by Alex Schwartz
PHILADELPHIA – The Reebok Breakout Classic rolled along all day Thursday and NBE Sports had the opportunity to see 10 of the 12 teams in action on the day.
As was the case on Wednesday night, some lesser known players made noise and some top recruits also showed what they can do.
Future Louisville Cardinal Shaqquan Aaron showed why he is one of the best wings in the nation in the class of 2014. A 6-foot-8 small forward out of Rainier Beach (WA), Aaron is a high-level scorer who poured in 29 points in the morning game and kept playing well after that. Although thin, Aaron is very long, has a smooth game and is a quality athlete. He does a nice job in transition and is a tough player to keep out of the paint. Aaron even showed the ability to play some point guard.
Not many players in the class of 2015 are smoother on the court than Dwayne Bacon. A 6-foot-6 prospect who can play anywhere from the one to the three, Bacon has a really good frame and does a nice job of finishing at the rim, even in traffic. Bacon, who is headed to IMG Academy (FL), is a good athlete with quality body control who can knock down the midrange pull-up.
Jacobi Boykins of Lakewood (FL) is an impressive all-around offensive player. The 6-foot-5 class of 2014 shooting guard is a bit thin and needs to add some bulk, but he is a solid athlete with good bounce. Boykins is a quality shooter with a nice looking stroke who can also score at the rim some.
by Alex Schwartz
We only had one Recruiting Notebook last week, so there is a lot to get through in this one. Thus, we’re going to go with a bit more of a quick, rapid fire style this time.
First off, Baylor picked up a pledge from 6-foot-9 center Dominic Woodson of Huntington Prep (WV), according to Scout.com’s Evan Daniels. The big man is ranked No. 37 in the NBE Sports Class of 2013 Post-July Top 125 and is the second top-40 prospect to pop for Baylor in three weeks. Woodson’s other finalist was North Carolina State.
Earlier today Austin Nichols tweeted he had committed to Memphis. Nichols, ranked #75 in the NBE rankings, is another major in-state coup for Josh Pastner and the Tigers over in-state rival Tennessee.
LSU landed a big-time commitment from Jarrell Martin of Madison Prep Academy (LA), per Ben Love of Tiger Sports Digest. The 6-foot-8 power forward is ranked No. 66 in the NBE Sports Class of 2013 Post-July Top 125. He is the third player in the top 75 to pledge to LSU in this class.
ESPN.com’s Reggie Rankin had the news that Jajuan Johnson of Southwind (TN) had selected Marquette. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard is ranked No. 63 in the NBE Sports Class of 2013 Post-July Top 125 and joins two other top-75 ranked prospects in Marquette’s class. Johnson chose Marquette over Alabama and Miami.
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By Brian Bosworth, National Recruiting Analyst
The inaugural “Live in AC” event came to close by crowning champions at the 15U, 16U and 17U levels last Friday afternoon. The youngster division was taken by Team Final (PA) after a championship game victory over the NJ Playaz. Team Takeover DC swept the two older divisions defeating Expressions Elite (MA) for the 16U crown and Sports U (NJ) for the 17U. Stars from all these programs and others stood out on the road to the title and here is our final report from the Nl Playaz hosted event in Atlantic City.
Top Performance of the Day:
Josh Hart (Team Takeover 2013) – Hart’s physicality and aggression from the wing fuel everything that Takeover wants to do. His constant motor and “whatever it takes to win” attitude are a perfect fit for the hardnosed program. Offensively Hart puts pressure on the opposition with straight line drives at the rim. He finishes with both hands and welcomes contact once in the paint. On the defensive side of the ball he often takes the challenge of the other team’s top scorer and has the ability to be a shut down type guy. Hart also rebounds extremely well for his position often starting the break after a defensive board.
A special treat for NBE followers…Sherwyn Cooper of BallasTV.com (subscribe to his Youtube channel here) is in Atlantic City for the ‘Live in AC’ event this week and took some video of the action on Wednesday between Team Final and Philly Pride for NBE Sports. These teams are deep in Philly roots and Jimmy Salmons and his staff with the Playaz Basketball Club certainly gave fans and college coaches a treat with some tremendous pool play match-ups and the talent in this game did not disappoint.
