NCB On The Trail: Basketball Recruiting

It’s been a busy month for the top high school seniors in America.

First, it was the McDonald’s All-American Game, then the Nike Hoop Summit and finally last week’s Jordan Brand Classic.

While these all-star style games are mostly about show and only rarely about competition, they also serve as the first real opportunity that NBA scouts have to evaluate these prospects.

With the vast majority of the NBA’s 30 franchises having a consistent presence at all three events (both games and practices), we spoke to front-office personnel from five different teams to see their first impressions of the top players in the ESPN 100.

Here’s what they had to say:


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North Carolina coach Roy Williams loses James Michael McAdoo to the NBA draft and Leslie McDonald to graduation. Between the two, that’s 24 points per game and a lot of game experience you can't replace, but you can try to help replenish what's returning. UNC's 2014 recruiting class finished the season ranked third in the nation with three players in the top 20 of the ESPN 100 – No. 8 Justin Jackson, No. 10 Theo Pinson and No. 17 Joel Berry. This class will be impactful both individually and as a collective unit. They all bring different elements to next year's team that will make the Tar Heels more talented and help UNC play better as a team. Jackson will score in a very efficient manner to help take the pressure off Marcus Paige, Pinson will be outstanding in the conversion game and from a defensive standpoint if he applies himself and Berry will be a good defender and lead guard who can finish drives and hand out assists. Berry will also lead by his work ethic in practice but in reality, all three of these guys are serious about the game and are high-quality people.

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If you want an indication of how valued big men are in college basketball today, consider this:

Eighteen months ago, Columbia was the only Division I school heavily recruiting 6-foot-9 forward Sean Obi. On Monday night, after one season at Rice, Obi announced he would transfer to Duke, where he will have three seasons of eligibility beginning in 2015-16.

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Shabazz Napier developed over a four-year period and delivered his best performance down the stretch as a senior in March.

The candidates who emerge four or five years later are the hardest prospects to project. Looking down the road, I'm seeking someone who has a balanced offensive attack, which include the ability to make shots, and a thirst to compete.

Dominique Collier is a true point guard who knows when to take over a game from a scoring standpoint. He has a great sense of what needs to be done in the clutch.

Collier controls the game and can create opportunities for teammates with his court vision.

Part of having success also stems from who surrounds you. Colorado coach Tad Boyle has continued to succeed in recruiting, which is vital because it takes some of the pressure off Collier right away and gives him the best chance to succeed later.

Collier has the mindset and skills to be a terrific player. He is a prospect who comes in underrated and could have that big breakout season as a senior.
Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.
What a great question! I believe it's important to select the one player who has unique size, skill and the physical tools to be special.

And that player would be Jahlil Okafor, and here's why.

He possesses a combination of unique size with sure hands, and he has a fluid post move in which he uses his footwork to beat his defender. He is a special player who can make the opponent change its game plan. With his size and excellent low-post skills, you can count on him every night. Plus, he is extremely intelligent.

He dominates the game in the paint by producing consistently and working hard on the glass.
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The Jordan Brand Classic featured much of the nation’s top talent.

Obviously, a number of players operate at the same position. That said, each brings a different aspect at the spot. Let’s take a look at some of the best and break down how they are different and impactful.


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Real Deal in the Rock's top performers 

April, 21, 2014
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Little Rock, Ark. -- The Real Deal in the Rock is in its 10th year as one of the top spring events in the country, bringing some of the nation’s top teams to the Deep South. Here are some of the players who stood out:

Best Surprise
Admon Gilder
6-3, 180, 2015, SG

Gilder is a supreme scorer. He consistently found ways to put the ball in the basket all weekend, culminating with a 28-point performance in the championship game. Gilder is a good shooter who can create off the bounce. He should be a high priority for Big 12 and SEC schools.


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The Jordan Brand Classic was played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Friday.

This game is always filled with future NBA talent and usually has the No. 1 pick in a future NBA draft.

Twenty-two of the country's elite players went head to head for likely the last time before they meet again in college. There were so many impressive plays and highlights, so let's take a look at what we learned from the event.


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Remember, playing time is earned!

Because the Gators are losing PG Scottie Wilbekin and SF Casey Prather after a tremendous season, there is room for Brandone Francis.

He will come in and see some significant minutes as a freshman due to his scoring skills and strong frame. Francis has the unique ability to play the small forward and shooting guard, as well as the point guard spot in a pinch.

His season was up and down this year, but he looked good at the Nike Hoop Summit event last week. He really needs to work on his outside shooting as it will complement his drive game.

