ATLANTA — To close out the first July live evaluation period, I spent some time at the adidas Uprising Gauntlet Finale watching the 16U division while also heading to Hoop Seen’s Best of the South, one of the best events in the South for discovering under-the-radar talent. Both events showcased some positive showings from players — and a continual alarming trend from some parents that I’ll briefly discuss.
Michigan State got a good one in Nick Ward
I was already a fan of Michigan State commit Nick Ward entering the July live evaluation period after his spring in the Nike EYBL with All Ohio Red. The 6-foot-9 bruising lefty post player from the Class of 2016 made another big impression at the Best of the South over the weekend. On Saturday, Ward did whatever he wanted on post touches and also did quite a bit of damage on the glass. When All Ohio Red, the eventual champions of Best of the South, fed Ward the ball, it usually resulted in a foul or a bucket and his physical way of playing will fit in nicely with what Tom Izzo wants to do. Ward and shooting guard Josh Langford are a great start to the Spartans’ 2016 recruiting efforts.
Ibi Watson has a breakout weekend
While Ward is the obvious go-to guy for All Ohio Red, it was the play of 6-foot-4 shooting guard Ibi Watson who really emerged this first live period weekend. After finishing second in scoring All Ohio Red during the spring at 12 points per game, Watson exploded for MVP honors at Best of the South and had the attention of plenty of college coaches. He shot the ball well and also did a good job of playing in attack mode. High majors are starting to take Watson more seriously as a prospect and he could get some offers here soon.
Some underrated 2017 guards show high-level ability
The Best of the South was a great event to see some underrated national guards who could emerge as high-major prospects in the next few months. Hoop Seen’s Justin Young told me about Florida native and guard Trent Frazier, a scorer who can also throw some nifty passes as a playmaking guard. Though only about 6-foot-1, Frazier has a good amount of athleticism and he played well and got some attention in this tournament. Chicago native and 6-foot-3 guard Elijah Joiner showed an ability to hit shots and score from all over the floor during a very good weekend. After closing out the high school season with some good performances, Joiner has had a good summer, picking up recent scholarship offers from DePaul and UIC.
Good first glimpse of a few 2018 prospects to watch
Seeing a couple of gifted younger prospects is always a nice bonus of July as some rising sophomores start to play up a level against better competition after the spring. Two Class of 2018 players that stood out were Texas native Gerald Liddell, a 6-foot-7 small forward and Indiana native Romeo Langford, a 6-foot-4 guard. Liddell has an advanced feel as a playmaker on both ends of the floor and he just always seems to get the ball in his hands. Langford made plays as a scorer and has an advanced feel for the game.
Alabama has a lot of 2017 talent
Besides the Alabama Challenge 16U team playing down the road a few hours at Peach Jam — featuring two five-star players in shooting guard John Petty and big man Austin Wiley — a few Class of 2017 prospects played up on the 17U at the Best of the South and had a good showing. Shooting guard Jamal Johnson is generating a ton of SEC and ACC interest as a scoring 6-foot-4 guard who can get his own shot, while 6-foot-9 big man Garrison Brooks also showed flashes of strong play on the interior. Those four players, plus many more talented mid- to low-major players, mean the Challenge could be one of the better groups in the EYBL next year.
Parents can still cost their kids opportunities
One of the ugly parts of July is some parents becoming the center of attention for the way they act on the sidelines. More examples of bad parent behavior occurred throughout the first week of July, including some parents acting so outrageously that they cost their kids opportunities.
“I wouldn’t recruit a kid with a parent like that,” one assistant told NBCSports.com after one parent drew a warning from an official. “We have enough distractions in our program, we don’t need to deal with parents constantly getting in the way of things.”
The entitlement of some parents when speaking with coaches and officials is alarming in some cases and college coaches are staying aware of those sorts of things during recruiting.