Enjoy the video and we also included the scouting reports provided by Brian and his recruiting updates on Rysheed Jordan and Miles Overton from Wednesday as well…
By Brian Bosworth, National Recruiting Analyst
While “Live in AC” is only in its inaugural year that didn’t stop New Jersey Playaz director Jimmy Salmon from putting together quite an impressive field of talent. I’ll be camped out at the main Stockton College site throughout the tournament which features most of the 17U action with some of the younger guys sprinkled in. Here’s who caught my eye on Wednesday night.
Top Performance of the Day:
Rysheed Jordan (Philly Pride 2013) – An electric scoring combo guard, Jordan played in two games on Wednesday night and was the best player on the floor in both including a matchup with Team Final that featured a bunch of high major talent. While Jordan refers to himself as a combo guard it’s his ability at the point that stands out to me. He has unique athleticism for someone running the show and is able to use his physical advantages to explode past defenders and work his way into the paint. Jordan is best in the open floor when his physical tools can shine and his vision in high paced action also stands out. He has a great feel for the action in an up and down game and has a way of gliding through traffic and creating angles with his speed. In half court sets, Jordan punished defenders for playing off him by knocking down deep jumpers and then blew past them when they tried to press up on him. His decision making and knowledge of how to efficiently run a team still need work but Jordan’s physical tools already make him a high major priority.
By N.D. Kendrick
Mequon, WI – Pool play is a wrap at the Under Armour Summer Jam, bracket play stepped into full swing on Saturday morning with plenty of high level contests.
NBE was on hand to see who was looking to step their game up and help lead there team to championship day.
Top Performer of the Day
Matt Thomas (Wisconsin Playmakers 16s) – One of the better shooters in the 2013 class, the Iowa State commit put on a shooting clinic against the Atlanta Xpress. In a win, Thomas led all scorers with 27 points (9 triples). Not only is he a marksman from long distance, he can also rebound the ball well for a guard as well as push the break and make wise decisions.
Top Sleeper Performer
Michael Finke (Peoria Irish 16s) – Remember his name. Finke had one of the better showings of the week. Read more
Josh Hart, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard out of Washington, DC’s Sidwell Friends School, has had a productive spring and word has spread. Playing with Team Takeover on the AAU trail it has come as no surprise that college coaches are hitting up regularly since the unlimited contact rule went into effect at midnight on June 15th. One school showed their strong interest in Hart by making sure they were the first school he heard from.
“After the rule change North Carolina State texted me first and that was at 12:01 AM,” hart told NBE Sports this evening.
Some of the players we have talked to the last couple days have been a little lukewarm on the new unlimited contact rule, wondering if it will become cumbersome as the months pass. Right now most players are out of school for the summer and the new rule adds excitement. Hart is one that is ready for the calls and texts to come and understands the way society is today that the constant contact is more of the norm.
Over the last several years much has been written on the shortcomings or pitfalls of the fly-by-night prep schools that seem to come out of the woodwork each year across the country. Some are termed diploma mills or accused of funneling their players to certain programs or conferences.
At the complete opposite spectrum of the schools that operate in the gray areas of the sport is Northfield Mount Hermon. If anything, the program could be accused of funneling its players to a certain conference…the Ivy League!
A tremendous mix of academics and athletics makes Northfield Mount Hermon special. In the last several years the program headed by John Carroll in Northfield (MA) has been a virtual factory of Ivy League basketball players. NMH is considered the best combination of academics and basketball in the United States and in the 2010–2011 season eight NMH alums were in the Ivy League, more than any other school in the nation. That number contines to rise with players like Evan Cummins, Joe Sharkey, Jvonte Brooks and Armani Cotton in recent years following the path and will continue to attract players to the program, like Anthony Dallier, who are looking for similar opportunities.
By Alex Schwartz
PHILADELPHIA – In its inaugural year, the Reebok Showdown Series has managed to attract some quality teams. In fact, the field at the Philadelphia event this weekend is one of the best of any tournament in the month of June. NBE Sports was on hand for much of the day on Saturday and had the chance to take in some impressive performances and talk with some talented prospects.
