ATLANTA -- The only goal I had on Saturday was to end my pursuit of 2015 point guard Jawun Evans (Simpsonville, S.C./Legacy Charter). We live in bordering states, yet for whatever reason our paths hadn’t crossed yet. Saturday afternoon, they finally did as I skipped over to the Elite 32 in Atlanta after a couple days at the Best of the South in Suwanee, Ga.
Elsewhere on Saturday, we often talk about players getting out of their comfort zone. Well, I stepped out of mine for a few hours and dipped my toes into the junior college pool at an event back in Suwanee. It was kind of like jumping into a lake in the middle of winter in Wisconsin.
Here are some nuggets from Saturday’s action across Georgia.
Evans will rocket up the charts
Jawun Evans is on his way to establishing himself as one of the best point guards in the 2015 class.
Evans is on a short list of top point guards in the 2015 class. He’s that good, and he’ll be in contention for highest honors as this position plays out over the next two years.
The kid is also smart. How do I know? He tries to emulate Chris Paul, this blog’s pick for the top point guard on the planet. Evans sports No. 3, wears the CP signature sneaks, and it doesn’t take long to see he’s swiped a few pages from the CP bag of tricks.
Evans is a speed guy who is one of high school basketball’s best touch passers. His passes are accurate and arrive at the precise moment. He has a gift for sharing and seeing plays. You know a guy is a good passer when his bounce passes pop off the floor in the anticipated spot.
In the game I watched on Saturday, Team Breakdown tried to rough him up. He didn’t bite and kept his head the entire time. It was a textbook non-reaction reaction. He took his medicine and went to the line for his free throws.
Evans isn’t without flaws. He can become a better finisher, and by that I mean stronger to the rim. He’s more of an acrobatic closer than he is a hammer. He also turned it over a few times too many in the game I watched. But at the end of the day, Evans plays well in traffic, has a true point guard presence and is undoubtedly one of the best I’ve seen at his position in his class.
Clemson, South Carolina, SMU and DePaul have offered. He grew up in South Carolina more Tiger than Gamecock, for what that’s worth. Kentucky is his dream school.
Davis’ story gives you more reason to bet on him
I don’t know much about 2014 center Raasean Davis (Dallas, Ga./Paulding County), but the process of learning more began on the car ride following his game Saturday at the Elite 32.
Davis is known by recruiting guys like Justin Young who cover basketball in Georgia, but he’s far from a name that’s on the national radar of college basketball coaches. Most of his offers are a direct result of last week’s Peach State performance. He’s a newbie and that makes following him all the more fun.
The 6-foot-7 ½ interior player was very impressive against the Birmingham Ice. For starters, Davis plays bigger than his size. He can run, has a nice touch and is a mobile big man. After spending more than half this month evaluating bigs, it’s my opinion that Davis is better than many who have outsized reputations and are receiving lower-tier high-major scholarship offers. Granted, I’ve seen him only once, but that’s why you double back and do the homework.
Here’s where the profile begins to unfold. He’s a Chicago native who moved to Louisiana before settling in a small Georgia town. He didn’t play varsity until his sophomore year, and last season he averaged 17 points and 16 rebounds per game. Now, the competition wasn’t high, but 16 rebounds is more an indicator of willingness and activity, which are just as important. Sixteen is a big rebounding number, and he had 17 points and eight rebounds in the game I saw on Saturday morning.
“I just started playing for exposure,” said Davis, a 3.2 GPA student. “Last year I played with an under-the-radar AAU team.”
This time around he’s on the Smyrna Stars, a program notorious for churning out under-the-radar talents, including former Georgia Tech standout Lewis Clinch. The Stars aren’t shoe-funded but their skipper, Gary Graham, mines diamonds -- that’s his reputation.
Kent State, Jacksonville, UNC-Asheville and Southeast Missouri State all offered after the Peach State last week. They’ll be quite nervous this week, and their attempt to sign Davis is what’s good and bad about being a mid-major. Credit them for being on him early and then quietly attending his games in the hopes that the wrong mix of schools wouldn’t be watching with them. They know that all it takes is one high-major program to bite and they’re in trouble. Davis seems likely to receive those nibbles as they hold on for dear life during the third and final July open recruiting period later this week.
