NCB On The Trail: Isaac Copeland

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Scouting the country each year I’ll not only see players’ skills, athletic ability and basketball IQ, but I’ll also witness their character along the way. This year’s class might not have any NBA superstars at the moment, but it will have difference-makers for the college game, both in the short term as well as those who will make a difference in time because of their character traits combined with their talent.

As we wrap up the Class of 2014, here are my five final thoughts:

1. The land of the giants

[+] EnlargeJahlil Okafor
AP Photo/The Sun News/Charles SlateDuke center signee Jahlil Okafor finishes the season as the nation's top prospect.
When you look at the top of a class it's so rare to have three post players sitting in the top three spots. Jahlil Okafor, who held the top spot for much of the season, finishes the season as the nation’s top prospect. The center from Chicago is a dominating presence in the paint. A Duke signee, Okafor led his high school team to a 4A state championship and was named the McDonalds Morgan Wooten player of the year.

He is special because he scores down low in the paint with his back to the basket. His combination of size, touch and fluid footwork is too much for one defender and when he doesn’t score, he attracts a double-team, which gives his team an advantage. He operates with patience and poise and when he reads the double-team he will accurately pass out to the open man. Defensively he guards the post and is improving at ball-screen defense as he is a barrier to the rim for his team.

Myles Turner, the nation’s No. 2 prospect, challenged hard for the No. 1 position and shows a big upside. Turner, who is uncommitted, is an elite shot-blocker and scores baskets with a soft touch and range. Cliff Alexander is going to be an absolute difference-maker for Kansas with his ability to rebound, finish and block shots, and he does it in an aggressive manner. Trey Lyles is one of the most skilled post players in this group and his future teammate at Kentucky Karl Towns Jr. has franchise skill-to-size ratio. Thomas Welsh is a fundamentally sound big who will anchor the middle at UCLA.

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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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There is a budding dynasty in prep school basketball, and it goes by the name Brewster Academy.

Winners of three of the last six New England prep titles and two of the last four national championships coming into the year, this season was supposed to be a "down” year for Brewster (Wolfeboro, N.H.). However, it turned into perhaps the Bobcats' most successful season in program history.

While this might not be the most individually talented team in Brewster history, it is probably the most cohesive collective unit. The Bobcats approached this season's National Prep Championship -- which they won on Wednesday -- as if they were on a mission. They competed for 40 minutes each time out, defended and shared the ball incredibly well. In fact, they had at least four players finish in double figures in all three of their wins.


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Roundtable: Identifying 2014's sleepers 

March, 4, 2014
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As the 2014 class winds down its final season of high school basketball, the ESPN 100 has been analyzed in virtually every way possible. We’ve broken down the top prospects, picked out the best fits, projected both the immediate impact players, and even forecast those who are likely to show the most improvement over their college careers.

But now we are giving each member of the RecruitingNation team one last chance to go on record with a prospect they believe in, a sleeper they expect to be better than most are projecting, whether it's right away or over time.

Here’s a look at who the experts have their eyes on:


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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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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Day two of the Spalding Hoophall Classic continued to showcase top national talent to a packed house of fans, college coaches and national media alike. Here’s a look at who stood out on Sunday:

Best guard: Jalen Coleman (Indianapolis/La Lumiere)
Every part of Coleman’s performance was impressive on Sunday. He shot the ball extremely well from long range, was low to the ground with his rips and created space in the mid-range area. Defensively he was equally impressive, shutting down Kobe Eubanks, rotating well away from the ball and communicating appropriately. More impressive than his production was the fact almost everything he did on both ends of the floor would have translated into a college game.


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The high school basketball season is in full swing and some of the nation’s best are playing well and leading their teams. Others are extremely productive and having great individual performances.

There's also a small group of players who are good now with a chance of big-time growth.

