NCB On The Trail: Diamond Stone

Recruiting has quieted down a bit since the end of the early signing period and the start of the high school and college seasons, but there are plenty of teams still looking for players. Where will these schools find them?

Available players

The most obvious route is the remaining uncommitted players in the 2015 class. We’ve gone over the top 100 players countless times, and while there aren’t too many of that caliber still on the board, that’s the straight-forward option for teams still in need. The premier programs in the country are gunning for the Jaylen Browns, Diamond Stones and Ivan Rabbs of the world, but lower-tier high-major programs and mid-major programs have to keep their eyes out. They’re looking outside the top 100 and will also be on the prowl for players set to emerge during their senior seasons.

As those borderline high-major prospects continue to wait to commit to a school, though, they see their recruitment rise significantly. And therein lies the danger for schools: The talent pool among seniors dries out, schools still need players -- and desperation kicks in. That’s when you’ll see programs reaching for players, just to fill a void or get a body on the roster. For new coaches taking over programs, it’s a necessary evil; they simply need guys. But in some cases, it’s better to hold onto a scholarship for next year instead of reaching for a guy who won’t cut it at the high-major or mid-major level and will therefore transfer or take up a scholarship for four years.

Five observations: National Prep Showcase 

November, 24, 2014
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NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- One of the unofficial markers to the start of the college basketball season is the National Prep Showcase, which features the best prep schools from the New England area and around the country. While many of the top guys are committed or signed, there were plenty of noteworthy items.

1. A couple of months ago, it was expected that JaQuan Lyle would be playing for Oregon right now. Instead, he's enrolled at IMG Academy (Fla.) after being denied admission to Oregon. Lyle, who was ranked No. 42 in the 2014 class, has reopened his recruitment and is going through the process once again.

"It was real hectic at the beginning, but I've slowed it down a bit," Lyle said. "I want to take a couple more officials, then decide in late January or early February."

He recently took a trip to LSU, the same weekend No. 1 prospect Ben Simmons and five-star Antonio Blakeney (No. 14) were on campus. Ohio State, Xavier, Indiana and Missouri are also in the mix -- along with Oregon (Lyle will be eligible for admission after this school year). The Ducks sent head coach Dana Altman and all three assistants to Lyle's game on Saturday night, when the 6-foot-4 guard scored 35 points.

"I just opened it back up to make sure I made the right decision for myself," Lyle said. "I really love Oregon. I love the facilities, coaching staff, everything about it. They have an advantage right now, but I gotta take it day by day."


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Early signing period winners and losers 

November, 20, 2014
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Over the past few years, college basketball's early signing period has clearly taken precedence over the spring period. Nearly every committed player signs his letter of intent during the fall period, while several available top-100 prospects usually make their decisions within the seven-day stretch.

This season is a bit different. While the wide majority of top-100 players are signed and sealed to their future school, 11 of the 18 five-star prospects are still on the board. As a result, we're going to have far more drama moving forward than we've had in recent years.

Of course, that doesn't mean the early signing period was without interesting storylines. Five ESPN 100 prospects made their decisions, and several schools had to go back to the drawing board to reassess their 2015 classes.

WINNERS

Kentucky


Well, this was easy. The Wildcats went into the early signing period with one commit and a borderline top-40 class and exited with two five-star pledges and the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. With Charles Matthews (No. 44 in the ESPN 100) already in tow, Kentucky went to work, landing Skal Labissiere (No. 11) and Isaiah Briscoe (No. 13) in a 45-minute span last Thursday. Labissiere has perhaps the most pro potential of any prospect in the country, while Briscoe is the best point guard in the 2015 class. As always, the lesson is to never underestimate John Calipari. A month ago, it wasn't a lock that Kentucky was going to get Labissiere or Briscoe -- let alone both of them, back-to-back, on the same day. Calipari closed with both prospects, though, and now the Wildcats are back in a familiar position atop the recruiting rankings.