Rondae Jefferson: One of the top players in the class of 2013 on a national level, the Chester (PA) star was at his absolute best on Saturday afternoon. Versatile enough to play three positions, the 6’6 Jefferson is best suited as a small forward who can be a secondary ball handler and also provide aid down low. With Jaren Sina not present for Team Final, Jefferson actually played a lot of point guard in this affair and was fantastic in doing so. He has a great feel for the game, sees the floor quite well and knows how to hit the open man. Possessing a great build, quality athleticism and nice strength, Jefferson is also impressive from a physical standpoint. The younger brother of Temple’s Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, Rondae has an impressive skill set, gets to the cup with ease and can really score it. He continues to improve his game and does not seem to be done making progress.
Sam Singer, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound guard from Ransom Everglades High School near Miami (FL), has been turning heads on the AAU circuit all spring with Gold Coast AAU. Known most for his ability to score off the ball, NBE saw Singer on Day Two of the Hoop Group’s Pittsburgh Jam Fest where his ability to play on the ball helped spring an upset over Philly Pride in an exciting contest. Singer has very intriguing size for a back court prospect which he uses to get into the line and finish or draw many trips to the free throw line as well as a nice looking shooting stroke that is improving out past the three-point arc. What NBE saw from him in Pittsburgh was what he felt were his greatest strengths are as a player.
“I’m a true combo guard and my ability to make shots and create for others and basketball IQ are my strengths,” he said. “I’m working hard this offseason on my athleticism and defensively.”
By Brian Batko
The Hoop Group’s Pittsburgh Jam Fest came to a close Sunday with some very intense semifinals and championship games. Many of the usual suspects who had been playing well all weekend continued to do so on Sunday but one squad of 2014 players in particular stepped its game up an extra notch and NBE has the rundown.
Caleb Martin and Cody Martin (Team Loaded NC 16U, 2014, Davie) – Even more so than the Harrison brothers in the grade above them, these two 6’6” wings have extremely similar bodies and games. In fact, at this point in their development, they play almost exactly alike. They’re both fairly slender but appear to have the frame to really add strength and muscle. In leading Team Loaded (NC) to the 16U championship on Sunday, the two uber-talented North Carolina natives showed off a nice mix of skill and athleticism and played very well off of each other. Both are good passers that like to work in the high post and on the wing slashing to the basket. They also attack the glass and are active on defense. Their jump shots are decent right now but could certainly improve. In a competitive quarterfinal game against a solid Team Work (OH) squad in the morning on Sunday, Cody finished with 14 points, a handful of rebounds, and a couple of steals while Caleb put up 19 points including a couple of threes and several boards as well.
Also like the Harrisons, Caleb and Cody are 100 percent a package deal as far as their recruitment goes. Still early for the rising juniors, they already have offers from North Carolina State, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech and are hearing from the likes of North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Xavier, Clemson, Kansas, and Georgetown. Both said they can see themselves in the ACC but that they’d like to wait and take as much time as they can before making their decision.
This weekend starting Friday evening colleg coaches will hit the road for AAU events across the country. Stops in Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and areas far and wide will be popular destinations for Division 1-A head coaches and assistants as they are allowed to evaluate talent for the first time in the busy April AAU schedule in a few years. While the intensity of the action is likely to be ratcheted up a few nothches, CIA Bounce big man Isaiah Watkins is taking it all in stride.
The 6-foot-8 Watkins attends St. Benedict’sPrep in Newark (NJ) and performing in front of college coaches is a regular event for him and his Gray Bees teammates. It was one of the reasons why he chose to attend a school like St. Ben’s and play with a powerful AAU program like the Canadian CIA Bounce program, which participates in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL).
Yet, Watkins is looking forward to showcasing his improvement as a player, but also has goals for himself to continue to impove against the top flight competition he will be facing.
By Raphielle Johnson
This past weekend the sixth annual Easter Classic was played at multiple locations in Phoenix. It was a good opportunity to check out some of the better talents in the region, with teams from New Mexico and California also taking part.
And with some of the top prospects showing up it was a good opportunity to ask recruits an important question when it comes to basketball on the West Coast:
What’s wrong with the Pac-12?
The league’s been down for a couple of years now, and with 11 of the conference’s top 20 scorers from this past season moving on there will be a lot of pressure on some highly touted newcomers to pick things up (Arizona likely being the team many pick to win the conference next season).
2013 wing Payton Banks, who played at Orange Lutheran with Arizona signee Gabe York, feels that the conference will bounce back in 2012-13 and the Wildcats are a big reason why.
