

  • Braxton Beverly: A 2016 point guard from Hazard, Ky., Beverly was terrific at Peach Jam. He finished third in the tournament in assists while protecting the ball and showing he could his a three-pointer with time and space. He’s tough, too. I saw him fight through a sprained ankle to beat Mac Irvin Fire with three driving buckets in the final five minutes. (RD)
  • Jalen Poyser: The CIA Bounce 6-foot-4 Class of 2015 guard surpassed his EYBL high scoring mark twice at Peach Jam and had multiple productive outings in the event. Multiple college coaches were intrigued by Poyser’s ability to attack and he has a natural smoothness about him. (SP)

RELATED: Peach Jam takeaways: ScottRob | UAA Finals takeaways

LEFT ME WANTING MORE:

  • Josh Jackson: It’s not that I wanted more out of Jackson’s talent, of which he has plenty, but I wanted to see the elite 2016 wing take better shots and use his passing more to set up teammates. The 6-foot-6 Jackson was benched during one game at the UAA Finals with five minutes left in a one-point game and that should never happen to an elite player. (SP)
  • DeAndre Ayton: Ayton is believed by some to be the best prospect is all of high school basketball, but the 6-foot-11 big man from the Class of 2017 is nothing more than a prospect at this point. He’s got terrific physical tools but the rest of his game still needs polishing. The good news? He’s got plenty of time. (RD)

BEST LEAD GUARD:

  • Jawun Evans: Since I already went with Briscoe as the Player of the Week, I’m going to mix it up at the lead guard spot, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that follows this site that I am picking Evans as the best lead guard from this week. The 5-foot-11 Texas native is, for my money, the best pure point guard in the Class of 2015, and he played that was in Atlanta for the UAA Finals. (RD)
  • Donovan Mitchell: There are better point guard prospects in the 2015 class, but nobody had a better week than Donovan Mitchell. Whether it was the elementary school day campers at Suwanee Sports Academy or national championship-winning head coaches, they all went nuts over Mitchell’s play this week. (SP)

BEST OFF-GUARD:

  • Malik Monk: The 40-point performance at Peach Jam was epic and once Monk gets more strength, he’ll be able to put up performances like this with more consistency. Sometimes Monk hunts highlights too often, and while the 2016 class is talented, I don’t see how Monk isn’t a top-5 player at this current juncture. (SP)
  • Allonzo Trier: Trier was the leading scorer at Peach Jam, averaging more than 30 points in the give games that he played, including the 42 that he put up while handing Briscoe and the Playaz their only loss of the event. Trier’s had a great spring and summer while shooting up the national rankings. (RD)

BEST WING FORWARD:

  • Jayson Tatum: The game just comes easy to Tatum. Although the 6-foot-8 wing was a man among boys playing in the 16U ranks at Peach Jam, you can still see he has all the necessary tools to be a star. (SP)
  • Ben Simmons: I see Simmons playing a role similar to that of Royce White at the collegiate level, which would make him more of a point forward than a wing forward. (RD)

BEST SHOOTER:

  • D.J. Hogg: There aren’t many great shooters in this class but Hogg can fill it up when he gets hot and he has a shooter’s mentality with good size at 6-foot-7. Once he gets in better shape, Hogg’s shot will be more consistent because right now. (SP)
  • Camron Justice: Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings was front and center while tracking his his commitment. The No. 136 recruit in the Class of 2015 shot very well throughout Peach Jam. (RD)

BEST LOW POST BIG:

  • Tyler Davis: Again, not the best prospect I saw as a low post player, but Davis was the most productive big man I saw last week. The 6-foot-10 Davis is impossible to move off the block, owns a good set of hands and has improving footwork and counter moves in the post. He’s right on the cusp of elite status. (SP)
  • Diamond Stone: Davis was easily the best low-post big man at Peach Jam, and Stone was just as impressive at the UAA Finals. He’s getting into a habit where he is settling too much for perimeter shots, but some of that is a result of Stone trying to prove that he has expanded his game. He’s known for his ability to score on the block already. (RD)

BEST DEFENDER:

