NCB On The Trail: Chris McCullough

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):


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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ESPN 100: Biggest risers 

April, 9, 2014
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The finish line was already in site in February when we last updated our ESPN 100 rankings. After watching many of these prospects for the better part of the past four years, the evaluation process was no longer about learning new things as much as it was monitoring recent developments.

As a result, our most recent and final version of the 2014 ESPN 100 bears a resemblance to its predecessor, except for a select few prospects who seized their opportunity to make one lasting impression.

With that in mind, here are the players whose stock rose the most in the final ESPN 100 of the 2014 class.


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Recruit and return: Syracuse 

March, 22, 2014
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In order to return to the NCAA tournament, a team needs contributions from both returning players and incoming recruits. Here's a look at Syracuse and its chances of dancing again in 2015.

Quick references:
2013-14 roster
2014 recruiting

Possible 2014-15 starting five:
G: Tyler Ennis
G: Trevor Cooney
F: Michael Gbinije
F: Jerami Grant
C: Rakeem Christmas


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Playing the comparison game 

February, 20, 2014
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It's a constant topic of conversation: Which player does this prospect remind us of?

Well, given that the current college basketball season has been dominated by freshmen, we took a look at Jeff Goodman’s latest ranking of college freshmen and played the comparison game.

Duke’s Jabari Parker reminds us of Duke signee Jahlil Okafor.
Although they obviously don’t play the same position or have the same style, the similarities are there, and not just the superficial ones such as their hometown of Chicago or college destination. Although Parker does his work primarily from the perimeter and Okafor on the block, Okafor has that same level of maturity that will allow him to adjust to offensive structure just as quickly as Parker has. Furthermore, Okafor likely will take over for Parker and become the immediate focal point of the way Duke plays in the half court. The Blue Devils have tailored what they do offensively to Parker this season, and they’re likely to do the same for Okafor next season.


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Recruiting needs change for these five 

February, 13, 2014
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The most successful recruiters are the ones with both a philosophy and a strategy.

They analyze their rosters, the competition and style of play in order to systematically build the most comprehensive team possible.

But as the old saying goes, even the best laid schemes often go awry, so flexibility and adaptability become equally imperative to long-term recruiting success.

That can be especially true during the college season, when a number of factors can change the course of a team’s plans.

Sometimes a team evolves in ways in which their coaches didn’t project, one player develops more than expected while another’s learning curve is less. And so that program needs to bring in a different position player than they once thought.

Most often, recruiting needs evolve according to turnover within the roster. Transfers are the most obvious example, but for many of the nation’s most prestigious programs, it’s the ramifications of the NBA draft that become especially hard to project.

With that in mind, here is a look at five programs whose recruiting needs now look much different than they did at the beginning of the season:


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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.

Chris McCullough is extremely talented and athletic with power-forward size and enormous length. Unfortunately he is now attending his third prep school, as he first attended Salisbury (Conn.) School, then moved to Brewster Academy and was asked to leave over a violation of school rules. Now he is enrolled in IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

When we watched him in the summer and fall there were games he was dominating with his scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking skills.

But there were games he would go for stretches and not produce or just show flashes of his ability.

There is no denying his tremendous upside, but his lack of consistency and red flags, along with others playing well, are the main reasons for his drop. He is still in elite company in the top 30, with the chance to rise based on his work at IMG.

Biancardi's Breakdown: Power forwards 

September, 2, 2013
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The power forward position has traditionally been a player with a combination of size and strength who can score in the paint. Specifically, the “four man” plays in the high post facing the basket or in low post with his back to the basket scoring, passing and using his dribble.

Since the inception of the 3-point shot, some forwards have utilized the line by becoming “stretch forwards.” Some forwards handle the ball extremely well for their size and have even become point forwards.

In today’s game, it’s hard to box some players into a specific position because the game is being coached differently. Coaches from the NBA level down to the high school game are reconstructing the power forward position into a hybrid spot and taking advantage of mismatches on the offensive end of the floor. They can adapt by playing faster or more zone if the matchup is not in their favor from a defensive perspective.

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Jahlil Okafor, Tyus JonesESPN, Icon SMIJahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones have discussed going to school together and the ESPN 100 prospects have scheduled several official visits as a tandem.
One of the lasting themes of the Class of 2014 has been the perpetual rumors of package deals, and yet as we get closer to and closer to November’s early signing period we’re still waiting for the first to come to fruition.