“[This year] was a bad year for the Pac-12, but this year will change a lot,” remarked Banks when I asked him the question.
2014 point guard Brian Beard and 2013 forward Chancey Hill both pointed to recruiting as the biggest problem for the conference, with Beard citing conference teams being outworked by the likes of Long Beach State and San Diego State while Hill said that the conference needs more diversity (geographically speaking) in recruiting.
Personally speaking, the recruiting issue is where the problem lies when it comes to the caliber of play in the Pac-12 in recent years. Lots of teams throughout the country have players leave school for the NBA after one or two seasons, making those recruits expected to spend three and four years on campus even more important.
Look at national champion Kentucky. While one could definitely argue that the Wildcats were talented enough to win with their youngsters this season, there’s no ignoring the role that senior Darius Miller played on that team. And from a recruiting standpoint there’s Kentucky and then everyone else she looking at who’s coming in annually.
Arizona and Indiana both welcome in outstanding classes this summer, but John Calipari and his staff do a good enough job to bring in a new team that can contend for a national title every year.
If you’re not able to do that you’d better be able to get a good mix onto campus, and that hasn’t happened for the Pac-12 outside of Arizona’s Elite Eight run in 2011. Can the conference come back? Sure it can, provided they win some important recruiting battles for the best talent on the West Coast.
But it’s also going to take the development of players who don’t fall into the “one and done” or two-year categories. That can’t be forgotten when discussing what the conference needs to do in order to return to the pinnacle of western basketball while also regaining national respect.
As for the action there were some high-level products on display, and below are updates on their recruitment along with other standouts this weekend.
G Payton Banks (2013)
Banks is a high-level wing who is on the radar of many of the top teams on the West Coast. A versatile guard with size, when Banks decides to attack the basket with authority he’s a tough player to deal with. That’s the key for him: being in attack mode consistently. Banks holds offers from Arizona State, Colorado, Penn State, USC, UTEP, Washington and Washington State.
G Brian Beard (2014)
The 2014 pass-first point guard was solid if not spectacular for the Compton Magic Black. Speaking with Beard on Saturday, he says that his goal this summer is to improve his perimeter shooting and thus become a bigger threat to opponents offensively. Recently the schools who have shown “medium-to-high” interest are Marquette, Oregon State and San Diego State with none having offered.
G Richaud Gittens (2013)
Gittens is one of three players on the Arizona Stars who stood out this past weekend, displaying some very good athleticism in the open floor. A left-hand dominant player right now, Gittens wants to improve his right this spring/summer. He’s looking for a bigger school that plays an up-tempo style of basketball, and currently has received interest from Colorado State, Drake, UCSB and Weber State. Obviously with his goal being to land at a larger institution this is going to be a big summer for him.
F Chauncey Hill (2013)
The Fairfax product had a good weekend in Phoenix, showing off a high-level motor and finishing ability above the rim. The key for Hill will be how he goes about expanding his offensive repertoire, something than can also be said for club teammate Jordan Bell (who played with ICP in a different event this week). Speaking with Hill, who said that he tries to model his game after Kenneth Faried, he’s looking to become more of a wing player skill-wise as he spends the majority of his time in the paint. Boasting a mohawk that’s dyed blonde on top, Hill has received interest from Colorado, Fresno State, Marquette, San Diego State and Washington but no offers as of yet.
G Jaron Hopkins (2013)
Hopkins is one of the best perimeter prospects on the West Coast; how he’s been unranked by multiple scouting sites is one mystery that’s difficult to explain. If Hopkins gets a step on his defender he’s going to the rim and he’s going with authority. He says he’s been attempting 500-600 jumpers a day in hopes of improving that aspect of his game. Hopkins currently holds offers from the likes of Boise State, Colorado, Colorado State, Pennsylvania, Penn State, San Francisco and Washington State, with interest from Harvard, Stanford and UCLA. Hopkins is aware of the coaching situation at Colorado State (Tim Miles moving on to Nebraska) but that’s something he’s left to his father, also noting that Miles has been in contact with his father since taking over at Nebraska.
