Harry Giles (AP)

SIGNING DAY: 25 Class of 2016 players you need to know

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(The post has been contributed to by Corey Evans, Managing Editor of HoopSeen.com.)

THE STUDS? Here are the ten best players in a class that may be better than 2013

Harry Giles, 6-foot-10 forward: The best player in all of high school basketball, while Giles will sit out his senior year at Oak Hill Academy this winter with a torn ACL, it still doesn’t take away from the immense potential, production, and alpha-dog mentality from the 6-foot-10 forward. Giles recently called Duke his college home and should be a one-and-done type and future lottery draft pick come 2017. (CE)

Josh Jackson, 6-foot-7 wing:  There’s an argument to be made that the native of Detroit is the No. 1 overall prospect in the class and some firmly believe that he is. The 6-foot-7 Jackson is as athletic as it gets on the wing and he’s well-rounded as a defender, rebounder and passer besides being a high-level scorer. Still uncommitted, expect Jackson to be one of the last prospects to make a commitment as he’ll likely sort through who declares for the NBA draft before making his decision. Arizona, Kansas, Maryland and Michigan State have been getting the most chatter with Jackson recently. (SP)

De’Aaron Fox, 6-foot-3 point guard: Fox will make his college decision on Thursday evening and all signs point to Kentucky grabbing the 6-foot-3 lefty from Texas. Regardless of where he calls fit, Fox had one of the best senior summers that I can recall and because of it, is an elite, blueblood recruit and a potential one-and-done prospect. An excellent two-way ballplayer, Fox can score it, facilitate, distribute, finish, and defend, all things that make him a top shelf prospect in the 2016 class. (CE)

Jayson Tatum, 6-foot-8 wing: Part of a loaded recruiting class at Duke, Tatum is a smooth and natural wing scorer who can also do a lot of damage as a passer in the pick-and-roll. Adept at drawing a lot of fouls, the 6-foot-8 Tatum has an advanced mid-range game and has improved on straight-line drives this fall. Another potential one-and-done candidate in Duke’s loaded Class of 2016. (SP)

Dennis Smith, 6-foot-3 point guard: Just like Giles where Smith hails from North Carolina and also sitting out his senior year due to a torn ACL, when healthy, there aren’t many more athletic and explosive guys around. He has received Russell Westbrook and Baron Davis comparisons and whichever way you see up, Dennis Smith is a top of the line recruit who will be playing out his college days at NC State. A lethal athlete who has gotten better as a facilitator within the half-court setting, Smith sets the bar at the lead guard spot within the high school realm. (CE)

RELATED: HoopSeen.com’s National Signing Day coverage

Malik Monk, 6-foot-4 guard: Perhaps the most electric scoring guard in all of high school basketball, the uncommitted Monk can put up points in a hurry from anywhere on the floor. Whether its deep 3-pointers or high-flying dunks, Monk is capable of going for 50 points if he heats up. Arkansas and Kentucky are the main schools involved for Monk, the younger brother of former Razorback star wide receiver Marcus Monk. (SP)

Thon Maker, 7-foot-0 center: Polarizing is an easy way to describe the way that many within the basketball industry view Thon Maker over the years. After settling upon remaining within the 2016 class, Maker had quite the summer campaign winning the MVP of the famed NBPA Camp in June and ever since, had matched the production with all that the buzz that the 7-footer has received. Maker competes with unlimited energy levels, has gotten better with his decision-making abilities, and because of it, the Athlete Institute senior big man has seen his numbers on the stat sheet improve vastly; Arizona State, Indiana, St. John’s, and Notre Dame seem to be among the top four for Maker at the current moment. (CE)

Miles Bridges, 6-foot-6 wing: A powerful and versatile wing who can score from all three levels, Bridges gives Michigan State a talented wing to help build around. The lefty can play multiple spots on the floor thanks to his size and skill level and he’s physical enough to be a very good rebounder from the wing as well. (SP)

Lonzo Ball, 6-foot-5 point guard: Has there been a better passer in the past 5-10 years of high school ball than Lonzo Ball? I am not totally sure. His outlet passes rival only Kevin Love and funny as it seems, the 6-foot-6 guard will play out his college days at UCLA, just as well. Not afraid to let it go from deep either, Ball is a very entertaining but productive lead guard who makes other better but can also score the ball via the pull-up jumper and should be an immediate presence as one of the best guards throughout the college realm during the 2016 basketball season. (CE)