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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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Five big recruiting questions 

November, 5, 2014
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With the early signing period and the college basketball season around the corner, things are quieting down on the recruiting circuit. With that said, there were several recruiting storylines that developed this offseason. With conference media days taking place around the country, many of these topics came up. Here are five worth keeping an eye on moving forward:


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Last weekend, Kentucky had about 90 NBA scouts on its campus for a practice that was televised on ESPNU -- yet this weekend will feature an even bigger event for the Wildcats.

Friday brings Big Blue Madness to Lexington, where the Kentucky faithful will pack Rupp Arena for their first look at the 2014-15 edition of the Wildcats, the likely preseason No. 1 team in the country. More important, it is also the biggest recruiting weekend of the year for John Calipari and Kentucky. Seven five-star prospects from the classes of 2015 and 2016 are expected on campus this weekend, in addition to four-star commit Charles Matthews.

Calipari and his staff haven’t tried to downplay the event to the prospective recruits, either.

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Big men dominate in class of 2015 

September, 29, 2014
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A closer look at the class in 2015 shows that 10 of the top 15 prospects are either power forwards or centers. But don’t be mistaken as not all big men are the same. This is certainly not a one-size-fits-all talent pool.

Let’s look at how they are different in size, body type, skill, athletic ability and basketball IQ.

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Uncommitted prospects talk recruitment 

September, 18, 2014
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With the early November signing period quickly approaching, it’s time to take a look at the uncommitted prospects in 2015.

These six players spell out when and where they’re visiting, and what they’re looking for in their eventual destination.


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PHILADELPHIA -- The Reebok Classic Breakout took a backseat to no other event over the past 48 hours as the staff did a tremendous job of putting together a deep and talented roster, which in turn attracted over 200 Division I college coaches including dozens of high-profile head coaches. Here's a look at which players were most impressive throughout the first two days of action:

Best pure point guard: Derryck Thornton


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PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- There was a major buzz inside the gym of Philadelphia University as the clock struck 5 p.m. and the likes of John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Kevin Ollie, Larry Brown, John Beilein, Bo Ryan, and dozens of other high profile head coaches kicked off the July evaluation period at the Reebok Breakout Camp.

Marquee matchup


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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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The ESPN 60 has officially grown into the ESPN 100 for the Class of 2015, and there are plenty of intriguing storylines among the top rising seniors in the country:

[+] EnlargeIvan Rabb
Chris Williams/Icon SMIIvan Rabb maintained his tenuous hold on the No. 1 spot in the 2015 class.
1. Top spot still up for grabs. Ivan Rabb has retained his spot as the top-ranked prospect in the Class of 2015, but make no mistake about it: This remains a very tight race that will continue to play out for the next 12 months. Rabb’s versatility and efficiency during the Elite Youth Basketball League regular season, in addition to his vast physical upside, were enough for him to retain his title. But he has plenty of competition. Ben Simmons has been coming on as strong in recent months as any prospect in the class, as he is now turning potential into production on a much more consistent basis. In a class full of scoring guards, Malik Newman stands out as the most talented of them all, and very likely the best pure scorer in the ESPN 100. Diamond Stone has had an equally dominant spring in the Under Armour Association, playing his way into the top four and asserting his claim as a contender in the race for the No. 1 spot.

2. Oh, Henry. No player has made a more dramatic jump up the rankings than Henry Ellenson, who went all the way from No. 47 to No. 5 in the ESPN 100. Ellenson averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds per game for Playground Elite during the EYBL season, showing a versatile and unique game for a 6-foot-9 power forward, all while continuing to raise his level of his production with each passing week. He can shoot the ball from the 3-point line but is also a threat to put the ball on the floor. He is perhaps most effective when he’s able to get out and run in transition.

3. Other risers. Ellenson is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to players whose stock is rising. Jaylen Brown had a terrific spring on the adidas Gauntlet circuit and played his way into the top 10. Chase Jeter jumped more than 20 spots to land at No. 13, while Michigan State-bound big man Deyonta Davis moved up 30 spots to No. 18. Other spring stock risers include Justin Simon, who went from 45 to 23; Jalen Adams, 46 to 33; and Jalen Coleman, who hopped 24 spots to land at No. 34 in the ESPN 100.

