Seven takeaways from Las Vegas for the final AAU weekend of 2014

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The final week of the July evaluation period is one that, for many teams, means a trip to Las Vegas for one of three large tournaments (adidas Super 64, Las Vegas Fab 48 and the Las Vegas Classic), with Chris Paul’s The 8 being held there as well. And for coaches who may be looking for a more seasoned prospect, there’s also JucoRecruiting.com’s All-American JUCO Showcase Elite 80 West to attend. Below are a few thoughts on last week’s action, and one suggestion that could help lesser-known players who are looking to make a name for themselves in these events.

Las Vegas Recaps: Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday

1. Regardless of what Skal Labissiere decides to do, his work to get stronger will be of great importance. 

Labissiere enjoyed a very good week in Las Vegas, playing well on both ends of the floor. And he’s also been the focus of conversation with regards to what he’ll do next summer: enroll at the college he chooses, or take a shot at going overseas and playing professionally. Yet regardless of which path he chooses, Labissiere will need to continue to get stronger (especially if he goes pro). In speaking with Labissiere he stated that he’d dropped down to 206 this summer, and his goal is to get to 225. Of course adding weight isn’t solely about increasing the number, but also being sure that through good workout and dietary habits the weight gained is “positive.” That’s something else Labissiere noted, so it’s good to see he has a clear understanding of that.

2. Vance Jackson has the look of a player poised to put together a standout junior season.

The 6-foot-8 forward can score both off the dribble and from beyond the arc, and he was very productive this past weekend for Belmont Shore. Jackson, who’s in the Class of 2016, scored 33 points in an overtime loss to the NJ Playaz Friday night and continued to be a solid scoring option alongside Tyler Dorsey throughout the weekend. The key for Jackson is remaining confident in his skill set, because when he is Jackson is an assertive player who can be tough to slow down. Regardless of what ranking service you prefer, don’t be surprised to see Jackson’s name rise up the list when those updates occur.

3. Pound for pound, there may not be a tougher player in 2015 than Isaiah Briscoe. 

Whether it was at the Fab 48 or The 8, Briscoe’s refusal to be denied was evident during his time on the floor. With the ball in his hands Briscoe is a very good creator, whether it’s to get himself to the rim or to set up one of his teammates. And when defenders sag off Briscoe can knock down perimeter shots at a solid clip as well. But what stood out watching him play was the toughness, and the belief of “I’m the best player out here” that was impossible to ignore. Arizona, Rutgers, St. John’s and UConn are among the seven schools on the list Briscoe released in late June, and the battle for his commitment will be fierce.

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

4. Jaylen Brown’s ability to score from anywhere on the court makes him one of the toughest matchups regardless of class. 

Already considered to be one of the best players in 2015, there are some who believe that Brown is the closest competitor to Ben Simmons when it comes to who the top player in the class is. Why? His ability to score both inside and out, combined with a physical build that allows Brown to not only absorb contact but finish through it with authority. And while Brown led the way for Game Elite offensively, that expectation didn’t result in Brown playing in a selfish manner. While in-state programs Georgia and Georgia Tech are among the programs looking to land Brown so are Kentucky and UCLA (just to name two), with Brown stating that he’ll take an unofficial visit to UCLA following adidas Nations (which begins Friday in southern California).

5. It will be fun to watch the Class of 2017 develop.

This happens every summer in all honesty. You’ve been watching the current crop of rising seniors for a couple years, so naturally the question of “who’s next?” gets asked. And in Las Vegas there were some very talented 2017 prospects on display. Two of the best front court players in the class are on the west coast in DeAndre Ayton and Billy Preston, with both putting together solid performances in their respective events, and guards Troy Brown and Trevon Duval also merit attention for their play. One point on Duval: with Isaiah Briscoe moving on to college next year, he should have a bigger role for the NJ Playaz next summer alongside 2016 guard Temple Gibbs. It’ll be fun to see how Duval adjusts, with the upcoming high school season setting the stage for that, and the same can be said for the other three rising sophomores mentioned above.

