NCB On The Trail: Devin Booker

As ESPN.com's countdown of the top college basketball coaches continues, here’s a look at the recruiting philosophy of Kentucky’s John Calipari:

Class of 2014's best shooters 

May, 6, 2014
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Though the top three prospects in the Class of 2014 are big men who control the paint, there are several outstanding shooters in the class. Let’s examine the five best shooters among the incoming freshmen and one from the Class of 2015.

1. Justin Jackson, North Carolina
He started out as a 3-point shooter but has developed into a master of the mid-range jump shot. Most outstanding shooters are confident and comfortable from a certain spot on the floor, but that’s not the case with Jackson. He is equally effective and productive from a catch-and-shoot scenario as he is putting the ball on the deck and rising up to finish inside the arc or in the paint. A combination of length, balance and extension with a feathery touch will make him hard to defend.


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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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Making jump shots is one of the most important skills in basketball. It might look easy, but it’s hard to become a consistent shooter with range.

Taking open shots is a big part of becoming a great shooter, as well as moving without the ball. High-level shooters are ready to shoot the ball as soon as it’s passed to them.

There are many outstanding jump shooters in the Class of 2014, but here are my top five.


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#AskCoachB: Projecting Kentucky

February, 18, 2014
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video Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.
Kentucky has the nation's No. 2 recruiting class. And this class, put together by John Calipari, is different than his past ones.

This bunch is highly ranked, with size and talent, but the difference is that this class has more skill on an individual and collective basis than in years past.

All four signees were recently named McDonald's All-Americans.

At 5-foot-9, Tyler Ulis (Matteson, Ill./Marian Catholic) might be the smallest point guard Calipari has ever coached, and he will be the best pure point guard he has ever landed. All his other great leaders were scoring guards with size, athletic ability and the mindset to score first and pass second. Ulis is just the opposite.

Devin Booker (Moss Point, Miss./Moss Point) is an outstanding long-range open shooter.

Trey Lyles (Indianapolis/Arsenal Technical) and Karl Towns (Metuchen, N.J./St. Joseph) can score inside and outside the paint, which allows them to play a high-low game. Both big men can pass against a set defense, which speaks volumes of their instincts for the game.

Of course, there will be a huge learning curve, as there is with every freshman group.

Who will decide to stay another season at Kentucky? It's never easy to figure out this early. But I would say the obvious ones are Marcus Lee, Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress.

Who's leaving? Chad Ford has Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein and James Young all in the first round on his Big Board Insider. The Harrison twins are playing much better, but it remains to be seen where they project in the draft.

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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2014 ESPN 100: 10 things to know 

January, 30, 2014
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Here are 10 things to know about the updated 2014 ESPN 100 player rankings.


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McDonald's game matchups to watch 

January, 29, 2014
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The McDonald's All American Game is annually the nation's most prestigious high school basketball all-star event. The rosters have been announced for the Class of 2014, and this year's game will once again be played at the United Center in Chicago and will air live on ESPN on April 2.

Here's a deeper look at five exciting matchups we'll see in the 2014 contest.

1. The battle of the giants
Jahlil Okafor (West) vs. Myles Turner (East)


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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.



Yes, you are correct. Devin Booker (Moss Point, Miss./Moss Point) has put up big numbers all season and is averaging close to 30 points per game.

I spoke with him the other night, and his team is inexperienced as their record is approaching the .500 mark right now. Booker has all the shooting skill to open up a game or help his team make a comeback. He is lighting up the scoreboard in spite of seeing a lot of junk defenses such as a box-and-one or a diamond-and-one, plus teams are trapping him to get the ball out of his hands.

Without a doubt he is one of the best shooters in the class because of his mechanics, range and accuracy.

In December he scored 111 points in four games in the High School OT invitational in North Carolina. That performance was four points short of the record which was held by former Tar Heel Donald Williams.

Booker has recently passed the 2,000-point marker in his career. He sits at No. 18 overall in the 2014 class and is the No. 3 shooting guard. Moving up will be hard for anyone inside the top 20 because every prospect is elite. Everytime we update our rankings there will be some movement. I will tell you this: Big Blue Nation has a knockdown shooter from long and mid range coming to Lexington next year.

Biancardi’s Breakdown: Best for '14 

December, 30, 2013
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Basketball is played right through the new year, so as we look back and plan ahead let’s take a look halfway through this season at which 2014 prospects have performed best in 14 categories.

1. Best in the low post: Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young), Duke signee
If a team needs to score a basket in the lower half of the painted area, Okafor is the one to pass it to. He has secure hands to catch almost any pass and a soft touch with superb footwork. He also has a wide mobile body to seal his man and the patience to throw the ball back out and re-post his 7-foot-3 wing span.


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Kentucky signs four ESPN 100 prospects

November, 14, 2013
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Kentucky head coach John Calipari announced the signing of four of the top 35 players in the country: No. 3 center Karl Towns Jr. (Metuchen, N.J./St. Joseph), No. 2 power forward Trey Lyles (Indianapolis/Arsenal Tech), No. 3 shooting guard Devin Booker (Moss Point, Miss./Moss Point) and No. 4 point guard Tyler Ulis (Matteson, Ill./Marian Catholic).

"I'm really proud of this group as far as where they are academically, what type of people they are and their basketball ability," Calipari said. "All four of these guys are skilled for their position and they have the ability to score. We're happy to announce they will be joining us next fall."

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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Class rankings analysis: Nov. 6 

November, 6, 2013
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We are one week away from the national signing period for men’s basketball. Seven of the top 17 recruits in the country are still on the board. Here's the latest on some schools rising and falling in the ESPN class rankings:


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Scout's take: Trey Lyles to Kentucky 

November, 5, 2013
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On his 18th birthday Tuesday, five-star power forward and ESPN 100 No. 7 overall recruit Trey Lyles (Indianapolis/Arsenal Tech) committed to Kentucky over in-state rival Louisville.

What does Lyles bring to the Wildcats and how will he fit in John Calipari's system? Let's break it down:


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Scout's take: SG Booker to Kentucky 

October, 31, 2013
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Five-star shooting guard Devin Booker (Moss Point, Miss./Moss Point) committed today to Kentucky over offers from Michigan, Michigan State and Missouri.

Landing the third-best shooting guard in the Class of 2014 and the No. 18 overall player in the ESPN 100 is another huge get for the Wildcats. How will he fit?


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