With that in mind, we examined the most rumored potential package deals in the country and set the odds in order to determine which have the best chance of actually happening.

First though, it’s necessary to define what a “package deal” is. In it’s purest form, it would be a situation where two or more prospects are recruited in unison and make one collaborative decision. But there really aren’t many situations currently like that in the 2014 class, with one notable exception.

Instead, most of the recent talk around “package deals” really reflects prospects that could potentially end up at the same school, even if they don’t go through the recruiting process together. As such, that is the definition which we’ll operate under for the purposes of this article and projecting the likelihood of such deals actually happening.


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Elite 24 lives up to its name

August, 23, 2013
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Emmanuel MudiayKelly Kline/Under ArmourThe Under Armour Elite 24 has always had top-level talent and this weekend's edition is no different, as ESPN 100 No. 5 player Emmanuel Mudiay is part of star-studded cast.
BROOKLYN, NY -- The 8th annual Under Armour Elite 24 game and dunk/skills competition will feature some of the nation's most outstanding basketball prospects. Previous games included top prep players such as Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves), Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats), Brandon Jennings (Detroit Pistons), Jrue Holiday (New Orleans Pelicans) and Lance Stephenson (Indiana Pacers) participated in this famed event.

This two-day event will take place at the Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park under The Brooklyn Bridge.

Catch all the action live on ESPNU, with the Dunk and Skills competition Friday at 7pm ET and the Elite 24 game Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.

5 Reasons to watch

1. Stars will be shining bright

The Elite 24 has been known for its star power, and this year's roster is stronger than ever. From top to bottom this game has the best players in the country regardless of class and position. This game has an abundance of gifted prospects, which is going to make it exciting and entertaining to witness as the best high school players go head to head.

The Elite 24 has 13 of the top 25 players in the 2014 ESPN 100 and 5 of the top 10, led by ESPN No. 3 Tyus Jones, No. 5 Emmanuel Mudiay and No. 7 Chris McCullough (Syracuse). The game also has a bevy of underclassman phenoms such as 2015 ESPN 60 prospects No. 1 Ivan Rabb, No. 2 Malik Newman and No. 7 Stephen Zimmermann, along with 2016 ESPN 25 No. 2 Thon Maker.

2. It's all about the matchups

Point guard: Jones vs. Mudiay
Jones is a pure point guard who has tremendous vision and makes great decisions. He is outstanding in handing out the assist in transition or when the game slows down. Mudiay brings outstanding size and athletic ability along with excellent penetration and passing skills. They're not only two of the best players in their respective positions, but two of the best in the nation.

Shooting guards: Rashad Vaughn vs. D'Angelo Russell
All-star games are about scoring points and these two guys do it as well as anyone in the 2014 class. Vaughn is always on the attack and can score with a long jumper or a finish at the rim. Russell is smooth and under control, always ready to launch his deadly long-range jumper. They are two of the best at creating their own shot when there is no offensive flow.

Small forwards: Kelly Oubre vs. Justin Jackson
Teammates for the AAU Houston Hoops, the battle between these two will be electrifying, as both are high-level scorers with great length, athletic ability and skill. Oubre is a dynamic finisher and will mix in some jumpers. Jackson is perhaps the best scoring small forward in the class, possessing touch and instinct from anywhere on the floor. Can Oubre contain Jackson's lethal mid-range jumper?

Power forwards Myles Turner and Zimmermann are two of the best frontcourt players in the country. Turner might be the best shot blocker in his the 2014 class and Zimmermann has tremendous skill for his age.

3. The college game looks better than ever

When this roster of players enters the college game it will bring with it excitement, skill, superior athletic ability and plenty of potential to the college game.

All of the players participating in this year's event are being recruited at the highest level. Turner is the hottest prospect in the nation and Jones being pursued by the likes of Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Some have already made their pledges, with Jackson, Joel Berry and Theo Pinson committed to North Carolina, Romelo Trimble and Dion Wiley pledging with Maryland, Chris Chiozza headed to Florida, McCullough at Syracuse and Russell to Ohio State. For the ones not committed yet their lists have been trimmed down, with college coaches and their fanbases will be closely watching.