6. Intangibles are just as valuable as the stats when it comes to showcase events. 

Saturday provided the opportunity to make a stop at the JucoRecruiting.com event for a couple hours, and in these settings participants may feel that putting up numbers is the only way to catch the attention of the Division I coaches in attendance. That can lead to ragged play, something that does a lot more harm than good for all involved. So in these events the intangibles, such as a willingness to share the basketball and being a good communicator, can set a player apart from the rest of the crowd. This can also be said for the high school players, even though in most cases they have familiarity with their grassroots teammates. Numbers are great, but that alone doesn’t win championships and that’s the goal of every college coach looking to add players to his program.

7. There should be some kind of in-game penalty for teams whose coaches submit incomplete/inaccurate rosters.

For all the criticism some heap upon grassroots basketball, the fact of the matter is that it can be a great avenue for young players to gain exposure. Not all players get to play in highly regarded leagues during the high school season, so these events are of high value to prospects whose schools aren’t the focus of national (or even regional) attention. While it can be said that rosters are a “fluid situation” during the summer, those unheralded prospects are why teams should do their best to provide the event organizers with a complete (and accurate) roster. Why not make it as easy as possible for the players to get their names out there?

An incomplete roster may not seem like a big deal (coaches/media can go to the scorer’s table to check numbers at the half or at the end of games), but why not avoid this situation to begin with? So in order to do this, event organizers should come up with an in-game penalty for teams whose coaches can’t submit proper rosters. Ultimately these events should be about helping the kids reach their goals, whether it’s to move one step closer to the pros or to earn a college education their family would struggle to finance without help in the form of an athletic scholarship. Not making sure their information is both readily available and accurate doesn’t help the kids (or their families) at all.

Miles Kelly leads Ga. Tech to 79-77 win over rival Georgia

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 02 Northeastern at Georgia Tech
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ATLANTA – Georgia Tech’s Miles Kelly hit another winning shot against a state rival.

Terry Roberts endured a nightmarish final minute for Georgia.

Kelly hit a long 3-pointer and then a drove for the game-winning floater with 23 seconds remaining as the Yellow Jackets rallied to beat Georgia 79-77 on Tuesday night.

Kelly hit the winning shot in similar fashion against Georgia State on Nov. 12. He did it again to beat the Bulldogs, finishing with a team-high 17 points after failing to score in the first half.

“I’m going to continue to keep shooting, no matter how many times I miss,” Kelly said.

Roberts missed a 3-pointer, turned the ball over twice with bad passes, and was called for an offensive foul as he was trying to drive for the basket that would’ve sent the game to overtime.

“A tough finish for us,” Georgia first-year coach Mike White said. “We were in position to steal one on the road.”

A pair of second-chance buckets seemingly put Georgia (7-3) in control with a 77-73 lead.

The Bulldogs wouldn’t score again as Kelly led the comeback for the Yellow Jackets (6-3) – with a big assist from Roberts.

He had a chance to essentially seal it for the Bulldogs, but his jumper beyond the arc clanked off the rim.

Georgia Tech grabbed the rebound and raced down the court, where Kelly swished a 3 from well behind the stripe that brought Georgia Tech within a point with about a minute left.

Trying to work the ball inside, Roberts made an ill-advised entry pass that was deflected and stolen by Deivon Smith, setting up Kelly’s drive for the basket that put the Yellow Jackets back ahead,

Roberts tried a drive of his own, only to have it blocked by Jalon Moore. Georgia retained possession, but Roberts’ inbounds pass was stolen by Moore, who was fouled and made one of two free throws.

Roberts took the ball again and hurriedly dribbled toward the basket, only to be called for an offensive foul when he sent Smith flying.

“Just sacrificing my body for the team,” Smith said.

Georgia stole an inbounds pass around midcourt, giving Karlo Oquendo one last shot to launch a 3 that still would’ve won it for the Bulldogs. It bounced off the rim.

The game was tight throughout. Neither team led by more than eight, and a sequence in the second half showed just how tightly these rivals were matched.

With both squads playing at a frenetic pace and showing little regard for defense, the lead changed hands on eight straight possessions as the teams traded baskets.

Stunningly, they combined to score on 19 straight possessions before Georgia’s Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe missed a pair of free throws with 5:17 remaining.

FIRING UP THE CROWD

Perhaps the biggest cheer of the night came when Georgia Tech football coach Brent Key addressed the crowd at halftime.

Key, who served as interim coach for the last eight games of the season, was introduced Monday as the full-time choice for job.

