Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Important post-July recruiting storylines

Leave a comment

The July live evaluation period is complete as college coaches have been watching prospects over the last three weeks. We’ve learned a lot about some of the recruiting trends and popular players as there are some intriguing storylines to look out or over the next several months.

1. Kentucky or Memphis for James Wiseman?

Elite Class of 2019 center James Wiseman recently came out with his list of top eight schools. But nobody believes that six of those schools even have a chance. Almost everybody believes this one is coming down to two: Kentucky and Memphis.

Wiseman received plenty of attention from both staffs during July as head coach Penny Hardaway has helped make up a lot of recruiting ground for the Tigers these past few months. Kentucky still holds a lot of clout since they own commitments from Ashton Hagans (who’s already part of the program) and Tyrese Maxey — two guards Wiseman said he wanted to play with in college.

While Wiseman didn’t drop any additional hints, or give any kind of indication which way he might be leaning, we’ll have to wait for subtle clues and hints about the next step in this one.

2. How does USC add to its great 2019 start?

Since USC already has four commitments in the Class of 2019, they are in a sweet recruiting position before many schools even hold one pledge. And with one being a five-star and the other three being top-100 prospects, the group already has depth and balance.

While USC likely won’t take that many more players in this current 2019 class, they had a leg up on younger prospects by being able to stick with them during long stretches of the July live evaluation period. That means recruiting talented pieces around Class of 2020 big man Evan Mobley, who many expect will eventually become a Trojan like his brother, Isaiah, and play for their father who’s an assistant on Andy Enfield’s staff.

If USC lands back-to-back talented classes with a Mobley brother in each, it will set a huge foundation for deep postseason runs — even with some potential pro losses early on. Getting that much depth and talent should hopefully translate to success for the Trojans. We’ll see if the early 2019 success pays off down the road with the 2020 returns.

3. Cole Anthony recruiting information

Up until this point, elite Class of 2019 point guard Cole Anthony hasn’t talked very much about recruiting specifics. Anthony played for Kansas head coach Bill Self with the USA Basketball U18 team. So Anthony spoke about his experiences with Self as a coach and person at Peach Jam.

But that’s all we really know about Cole Anthony’s recruitment at this point. Anthony has refused to talk specific schools. It’s hard to get a read on where things stand. Playing in a guard-driven, ball-screen heavy offense is something Anthony has talked about wanting at the college level, so it’ll be interesting to see how much style of play might factor into such a decision.

As my NBC colleague Rob Dauster noted in his tremendous feature on Cole, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams was always present following Anthony during July while Oregon has also been linked quite a bit. At some point, Anthony will begin taking official visits and divulging recruiting information. It’ll be fascinating to clear up all the rumors and get some clarification.

4. Who ends up at No. 1 in 2019? 

Since the Class of 2019 doesn’t have a clear No. 1 prospect, there will still be a lot to play for as the top players enter senior season. With the No. 1 spot having multiple candidates, we could get some marquee battles for the spotlight over the next few months.

James Wiseman, Vernon Carey Jr. and Cole Anthony have long been in the No. 1 conversation. Some national scouts even believe that Jaden McDaniels is the most talented player in the class long-term. But there doesn’t seem to be a consensus player (or order or players) among that group. Others could also sneak into the conversation as well.

It should make for an interesting season with a lot to play for, since some classes have featured near-unanimous No. 1 prospects in years past.

5. How will players handle recruiting with the FBI investigation?

This will be a unique year for recruiting after the FBI investigation into college basketball has uncovered so many allegations over the past year. It’s led to some changes in the coaching ranks. Perceptions of certain programs and coaches might have also been slightly altered.

But we’ll really see the changes in how some programs are handling things with official visits and commitments beginning. Some programs like Auburn and USC haven’t seen any recruiting disadvantages so far. Watching others programs like Arizona and Louisville will be interesting since they’ve typically recruited five-star caliber players in the past. Can they continue to land those kinds of talents?

Players might also be cautious with which schools they visit and when they make a decision. Some recruits specifically cited the uncertainty when they said they were targeting a spring decision — especially with regard to coaching changes. Potential penalties and postseason bans are one thing. Many of these players want assurances that head coaches will remain safe and in place during their time on campus.

