Jon Lopez/Nike

Four Things We Learned From Peach Jam: From Marvin Bagley III to the Death of the Tweener

Leave a comment

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — Marvin Bagley III is probably going to end up playing college basketball this season.

Peach Jam, which is typically the best event on the club basketball circuit in the spring and the summer, lacked any of the buzz that we are used to seeing and hearing about, but it made up for it with what could end up being season-defining news for a top ten team.

Here are the basics to get you caught up: Bagley is a 6-foot-11 combo-forward and arguably the best prospect in the world that is not currently on an NBA roster. He also turned 18 years old in March — meaning he is old for his grade — and would be eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft if he could find a way to graduate from high school prior to the start of the 2017-18 school year.

On Friday, NBC Sports reported that the Bagley family is in the processing of determining whether or not it is actually possible for Marvin to enroll in college this fall. Members of two staffs currently recruiting Bagley have since told NBC Sports that it is doable, and there is a growing expectation that Bagley will do his one-and-done season in 2017-18. His father, speaking to FanRag Sports, went with the dismissive non-denial when asked over the weekend: “Hey, ask the guy who started the rumor, they know more than what I can tell you. You should probably ask CBS Sports; it seems like they know more than I know. That’s my answer, ask CBS Sports.”

The question then becomes eligibility, and it’s two-fold: The first part is collegiate eligibility. Will he make it through the NCAA’s eligibility clearinghouse in time for the start of the season, and while that is big news or whoever ends up getting him, it is more or less irrelevant for Bagley himself. The reason this is something the family is going to try to do is to get him eligible for the NBA Draft a year early. He’s old enough, he just needs to be a season removed from his high school graduation. If he earns that diploma but misses the first six weeks of the season while waiting to be cleared, he’ll still get picked next June.

Which means he’ll get his first NBA paycheck at 19.

Which means he’ll get his first NBA extension at 23.

Which means he’ll be eligible to get max-level extensions at 28 and 33 instead of 29 and 34.

That extra year of earning power at the end of his career combined with the fact that those contracts will come a year earlier could end up being worth in the mid-eight figures if Bagley lives up to his potential.

So where will Bagley end up playing?

Marvin Bagley III (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)

He told reporters at Peach Jam that he will be taking his official visit to Duke this week — he’s an Arizona native playing for a Southern California high school team — and will also take officials to USC and Arizona. Kentucky, Kansas and UCLA are also in the mix, but they aren’t considered to be leaders. Bagley has the potential to be an all-american in college this season, and he would fit perfectly as a small-ball four at Duke in the Jayson Tatum role, alongside Deandre Ayton at Arizona or in USC’s high-octane, uptempo offense.

If you forced me to bet my life on where Bagley will end up playing next season, it would be at Duke.


IF BAGLEY RECLASSIFIES, IS ANYONE IN 2018 WORTH BEING EXCITED ABOUT: Bagley is far and away the best prospect in the Class of 2018, and while much of that is because he’s awesome, the truth is that there really isn’t all that much talent in 2018.

Zion Williamson is as thrilling of an athlete as you’ll ever see, but there are real concerns about just how much of a basketball player he is. Bol Bol is a 7-foot-3 shot-blocker with three-point range, but anyone questioning his motor and his toughness is justified. Cam Reddish, Romeo Langford, Moses Brown, Jordan Brown. These are good players, but after seeing the talent at the top of the 2016 and 2017 classes, this is a drop-off.


COACHES RECRUIT TWEENERS NOW: As recently as five or six years ago, the label “tweener” was dreaded in basketball circles. If a player wasn’t quite big enough to guard fours or quick enough to guards threes, or if a ball-handler was just a little too score-first, or if a shot-blocker was just a little too concerned with shooting threes, it was a negative.

One top 25 head coach put it to me like this:

Before, the question was, “Who are they going to guard at the next level?”

The question now, however, is, “How is anyone going to guard them?”

Bol Bol (Jon Lopez/Nike)

I’m working on a larger piece that will come out later this month on how the increasingly-positionless and pace-and-space oriented ‘Modern NBA’ is changing the way that basketball at the lower level is being played, and one of the keys, according to coaches that I spoke to, is how talent is evaluated before the college level. Bol Bol is the perfect example. One the defensive end of the floor, he can protect the rim with the best of them. Offensively, he shot 44.1 percent from three on 59 attempts and 82.4 percent from the free throw line in 19 EYBL games. Not only is he a human eraser on one end of the floor, but his ability to shoot creates space in the lane by pulling his rim-protecting counterpart away from the basket.

Those particular set of skills make him incredibly valuable, whereas in the past, the fact that he doesn’t have much of a post game, he isn’t all that strong in the paint, his motor tends to run hot and cold and he loves standing around the three-point line waiting to jack up a three would all be red flags.

Jontay Porter, Michael Porter Jr.’s “little” brother who is 6-foot-10, 240 pounds and expected to enroll at Missouri this fall, is another prime example. He’s 6-foot-11 and 240 pounds, yet he’s a guy that thrives with his ability to play on the perimeter, whether it’s his ability to shoot, make plays off the bounce or pass the ball. Two coaches raved about the way that Simi Shittu — a 6-foot-9, 220 pound combo-forward with an athletic, muscular build — led the break himself after grabbing defensive rebounds. He can handle the ball and pass, and letting him get a defensive rebound and go makes the transition game that much more efficient; finding a point guard for an outlet pass is a thing of the past.


