NCB On The Trail: Antonio Blakeney

HYATTSVILLE, Md. -- The Washington, D.C., area was the epicenter of high school basketball over the weekend, with multiple events going on near the nation's capital. The main attraction was the National High School Hoops Festival held at DeMatha Catholic (Md.).

Here are five key observations from the weekend:

After the early-signing period, Kentucky is at the top of the class rankings. But with seven of the top-10 prospects in the ESPN 100 still uncommitted, there is plenty of work left to be done before the best class in the land is crowned.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the No. 1 class contenders, what they would have to do to finish in the top spot and what their chances are of finishing there (percentage):

Kentucky (75 percent)

Yes, the Wildcats are No. 1 now, but ironically none of their three commitments -- Skal Labissiere (No. 11), Isaiah Briscoe (No. 13), and Charles Matthews (No. 44) -- are from a top-10 ranked player in the class and so they’re far from a sure thing. John Calipari will likely look to add two more pieces to his class, one in the frontcourt and another in the backcourt. If he can get Ivan Rabb (No. 5), Cheick Diallo (No. 7), Caleb Swanigan (No. 8), Stephen Zimmerman (No. 10) or Carlton Bragg (No. 18) up front and then Jaylen Brown (No. 2), Malik Newman (No. 3), Brandon Ingram (No. 12) or Antonio Blakeney (No. 14) in the backcourt, UK has a good chance of finishing on top. If they have a mass exodus to the pros, and end up taking more than two players off this list, the top ranking will be a virtual certainty.


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Kentucky reclaims familiar No. 1 spot 

November, 14, 2014
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Heading into Thursday afternoon, Kentucky had a borderline top-40 recruiting class nationally. There was just one player in the fold, four-star guard Charles Matthews.

Less than one hour later, Kentucky was back in a familiar spot -- with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.

The Wildcats landed commitments from Skal Labissiere (No. 11 in the ESPN 100) and Isaiah Briscoe (No. 13). Labissiere might have the highest ceiling of any prospect in the class, and Briscoe’s strong summer cemented his status as the premier point guard in 2015.


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Roundtable: Analyzing the early signing period 

November, 12, 2014
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College basketball's early signing period begins Wednesday, and while 78 of the ESPN 100's prospects have committed to schools across the country, it's time to put pen to paper. Our RecruitingNation analysts break down what they expect to see before the signing window closes on Nov. 19.


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Defense might win championships, but the only way to get back and set your defense is to to score points on a consistent basis.

The best scorers in basketball can produce when the pace is frenetic or when it slows down against an organized defense. The best scorers create space for themselves by using dribble moves, jab steps, operating on ball screens, or by reading off-ball screens and cutting to get open.

When the scoreboard needs to change, these five prospects will deliver.


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It wasn’t even two months ago that we polled 12 of the top players in the ESPN 100 with two questions.

1. Who is the best player in the class of 2015?
2. Who would you most like to team with at the next level?

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When recruit changes mind, chaos ensues 

September, 17, 2014
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On Sept. 4, Antonio Blakeney told ESPN.com’s Reggie Rankin, "I was very comfortable with the coaching staff," after pledging to attend the University of Louisville.

Two weeks later, he told Rankin, “I made a quick and emotional decision based on the wrong reasons," after decommitting from the Cardinal, before following up with a tweet that read, "I am still really considering Louisville. I like everything about there (sic) program, coaches and fans!!"

[+] EnlargeAntonio Blakeney
AP Photo/Gregory PayanAntonio Blakeney, ranked No. 14 in the ESPN 100, verbally committed to Louisville earlier this month only to decommit two weeks later.
Which, to those who parent the odd beast known as teenagers, sounds about right. Teens are as certain about their futures as they are the inner workings of nuclear physics.

The difference is, Blakeney is not your typical teen. He is the No. 14-rated player in the 2015 ESPN 100, and what should be his private, independent decision has ramifications from his home base in Florida throughout basketball offices across the country.

Decommitment is not even a word -- shows up underlined in red every time you type it. Yet it is very much a thing in college sports circles, where kids can and do renege on their verbal pledges.

The problem isn’t nearly as bad in hoops as it is in football. Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn did a numbers crunch study this summer and found that, in 2013, only 11.8 percent of the basketball players he studied made multiple commitments, down from 12.4 in 2012.

Still, it happens. And when it does, it sends coaches into a tizzy.


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Scout's Take: Blakeney to Louisville 

September, 4, 2014
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Shooting guard Antonio Blakeney, the No. 16 player in the ESPN 100, ended his recruiting Thursday by committing to coach Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals over finalists Kentucky, LSU and Missouri.