Takeaways from the UAA Challenge: Nico Mannion and Josh Green are must-see, Anthony Edwards tops 2020

Kelly Kline/Under Armour
Leave a comment

EMERSON, Ga. — Although the Peach Jam was huge focal point of the first evaluation period, Under Armour had themselves a solid event with the UAA Challenge just north of Atlanta. With plenty of signature matchups and five-star talents, there were a lot of things to watch during a brief stop there during the first live evaluation period.

Here are some things to watch with the UAA, when they’ll be the focal point during the third live evaluation week as they host the UAA Finals in Las Vegas next week.

NICO MANNION AND JOSH GREEN aRE THE BEST 1-2 PUNCH IN THE UAA

Over the last few years, the duo of Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis have built a big reputation in the UAA. Deservedly so. But, over the next few weeks, the West Coast Elite duo of point guard Nico Mannion and Josh Green will be more fun to watch.

While the duo of Antoine and Lewis could end up being better long-term prospects (that’s a debate for another time), the duo of Mannion and Green have a unique chemistry playing with each other that Antoine and Lewis can lack at times since they play such similar positions.

Both Mannion and Green made major waves this weekend in the UAA Challenge.

Confirming to NBCSports.com that he intends to reclassify into the Class of 2019 from the Class of 2020, Mannion looked like he was ready to make the leap into college hoops. Second in the event in assists per game, Mannion had 38 of them over a six-game span (6.3 per game) and only had four turnovers in 164 minutes of action.

Also shooting 59 percent from the field and 83 percent from the free-throw line on his way to 15.8 points per contest, Mannion was incredibly efficient. He showed court savvy, athleticism and a solid perimeter jumper. Mannion has Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Marquette, Oregon and USC hard after him as he will be an intriguing point guard to watch during July.

Green, a 6-foot-6 two-way wing, was also incredibly efficient as he shot 71 percent from the field and 60 percent from three-point range on his way to 18.0 points, 3.1 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game. With four or more assists in four games, Green has natural floor vision and passing ability to go along with his scoring prowess. After showcasing a shaky perimeter jumper at times in the past, Green has worked with a trainer the past few months to become more consistent from deep. Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, UCLA, USC and Villanova are some of the schools that Green mentioned to NBCSports.com as being in the mix.

Both Green and Mannion are already five-star prospects. It’ll just be interesting to see them close out the live period the next two weeks because they have a chance to make some major noise.

ANTHONY EDWARDS HAS A CHANCE TO BE 2020’S BEST

The Class of 2019 doesn’t have a lot of star power in terms of No. 1 quality players — my colleague Rob Dauster went over that yesterday — but there seem to be a few worthy contenders in the Class of 2020.

Among them includes 6-foot-5 shooting guard Anthony Edwards. The Atlanta native was one of the must-see players of the first evaluation period. Playing in a high-profile matchup against five-star 2020 guard Jaden Springer, Edwards displayed a natural scoring ability thanks to his ridiculous athleticism and acumen for putting the ball in the basket; he’s what hoopheads will call a “bucket-getter”.

Although his jumper wasn’t falling from three-point range (5-for-22), Edwards still shot 57 percent from the field while putting up 22.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game during the weekend.

Displaying more vision and passing ability with his Atlanta Xpress team than in the camp setting, Edwards looked like a more complete guard at the UAA Challenge. He also defended to the tune of an event-leading 2.4 steals per game as Edwards has long arms and a quick first step to jump into passing lanes.

There is plenty of competition for the top spot in 2020, but Edwards is going to be among the major contenders with his summer play.

JEREMIAH EARL-ROBINSON IS AS PRODUCTIVE AS ANYONE IN THE CLASS

This summer has seen Jeremiah Robinson-Earl produce everywhere he has played. The 6-foot-8 Class of 2019 forward helped the USA U18 team win a gold medal while also leading the UAA Challenge in rebounds the first week of July.

A double-double machine who is improving his perimeter skill, Robinson-Earl is a hard-playing and intriguing combo forward who should join a high-level college rotation immediately. He has great secondary leaping ability that enables him to be a menace on the offensive glass as he’s particularly adept at putbacks.

If Robinson-Early can show an improved perimeter jumper and an ability to attack off the dribble, then he’ll have a chance to be a top-ten player in the class. He has the motor and production to rise if he fixes his flaws and he’ll have plenty of time to be a showcase player at IMG Academy next season.

Kansas is a perceived favorite with Robinson-Earl, as Bill Self coached him on the U18 team over the past several weeks before the live period. North Carolina and Arizona are among some other schools also trying to stay in the mix for Robinson-Earl as they try to pry him away from the Midwest.

