NCB On The Trail: Craig Victor

What we learned from the HSNT 

April, 7, 2014
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NEW YORK -- The Dick's Sporting Goods High School National Tournament crowned a champion on Saturday at Madison Square Garden with a familiar name as Montverde Academy (Fla.) won its second straight title, this time 71-62 over Oak Hill Academy (Va.). Over the six-year history of this prestigious event, this was the deepest field of teams and the highest level of talent from top to bottom. Montverde came in ranked as the No. 1 high school team in the country and should walk away in that top spot when the polls are finalized.

As the final high school team event of the 2013-14 season, let's take a look at five things we learned from this year's tournament:

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Who is the best high school basketball team in the country?

That question will be answered by the end of the weekend as the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament began Thursday at New York Christ The King High School.

Huntington (W.Va.) Prep was the first team to advance to Friday’s semifinal round after ESPN 100 guard JaQuan Lyle drilled a game-winning 3-pointer with two seconds left in a 65-63 victory. Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) followed suit in the second act, handling Charlotte (N.C.) Northside Christian 69-60.

Las Vegas Findlay Prep looked to be on the verge of pulling away early in the second half of the third quarterfinal, but Seattle Rainier Beach came storming back, ultimately cutting the deficit to two points before Findlay was able to hang on, 67-59.

In the nightcap, Kevin Boyle made a return to the tri-state area as his Montverde (Fla.) Academy squad handled Sagemont (Fla.) 81-63 in the most lopsided game of the day.

Top Performances

[+] EnlargeMontaque Gill-Caesar
Dave Telep/ESPN.comJunior forward Montaque Gill-Ceasar helped Huntington Prep outlast La Lumiere in the Dick's Sporting Goods tourney quarterfinals.
JaQuan Lyle, Huntington Prep
Point guard, Class of 2014
6-foot-5, 215 pounds
Committed to Oregon


The first 31.5 minutes are almost an afterthought following the dynamic way in which Lyle closed the game. While he’ll be remembered for the game-winning 3-pointer he hit from the top of the key with just two seconds left and a defender draped all over him, his play on the previous possession was just as important. Huntington was trailing by one when La Lumiere (Ind.) went into a zone, hoping to confuse Huntington. Instead, Huntington got the ball to Lyle at the high post and let him go to work. He spun into the lane, attracted three defenders and dumped the ball to Thomas Bryant for an easy dunk.

Montaque Gill-Ceasar, Huntington Prep
Small forward, Class of 2015
6-6, 215
Undecided


The powerful wing might not have been the last-minute hero, but he was as efficient as anyone for Huntington. He made shots from behind the arc, moved well off the ball with curling screens and timely basket cuts and showed the versatility to bully smaller defenders on the block or score over top of them from the mid-range area. He’s a matchup nightmare because he’s so powerful for his position, but unlike most with his build, his offensive game isn’t just brute force. Therefore, almost everything he does translates to the next level.

Jalen Coleman, La Lumiere
Shooting guard, Class of 2015
6-2, 170
Undecided


Coleman didn’t have his customary shooting performance, especially in the first half, but his response to that slow start was most impressive. Even when his shots weren’t falling, he was still scoring, in large part because he was able to mix up his attack, get into the paint and get himself easy points at the free-throw line. Later on, he made a pair of huge 3-point shots with the game on the line, the last of which would have been the game-winner had it not been for Lyle’s shot.

Caleb Martin & Cody Martin, Oak Hill
Small forwards, Class of 2014
6-7, 190 and 6-7, 205
Both signed with N.C. State


Northside Christian came out of the gates with a lot of defensive intensity to catch Oak Hill off guard, but both of the Martin brothers stepped up and were critical to their team’s ability to settle down and take control of the game. Caleb was the first to respond, showing his length and smooth open-floor game to get to the rim, then following that up with a 3-pointer to get his team going. Cody was forced to take over as the team’s primarily ball-handler, where he proved be a dependable decision-maker and a valuable distributor. He asserted himself on the glass, adding 17 points to his brother’s 18. Both were an efficient 7-for-12 from the floor.

Craig Victor II, Findlay Prep
Power forward, Class of 2014
6-7, 205
Signed with Arizona


With Horace Spencer and Derryck Thornton both out of the lineup with injury and Rashad Vaughn and Kelly Oubre shaking off the cobwebs following Wednesday’s McDonald’s All-American game in Chicago, Victor stepped up to lead Findlay on Thursday. He looked a step quicker than earlier this winter, both in getting off the floor to finish around the rim and facing up his defender. He was a menace on the offensive glass, showed his soft touch on several short jumpers and even made a couple of high-level passes on the interior.