Bam Adebayo, 6-foot-9 power forward: One of the top uncommitted forwards left in the Class of 2016, Adebayo formed a ridiculous one-two punch with point guard Dennis Smith on the grassroots circuit this spring. Adebayo could follow his former teammate to N.C. State, but Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Wake Forest are also doing everything they can to get Bam on campus. (SP)

Terrance Ferguson (Getty Images)
Terrance Ferguson (Getty Images)

THE NEXT D’ANGELO RUSSELL? Here are five guys from outside the top ten that have the ability to be a top five NBA Draft pick one day

  • Jonathan Isaac, 6-foot-10 wing: If we are talking about breakouts, no one has gone from a relative unknown and into the picture as a top-10 recruit nationally within the past calendar year than Jon Isaac. The 6-foot-10 forward is the closest thing that we have seen since Kevin Durant due to his slender frame, quality length, and impeccable shooting touch from off the deck. Heading to Florida State, Isaac could be the scoring replacement on the wings if Xavier Rathan-Mayes and/or Dwayne Bacon leave after this upcoming college basketball season. (CE)
  • Terrance Ferguson, 6-foot-6 wing: One of the most naturally gifted players in the Class of 2016, the Alabama commit could win the NBA dunk contest or 3-point contest someday if he maximizes his potential. While Ferguson is known best for his ridiculous mixtapes filled with impossible dunks, he’s also a fluid shooter with deep range. (SP)
  • Marques Bolden, 6-foot-10 center: With great length, a body that should blow up once it hits a college weight room, and an excellent, low-block skillset, there aren’t many more at the 5-spot in the 2016 class that have a better future ahead of them than Marques Bolden. The Texas native can score over either shoulder, is deceptively bouncy around the basket, and when engaged, can put up 20-20 numbers on the stat sheet. There have been mixed reports of when Bolden will commit but it looks like things are down to the likes of Kansas, Alabama, Kentucky, and Duke, with the Jayhawks and Tide as the favorites heading into the winter months. (CE)
  • Rawle Alkins, 6-foot-4 shooting guard: As one of the best players to come from New York City in recent memory, Alkins carries a big reputation and a big game to match. The scoring guard gets it done in a number of different ways as he can attack the basket or knock down jumpers. Alkins recently moved to North Carolina to play his senior year of high school and he’s taken multiple visits to N.C. State and North Carolina. St. John’s and head coach Chris Mullin are hoping Alkins comes back to New York. (SP)
  • Markelle Fultz, 6-foot-4 guard: From a jayvee performer and now a McDonald’s All-American shoe-in within a matter of 16 months, Markelle Fultz took the country by storm and has yet to stop improving. More of a scorer from off the bounce with progressing athleticism at the basket, the DeMatha standout has now taken on the task of becoming a lead guard who can score it and pass it. Headed to Washington next year, a quality coup and steal for the Huskies, Fultz might have the best shot at being the next D’Angelo Russell out of anyone within the 2016 class. (CE)

THE NEXT BONZIE COLSON? They may not be Burger Boys, but here are five players that may play a major role in March as freshman

  • Bruce Brown, 6-foot-3 guard: A tough and capable guard with a lot of experience, Brown is physical enough to be able to compete from the moment he sets foot on campus. Indiana, Miami and Xavier have already hosted Brown for official visits while he’s also scheduled to check out Purdue. There is some speculation that Brown could end his recruitment during signing week, but he could wait until the spring as well. (SP)
  • James Banks, 6-foot-10 center: The task is a bit of a daunting one for Shaka Smart and his coaching staff this recruiting cycle as they may have to replace possibly four big men within the interior in the 2016 class. With just one in the hopper in the frontcourt, James Banks is definitely a good start and the opportunity ahead of him in Austin is there for the taking. A quickly improving big man with the ideal tangibles already at hand, the Peach State native can score from 15-feet and in, cleans his area on the glass, and is a fine rim protector who should fit in from the day one under Smart’s  newly established culture and system at UT. (CE)
  • Braxton Key, 6-foot-7 wing: Five-star guard Terrance Ferguson is the centerpiece of Alabama head coach Avery Johnson’s recruiting efforts, but the 6-foot-7 Key gives the Crimson Tide a versatile wing who can score, pass and rebound. As part of a talented perimeter trio in Alabama’s Class of 2016, Key could be counted on to do a lot of the little things among that group. (SP)
  • Tony Carr, 6-foot-5 guard: While Penn State basketball hasn’t been at the forefront of many national rankings, Pat Chambers has had success with his lead guards in past years. With Tone Carr now set on attending PSU next fall, the native of Philadelphia should step right in and lead the Big 10 squad from the get-go. Carr showcases great size and length at the point guard spot, an improving perimeter jumper, and should have solid assets around him that might make the Nittany Lions a darkhorse candidate for some runs in the NCAA Tournament in the years ahead. (CE)
  • Alterique Gilbert, 6-foot-0 guard: The jet-quick point guard can touch the paint nearly any time he wants and head coach Kevin Ollie has to be thrilled that UConn has Gilbert in the fold. Although he’s a tad undersized, Gilbert makes up for it with a solid repertoire of floaters in the lane. If his perimeter jumper becomes more consistent, Gilbert could be an immediate scoring force for the Huskies. (SP)