G Dorian Pickens (2014)
Pickens is a smooth wing who was able to score in a variety of ways for the Arizona Stars. The recent recipient of an offer from Arizona State, Pickens knocked down perimeter jumpers while also showing off his mid-range game. He’ll need to get better at attacking the basket so opponents can’t play him too close, and he says he’ll also be working at becoming a better defender. He’s looking for a school with good academics that provides a family atmosphere while playing an up-tempo style of basketball. In addition to the ASU offer, Arizona, Boston College and Indiana have shown early interest. When asked if the high number of transfers at Arizona State (12 in three years) would affect how he viewed Herb Sendek’s program Pickens said no, stating that he’s just going to focus on how he meshes with the coaching staff.
F Pablo Rivas (2014)
Rivas is a 6-6 forward with very good athleticism as he’s also a wide receiver for his high school’s football team. And despite his wiry frame Rivas showed off some of the physicality gained from playing football, as he was more than willing to bang with opposing big men. Rivas runs the floor well and has room for growth from a skill standpoint; another summer spent working on his game could yield positive results when it comes to what he’ll be able to do offensively. Looking to major in engineering in college (mechanical and computer being the two disciplines he’s most interested in), Northern Colorado has shown some interest in Rivas. He did say that his “dream school” is Memphis, but this is going to be a big summer for him in terms of improving his skill set if he wants to draw the attention of the future Big East member.
F Paul Watson (2013)
Watson was solid but had a tough weekend due to the fact that he had to play center. To say the least the wing prospect who has received offers from high major programs is not a center. Watson’s a good scorer from multiple areas on the floor but for his sake hopefully they can get some size to help him out. But that doesn’t mean that Watson isn’t’ using this as an opportunity to add to his game, as he’s working on a turnaround jumper and a sweep-through move. Watson currently holds offers from Arizona State, Boise State, Fresno State, Oregon State and Texas Tech, and Arizona, Duke, New Mexico State, UNLV and USC have shown varying levels of interest.
Other Players of Note
G Bryce Alford (2013)
The New Mexico verbal commitment may be known by many for his famous lineage, but he’s a very good player in his own right. Alford played off the ball for much of the weekend, doing a good job of finding looks on the perimeter. Needs a little more work creating off the dribble but to be fair he didn’t man the point much for the Danny Granger Hurricanes.
G Malcolm Allen and G Marcus Allen (2013)
Twins from Las Vegas, these two played well this weekend alongside Jaron Hopkins and Paul Watson. Both are good athletes, with Malcolm showing a little better when it came to getting to the basket. Keep an eye on these two as the spring/summer rolls on, and that should be easy to do given the attention being heaped upon Hopkins and Watson from a recruiting standpoint.
G Sedrick Barefield (2015)
A member of the Compton Magic’s 2015 squad, Barefield is going to be one of the best guards in the country regardless of class by the time he’s a senior. Already ranked among the best guards in his class, Barefield is very good at finding quality looks. Good handle, good shooting form and a solid defender as well.
F Joe Boyd (2013)
The former New Mexico State verbal has bulked up some to match his 6-9 height, and he’s got the strength needed to bang inside. Still has to work on his mid-range jumper and free throw shooting, but he’ll be a good get for someone at the low to mid-major level with a solid spring/summer. At last check (a couple of months ago) New Mexico State remains high on his list, although depending on what happens with Marvin Menzies and the Colorado State opening maybe that changes.
F Kendall Lauderdale (2015)
He’s with Barefield on a Compton Magic 2015 team that recruiting fans are going to want to keep track of in the coming years. Already standing at 6-7, Lauderdale displayed a very good motor in the paint and good athleticism as well. Having his jersey ripped to the point where it looked like something Tarzan would wear didn’t slow him down either (they eventually gave him a new jersey. He’ll be one of the many high-major products on this roster with continued growth and development.
G Dikembe Martin (2016)
Martin can get to the basket off the dribble and while he’s got some work to do on his perimeter shot he was able to knock down a few jumpers as well. His best work may have come in the distribution area, where he set up fellow 2016 prospects Jace Rivera and Martin Tombe inside. This was as part of a Compton Magic 2016 class team that managed to beat a 17U squad on Saturday, and they’re only going to get better.
G Bubba Mears (2012)
Mears hasn’t been able to drum up enough interest scholarship-wise but the 5-9 point guard is a good athlete who also played football in high school. To describe Mears as a “bulldog” defensively would be more than accurate, as he helped lead the Tucson Heat seniors past the Compton Magic Black on Saturday afternoon. Offensively he did a good job of running the show, setting up teammates for quality looks while also using his quickness to get to the basket. Not sure if he goes D-1 due to the height, but he’d be a good late addition for a team in need of a point guard.