Cofer is a different player than in the spring
Tennessee recruit Phil Cofer is playing with a high motor and toughness.
Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin sat and watched Vols recruit Phil Cofer (Atlanta/Whitewater) with Team Georgia on Saturday at the Elite 32. The 2014 power forward looked decidedly different with this team than he did with the Georgia Stars on the Nike EYBL circuit in the spring.
“I have a new mindset, and a lot of that is Coach Martin,” Cofer said. “He’s telling me to go hard no matter what.”
With the Stars, Cofer sported a big afro and a quiet motor. With Team Georgia, it’s a closer-cropped cut and a major-league motor, one of the best I’ve seen this summer. New environment, new player.
This 6-7 power forward is Donnell Harvey-ish. Same size, same long arms and same wide shoulders, minus Harvey’s extraterrestrial athleticism. Cofer tries to dunk everything and seemingly challenges for every rebound. He exudes toughness.
The toughness comes from his father, Mike Cofer, a former Detroit Lions star who played football at Tennessee. Mike is presently fighting for his life with a kidney disease. His son carries that burden daily, knowing that time spent with his father is precious. “You can’t think about,” Phil Cofer said. “It’s crazy what he’s went through.”
We watch and evaluate these kids. Sometimes we know the backstory, sometimes we don’t. This is a strong young man. He didn’t pick Tennessee just for the basketball. One day, Martin may serve a role for him greater than merely a coach. He’ll have big shoes to fill.
Durham has all the markers
The last time Team Breakdown had two talents with this much anticipation, the squad rolled out a pair of guards named Brandon Knight and Kenny Boynton.
Dewan Huell (Miami/Norland), a 6-9 big man and member of the 2016 class, is the No. 2 big on the Breakdown 16s. The top dog is ESPN 25 center Juwan Durham (Tampa, Fla./Tampa Prep), an elite 6-10 prospect. Tampa Prep’s last big-time big man was Casey Sanders, a high school All-American who attended Duke. Durham will be better.
As a freshman, Durham averaged 14.2 points per game. He also noted that he blocked a ton of shots and was quite proud of his nine swats per game. South Florida’s Stan Heath watched him on Saturday at the Elite 32, and Miami’s Jim Larranaga saw his afternoon contest. Before too long, the crowds will get larger.
Getting out of the comfort zone
The last time I evaluated junior college players, Reggie Evans was playing for Coffeyville JC in 1999. Evans is now entering his 12th NBA season, so it’s been a while. Upon entering Brad Winton’s All-American Juco Showcase on Saturday, I realized I’d left my roadmap for juco basketball back in Kansas 14 years ago. If you want to know about jucos, you ask Winton or seasoned college guys like “Juco” Joe Dooley or Steve Forbes. I don’t know if I was there two hours, but I do know you’re either in that world or out of it. And I felt like the boy in the bubble.
Bowers is regarded as the best talent in juco ball, or at least that’s what I’m told. He treated this event like Charles Barkley would have treated a rec league game in his prime. He dunked, stared, dunked some more, and it appeared to me other guys were intimidated by his presence. He’s a menacing player who carries a reputation for being equal parts freight train and loose cannon. The guy is an animal on the floor. He went real, real hard.
If you asked most college coaches, they’d tell you they would rather have a highly touted high school player than a junior college kid like Bowers who brings some baggage. However, Bowers will remain on their boards as a late possibility should things not break their way with the high school recruits.
Sitting courtside were Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton, Alabama’s Anthony Grant and Memphis’ Josh Pastner. For what it’s worth, once Bowers was done they left, a clear indication they were there for a singular reason.
Up next: The second session of July’s three open evaluation periods is over. Georgia was good to me over the past few days. The final act of my month will play out in Orlando and then Las Vegas beginning later this week. Look for daily blogs starting again on Thursday and running through next Monday. In the interim, check back Wednesday for my top 10 lessons learned from the second live period.