Ben Simmons, Montverde Academy
Power forward, Class of 2015
6-9, 230
Committed to LSU


Simmons was a man among boys inside the paint, not only showing off his unmatched athleticism for a variety of explosive finishes and blocks but also showing some of his more subtle tools that don’t often get as much recognition. He impressed with his quick feet and interior reflexes, the soft hands to come up with deep catches (both low and high) and the ability to get easy points by beating opposing big men from rim to rim. Once he got going, he even stepped out to hit a corner 3-pointer. Simply put, Sagemont had nobody that could come close to providing the same type of physical presence and sheer talent inside.

Semifinal Preview

Oak Hill Academy vs. Findlay Prep, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Oak Hill received excellent production out of the Martin twins in the quarterfinals, and they’ll need that again Friday if they’re going to hold off Findlay’s one-two perimeter punch of Oubre and Vaughn. Findlay has almost no interior depth to work with, so it will need not only another big game for Victor, but help from Oubre on the glass as well. Ultimately, look for depth and tempo to become potential factors here, as Oak Hill will look to wear down a Findlay team that is currently playing with just seven players. Findlay will likely play quite a bit of zone to try to slow the game as much as possible.

Montverde Academy vs. Huntington Prep, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Montverde ran away in its quarterfinal matchup while pushing the pace at every opportunity, getting a lot of easy baskets in transition as a result. Transition defense is going to be key for Huntington, but just as importantly, it will need to take care of the ball offensively and not settle for contested jumpers that could lead to potential run-outs for Montverde. Two of the best junior big men in the country will be going head to head, as Bryant and Simmons will likely be matched up. Lyle and D'Angelo Russell will lead their respective teams on the perimeter.

Recruit and return: Arizona 

March, 29, 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 Arizona and its chances of dancing again in 2015.

Quick references:
2013-14 roster
2014 recruiting

Possible starting five:
G: T.J. McConnell
G: Nick Johnson
F: Stanley Johnson
F: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
F: Brandon Ashley


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Roundtable: Best event of holiday season 

December, 10, 2013
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Jahlil Okafor, Mike Krzyzewski, Tyus JonesGetty Images, USA TODAY Sports, AP PhotoBefore they become teammates at Duke under Mike Krzyzewski, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones will face off on Thursday in a game televised on ESPN2.

The holiday season is a busy time for college basketball recruiters. About a month into the season, and only a couple of weeks removed from the early signing period, recruiting lists tend to be regenerated as coaches learn new things about their team and move on to new prospects.

Combine that with a variety of holiday events that feature several teams in a single location, coupled with a temporary pause in many college schedules for final exams, the next couple of weeks could very possibly be the busiest recruiting period of the high school season, and those tournaments continue past the holiday season.

With coaches out in full force, we asked our team at RecruitingNation what they were most looking forward to in the coming weeks:


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Arizona set to add even more talent 

December, 4, 2013
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Arizona head coach Sean Miller has the Wildcats off to terrific start, as they are currently ranked No. 2 after winning the NIT Season Tip-Off by knocking off No. 10 Duke. Expect this trend by the Wildcats to continue because Miller has consistently added four- and five-star recruits to the roster since taking over at Arizona for the legendary Lute Olson in April 2009.

Miller's 2014 recruiting class is no different.


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Scout's take: Stanley Johnson to Arizona 

November, 15, 2013
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videoWhy he committed: Stanley Johnson (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) has developed a close relationship with Sean Miller and the Arizona staff through the years. He has been to the campus a few times and it was always thought amongst the scouting community that the Wildcats would be there in the end.


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With seven ESPN 100 commitments in as many days, the last week has been incredibly busy on the recruiting wire, but the best could still be yet to come with Reid Travis, Cliff Alexander, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones all likely to make decisions in time to sign during the early signing period, which begins next week.

In case you missed any of last week’s headlines, here’s a rundown: Devin Robinson chose Florida over Indiana on Wednesday; later that night, big man Michael Humphrey picked Stanford over Arizona; Devin Booker started a busy Thursday by picking Kentucky over Missouri; James Blackmon Jr. pulled a surprise by spurning Kentucky to recommit to Indiana; Kevon Looney’s commitment to UCLA was equally surprising, with most predicting Duke, Florida or Tennessee; former UCLA pledge Trevon Bluiett picked Xavier over Butler and Michigan State on Friday; and Trey Lyles chose Kentucky over Louisville on Tuesday.

That flurry of activity, along with the upcoming announcements, has brought more clarity to a lot of top national programs. Here’s a look at some of the implications:


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ESPN 100 recruits who defy positions 

October, 10, 2013
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The subject of positions has become a hot topic of basketball at all levels, with the same questions being asked all the way from the NBA down to the youth levels.

Are traditional positions still relevant? What’s the best way to define the five players on the floor? Are positions even necessary?