G Cullen Neal (2013)
Like teammate Bryce Alford, Neal’s the son of a coach (UNM assistant Craig Neal) who can also get the job done on the court. Neal, a Saint Mary’s verbal, was on the ball for most of the weekend for the Danny Granger Hurricanes and while his shot selection left something to be desired at times there’s no doubt that he can make plays. He’s got good size for a point guard, and he’ll be a very good addition when he steps onto the SMC campus next summer.
G Jeff Van Dyke (2013)
He was one of the good perimeter shooters on a tough Gamepoint 17U Black squad. Very good in catch and shoot situations this past weekend, Van Dyke was also able to create some good looks off of the dribble as well. High-major 2013 big Kameron Rooks didn’t play with them this weekend, which likely opened some things up for Gamepoint’s other 2013 prospects. 2012 wing Nathan Wright spent most of his time inside as a result.
F Arren Wells (2012)
While Alford and Neal are the headliners for the Danny Granger Hurricanes they’ve got some good 2012 big men who are still on the market with Wells being one of them. A good athlete who can finish above the rim, Wells had no problem getting physical inside. Not sure what level he ends up playing at as a college freshman, but with the first open evaluation period coming up in less than two weeks western teams in need of some late size should make it a priority to check in on the Hurricanes.
By Alex Schwartz
CHESTER, Pa. – The second day of the Jameer Nelson Philly.com Holiday Classic featured five games with teams hailing from four different states and included a number of talented players.
NBE Basketball Report was on hand and had the opportunity to catch up with a trio of CLass of 2013 guards to discuss their recruitment.
Josh Hart, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound shooting guard, turned in one of the day’s most impressive performances, leading Sidwell Friends (DC) to a win over Atlantic City (NJ). The smooth scorer first listed a quartet of schools: Georgetown, North Carolina State, Penn State and Marquette.
By Brian Bosworth, National Recruiting Analyst
What a day at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, Florida. We saw great games, great individual performances, and one great comeback. The nation’s consensus top player, Shabazz Muhammad, went off for 42 points in the final game of the night and that wasn’t even the most impressive showing of the day. Kentucky head coach John Calipari continued his borderline stalking of Nerlens Noel by planting himself underneath the baseline for much of the day which instantly ups the intensity in the gym. Enough setup, on to the recap of Monday’s action at the City of Palms Classic.
Top Performance of the Day:
Jordan Mickey (Arlington Grace Prep 2013) – Grace Prep trailed Mater Dei by 18 at the half after Mickey had spent the majority of the half on the bench with 2 fouls. He came out in the 2nd half and put on a clinic on the low block tallying 22 of his game high 29 points. Mickey scored all of his points by working for low post position and then powering through his defender and scoring over his left shoulder. He has great strength which he uses to setup his shots and then a soft touch to finish off plays. Grace Prep fed Mickey in the same spot time and again and he used the same moves over and over without being stopped. He does a great job of making a quick, decisive move after he catches it in the post so that a double team does not have time to arrive. Mickey’s monster 2nd half and overtime led Grace Prep all the way back from that 18 point halftime deficit and carried them into tomorrow’s semifinals. For a recruiting update on Mickey, see our report from Saturday: City of Palms Report — Day Two.
Isaiah Watkins has seen his game grow tremendously in the past year and his recruitment has followed the same growth curve. The Class of 2013, 6-foot-8, 215-pound forward should be expected to see a continued increase in attention as he gets ready to hit the season with St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark (NJ), one of the most high-profile prep programs in the country. Watkins was drawn to the Gray Bees program, where he will play for coach Mark Taylor, for the opportunity to improve every day and play against the toughest competition possible at the prep level. Even with a daunting schedule ahead for the Newark school, Watkins has set his sights very high for the season.
“I’m really looking forward to playing in big games against the top teams in the nation,” Watkins told NBE over the weekend of what he is most looking forward to this season. “I want to help St. Benedict’s achieve something great, collectively I [want] us to become the top ranked team in [the] nation this year.”
