NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- The Peach Jam is one of the travel-team tournaments that is easiest on the eyes. Coaches are taken care of in the hospitality room with fresh peaches, and the play on the court takes care of itself. Many of the best players are on display, and the only thing separating high-profile recruits from high-profile coaches is a few inches of real estate. It’s intense and fun to watch.
It’s also pivotal recruiting turf. What happens here sets the tone for what happens in August and this fall. Coaches want to be seen and they want to see high-level competitiveness. All together it makes for the best AAU tournament in the country on a yearly basis.
Brown selling Iverson comparison
Larry Brown isn't messing around. He’s targeting high-major players at SMU. Now, there’s a difference between recruiting and signing them, but the Hall of Famer does have built-in advantages. Kids might not remember his national championship at Kansas or his playoff appearance with the then-lowly L.A. Clippers, but many of them do remember that he coached Allen Iverson with the Philadelphia 76ers.
It’s that connection with his old point guard that’s led him to his pursuit of a new one. Anthony Barber (Hampton, Va./Hampton) is from the same hometown as Iverson. Barber's a better practice player than Iverson wanted to be, and he’s fast, but he’s not AI fast.
Barber drew Brown, N.C. State's Mark Gottfried, Alabama's Anthony Grant, Kansas' Bill Self and assistants from an assortment of programs for his second game. SMU’s a long shot, but the conversations Brown once had with Iverson are likely to be the foundation for his recruitment of Barber. It’s recruiting, and that means it's about relationships, so Brown should use all the tools at his disposal. Barber needs to get ready to learn about AI from the guy who coached the guard to the NBA finals.
Split opinion on Johnson
Class of 2014 small forward Stanley Johnson (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) seems to garner differing opinions. Frankly, I’m not sure why. The kid earned his way onto the USA U-17 gold-medal-winning team, and that didn’t happen by accident. He’s been a good player on teams where he’s not the No. 1 option, and he’s fine with that.
“I need to be that second or third option and be the glue guy,” Johnson said of his role on the Oakland Soldiers.
To me, that screams coachable. The kid’s a productive player, solid shooter and like he said, “a glue guy.” Coming into the summer, Arizona and Southern Cal were his biggest supporters.
Young with three visits set
Mike Young (Pittsburgh/St. Benedict’s) wasn’t too shabby, either. The native of Pittsburgh said he intends to make official visits to Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Florida. The next tier of schools includes Connecticut, Xavier, Memphis and St. John’s. Young’s first game at the Peach was a dud, but his evening game was anything but.
“They wanted it more,” Young said of the opening loss. “They got all the 50/50 balls. It was brutal.”
Meeks on fire ... almost literally
Kennedy Meeks (Charlotte, N.C./West Charlotte) might be the best center prospect in the country. He’s at least in the conversation. A quick look at his school list reveals an array of big programs lining up for his signature. Meeks rattled off North Carolina, Kentucky, Syracuse, N.C. State, Louisville and Indiana. The Heels, Pack and Hoosiers had their head coaches out for the evening session, and Meeks was a virtuoso performer despite a 102-degree fever.
Scholarship goes to ...
Clay Byrd (Connelly Springs, N.C./East Burke) is a shooting specialist for Team United. In settings like these, when you aren't the athletic guy and don't have great size, you get into the game and only have a few minutes to prove your worth. Byrd took full advantage, connecting on four of his first five shots. He's also a terrific student and will not need help getting a scholarship, but the schools hoping that he would sit quietly on Team United's bench and not "blow up" had to be disappointed with his long-range performance.