KEY LATE ADDITIONS? Here are the five best prospects that have yet to decide when or where they’ll be going to school

  • Kobi Simmons, 6-foot-5 guard: One of the more interesting recruitments that we have seen in the 2016 class, Simmons came out a few weeks ago stating that he was down to a final three of Kentucky, UNLV, and Ohio State. However, his father also recently stated that the senior guard would wait until the spring to sign, making his recruitment even more intriguing. Regardless, the 6-foot-5 lead guard oozes with potential, has added some consistency to his perimeter jumper, and continues to improve as a facilitator of his team’s offense in the half-court setting. (CE)
  • Jarrett Allen, 6-foot-10 center: Recruiting in the case of the talented native of Texas has been interesting, as local program Houston tries to go against juggernauts like Kansas and Kentucky. Whoever ends up with Allen is getting a talented post scorer with good length and a high motor. A tremendous rebounder with good hands, Allen is a very good long-term prospect who could make a big impact in college. (SP)
  • Dewan Huell, 6-foot-10 forward: Huell is down to the likes of Florida State, Miami, and South Carolina and the 6-foot-9 center should produce wherever he calls fit. He competes with a mean streak and has really improved his face-up game from 15-feet and in. He has the body that should really take off once he hits a college weight room and though he might not be seen in the top-20 of most rankings, he could outperform many others due to his size, motor, and toughness down low. (CE)
  • Udoka Azubuike, 6-foot-11 center: A bruising center who nearly brings down the hoop when he dunks, Azubuike’s power game is incredibly difficult to stop at the high school level. Although he’ll need to work on his scoring moves outside of five feet, once the 270-pound big man establishes low post position, it’s game over for opposing defenses. Azubuike has taken official visits to Florida State, Kansas, N.C. State and North Carolina and many consider the Seminoles the team to beat. (SP)
  • Andrew Jones, 6-foot-5 shooting guardAt this time last year, Jones was primarily being coveted by Louisiana Tech. Now, the 6-foot-3 guard could pick from any school that he might choose where Texas, Baylor, Arizona, and Kansas look to have the best shot at him. The Texas native can play both on and off the ball and sure doesn’t mind contact on the attack to the basket. With a fine motor, good toughness, and an ever-improving skillset in the backcourt, Jones continues to flourish as a well-tracked and prioritized blue chip recruit who won’t sign until the spring. (CE)

(You can read Corey’s work at HoopSeen.com and you can follow him on twitter @CoreyEvans_10)

Former Penn coach allegedly took bribes from potential recruit’s father

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Former Penn head coach Jerome Allen allegedly took bribes from a Miami businessman who wanted his son to get into the school as a “recruited basketball player” — increasing his chances to gain entry to the Ivy League school.

According to a report from Bloomberg’s Michael Smith, David Voreacos and Eben Novy-Williams, Allen was involved with Miami businessman Philip Esformes, who had a son, Morris, who was allegedly recruited by several Ivy League schools. When Philip Esformes was accused of health-care fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and bribery, the government uncovered more than $74,000 in gifts that Esformes gave to Allen in 2013 and 2014.

Allen is identified strictly as “Coach-2” in the indictment that alleges that he took multiple cash payments, paid trips from Philadelphia to Miami, and a private jet trip that included Allen, Esformes and his son. The benefits are alleged to be $74,558 — including three separate wired payments of $15,000, $20,000 and $18,000 to Allen from Esformes.

These alleged incidents took place in 2013 and 2014, when Allen was still head coach at Penn and Morris Esformes was a high school basketball player trying to make it to the Division I level. Esformes was eventually granted admission to Penn as he was allegedly going to be on the basketball team. But Allen was fired before Esformes enrolled at the school. So Esformes went to school at Penn, but he never played for the basketball team. Esformes is currently still a senior at Penn.