Watkins is certainly willing to put his individual accomplishments to the side and do what it takes to help the Gray Bees win. The native Canadian seems to understand that winning will take care of everything when it comes to exposure and the importance of playing for a winning program in the eyes of college recruiters.
One player expected to have a big season is Class of 2013 shooting guard Josh Hart of Sidwell Friends. While his name does not currently hold a lot of clout nationally, that will likely change in the coming months. Many in the DC-area have been singing his praises and a strong summer on the AAU trail last July with Team Takeover DC has certainly pushed his profile among college coaches much higher than it was previously.
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Hart listed Georgetown, Penn State, NC State, Pitt, Xavier, Virginia, St. Joe’s and Indiana off the top of his head as some of the schools that came by this fall to watch him work out. With scholarship offers from the likes of Georgetown, Penn State, VCU, Xavier, NC State, UMass and Penn, Hart told NBE that currently three schools are standing out to him.
By Raphielle Johnson
By the end of the last college basketball season it was best to simply expect the unexpected. The same could be said for this weekend in Las Vegas, which has produced an unexpected champion in the Kansas City 76ers. The 76ers won the Las Vegas Fab 48 by beating Team Breakdown (Florida) in Monday night’s title game.
While the stands weren’t filled to brim as they were last summer (Oakland Soldiers tend to bring out the crowds), there were a few college programs represented in the coaches area with 2013 wing Ishmail Wainright the primary focus.
Ben Howland (UCLA) and Steve Lavin (St. John’s) were both there to watch Wainwright, who considers Earl Watson (who has connections to both as he played at UCLA under Lavin) to be an older brother and mentor. Other programs represented include Western Illinois, George Mason, Kansas, Missouri, UC Irvine, South Florida, Cal Poly, Nebraska, UM-KC and Creighton.
Khan/Judah not the only prize fight in town
By Raphielle Johnson
While boxing fans enjoyed the battle between Amir Khan and Zab Judah over at Mandalay Bay, two of the top AAU teams on the West Coast did battle at Bishop Gorman in the Las Vegas Fab 48. Led by the interior tandem of 2012 Brandon Ashley and 2013 Aaron Gordon, the Oakland Soldiers withstood a late rally to beat Belmont Shore 85-80. Both showed off their vast array of skills, especially Gordon with a few thunderous dunks.
The game was also valuable to see what Belmont Shore big men Zena Edsomwan and Grant Jerrett could do against two of the best prep players regardless of class. Edsomwan isn’t the kind of player who’s going to dominate the basketball but rather do the little things on both ends of the floor needed to win. Jerrett had his moments as well but it proved to be a tale of two halves for the Arizona commit.
In the backcourt the battle was just as intense, with the likes of Dominic Artis and Jabari Bird taking on Ikenna Ireogbu and Katin Reinhardt for Belmont Shore. With regards to dribbling skills, Artis may not have an equal in the 2012 class (Kris Dunn is another to consider). Bird can do just about everything on the floor, and while the 2013 prospect needs to continue to improve as a shooter he’s shown the ability to knock down open shots.
By Raphielle Johnson
When a who’s who of the college coaching profession is on hand a show is expected. And 2013 prospect Jabari Parker provided that and then some in Mac Irvin Fire’s win over Worldwide Renegades in the evening session of the Las Vegas Fab 48 at Bishop Gorman. Parker showed off his vast array of skills in front of the likes of Dave Rose (BYU), Oliver Purnell (DePaul), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Bruce Weber (Illinois), Buzz Williams (Marquette) and Tom Izzo (Michigan State) among others.
Also playing well in the win for Mac Irvin were 2012 forward Steve Taylor and 2012 guards Aaric Armstead and Derrick Randolph. Taylor won’t be graded on the same level as Parker but make no mistake about it, the young man is skilled. Taylor showed off the ability to step out and attack the rim, doing a solid job of playing with contact and knocking down mid-range shots. Randolph, while he looks shorter than his listed height of 5’9”, is the kind of winning player that all successful teams tend to have.
Randolph was highly competitive at both ends of the floor, setting up teammates for easy baskets on quick drives to the basket and disrupting the Renegades defensively. Armstead may not have had the impact scoring-wise that some of the other players had, but he did the little things especially on the defensive end. And 2013 DePaul commit Billy Garrett Jr. proved to be a tough matchup due to his crafty handle and ability to knock down a variety of shots.