NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. & AIKEN, S.C. -- As a scout, you kind of live for days like Wednesday. Going into the action with few expectations and coming out of the day with the name of a 7-footer you’ve never seen before? I’ll take that every time.
My day was split between the Peach Jam 16s in North Augusta and a series of showcase games at the Peach State over in Aiken. Rising junior center Doral Moore (Locust Grove, Ga./Luella) was the highlight, but along the way a few cool viewings happened that made for a fun-filled Wednesday.
By the way, it’s now much more difficult to get a seat in the gym. Wednesday was the start of the July evaluation period and the first day college coaches could be out on the road watching prospects.
Here are some nuggets from the first day in South Carolina.
Doral Moore, a 7-foot rising junior center, is likely to see his recruitment pick up in a hurry.
Give me Moore
The cool part about July is when you stumble onto a guy you’ve never seen. Preferably, when tripping over a prospect, you’d like him to have size. So when 7-foot Doral Moore (first name pronounced du-rel) showed up in the layup line, life was good. Midway through the first half when Moore caught it, drop stepped and dunked, well, life went from good to great.
Not too bad for a kid who didn’t have a scholarship offer and wasn’t watched by a single head coach as a sophomore.
“I just now started to talk to head coaches,” Moore said. “No one knew who I was until I got a lot better.”
Moore doesn’t have a college list. He doesn’t need one right now, but that day will come. Like me, a lot of college coaches showed up on Wednesday just to see what the Game Elite 16s travel squad had. Like me, they all had to walk out with a smile. The crowd at the game included Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton, Georgia’s Mark Fox, Houston’s James Dickey, and assistants from Kentucky, Indiana, Kansas, Ohio State, Auburn, Tennessee, Clemson, South Carolina, Arizona and Alabama.
Moore is connected a little with Ohio State and Kansas, but rest assured, they’ll all be coming. This kid is only 16 years old. He’s a long rim protector who drop-stepped dunked and dropped in a hook shot in front of 50 or so college coaches. His life is going to get complicated very quickly. Currently, when not working to get better, you can find him at a local lake in Stockbridge, Ga., where he’s fishing for bass.
L-A-B-I-S-S-I-E-R-E -- memorize it
My first day on the job at the ACC Sports Journal in 1997, Dave Glenn made me learn how to spell Krzyzewski. Well, now I’m going to commit Skal Labissiere (Memphis, Tenn./Evangelical Christian) to memory, and we all should. The 2015 big man is on a short list of players who could one day reign supreme in his class.
Labissiere switched AAU teams from Team Penny 17 to the Arkansas Wings 16s. The Wings dismantled Cal Supreme on Wednesday morning, and even though they didn’t throw him the rock, Labissiere was very good. He’s 6-9, long and skilled. By skilled I mean great touch, awareness and one of the better passers out of the post you’ll see.
It’s way too early to speculate schools, but this Haitian import will command the attention of the bluebloods.
Rising senior power forward Javis Howard is a coveted mid-major recruit.
America’s newest mid-major forward
Apparently, 2014 power forward Javis Howard (Columbia, S.C./Irmo) just started making mid-range jumpers. Now, all the schools that were on him pre-July will be rooting for him to miss said mid-range jumpers.
The 6-7 Howard is an intriguing player. Given his height, most of the big boys will take another cruise around looking for size at the power forward spot. While this is going on, everyone from the Atlantic 10 to the CAA to the Southern Conference will hold on for dear life. That’s life in July: find a guy, sit on him and hope he doesn’t blow up.
Howard’s strength, motor and progressing skill level make him an alpha dog on the list of up-and-coming forwards. He’s a good mid-level player and should be recruited as such. Did I mention his high school team was undefeated last year?
Murray State, Georgia Southern and Charleston Southern are ahead of the curve. Wichita State hasn’t offered, but Gregg Marshall wasn’t taking in the sights in Aiken by accident on Wednesday.
Howard said he likes the way NC State and Gonzaga use their big men. Whether or not those programs elect to tangle with him, the mere mention of them tells us he’s watching a lot of ball, in particular how programs put their size on display. He’s a smart kid.
Palmetto State posse
You can’t watch AAU games in South Carolina and not talk about the South Carolina Gamecocks and Clemson Tigers.
South Carolina head coach Frank Martin wasn’t out on Wednesday because he’s on assignment with the World University team. However, the entire Gamecocks staff minus Martin watched 2014 commitment Marcus Stroman (Columbia, S.C./W.J. Keenan) in action. Stroman is a player who gets a piece of the lane whenever he wants. His decision-making at the point needs to improve, but he has the moxie Martin looks for. The South Carolina staff will have to polish him up, but you can’t teach speed and drive. The Gamecocks also got a good look at 2015 shooting guard Perry Dozier (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley).
Clemson’s full staff, including head coach Brad Brownell, was deployed for the nightcap at the Peach State. The target was 2015 point guard Jawun Evans (Simpsonville, S.C./Legacy Charter).
• CP3 lost on a last-second shot to Meanstreets. The squad typically has the services of 2016 No. 1 prospect Harry Giles (Winston-Salem, N.C./Wesleyan Christian), but he tore up his knee playing for Team USA in Uruguay last month. With Giles out, the big gun is 2015 shooting guard Ronshad Shabazz (Knightdale, N.C./Knightdale), a lefty with a sweet stoke (though he wasn’t on Wednesday). Old Dominion, The Citadel and the College of Charleston have offered Shabazz, while VCU, Georgia, Clemson and Virginia Tech will watch his development.
• Let’s talk about Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon for a second. The guy loves the evaluation process. He’s a big-time head coach who doesn’t need a personal protector. He sat in the building at the Peach State for the entire evening session just taking notes and scanning the gym. Yes, it’s his job, but he’s an old-fashioned, hands-on head coach. He doesn’t care to be driven around, he can make his own day plan and he enjoys the process of picking a player’s game apart to see if he’s good enough.
• Rising junior point guard Avery Patterson (Conyers, Ga./Heritage) is an underrated tough guy with a huge motor. Patterson said Kansas State, Murray State, Boston College and Boston University are on him hardest. Now the bad news (for me, at least): He wants to major in sports management and become a commentator. This guy could be coming for mine and Paul Biancardi’s jobs soon. He’s a bulldog.
• Sleeper school for 2014 wing Keyshawn Woods (Charlotte, N.C./Northside Christian), another motor guy: Charlotte.
• Rising senior forward Eric Lockett (Mableton, Ga./Whitefield Academy) drew head coaches from George Mason, Middle Tennessee State, Jacksonville and Appalachian State. Lockett switched from the Georgia Stars to the Aim High travel team, and he’s a good example of why bigger isn’t always better. A lock mid-level recruit, he’s able to do more with his new team and in turn display what his game is all about. In July, sitting behind someone doesn’t bode well for your recruitment.
Next up: It’s the granddaddy of them all, the Nike Peach Jam. The plan of attack is to go pool-by-pool, be patient and let the action come to me. There’s one team here I didn’t see in the spring, and that’s BABC. So we’ll tip off the action Thursday morning with the crew that produced lottery picks Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams. By the way, while it’s not the frozen tundra of Green Bay, the gyms at the Peach Jam are almost to the point where you can see your breath.