As top-ranked players, they have talent. It's what they do with it that will determine their ultimate success. To reach their potential, it’s a matter of two important questions. Does the prospect have the necessary tools to perform at a high level? And will he do what is necessary from an effort standpoint to be great?

Let's take a look at players who are playing at a high level now and who have plenty of potential to be even better down the road.

ESPN No. 2 Myles Turner
The Texas native has a combination of size and skill, and he's a shot blocker with mobility. Turner was one block shy of a triple double, as he had 29 points, 15 rebounds and nine blocks last week against Homeschool Christian.


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#AskCoachB: Interchangeable Hoyas

December, 13, 2013
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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.

Playing for John Thompson III at Georgetown, both Isaac Copeland (Raleigh, N.C./Brewster Academy) and Paul White (Chicago/Whitney Young) will fit nicely together.

Copeland is more of a skilled, stretch four man with terrific mobility and length. He can stroke the 3 and score close to the rim. Meanwhile, if you watched White's performance Thursday on ESPN2 against Apple Valley, you could easily see the array of skills he brings to the game. The ability to score shoot, pass, rebound and handle the ball allows him to play small forward or power forward.

Both bring excellent positional size, length, and versatility to the court. Each still has plenty of upside to tap into as they mature, and they need to learn how to utilize their athletic frames to play defense. They both could influence the game on defense if they get serious in their approach.

They will easily be able to coexist on the floor as interchangeable parts to the Georgetown system, which is heavily based on skill, finesse and exploring mismatches on the floor.

Prep school stars shine at Showcase 

November, 25, 2013
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NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- The National Prep Showcase has annually served as the unofficial start to the prep school basketball season, and the 2013 edition was no different, hosting 23 top teams over the course of three exciting days of action.

A variety of top prospects stood out over the course of the weekend. UNLV-bound ESPN 100 big man Goodluck Okonoboh (Boston/Wilbraham & Monson) put on his latest display of shot-blocking prowess, turning away eight attempts on Saturday night, while Colorado-bound big man Tory Miller (Lee’s Summit, Mo./New Hampton) emerged as perhaps the most impactful true post player in the field.

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On Thursday, we examined the last 10 national champions in order to determine if recruiters put too much emphasis on potential one-and-done prospects.

What we found was that unless those prospects were once-in-a-generation talents like Carmelo Anthony or Anthony Davis, the answer may be yes.

So if college coaches shouldn’t be investing so much time on potential one-and-done prospects, who should they be focused on?

Recent history tells us that NBA-caliber talent should still be put at a premium, but likely the type of talent that needs two, or ideally three years of seasoning in the college ranks first. Experience is especially true in the backcourt where there is a clear correlation between championship caliber teams and experienced ball-handlers/decision makers.

With those findings in mind, we went through the current ESPN 100 and looked to see who could possibly be among the best juniors in the country three years from now:


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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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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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Top players from LeBron camp Day 2 

July, 8, 2013
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LAS VEGAS -- The intensity was good for most of the competition on Sunday at the LeBron James Skills Academy, as the players utilized the concepts learned in drill work and applied them to the start of games. As with most competitive camp situations, the better-conditioned athletes and battle-tested players stood out.

Here’s a look at nine players who separated themselves with their performances on Day 2.

Justin Jackson (Tomball, Texas/HCYA)
2014, SF, 6-7, 185
Committed to North Carolina


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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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ESPN 100 small forward/shooting guard L.J. Peak (Gaffney, S.C./Gaffney) committed to Georgetown on Tuesday night over South Carolina and Florida State, giving the Hoyas their third commitment in the 2014 class and moving them to No. 6 in the class rankings.

"I picked Georgetown because I want to win and they will help me develop my game to get to the next level (NBA)," said Peak, who is planning on taking his official visit to Georgetown in August.

[+] EnlargePeak
Dave TelepESPN 100 wing L.J. Peak committed to Georgetown, giving the Hoyas their third 2014 commitment so far.
This is a huge pickup for coach John Thompson III and his staff.

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