He fired up the fans by getting them to chant “To hell with Georgia” over and over again. When a smattering of Bulldogs fans responded with barks, Key smiled and egged on the Yellow Jackets crowd to drown them out.

He also declared Georgia Tech to be the “greatest school in the entire state, the entire country,” following up his vow the previous day to not back down from the defending national champion and top-ranked Bulldogs.

BIG PICTURE

Georgia: This will be a tough one to swallow for Roberts, who led his team with 16 points and seven assists. The Bulldogs lost despite shooting 53.4% from the field.

Georgia Tech: Four players scored in double figures, and two others players finished with eight points. But it was Kelly, as usual, who had the ball in his hands at the end of a tight game.

UP NEXT

Georgia: After a nearly two-week break, the Bulldogs return to Atlanta on Dec. 18 to face Notre Dame at State Farm Arena in the Holiday Hoopsgiving event.

Georgia Tech: Head to North Carolina on Saturday for the Atlantic Coast Conference opener against the struggling Tar Heels.

No. 17 Illinois rallies late, beats No. 2 Texas 85-78 in OT

Illinois v Maryland
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NEW YORK – Terrence Shannon Jr. scored 12 of his 16 points in overtime, including the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:34 remaining, and No. 17 Illinois rallied to hand second-ranked Texas its first loss of the season, 85-78 on Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic.

Jayden Epps added 11 points, including the final five points of regulation – a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left and two tying free throws with 8 seconds remaining. Epps then blocked Marcus Carr’s jumper in the lane just before the buzzer to force overtime in an entertaining showdown at Madison Square Garden.

Matthew Mayer, who faced Texas several times at Baylor, tied a career high with 21 points as he made his first seven shots and finished 8 of 10.

Shannon, who missed eight of nine shots in regulation, took over in the extra period to help Illinois (7-2) beat a ranked foe for the second time this season. He opened overtime with a jumper after Marcus Carr was called for traveling and then hit an open 3 from the right wing over Brock Cunningham for a 73-70 lead.

Shannon then converted a reverse layup and finished off a three-point play to make it 77-70 with 2:16 left. Carr hit two free throws to get Texas within one with 1:28 remaining. Jayden Epps hit a layup, RJ Melendez sank two free throws to put Illinois ahead by five, and Shannon made two free throws with 27.7 seconds left.

Timmy Allen scored a season-high 21 points for Texas (6-1), which failed to open 7-0 for the first time since 2014-15. Tyrese Hunter added 10 points but Carr was held to nine points on 3-of-14 shooting as Texas had 12 shots blocked and shot 42%.

Texas took its only double-digit lead when Dillon Mitchell hit a layup with 8:28 left. Illinois cut the lead to 58-56 on a 3 by Melendez nearly four minutes later. After Cunningham hit an open 3 with 4:15 remaining, Si’Jabari Rice made a 3 for a 64-58 lead.

Allen found Cunningham for an open jumper that counted when officials called goaltending on Illinois’ Coleman Hawkins. That gave Texas a 65-61 lead with with 1:51 remaining.

Carr’s rainbow jumper in the lane made it 68-63 with a minute left and Illinois had a 3-pointer by Melendez waved off because it called timeout with 45.3 seconds left. After the timeout, Epps made an open corner 3 with 33 seconds remaining.

Hunter missed the front end of a 1-and-1 to set up Epps’ tying free throws.

BIG PICTURE

Illinois: The Illini continued to struggle with turnovers, committing 17. But only two of them came in the final 10-plus minutes of regulation or overtime. Illinois’ 15th turnover was an offensive foul by Mayer, which sent him to the bench with four fouls with 10:42 remaining.

Texas: The Longhorns had little offense beyond Allen and Hunter. While the duo was a combined 13 of 29, the rest of the team missed 24 of 40 shots.

UP NEXT

Illinois hosts Penn State in its second Big Ten game on Saturday. The Illini lost their conference opener to No. 13 Maryland.

Texas hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the Jimmy Blacklock Classic on Saturday.

Clark, Gardner lift No. 3 Virginia past James Madison, 55-50

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Kihei Clark scored 18 points, Jayden Gardner had 14 points and eight rebounds, and No. 3 Virginia beat feisty in-state rival James Madison 55-50 on Tuesday night.