4. Announcing his arrival. Previously a member of the 2016 class, Caleb Swanigan is making his debut in the 2015 rankings at No. 17 after announcing his reclassification last month. The wide-bodied 6-9 big man has nimble feet for a player of his size and an even bigger presence on the backboards. He led the entire EYBL in rebounding this season and was equally dominant cleaning the glass on both ends. His recruitment has also heated up, with Arizona and Kansas joining a long list of scholarship offers that already included Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue and many others.

5. More notable newcomers. While Swanigan might be the most notable of the new prospects in the ESPN 100, he’s far from the only one. In a class in desperate need of point guards, Corey Sanders has helped to fill a major void. He was unranked in the last ESPN 60 but now makes his ESPN 100 debut ranked No. 31 in the class. Former UConn commit Prince Ali is another prospect who was on the outside looking in the last time we updated rankings, but he has more than proved himself in recent months. Tres Tinkle, Admon Gilder and De'Jounte Murray make their debuts in the top half of the ESPN 100.

[+] EnlargeJessie Govan
Bart Young/USA BasketballGeorgetown commit Jessie Govan is trending back up the ESPN 100.
6. Down but not out. As some prospects go up the rankings, others must go down, but sometimes that’s just the spark of motivation they need to reassert themselves in the coming months. Jessie Govan and Terance Mann are examples of prospects who slipped out of the rankings at one point in time but are now trending back in the right direction. At No. 23, Tyler Dorsey is a prospect who could make another climb up the ESPN 100 before all is said and done, while the same can be said for P.J. Dozier, Charles Matthews, Doral Moore and K.J. Lawson.

7. Big and getting bigger. The 2015 class was already well known for the amount of size and frontcourt depth, but that has become an even bigger (no pun intended) trend in these most recent rankings. In fact, 11 of the top 15 ranked players in the class come at either the center or power forward positions, making this far and away the most frontcourt-dominated class we’ve seen in recent memory.

8. Plenty of positional size. Size is a characteristic of this class, not just among the frontcourt positions, but across each of the five positions on the floor. Even the perimeter players atop the class have terrific size relative to their spot on the floor. Jaylen Brown is no slouch of a wing at 6-5, while Brandon Ingram’s 6-8 frame is ideal. Malachi Richardson has equally imposing size at the shooting guard position at 6-6. Conversely, we don’t see a player 6 feet or under until Kendall Small (ditto on the no pun intended) checks in at No. 60.

9. Scoring guards. While the big men dominate the top of the rankings, many of the best guards in the class all seem to come from a similar prototype. They handle the ball more than natural 2-guards and yet are more focused on their individual offense than pure point guards. Instead, guys such as Newman, Antonio Blakeney, Allonzo Trier and Isaiah Briscoe can be best described as scoring guards -- guards who act as the primary playmakers for their respective teams but look for their own offense first and foremost before passing as a result of forcing the defense to collapse or rotate.

10. On the cusp. The final spots in the ESPN 100 are always some of the most debatable, essentially because there are so many prospects who can make a legitimate claim on the top 100 status. That was particularly true this year, when proven players such as Bryant Crawford and Rex Pflueger were left just on the outside looking in, along with other deserving prospects such as Joseph Toye, Matt Ryan, Chimezie Metu, Marcus Derrickson and several others.

Under Armour Invitational recap 

May, 17, 2014
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HOUSTON -- The Under Armour Invitational brings local travel teams together to compete under one roof and create an event loaded with high school talent from around the country.

Let's take a look at a few of the impressive performances that we witnessed.

Best true scoring point guard


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With Myles Turner's commitment to Texas serving as an unofficial close to the 2014 recruiting class, it’s time to focus on the 2015 crop.

Here are 10 questions that the recruiting world will seek to answer in the next year:

1. Will it be one and done?


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