UNC lands commitment from 2019 point guard

Leave a comment

North Carolina added another point guard for the future on Friday afternoon.

Jeremiah Francis, a four-star floor general from the Class of 2019, announced via Twitter that he had made a verbal commitment to the Tar Heels.

Joel Berry is set to exhaust his eligibility at the end of this upcoming season. Roy Williams has responded to that impending departure by adding lead guard Jalek Felton, nephew of former UNC star Raymond Felton, to this year’s team. Rechon Black, another four-star point guard, is set to join the program in the fall of 2018.

Francis, who plays for Pickerington Central in Ohio, is the first commit for UNC in the Class of 2019. He picked the Tar Heels over the likes of Ohio State, Indiana, Florida State and West Virginia, among others. His high school teammate, Sterling Manley, a three-star big man, will be a freshman at North Carolina this fall.

The 6-foot-2 Francis spent the spring and summer playing for Indiana Elite in the adidas Gauntlet.

R.J. Barrett’s highlights from the FIBA U19 World Championships

Leave a comment

R.J. Barrett led Canada to the FIBA U19 World Championships on Sunday with a 79-60 victory over Italy in the title game held in Cario, Egypt.

Barrett, rated as the top overall prospect in the Class of 2019 by Rivals, earned MVP honors for his performance, averaging a tournament-best 21.6 points to go along with 8.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game over the seven games.

His semifinal performance made waves over in the U.S., as he dropped 38 points to hand USA Basketball its first defeat since 2011.

Joining Barrett on the all-tournament team was teammate Abu Kigab, Payton Pritchard of the U.S., and the Italian duo of Lorenzo Bucarelli and Tommaso Oxilia. Kigab and Pritchard will be teammates this season at Oregon.

The 6-foot-7 Barrett, who plays his prep ball at powerhouse Montverde Academy in Florida, spent this spring playing for UPlay Canada in the Nike EYBL. In eight appearances, he averaged 28.0 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.

Five Takeaways from the adidas Gauntlet Dallas

Leave a comment

FORT WORTH, Tx. — The April Live Evaluation period had its first of two weekends as events took place all over the country. Many of the nation’s top college coaches were stationed at shoe-company events held by adidas, Nike and Under Armour.

I spent the weekend watching a lot of the top Class of 2018, 2019 and even some 2020 prospects at the adidas Gauntlet in Fort Worth.

Here are some takeaways from the event, including some thoughts on Zion Williamson, Romeo Langford and more.

1. Zion Williamson draws a huge crowd but still has some work on his game

Although he only played a game and a half due to a lingering knee injury that ended his weekend early, the national hype machine for YouTube sensation and Class of 2018 star Zion Williamson is very real. Not many players draw large crowds of outsiders during grassroots events but players from other events and local fans turned out en masse to try and see some of the highlights that Williamson has put together these past few months.

He wasn’t quite 100 percent because of the knee, but the South Carolina native still showed the type of rare burst off the floor that allows the 6-foot-6 Williamson to snare rebounds and score over bigger players. People who hadn’t seen Williamson live before were also stunned at how big and strong he actually appears in person compared to the average high school basketball prospect.

Even though Williamson still has to polish his overall skill level and jumper, there are just times that he looks like a man among boys out on the floor.

Williamson will likely be a destructive force at the college level because of his ability to operate around the rim and in transition but he’s also going to have to make sure he tries to develop some range to keep defenders honest. Still shooting a pretty hard ball on jumpers, Williamson has to work on 3-pointers and free throws during these next few months.

2. Romeo Langford is still working on consistency

Consensus top-five Class of 2018 prospect Romeo Langford is an elite shooting guard prospect thanks to his overall package of athleticism and skills and he’s mostly focused on making sure that he brings his best effort every game.

In the past, Langford was the type of player who could go for 40 in one game and then play sluggish in the next as he needed to make sure that he was dialed in during each contest. Although he led the adidas Gauntlet in scoring playing in three games this weekend, it came with more of the same results as we’ve seen in the past.

In two games, scoring came easy for Langford as he was able to do a lot of damage off of isolations while drawing a lot of fouls. Langford shot 24-for-27 over three games at the free-throw line so that type of scoring ability should translate well at all levels.

When Langford starts to get double-teamed and teams play against him in a physical manner, that is when things start to get difficult for him. Langford can get frustrated with contact at times and he’s also prone to some lapses in intensity.