[+] EnlargeMyles Turner
Courtesy of Kelly Kline/Under ArmourAt 6-foot-11, Myles Turner, who is the nation's No. 2 player, is athletic enough to not be defined as a traditional center.
Terms like center, power forward, small forward, shooting guard and point guard were used when most teams played with three perimeter players around two big men. The risk in using those labels now, when the game is spaced almost universally four around one, isn’t just that the terminology is incompatible with the product, but more importantly the heightened sensitivity of players to the perceptions and limitations caused by those labels. Big men don’t want to be called centers. Big forwards want to be called small forwards and each perimeter player out there thinks he can be a point guard.

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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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Weekly commitment roundup

August, 23, 2013
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Big Ten conference
Ohio State
Mickey Mitchell SF Plano, Texas/Plano West
HT: 6-foot-6 WT: 210 pounds
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: 31
Stars: 4
ESPN 60: 31

Big East conference
Seton Hall
Angel Delgado PF Troy, N.Y./Huntington Prep
HT: 6-8 WT: 215
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 16
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 63

Pac-12 conference
Arizona
Craig Victor PF New Orleans/Findlay Prep)
HT: 6-8 WT: 205
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 5
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 31

ACC
Syracuse
Kaleb Joseph PG Nashua, N.H./Cushing Academy
HT: 6-3 WT: 165
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 10
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 51

Maryland
Trayvon Reed C Snellville, Ga./Shiloh
HT: 7-1 WT: 210
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 9
ESPN 100: 84

SEC
Missouri
JaKeenan Gant PF Springfield, Ga./Effingham County
HT: 6-8 WT: 210
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 7
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 37

Tennessee
C.J. Turman C Madison, Ga./Morgan County
HT: 6-9 WT: 215
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 15
Stars: 4

Alabama
Brandon Austin SF Montgomery, Ala./Carver
HT: 6-5 WT: 180
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: 14
Stars: 4

Big West conference
UC-Santa Barbara
Justin Burks SF Las Vegas/Arbor View
HT: 6-5 WT: 180
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

CAA
Drexel
Rashann London SG Philadelphia/Roman Catholic
HT: 6-2 WT: 180
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Ivy League
Princeton
Mike LeBlanc SF Dover, N.H./New Hampton School
HT: 6-6 WT: 185
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

NEC
Farleigh Dickinson
Devin Eke PF Scotch Plains, N.J./Union Catholic
HT: 6-6
Class of 2014
Position Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

America East
Binghamton
Justin McFadden SG Ardmore, Pa./Lower Merion
HT: 6-5 WT: 200
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Vermont
Brandon Hatton SG Covington, Ky./Dixie Heights
HT: 6-2
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Cam Ward SG Marshall, Wisc./Marshall
HT: 6-2 WT: 155
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending
It was an incredibly busy weekend of action on the recruiting front, not just because of the series of high-major commitments, but also because of trimmed lists, scheduled visits, and scholarship offers, all of which have the potential to create multiple ripples on the pending domino effect.

Commitment Catch-Up

• ESPN 100 PF Craig Victor (New Orleans, La./Findlay Prep) commits to Arizona: The 31st-ranked prospect and 5th best PF in the country announced on Saturday he was heading to Arizona, giving coach Sean Miller his third high level combination forward in as many years.


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ESPN 100 power forward Craig Victor (New Orleans/Findlay Prep) committed to Arizona on Saturday over offers from LSU, Oklahoma State and Kansas.

This is a marquee pickup for coach Sean Miller because Victor has the talent and leadership to contribute immediately upon his arrival in Tucson, Ariz. The class of 2014 prospect gives Miller yet another high-level forward who was recruited heavily nationally, along with Brandon Ashley in 2012 and Aaron Gordon in 2013. Arizona, at times, is referred to as Point Guard University but can also now be considered Combination Forward University with its recent high-level success.

Why did Victor pick Arizona, and what will he bring to the Wildcats? Let's break it down.


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Top 10 lessons learned at adidas Nations 

August, 7, 2013
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LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The adidas Nations event, which featured the world’s elite 18-and-under players representing teams from the United State, Africa, Australia, Latin America, Philippines and Russia, culminated with Monday’s championship game highlighted by 18 ESPN 100 prospects in action.

With so many elite players on display, there were plenty of lessons to be learned. Here are the top 10 things I learned:


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Notebook: Recruiting notes from July 

August, 2, 2013
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Thanks to a busy July and a run of news this week following the end of the July evaluation periods, the return of our weekly Friday recruiting notebook has no shortage of big-time recruiting info. From a big decommitment for Louisville to a host of trimmed up college lists to notes from a busy month on the road, we’ve got you covered.

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