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Five observations from the NBPA Top 100 Camp

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NBPA Top 100 Camp is one of the better events of the summer because it brings together a lot of top prospects that play for different shoe-company leagues. This year’s event didn’t have as much star power with USA Basketball having such a big presence on the calendar, but the camp did still have plenty of strong performances from intriguing prospects.

1. There is a big lack of point guards in 2017

After seeing a lot of high-level point guards enter the Class of 2016 (and into college basketball this season) the Class of 2017 just doesn’t have the same crop of floor leaders. While the Class of 2017 has some good high-end guards for elite programs, the depth in the class just isn’t very strong. We’ve already seen certain schools adjust their planning to recruit point guards since there doesn’t look to be as many as a lot of races for elite floor leaders have heated up before July. Schools will be scouring for point guards in July, but there might not be enough legitimate options for high-major programs.

2. The Class of 2018 isn’t looking very strong

Over the last two years, the Class of 2016 had a historically strong five-star crop of players while the Class of 2017 looks like it will have a lot of solid positional depth in the four-star range outside of point guards. Since I’ve now watched a lot of the top Class of 2018 prospects at Pangos, USA Basketball and NBPA Top 100 Camp the last three weeks, I feel safe in saying that the Class of 2018 doesn’t look very good. Outside of top prospect Marvin Bagley (who would be a potential No. 1 prospect in most classes), there just isn’t a lot of five-star talent that blows people away. One veteran scout said that this class was the worst he’s evaluated while many others in the grassroots basketball world¬†have said similar things. There is obviously still plenty of time for players to improve or for new prospects to turn up, but as of right now, the Class of 2018 doesn’t have a lot of star power.

3. Zion Williamson is very intriguing

Although my previous thought on the Class of 2018 seems harsh, there are some players trending in the right direction who are intriguing as prospects coming from that class. The leader to come from NBPA Top 100 Camp was 6-foot-6 forward Zion Williamson. An explosive athlete who plays like an undersized power forward, Williamson led the camp in scoring and was named MVP thanks to his dominant play. At 225 pounds, Williamson has been compared to Draymond Green and Larry Johnson but I think he plays similar to Anthony Bennett with a stronger basketball IQ. Williamson doesn’t have extended range yet, but he’s a versatile attacker with a high motor who should climb up rankings thanks to his strong camp performance.

4. Nick Weatherspoon is worth keeping an eye on in the Class of 2017

If you follow college hoops, you probably heard about Mississippi State freshman Quinndary Weatherspoon by the end of the season. For as good as Weatherspoon was during his freshman year, his younger brother, Class of 2017 guard Nick Weatherspoon, could be even better.

The 6-foot-1 Nick is an impressive athlete for his size and he was one of the adidas Gauntlet’s leading scorers this spring by putting in buckets from multiple levels of the floor. Besides being recruited by his brother’s school, Nick is also hearing from some of the ACC’s bigger programs as North Carolina and N.C. State are among the conference’s schools trying to get involved.

It’ll be interesting to see how much Weatherspoon climbs up the rankings in this class and how he’ll look by the end of the summer.

5. Malik Williams proves he’s a potential big-time prospect

This spring, the most difficult top-100 prospect to gauge was Indiana native and 6-foot-10 big man Malik Williams. Williams was the only top-40 player who didn’t play for a shoe company team on the grassroots circuit this spring. He had no trackable stats of his games and he didn’t always face the best competition playing in independent events. At the Top 100 Camp, Williams proved he belonged in his current status by showing a lot of talent and upside against some of the nation’s best players. Finishing top 20 in the camp in rebounds, steals and blocks, Williams was a defensive presence while also shooting 41 percent from three-point range on 17 attempts. It’s hard to say where Williams will end up in the national rankings, but he has a lot of upside and plays with a smoothness you don’t see often from 6-foot-10 players.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.