The Cavaliers (8-0), who lost starting guard Reece Beekman to a right leg injury early in the first half, prevented the Dukes (7-3) from winning a second straight December game in Charlottesville. James Madison beat Virginia 52-49 last Dec. 7.

Clark had seven assists while playing nearly 39 minutes with Beekman sidelined.

“Kihei gave everything he had and I had to, you know, ride him,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “Sure, he missed some free throws. And I know he made some mistakes, but you could just see him, you know, how tough-minded he was.”

Dukes coach Mark Byington said he told Clark – who’s playing his fifth season for Virginia – after last year’s game that he loved watching him play.

“He’s seen everything and nothing you’re going to do is going to surprise him,” Byington said. “There’s nothing Kihei Clark hasn’t seen out there, and he’s poised. I mean, you can’t rattle him. … So I told him this time I was like, `Look, I better never see you in college basketball again.’ But he’s one of my favorite players to watch just because he’s tough, talented, and he’s a winner.”

Takal Molson scored 18 of his 20 points in the second half for James Madison, including a 3-pointer that tied the game at 42-all with 7:47 to play. Gardner responded for Virginia by scoring five straight points in a 9-1 run.

The Cavaliers kept the Dukes in the game by missing eight of 13 free throws over the last six minutes.

Molson made an acrobatic layup while being fouled with 1:51 left, but he missed the free throw. He scored again with 1:01 left, pulling the Dukes within 52-50, but freshman Ryan Dunn answered with a strong move on the baseline for Virginia with 35 seconds to play.

James Madison threw the ball away on its ensuing possession.

BIG PICTURE

James Madison: The Dukes came into the game leading the nation in scoring (93.3 points per game) and having scored as many as 95 points five times. They were shooting 52.7% for the year, but made just four of their first 19 shots and finished 15 of 55 (26.9%). Vado Morse scored 11 points, the only other JMU player in double figures.

“Yeah, we knew how good they were and they showed it in spots tonight,” Gardner said. “But I think you saw a lot of resiliency tonight on the defensive end getting crucial stops.”

Virginia: The Cavaliers played the final 36 minutes without Beekman and gave extensive minutes to freshman Isaac McKneely. Virginia will hope Beekman, its third-leading scorer and a primary ballhandler and defender, recovers in time for its showdown with No. 1 Houston on Dec. 17.

UP NEXT

The Dukes return home to play Gallaudet on Saturday night.

Virginia has a 10-day break before hosting the top-ranked Cougars.

No. 25 Villanova women beat American University 83-42

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VILLANOVA, Pa. – Maddy Siegrist had 24 points and seven rebounds, Lucy Olsen added 14 points and No. 25 Villanova beat American University 83-42 on Tuesday night.

Siegrist scored 15 points in the opening 13 minutes as Villanova led 34-15. The Wildcats extended it to 46-23 by halftime before starting the second half on a 9-0 run for a 32-point lead.

Villanova added an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter for its largest lead of the game at 79-36. The Wildcats held American to 15-of-50 shooting (30%) and scored 21 points off 19 turnovers.

Christina Dalce scored 13 points for Villanova (8-2), which plays Saint Joseph’s on Saturday before taking a week off for final exams. Siegrist, who was coming off a 29-point performance on Sunday, made 10 of 17 shots as Villanova shot 56%.

Emily Johns scored 12 points for American (0-8), which hosts Marist (3-5) on Saturday.

No. 6 UConn star Azzi Fudd out 3-6 weeks with knee injury

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STORRS, Conn. — Sixth-ranked UConn’s top scorer, Azzi Fudd, is expected to be out three to six weeks because of a right knee injury she suffered during her team’s weekend loss to No. 5 Notre Dame, a university athletic spokesperson said.

The sophomore guard was injured in the first half of the game when a teammate collided into her. She returned midway through the second period to play four hobbled minutes, but sat the rest of the way.

“I think she’ll be all right,” coach Geno Auriemma said afterward.

Fudd entered the game averaging 24.0 points but finished scoreless on two shots over 13 minutes in the team’s first loss of the season.

The athletic spokesperson didn’t specify the type of knee injury Fudd sustained.

She underwent evaluation and an MRI confirmed the injury, the spokesperson said.

The Huskies host Princeton next.