Let's break down what Blakeney will bring to the Cardinals.


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NEW YORK -- The Under Armour Elite 24 game is loaded with ESPN Recruiting Nation ranked players from the classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017 and can be seen at 7 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPNU live from Pier 2 of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Let's take a look at five matchups that we are most excited to see.

POINT GUARDS

ESPN 100 No. 62 Jawun Evans 6-foot, 180 (Dallas, Texas/Justin F. Kimball) vs. ESPN 60 No. 9 Dennis Smith Jr. 6-1, 173 (Fayetteville, N.C./Trinity Christian School): In this all-important lead guard matchup, it will exciting to see who will run their team, push the ball and set the tone. Evans -- a great finisher for his size -- has blinding speed and quickness and can get teammates involved. Smith beats defenders off the bounce with ease and is a playmaker for himself or teammates. He is a highlight finisher on the break who can simply put the defense on its heels and create help situations all over the offensive end of the floor.


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LeBron James Skills Academy recap: Day 3 

July, 12, 2014
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It was an eventful day at the LeBron James Skills Academy as the night session of games was cancelled due to player fatigue and injuries. Isaiah Briscoe, Malik Newman, Stephen Zimmerman, and Troy Brown are just a few of the casualties that succumbed to the injury bug. However, despite one session of games there was an epic encounter between the most dominant player in camp in Ben Simmons and super junior Jayson Tatum, as well as a number of fine performances from those that you'll read about in this edition.

Best all-around

Jayson Tatum
2016, WF, 6-foot-7, 193 pounds


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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Kevin Durant Nike Skills Academies took place under the direction of former NBA player and coach John Lucas. NBA superstar Kevin Durant was on hand each day participating in scrimmages and giving guidance to the high school and college campers. This camp showed why the SG/SF positions in 2015 are maybe the most talented and deepest positions in the class. Many of these prospects own terrific positional size with some striking wing spans.

Who stood out the most during the event? Let's break it down:

Best at creating separation


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The NBPA top 100 dream team 

June, 23, 2014
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After watching over 100 prospects at the NBPA top 100 camp during a four-day period, I thought who would I want to coach if I had one practice before playing one game.

I am making my decisions based on their performances and stats from the camp courtesy of Statva.com, along with prior evaluations from the high school year and the spring evaluation period.

Assembling this team wasn't just about sheer talent. It was more about the prospects’ skill level, productivity, and how well they know their roles and are able to blend their talent into a team concept. The roster below has everything I would want and need to win a game.

Here is the starting lineup, sixth man, and bench:

Starting lineup


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NBPA Top 100 camp wrap 

June, 22, 2014
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The NBPA Top 100 camp always displays some of the best collections of talent in the summer.

The most impressive part of this event was the fact that the players played hard and competed from start to finish. Here are some players who stood out.

Best point guards

Perry Dozier (Columbia, South Carolina/Spring Valley)
PG/SG, 2015, 6-foot-4, 185 pounds


Perry is a rare combo guard. Many players who are designated as combo guards are generally not a point guard or a shooting guard. Dozier is actually both, as he can play either guard spot with equal efficiency. He was much more productive and assertive than I had seen in the past, and he showed the ability to run a team. Dozier averaged just over 8 points per game for the camp, but he showcased the ability of a top-20 player in the class.


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Accusations of academic scandal have hit North Carolina once again. This time it is specific to the men’s basketball program.

While the plot has only thickened since the first “Outside the Lines” report, what many now want to know is whether there will be any tangible impact on the product Roy Williams and UNC will put on the floor.

[+] EnlargeRoy Williams
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesHow will the accusations of academic fraud impact Roy Williams' ability to recruit his 2015 class? It's probably still too early to tell.
The simple truth is we don’t know yet. Should this spark another investigation or the NCAA deem it necessary to get involved, there could certainly be repercussions. Otherwise, while it’s something that Williams will have to deal with on the recruiting front, it’s likely not an insurmountable obstacle.

You could also make the argument that North Carolina’s 2015 recruiting class is now even more important than ever, as the Tar Heels will look to silence those critics who may be whispering of their demise from the shadows.

On the surface there aren’t many pieces to replace, as Desmond Hubert is the only scholarship player in the senior class. They do have additional scholarships available, however, and that could be important should Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, or incoming freshman Justin Jackson play well enough next season to warrant an early jump to the NBA.

From the looks of its early recruiting, North Carolina appears to be focusing on 10 players with hopes of bringing in a three-man class.


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Five 2015 classes off to fast starts 

June, 3, 2014
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As we turn our attention to the Class of 2015 and the newly released ESPN 100, here’s a look at five college basketball programs that have a head start on the 2015 recruiting trail:


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