The college game will continue to be extremely healthy. This list of prospects will influence and impact their future schools as well as the landscape of college basketball.

4. History lesson

This event has had numerous players go on and be successful in the NBA. When looking at the numbers, 37 Elite 24 players have become first-round NBA draft picks, with 23 ending up in the lottery, over the past eight years.

Three have become no. 1 overall picks: 2011 alum Anthony Bennett, 2009 participant Kyrie Irving and 2008 prospect John Wall. This year participants should add to that impressive list in the near future.

5. Last event of the summer

It seems as if the summer basketball circuit flies by each year, with so many players making a mark by competing and traveling around the country. As the summer season comes to an end, the Elite 24 gives players, college coaches, fans, and postseason all-star game voting members one last opportunity to view some of the best players in the nation on a national stage until their high school seasons begin. Many of the senior prospects will be candidates for postseason accolades and as the fall rolls around, so this makes the Elite 24 a special game.

Top Elite 24 position matchups

August, 22, 2013
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Tyus Jones, Emmanuel MudiayIcon SMI, Courtesy of Andrew ShurtleffTyus Jones, left, and Emmanuel Mudiay are the top two point guard recruits in the Class of 2014.

The 2013 Under Armour Elite 24 will be held at the Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Friday and Saturday. The game airs live on ESPNU at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, Aug. 24, while the Slam Dunk Contest and Skills Competition will air on Friday, Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.

Here are the game's best matchups to watch by position:

Point guard matchup
Tyus Jones vs. Emmanuel Mudiay
Jones will attack the lane off the dribble or from ball screens, and Mudiay will return the favor when he is not getting to the rim on the break. It will be interesting to see who will do the better job containing penetration and which one will shoot the ball better, in addition to seeing which one will be better when they are eye-to-eye at end of shot-clock or game situations. Jones and Mudiay are elite playmakers and finishers in the lane. It will be exciting to witness which one imposes his will first and sets the tone from the most important position on the court.

Shooting guard matchup
Malik Newman vs. Rashad Vaughn
Newman will put Vaughn's on-ball defense to the test right from the first touch, and Vaughn will attack Newman off the bounce and go right at him. Which one of these scoring machines will get off to the better start and set the rules? Their won't be any time to relax on offense or defense because both can create and make tough, contested shots and acrobatic finishes.

Small forward matchup
Justise Winslow vs. Stanley Johnson
This power wing matchup brings strength, toughness and competitiveness at the highest level of high school basketball. Can Johnson beat Winslow off the dribble and finish against a wing who is just as big and strong as he is? Winslow, who is one of the best defenders in the class, will have Johnson's full attention in many areas of the game. Winslow not only defends, he rebounds, facilitates and can score in the post, facing up and attacking with straight-line drives. It will be fun to watch these two big-bodied wings compete for advantages all over the court.

Power forward matchup
Ivan Rabb vs. Chris McCullough
This matchup is between two long, athletic, explosive quick-off-the-floor forwards. Who will miss the first block-out and give up a tip dunk and get the crowd fired up? Which one will display his much improved ball skills and shooting and get off to a quick start? Expect rim-level rebounds, blocked shots and poster-like, above-the-rim finishes early in this one.

Center matchup
Myles Turner vs. Stephen Zimmerman
These two skilled centers will surely make each other compete at high level because both have great face-up games and ball skills for their size, not to mention their ability to finish above the rim. Will Zimmerman's offensive package have an answer for the shot blocking ability of Turner? Both run the floor extremely well. Who will beat the other down the floor for the most easy scores and attack the glass for put-backs and defensively rebound to start the break? It will be fun to see which player will have to adjust his game the most, and which gives the other the most difficulty when defending one-on-one in the post or on the perimeter.

Elite 24 player breakdowns

August, 22, 2013
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Chris McCulloughDustin Snipes/Icon SMISyracuse forward commit Chris McCullough is looking to put his athleticism and skillset on display this weekend at the Under Armour Elite 24 in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Breakdowns of the key prospect competing at Under Armour Elite 24 showcase. The 2013 Under Armour Elite 24 will be held at the Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Friday and Saturday. The game airs live on ESPNU at 7 p.m. ET Saturday, while the Slam Dunk Contest and Skills Competition will air Friday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

2014

Tyus Jones
Point Guard
Apple Valley, Minn./Apple Valley
6-foot-2, 180 pounds
College: Undeclared

Jones is a true point guard that pushes the pace, runs his team and makes great decisions off the ball screen in addition to being an excellent finisher for his size. He has an an all-business approach and is a winner.