PEACH JAM IS STILL THE BEST: The place is getting a little bit overcrowded — if you’re a media member and you don’t get to a seat at Court 3 or 4 early for a game, you won’t be getting into the gym — but when was the last time you saw a summer basketball event with a crowd like this?:

Photo by Jon Lopez/Nike

Ohio State grabs five-star 2019 point guard D.J. Carton

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ohio State landed one of the biggest commitments so far this summer on Saturday as five-star Class of 2019 point guard D.J. Carton pledged to the Buckeyes.

The 5-foot-11 Carton burst onto the national recruiting scene this spring as he went from a relative unknown into a five-star prospect. Although Carton doesn’t play on a major shoe-company circuit he impressed national scouts and college coaches with his play during the April live evaluation period with Quad Cities Elite — the same program that produced quality college players like Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and Montana State’s Tyler Hall.

An explosive athlete who can play above the rim, Carton showed a high amount of upside during the USA Basketball U18 tryouts in June as he competed against many of the top players in his class.

Ohio State is landing a key piece at an opportune time as they now have a lead guard of the future to help build around. Carton is only the third five-star prospect to commit from the Class of 2019 so far, as he’s the No. 17 overall prospect in the Rivals national rankings. Carton joins in-state four-star wing Alonzo Gaffney in the Buckeyes’ 2019 recruiting class as Ohio State has the makings of a potential top 10 recruiting class.

With where Ohio State was last summer, with head coach Chris Holtmann taking the job in June and the roster lacking scholarship players, the Buckeyes have had a monster turnaround in the last 14 months. Ohio State now, once again, looks like a scary team when it comes to recruiting as they should be a major factor for some elite prospects.

Alabama lands four-star wing Juwan Gary

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alabama added a quality wing to its Class of 2019 recruiting haul on Friday as four-star Juwan Gary pledged to the Crimson Tide.

The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Gary has been a known national prospect since his freshman season as the South Carolina native is an athletic two-way wing who thrives in the open court. Although Gary still needs to polish up his jumper, he has the potential to be an impact player in the SEC, especially if Alabama gets him going in transition.

Gary joins four-star forward Diante Smith in the Crimson Tide recruiting class in 2019 as now head coach Avery Johnson and his staff can focus more of their efforts on adding to a potentially strong class. Pulling Gary out of South Carolina — especially in light of recent NCAA tournament success from in-state programs like South Carolina and Clemson — is an impressive recruiting win for Alabama.

Former UCLA guard Billy Knight was facing child molestation charges before suicide

Donald Miralle/Allsport
Leave a comment

Former UCLA guard Billy Knight, who took his own life earlier this week, was arrested in June for sexually abusing a nine-year old girl, according to court documents that were obtained by The Mercury News.

The alleged assaults occurred in April of 2017 and Knight was reportedly arrested in Arizona in June. He was being charged with two counts of sexual conduct with a minor, two counts of sexual abuse, and two counts of molestation of a child.

Knight posted a video to YouTube prior to his death saying that he had lived a life of “sin”.

Jalek Felton signs pro contract in Europe

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jalek Felton’s college basketball career is over.

The former North Carolina point guard has signed a pro contract with Olimpija Lubiana, a club team in Slovenia, they announced.

“I’m happy to join a club like Petrol Olimpija,” Felton said in a statement. “This is a club with a rich tradition, where many NBA players have begun their careers. For me, this is a big step. I know that this will be a great challenge for me and I am ready to go there and work. My agent told me that Olimpija will play in various competitions and that makes me all the more pleased. Playing in such competitions with Olympia in Europe will prepare me for playing in the NBA. The city looks nice and I heard that basketball there is a religion, so this will be an interesting experience.”

Felton, the nephew of former UNC guard Ray Felton, was a five-star prospect that played in 22 games as a freshman with the Tar Heels. But he was suspended from the program in January and, in March, withdrew from school.

He averaged just 2.9 points in his one season in Chapel Hill.

Creighton lands local 2019 commit

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Omaha isn’t exactly thought of as a high school basketball hot bed, but Creighton has had success mining its hometown for talent in recent years, most notably in recent NBA draft picks Justin Patton and Khyri Thomas.

The Bluejays went back to the well Thursday by securing the commitment of Shereef Mitchell, a 6-foot guard from local Burke High School, he announced via social media.

“Being a kid from Omaha you dream of playing for Creighton and in front of the hotown fans,” Mitchell wrote. “That is something I want to do  and I don’t want to turn that opportunity down.

“I can’t wait to play in front of my family, friends and the best fans in the world!”

Burke was offered by Greg McDermott’s staff just earlier this week, adding to a list of offers that included Bradley, Loyola Chicago and South Dakota State.

Burke recently graduated from his Omaha high school, but will reclassify to 2019 after spending a season with Sunrise Christian in Wichita, Kan.

“I really feel like I will be a way better player than what I am right now after my year at Sunrise,” Mitchell told the Omaha World-Herald. “I think I could have a shot at being an impact player right away and possibly starting after a year there.”

Burke averaged 24.6 points and 3.8 assists per game as a high school senior, earning state player of the year honors in the process. He’s hoping to extend the line of Omaha products to thrive at Creighton.

“I’m a kid from Omaha, and getting an offer from Creighton is something kids dream of and it would be hard for me to pass up,” Mitchell told the World-Herald. “Seeing players like Khyri Thomas and Justin Patton, two kids from (Omaha public schools) that are in the NBA, it gives you hope that you can do the same thing.”