NCB On The Trail: Basketball Recruiting

videoNow that the rosters are set for the 38th annual McDonald’s All American Game -- featuring the top 24 senior high school basketball players in the country -- let's take a closer look at the East team and a few of the many strengths its players will bring when they take on the West team April 1 at United Center in Chicago (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).

videoNow that the rosters are set for the 38th annual McDonald’s All American Game, let's take a closer look at the West team and its strengths as it prepares to take on the East squad. The most anticipated high school all-star game in the country takes place April 1 at United Center in Chicago (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).


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Small forward Kaleb Johnson committed to head coach John Thompson III and Georgetown after visiting Washington this past Sunday. The four-star prospect and ESPN 100 selection also had a combination of offers and interest from Auburn, East Carolina, Oklahoma State, South Florida, Harvard, Yale, Davidson and William & Mary.

Let's take a look at what Johnson will bring to the Hoyas.


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The disparaging comments started early this season -- like first-night-of-the-season early.

That’s when Missouri lost at home to UMKC and Ole Miss fell in overtime against Charleston Southern. After back-to-back seasons of only three NCAA tournament bids for the SEC, most thought it would be more of the same this campaign.

[+] EnlargeBen Simmons
Courtesy Steven RyanLSU landing No. 1 prospect Ben Simmons is huge not just for the Tigers but for the SEC as a whole.
Not much has changed since, with only four SEC teams in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology -- including two teams (LSU and Georgia) among the “Last Four Byes.” If that holds, it means the SEC will have received 14 NCAA tournament bids over the last four seasons, the lowest among the Power 5 conferences by a significant amount.

That should shift dramatically over the next few seasons, though, as the SEC’s “other” teams have improved the talent level in the league with the Class of 2015 more than perhaps any other conference. Kentucky has the No. 1 class in the country and Florida sits at No. 8, but those two are the annual staples at the top of the standings -- this season’s Gators notwithstanding.


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ESPN 60 power forward Chris Lewis has committed to Harvard after also considering Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami, Notre Dame, Stanford, California, Yale and Brown among others. Landing a player of Lewis' stature in the fold for the class of 2016 this early is huge for head coach Tommy Amaker.

Let's take a look at what Lewis will bring to the Crimson.

Why he committed: "Chris wanted a balance of great academics and basketball," his father, Mo, told ESPN.com.

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Thon Maker's next move

January, 14, 2015
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Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty ImagesThon Maker was ranked as the No. 1 prospect in 2016 before moving to Athlete Institute in Canada.
Four countries, three high schools, three AAU circuits.

Thon Maker, a 17-year-old 7-footer, is the vagabond of elite high school basketball.

South Sudan, Australia, soccer, basketball, school in Louisiana, school in Virginia, school in Canada. Just going through the bullet points is exhausting -- and that's without even mentioning Maker's unique talents and enormous potential.

Maker is the most intriguing prospect in high school basketball. He would be in the mix for the No. 1 spot in his class if he wasn't in Canada, but that's not what has attracted so much attention. It's the YouTube videos, the endless storylines -- and the comparisons to a number of NBA stars haven't hurt.

The chatter surrounding him has shown no signs of slowing down, either.

"It's the unknown that scares people," said Ed Smith, Maker's guardian.

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Four-star shooting guard Brandon Sampson ended his recruitment Monday by committing to head coach Steve Lavin and St. John's after also considering California, UCLA, USC, and his hometown LSU.

Let's see why Sampson selected the Big Apple and what he brings:


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Prep school basketball -- that is to say legitimate scholastic programs that offer a post-graduate option -- can be specific to certain geographic parts of the country, but its implications are felt throughout all of college basketball and the NBA with recent alumni including the likes of Andre Drummond, Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Nik Stauskas, Shabazz Napier, Steven Adams, Noah Vonleh, Wayne Selden and many more.

New England has long been the hub of the prep school universe, not only because of the number of top programs, but also the number of top events that welcome other strong programs from places such as Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin and Canada.

After scouring those events for the better part of the last six weeks, here’s what we can tell you about this year’s prep school field.

FIVE BEST SIGNEES

1. Jalen Adams, Brewster Academy, signed with UConn

Adams (No. 25 in ESPN 100) has been an undersized scorer for most of his career but is now showing more and more signs of being able to slide over to the lead guard spot at the next level, which should allow him to step right in for Ryan Boatright upon arriving at UConn.


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Power forward Carlton Bragg (No. 18 in ESPN 100) committed to Kansas on Thursday over finalists Illinois and Kentucky, giving coach Bill Self a five-star prospect and the best senior the state of Ohio has to offer.

Let's take a look at why Bragg picked the Jayhawks and what he will bring to Lawrence.

Why he committed: "I really like the way coach Bill Self develops his players," Bragg said. "The atmosphere was crazy when I went on my visit, and I felt the most comfortable around the players. It was brotherly love there and I have the full support of my family and coaches and they think I made a great decision."


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ESPN 100 No. 18 Carlton Bragg is set to make his decision on where he will attend college Jan. 8 at 2:45 p.m. at Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School in Cleveland, Ohio.


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ESPN 25 No. 7 shooting guard Jalek Felton committed to North Carolina on Tuesday after being heavily recruited by Kansas, Louisville, South Carolina and Wichita State. The five-star guard puts the Tar Heels on the board in the Class of 2017 in a huge way. Here's what Felton will bring to Chapel Hill.


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Five observations: Tarkanian Classic 

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LAS VEGAS -- Here's what we saw over the weekend at the Tarkanian Classic.

1. Stephen Zimmerman (No. 10 in ESPN 100) has always been one of the most uniquely skilled bigs in the class. However, ever since the Nike Global Challenge, his assertiveness at both ends continues to evolve. He needs to get stronger while operating on the block, but his improvement in leadership and physicality must be noted. Sprinting in transition, eye-dropping finishes, pinpoint passing and taking ownership of his team were part of the package.


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Weekly commitment update

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The following is a list of commitments made to Division I schools from Nov. 28-Dec. 4:

Pac-12
Washington
JaQuori McLaughlin PG
HT: 6-3 WT: 160
Class of 2016
Positional Rank: 16
Stars: 4

Arizona State
Brendan Bailey SF
HT: 6-7 WT: 190
Class of 2016
Positional Rank: 23
Stars: 3

Big Ten
Ohio State
Dane Goodwin SG
HT: 6-3
Class of 2018
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Big 12
Oklahoma
Kristian Doolittle SF
HT: 6-6 WT: 200
Class of 2016
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Ohio Valley Conference
SIU-Edwardsville
Anthony Virdure SG
HT: 6-2
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: Junior College

Five observations: Pac Shores tournament 

December, 1, 2014
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REDONDO BEACH, Calif. -- Here's what we saw at the 63rd annual Pac Shores tournament, featuring some of the top talent in Southern California.

1. ESPN 60 forward Vance Jackson is emerging as one of the elite players in the country. His frame is leaner, and as a result his ball skills and ability to attack off the dribble have improved. The rangy wing type has a feathery shooting touch and his triple-threat game is impressive.


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After California took down Syracuse in the 2K Classic semifinals, there wasn’t much time for the Golden Bears to celebrate. A showdown with at top-10 Texas team was on the docket.

And of course, there was recruiting to be done.

Within an hour or two, Cal’s staff was already reaching out to its primary 2015 targets to hype up the big win over the Orange. There was a sense of excitement around Cal basketball. Moreover, in the days that followed, the Golden Bears became involved with new prospects -- and the televised victory over a name-brand program certainly helped.

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