It’s also fair to say that Langford is very talented and that he’ll also adjust as he adds more strength over time. In a class that doesn’t have many top-flight guards, Langford stands out from the rest because his ceiling is just higher.

3. Immanuel Quickley’s improved perimeter shooting puts him in top 2018 lead guard conversation

One of the biggest revelations from an individual player standpoint came from Baltimore native and lead guard Immanuel Quickley. Already considered a five-star prospect in the Class of 2018, the big knock on the 6-foot-4 Quickley was his lack of a perimeter jumper.

While Quickley’s great size and feel for the game enabled him to dominate at times when he could get in the paint and make plays, opposing defenses found they could sag on him and force him to shoot perimeter jumpers because he was inconsistent.

Quickley appears to have shored up his big weakness. Shooting 48 percent from three-point range (14-for-29) this weekend, Quickley really shoot the ball well as he had confidence off the catch and off the dribble. Since Quickley is already a pick-and-roll maestro who can thread tight passes to teammates, this ability to hit deep jumpers opens up so much more to his game.

Quickley isn’t an elite above-the-rim athlete but he has a ton of things to really like about his game and he’s going to be in the mix among the top lead guards in the Class of 2018. Quickley is down to a final seven of Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Miami, Providence and Virginia.

This was the type of weekend that should give Quickley a lot of confidence going forward. Quickley got the better of five-star guards Quentin Grimes and Romeo Langford in back-to-back matchups (going head-to-head with those players on some possessions) so he’s been ready to take on all challengers so far this spring.

It should also be noted that Quickley’s teammates, Class of 2018 guard Montez Mathis, also had an outstanding weekend scoring the ball as he has immediately vaulted himself into a larger high-major discussion.

4. College coaches are still starving for perimeter shooters

As the 3-point revolution continues to sweep across many levels of basketball, college coaches are looking for any kind of shooters out on the circuit this spring. The adidas Gauntlet didn’t yield as many perimeter options as some college coaches would have liked.

As Hoop Seen’s Justin Young pointed out, only a handful of players at adidas made 10 or more three-pointers this weekend and most players played in three or four games.

It’ll be interesting to see if any more shooters emerge the second weekend of the April period because there doesn’t seem to be a lot of floor spacing out there right now.

5. Keep an eye on late 2017 signees like McKinley Wright

One of the interesting things about the April period being back is that it gives unsigned Class of 2017 players a chance to compete in front of college coaches. College coaches started to call Minnesota native McKinley Wright when he decommitted from Dayton after Archie Miller took the Indiana job.

So Wright now gets to play high-level competition in front of a number of college coaches who need an available point guard to come in and potentially play next season.

Since opening things up from Dayton and decommitting, Baylor, Butler, Clemson, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas State, Minnesota, Santa Clara and Utah are the primary schools involved. Wright still has three official visits left as he’s o

“I’ve been talking to a couple of schools about maybe setting up a visit but I haven’t really scheduled one yet. But I’m planning on using at least two.”

Wright is hoping to find a situation where he can play right away. He looked good at adidas, but you also have to keep in mind that he’s one class older than most of his competition. Still, with a lot of colleges looking for anyone who can handle the ball and potentially knock down shots, Wright is an intriguing spring recruit that could be a rotation player next season.

UCLA gets commitment from Class of 2019 guard and brother of five-star commitment

1 Comment

UCLA continued to recruit the entire Ball family and it resulted in a commitment from the youngest brother, LaMelo, late this week. The Class of 2019 guard is only 13 years old and the youngest brother of UCLA commits Lonzo (Class of 2016) and LiAngelo (Class of 2017). LaMelo committing to UCLA was confirmed by NBCSports.com after being first reported by Michelle Gardner of the Daily Bulletin. The three brothers all play together on the 17U level with the family-run Big Ballers VXT and LaMelo showed an ability to hit perimeter shots at a high level despite being tiny at his early age.

LaMelo has yet to play a high school basketball game and will attend Chino Hills High School with his brothers this fall. The Bruins are investing heavily in the Ball family in-part because the three can really score the ball and play at an uptempo pace in AAU.

Lonzo Ball is a consensus five-star prospect with elite vision and deep shooting ability while LiAngelo has also shown an ability to hit perimeter shots. LaMelo is committing at a very young age, but UCLA is banking on him growing and being potentially elite like his oldest brother.