  • KeVaughn Allen: Allen was one of the biggest stock-risers in Georgia this week, averaging 19.0 points in eight Peach Jam games. The Florida-commit showed off an improved three-point stroke, but where he was most impressive was on the defensive side of the ball. He will thrive in Gainesville. (RD)
  • Chris Clarke: I would take Chris Clarke on my team in any game. The Class of 2015 wing plays hard, defends on the perimeter, hustles after every loose ball and generally lifts the energy of the teammates on the floor with him. He’s just the kind of player that makes winning plays. (SP)

ONE MORE GUY DESERVING OF ATTENTION:

  • Franklin Howard: Franklin Howard is already ranked and committed to Syracuse, but I was impressed by his recovery from a major knee injury that forced him to miss the high school season. Howard doubled his minutes during the Peach Jam from the EYBL and looked pretty good despite shooting the ball poorly. (SP)
  • Alterique Gilbert: A 5-foot-9 PG, Gilbert is No. 92 in the Class of 2016 on Rivals. He’s a quick, shifty point guard that can get to the rim and finish in traffic. He also doesn’t appear to get rattled by big moments or big plays. He averaged 18.2 points in the event. (RD)

Osun Osunniyi picks St. Bonaventure over Syracuse, Georgetown

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St. Bonaventure has made something of a late splash on the recruiting trail.

Osun Osunniyi, a 6-foot-10 from Putnam (Conn.) Science Academy, signed with the Bonnies, the school announced Monday.

It’s a bit of a recruiting coup for coach Mark Schmidt, who won the services of Osunniyi over offers from Syracuse and Georgetown, both of whom hosted the prospect on official visits this spring.

“Osun oozes with potential. His ceiling is extremely high. He has so much God-given ability,” Schmidt said in a statement. “And, he’s a great kid, a character kid who is level-headed. He has a great wingspan, he runs well, he has a natural talent for blocking shots and is a very good rebounder. He can score around the basket.

“Osun wants to get better, like all of our players. We saw how he developed at Putnam, which is a credit to coach Espinosa and the staff there. He’s come a long way to become a kid who was highly recruited. We’re thrilled to have him come to St. Bonaventure.”

Osunniyi, who previously committed to La Salle before taking a prep year, becomes the fourth member of the Bonnies’ 2018 freshman class. He averaged 10 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots per game while Putnam won a national prep championship.

The Bonnies made the NCAA tournament as an 11 seed last year after going 26-8.

Christian Vital going back to UConn for junior season

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Dan Hurley is keeping his roster intact at the top.

Christian Vital, UConn’s second-leading scorer a season ago, is returning to school after declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, he announced Monday via social media.

“Great Talk Today Coach! Appreciate The Wisdom You Have Let Me In On!” Vital wrote “I Think It’s Time To Get Back To Winning Ways In Storrs! I’m Going To Need That #1 Back ASAP! WE GOT (UNFINISHED) BUSINESS!”

The 6-foot-2 junior-to-be Vital joins Jalen Adams, who was the Huskies’ top-returning scorer, back in Storrs in Hurley’s first year. Vital averaged 14.9 points on 38.3 percent shooting. Adams previously announced he would return to school without declaring for the draft.

The return of UConn’s top two scorers underscores an even bigger trend under Hurley as the Huskies appear to have avoided any major defections from last year’s roster despite the coaching change.

UConn is coming off a 14-18 season that proved to be the last of coach Kevin Ollie’s six years with the Huskies that included a national championship but also back-to-back losing seasons.

Chris Silva returning to South Carolina for senior season

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South Carolina is getting an first-team all-SEC performer back.

Chris Silva, who led the Gamecocks in scoring and rebounding last season, is returning to school after declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, the school announced Monday.

“I’m thankful for the experience of going through the draft process,” Silva said in a statement. “I want to thank all of the teams that gave me the opportunity to workout for their organization. I’m excited to announce that I’m returning to South Carolina for my senior season. I can’t wait to get back on the court with my brothers and continue to work on my game.”

The 6-foot-9 Silva, who did not get an NBA draft combine invite, averaged 14.3 points and 8 rebounds per game as a junior.  He shot 46.7 percent from the floor.

“Going through the evaluation process was an unbelievable experience for Chris and us,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said in a statement. “He comes back to a place he loves with some knowledge on some of the things that we have to help him improve on in his efforts to one day fulfill his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA.”

