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Four Takeaways from the NBPA Top 100 Camp

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NBPA Top 100 Camp is annually one of the most important events during the summer recruiting calendar because it brings together the most talent of any event before the July live evaluation period.

With many of the nation’s elite prospects going to battle at the University of Virginia, here’s a look at some main takeaways from the event as I focus on the Class of 2018 players in attendance.

1. The battle for best point guard in the Class of 2018 will be the July storyline to keep an eye on

It’s been noted many times on CBT, and elsewhere, that the Class of 2018 doesn’t have a lot of top-end, one-and-done type of talent. While the lack of NBA-level star power might hurt the college game for one season — with the sport’s heavy reliance on elite freshmen now — the overall depth at point guard is certainly shaping up to be very solid for the Class of 2018. And that point guard depth will also help college basketball in a major way in the coming years.

Even with a few elite lead guards like Darius Garland and Tre Jones not competing in Virginia, the point guards took center stage at Top 100 Camp. And it made for some excellent individual battles that should set up for a very fun July.

Five-star Immanuel Quickley was perhaps the best long-term prospect among the group, but that title was challenged by a bevy of competitors that included Rivals top-40 prospects such as DePaul commit Tyger Campbell, Ayo Dosunmu, Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes, Louisville commit Courtney Ramey, Javonte Smart, Jahvon Quinerly and Elijah Weaver. And that’s not even factoring in the top-flight Class of 2019 point guards like Cole Anthony and Ashton Hagans who were in attendance as well.

Beyond that first group, the depth in the class also shined at camp as West Virginia commit Jordan McCabe, Notre Dame commit Prentiss Hubb and TCU commit Kendric Davis were all among the camp’s leaders in assists.

Camps can be sloppy and have moments of uninspired play, but this year’s camp felt slightly more competitive thanks to all of these point guards going to war. Here’s to hoping that these guys continue to play this competitively in July and beyond.

2. Simi Shittu is a monster (with a potentially fascinating recruiting battle)

One of the notable stock risers of this spring in the Class of 2018 has been Canadian forward Simi Shittu (pictured above). Elevating into the top 10 of most major national rankings, the 6-foot-9 Shittu did nothing but backup his lofty status with his outstanding play at the Top 100 Camp.

Far-and-away the most productive player in the camp, Shittu was a complete monster during the entirety of the event. Shittu was a double-double machine who was nearly impossible to keep off the offensive glass. Leading the camp in both points and rebounds, Shittu’s recruitment is going to be fascinating to watch this July because many of the traditional bluebloods are jumping in later than normal for a top-ten prospect.

While Shittu has mentioned schools like Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, Syracuse and UConn during the spring, N.C. State recently offered a scholarship while Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina have all made recent inquiries. Seeing which head coaches — specifically the newer schools entering the recruitment late — make Shittu an early priority in July will be something to watch for.

3. Besides Shittu, where did all the big men go?

For as many good point guards as there were at this year’s Top 100 Camp, there was also a noticeable lack of elite post players in attendance outside of Shittu as the Class of 2018 doesn’t appear to have a lot of instant-impact bigs.

There are certainly some top-end talents in the class like Marvin Bagley, Bol Bol and Moses Brown, but with none of those guys playing in Virginia, it meant for a guard-dominated camp. Guards typically dominate the ball in camp settings to begin with, but this year, they really didn’t have much reason to throw the ball into the post.

Five-star big man Nazreon Reid was the most talented 2018 big man in the building, besides Shittu, but he still has a lot of work to do with his shot selection in order to be fully counted on at the next level. There were flashes when the 6-foot-10 Reid displayed frightening athleticism and ability for a player his size and then he would settle for a one-footed stepback from 17 feet away that came up as an airball all within the same minute of play.

Four-star center David McCormack also continues to make strides in his game this spring as he showed post scoring ability that few players in the camp could match. But McCormack only played a limited number of games after playing the previous week in Italy for adidas Eurocamp, so the limited post play was made even worse.

Since the game continues to evolve into more and more of a perimeter-oriented contest, it could mean that we see fewer post prospects, but I have a feeling that this is just an instance of one particular class just not having a lot of high-level big men.

4. Despite last week, Louisville is in great position with regards to future recruiting

Most of the major headlines in college basketball last week were geared around Louisville and the fallout from their scandal. Even with the Cardinals facing so many potential sanctions from that scandal, it doesn’t seem to be slowing them down when it comes to future recruiting.

The team’s Class of 2018 recruiting haul both had solid moments at Top 100 as shooting guard Anfernee Simons, in particular, looked like a solid future ACC presence. With his ability to knock down perimeter jumpers while also attacking the basket, the 6-foot-2 Simons was one of the toughest covers at the event as he has the look of a potential go-to scorer for the Cardinals.

The 6-foot-3 Ramey was also steady during most of the camp, as he showed that he can score and distribute with equal effectiveness.

While Louisville has its backcourt of the future already committed in the Class of 2018, Class of 2019 prospects also seemed receptive to what the Cardinals have to offer.  With June 15th being the first day college coaches could directly contact Class of 2019 prospects — falling right in the midst of Top 100 Camp — many of the elite prospects in attendance mentioned that Louisville had called for them in the opening 24 hours of being able to do so.

It is still early to tell how that recruiting class at Louisville might unfold but many of those prospects were just excited to hear from Rick Pitino. Judging strictly on prospect perception, there seems to be minimal fallout (if any) from the Katina Powell scandal and Louisville should keep landing high-level players.

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.”