NBA Comparisons: Tony Parker/Ray McCallum/John Stockton

Emmanuel Mudiay
Point Guard
Dallas/Prime Prep
6-5, 198
College: Undeclared

Mudiay is a scoring point guard with great size and athletic ability that plays in full-attack mode and can also facilitate. He can take over the game offensively at times and is great at making plays at end-of-clock situations.

NBA Comparison: Tyreke Evans

Chris McCullough
Power Forward
Bronx, N.Y./Brewster Academy
6-9, 210
College: Syracuse

McCullough is a extra-long athletic forward that excels on the break and finishes above the rim on all clear paths. He rebounds and blocks shots to go along with being a capable multiple-position lockdown defender as well with great upside.

NBA Comparison: Taj Gibson

Justin Jackson
Small Forward
Tomball, Texas/Homeschool Christian Youth Association
6-8, 190
College: North Carolina

Jackson is a long and lean wing with a great feel for the game and a sweet shooting stroke and floater that is money from deep in the lane and along the baseline. Capable of scoring big numbers with a scoring package that extends to the arc.

NBA Comparisons: Jeremy Lamb/Tayshaun Prince/Reggie Miller

Myles Turner
Center
Bedford, Texas/Euless Trinity
6-11, 225
College: Undeclared

Turner is a post that is long with a great motor. He has an advanced face-up game with range to the arc. He can also put it on the floor and pass with accuracy in addition to being an elite shot blocker with off-the-charts upside.

NBA Comparisons: Anthony Davis/LaMarcus Aldridge/ Tim Duncan/Theo Ratliff

Rashad Vaughn
Shooting Guard
Golden Valley, Minn./Findlay Prep
6-6, 206
College: Undeclared

Vaughn is an attacking wing that excels on the break and can make scoring plays off the bounce in a variety of ways He is a tough matchup at the shooting guard position because he has range out to the arc and is relentless at attempting to make high-level scoring plays.

NBA Comparisons: Jamal Crawford/Jerry Stackhouse

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Best of the LeBron camp Day 3 

July, 9, 2013
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LAS VEGAS -- The third and final day of the LeBron James Skills Academy wrapped up on Monday with Florida beating Duke, 59-53, in the finals of the playoff bracket. Speedy PG Lourawls Nairn (Bel Aire, Kan./Sunrise Academy), rugged post Angel Delgado (Northfield, Mass./Redemption Academy) and versatile wing Boubacar Moungoro (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy) led the way for the winners, while Duke received an outstanding all-around performance from bully ball connoisseur Isaiah Briscoe (Newark, N.J./St. Benedicts).

Here are some superlatives from the final day of the elite skills academy.

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Alexander dominates Day 2 at LeBron 

July, 8, 2013
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Editor's note: This is the latest entry in Dave Telep's July Road Trip blog. Throughout the month, Dave will check in each day he's on the road while covering some of the biggest basketball recruiting events in the country. He'll let you know where he's at, offer some highlights of the day and give a quick look at what's next.

LAS VEGAS -- Everyone was assembling. The stage was set for No. 10 rising senior Myles Turner (Euless, Texas/Trinity) to take on No. 2 Cliff Alexander (Chicago/Curie). Unfortunately, the much-anticipated matchup didn’t happen after a leg injury for Turner put this titanic tilt on ice.

Still, a long Day 2 at the LeBron James Skills Academy on Sunday and the first day of games allowed ample time to evaluate and gather intel on many premier players. Here are some nuggets from Day 2.

[+] EnlargeCliff Alexander
AP Photo/Damen Jackson via Triple Play New MediaDay 2 at the LeBron camp belonged to No. 2 recruit Cliff Alexander, who dominated both games he played.
No Myles, but plenty of Alexander

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10 things to know about the 2014 class 

June, 12, 2013
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The new player rankings are out and the 2014 class of rising seniors has graduated from the ESPN 60 to its initial full ESPN 100. As this group of prospects takes center stage in a new recruiting cycle, here are 10 things you need to know about the Class of 2014.

1. Potential landscape-altering package deal

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