Allen has been an assistant coach under Brad Stevens with the Boston Celtics since leaving Penn in 2015. He hasn’t been criminally charged for any of these alleged benefits while the NCAA also hasn’t been involved with anything yet.

But this is yet another black eye on college basketball — and this time coming from a prestigious Ivy League institution. It shows that cheating and using leverage happens at all levels of Division I college basketball. Lately, the schools have been paying to get players. This shows there are instances of wealthy people attempting to gain influence through athletics.

This case at Penn is certainly a rare one. Esformes tried to exploit a loophole that would allow his son entry into a great school under the guise that he was a potential Division I-caliber basketball player. And Morris Esformes did end up at Penn — and seems to be doing well. So, this didn’t end poorly for Morris or Allen.

Since Allen is coaching at the NBA level, this likely won’t alter his coaching career, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the NCAA get involved with Penn and Allen going forward.

Elite Class of 2020 point guard to reclassify

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Nico Mannion, a five-star point guard from Arizona, announced on Friday that he will be reclassifying into the Class of 2019.

Mannion was a top 20 player in 2020 but, according to 247 Sports, he will be ranked No. 11 in 2019. The athletic, 6-foot-3 Mannion was long-rumored to be considering a move up a class because of his age. He’ll turn 18 in March of next year, meaning that he’ll arrive on campus the same age as a typical college freshman.

Mannion cut his list to ten schools in June — Duke, Arizona, Villanova, Kansas, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Vanderbilt, Marquette and Utah — but Duke and Arizona appear to be the favorites at this point.

Mannion plays his high school ball for Pinnacle High School in Phoenix and with West Coast Elite on the Under Armour Association circuit. He played for Team USA’s youth ranks, but his mother is Italian and, in June, he was called up to the Italian men’s senior national team, scoring nine points in 29 minutes of a FIBA World Cup Qualifier.

Nebraska to lose junior big man to transfer

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Nebraska’s frontcourt depth took a blow on Thursday as junior big man Jordy Tshimanga informed the program that he will be transferring.

“Jordy called me tonight and asked for his release,” head coach Tim Miles said in a statement that was given to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “The University of Nebraska and our program wish Jordy and his family the best.”

Tshimanga averaged 4.0 points and 4.6 boards in 13 minutes this past season, and a source close to the program told NBC Sports he wasn’t expected to play much more than that this season.

Miles’ has spent the better part of the last two seasons on the hot seat, and this certainly doesn’t make his job easier, but with the talent the Cornhuskers have on their roster, they look like an NCAA tournament team already. They bring back their top four scorers, including former five-star prospect Isaac Copeland and potential first-team all-Big Ten wing James Palmer. With or without Tshimanga, Nebraska has a shot to finish top four in the Big Ten.

North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State part of Las Vegas event

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State and Texas will play in an early season basketball tournament in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Invitational will include games at campus sites, then the final two rounds on Nov. 22-23 in Las Vegas. North Carolina takes on Texas in one semifinal, and Michigan State faces UCLA in the other.

UNC, UCLA and Michigan State are all top 20 teams in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.

The championship is Nov. 23, and the semifinal losers also play each other that day.

NCAA to study possible effects of widespread legal wagering

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA plans to study how the expansion of legalized betting could affect college athletics and member schools.

The NCAA announced Thursday it will create a working group of “subject matter experts” to assess areas such as officiating, NCAA rules, federal and state laws, and the use of integrity services. NCAA leadership has already called for federal regulation on sports betting. NCAA rules prohibit sports wagering by athletes and athletic department employees.

The Supreme Court opened the door for states to have legal wagering on sporting events when it struck down a federal ban in May. Schools in some states such as West Virginia, Mississippi and New Jersey are already exploring the possibility of collecting integrity fees in anticipation of legal sports books opening in their states.

“While we certainly respect the Supreme Court’s decision, our position on sports wagering remains,” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer. “With this new landscape, we must evolve and expand our long-standing efforts to protect both the integrity of competitions and the well-being of student-athletes.”

The NCAA Board of Governors has already suspended the association’s ban on holding championships in states with legalized sports betting, a policy that only affected Nevada.

“Legalized sports gambling across the country is rather new, but the NCAA and its members have committed significant resources over the years to policy, research and education around sports wagering,” said Joni Comstock, senior vice president of championships and alliances. “With student-athlete well-being as the centerpiece, we will continue to build upon these efforts to assist members as they adapt to legalized sports wagering in their states and regions.”