I see him playing early. The question will be can be hold on to his minutes.

Weekly Commitment Update 

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
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ACC
Syracuse
Franklin Howard SG
HT: 6-4 WT: 170
Class of 2015

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Roundtable: Jordan Brand Classic 

April, 18, 2014
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It has been a busy few weeks for the top prospects in the ESPN 100.

It began at the beginning of the month when they arrived in Chicago for the McDonald's All American Game. Immediately after that game concluded, some players jumped on a red-eye to New York for the Dick's Sporting Goods High School National Tournament. Last week it was a trip to the West Coast for the Nike Hoop Summit in Oregon. This week, that string of all-star events gets a fitting culmination as the top players in the Class of 2015 return to New York for the Jordan Brand Classic.

Given what we've seen, not just in the past few weeks but in the past few years, is there anything left to learn? Here are a few players whom our Recruiting Nation staff will be watching during Friday's Jordan Brand Classic (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET):


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ESPN 100 guard Isaiah Whitehead is a prospect who could be a major factor in the resurgence of Seton Hall basketball. He has been up and down in terms of his consistency and production, but he owns all the tools to be a great college player. Whitehead has a strong body, a competitive spirit, potent scoring skills and great court vision.

Now the flip side to that is there are nights he doesn't move well without the ball to get open. And he sometimes displays poor shot selection and takes a high volume of attempts, which freezes his teammates out of the action.

At the Elite 24 game in New York last summer, Whitehead dropped 26 points in front of the home crowd and did it within the flow of the game. He is at his best when he is attacking the basket because he can take a hit and finish. His jumper is more than capable from distance, and he thrives in the transition game. When he plays the right way and within the team concept, he can be very good.

Whitehead is on the East roster for the Jordan Brand Classic (7 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN2) but may have to sit out due to a sore hamstring.

There is talk that his high school coach, Tiny Morton, will join the Pirates' coaching staff and have the chance to coach him again at Seton Hall. Whitehead certainly has the talent to make Seton Hall relevant again.

The Jordan Brand Classic features the best talent high school basketball has to offer. Here are some of the most intriguing potential matchups in this terrific annual event, which airs Friday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Tyus Jones (Duke) vs. Tyler Ulis (Kentucky)

This matchup will be the battle for who can get the most assists. Both are terrific pass-first point guards who can play fast or slow. They can make open shots in order to keep the defense honest, and their decision-making on the offensive end of the floor is excellent, as well. Ulis can apply more heat on the ball defensively, while Jones is stronger and the better finisher in heavy traffic. It will be interesting to see who makes the fewest mistakes with the ball and who will win the assist category as Jones and Ulis push each other on both ends of the floor.


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I don't believe Jabari Parker's decision on whether to turn pro has any bearing at all on the college decision of ESPN 100 No. 2 overall prospect Myles Turner.

Turner wanted to finish taking his visits and then try to figure out what his best option would be. He is done with visits; now it’s time for him to weigh all the pros and the cons. He is looking for a situation where he has a strong relationship with the head coach and the overall chemistry of the team. Furthermore, he wants a coach who has proven track record developing his players over the course of a year or over time, and preparing them for the next level will be important.

Whether Parker stays at Duke or declares for the NBA draft won't affect Turner's decision. His list of schools is still the same: Arizona, Duke, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Texas, SMU and Texas A&M. Look for him to make his decision sometime after the Jordan Brand Classic game, which is at 7 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN2.
Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.


Shooting guard Javon Bess, who is heading to Michigan State, is a sleeper and should have a very good freshman season. Michigan State is losing point guard Keith Appling, and on Monday, shooting guard Gary Harris declared for the NBA draft. Bess will now have a chance to work his way into the rotation and be a factor next season.

Bess plays on the wing and possesses point-forward abilities, as he is long, athletic and constantly making plays with his high motor. Bess can be productive not only in statistical areas but also in other facets of the game that don't show up in the box score. He's a great teammate, he brings energy to the game, gives energy to his teammates and handles the ball against pressure in the full court.

When it comes to scoring, I like the way he attacks the rim, finishes and makes shots when he has time to set his feet. Versatility is what makes him special, as he is also a good passer who finds an open teammate quickly and unselfishly from the wing spot. He brings a many talents to the offensive end and probably could be equally effective on defense, where he shows good lateral quickness with long arms and nice anticipation in the passing lanes.

As his skills improve, he will contribute even more. Tom Izzo and his staff have a long and extremely successful history of winning -- and player development.

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