In addition to being South Carolina’s leading scorer, he was the SEC co-defensive player of the year last season after averaging 1.4 blocks per game. His return to Columbia gives the Gamecocks a potential contender for SEC player of the year in 2018-19.

Kansas fires athletic director Sheahon Zenger

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Kansas has fired athletic director Sheahon Zenger, effective immediately, citing a lack of progress in key areas within the athletic department.

“Sheahon has been a loyal Jayhawk, and our athletics department has improved in many areas under his leadership,” Kansas Chancellor Doug Girod wrote in an email to KU faculty and staff. “But athletics continues to face a number of challenges, and progress in key areas has been elusive. To achieve the level of success we need and expect, I have determined a change in leadership is necessary.”

Zenger had been in the role of AD since 2011.

The issue, of course, is not the play of the Kansas basketball program. The Jayhawks have won every Big 12 regular season title since 2004, and head coach Bill Self has taken the program to two Final Fours since Zenger was hired.

The football team is still a disaster, but one can’t help but wonder whether or not the real issue at hand here is Kansas’ getting tied into the FBI’s investigation into college basketball.

The Jayhawks were not mentioned in the initial indictments that were handed down, but Kansas was a central figure in the superseding indictments that were dropped after the national title game. The mother of Billy Preston, who did not play for the Jayhawks this season, was alleged to have been funneled $90,000 by Adidas, while Silvio De Sousa’s status is currently in question after the FBI alleged his guardian was paid at least $20,000 to help offset money that the family had already accepted from a rival shoe company.

All of that came in the aftermath of dealing with Cheick Diallo and Cliff Alexander, both of whom had their one season in Lawrence reduced due to off the court issues.

“Since becoming chancellor, I have spent countless hours with higher education peers and Jayhawks to hear their perspective on KU,” Girod wrote. “A common thread in these conversations is that, as a major public university with national aspirations, we must continue to strive for excellence in all areas — including athletics. As I have said many times, a successful athletics department is inextricably linked to our broader mission as a flagship research university.”

Louisville, ex-AD Tom Jurich reach $4.5M settlement

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The University of Louisville has reached a $4.5 million settlement with former athletic director Tom Jurich, who was fired in the wake of a national federal corruption investigation of college basketball.

Jurich disputed his Oct. 18 firing for cause after nearly 20 years as AD and had considered suing the school. The University of Louisville Athletic Association and Board of Trustees on Friday approved the settlement. Jurich’s employment ended “without cause” as a result of his resignation, also described in the settlement as “retirement.”

He’ll also receive another $2.6 million in accrued employment benefits, along with home game tickets and parking for Louisville football and basketball for 20 years.

An audit of the University of Louisville Foundation released last June showed that Jurich averaged annual compensation of more than $2.76 million from 2010-16, including more than $5.35 million in 2016.

Then-interim president Greg Postel had placed Jurich on paid administrative leave in September after the school’s acknowledgement of its involvement in the investigation. Trustees voted 10-3 to fire Jurich, two days after the ULAA unanimously fired Hall of Fame men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino.

The former AD said in a joint statement that he “spent the better part of my career” working with dedicated athletes, coaches and staff to elevate Louisville. He added, “I am proud of what we accomplished, which is well documented.”

Jurich’s legal team had stressed that the ex-AD did nothing illegal and hadn’t violated NCAA rules.

Trustee chairman J. David Grissom said in the statement that “Everyone is pleased that this matter has been successfully resolved. All parties can move forward to begin the next chapter.”

Jurich played a major role in Louisville’s success on the field and how the school handled issues off it. He led the school’s 2014 entry into the Atlantic Coast Conference and oversaw numerous program and facility upgrades, including a $63 million expansion of the football stadium due for completion by fall.

He also hired several successful coaches including Pitino, who guided the Cardinals to the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball championship. Louisville ultimately vacated that title in February as part of NCAA penalties for a sex scandal after an escort’s book allegations that former basketball staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers to strip and have sex with players and recruits.

Pitino has filed a $38.7 million federal lawsuit against Louisville, alleging breach of contract.