NCB On The Trail: Ivan Rabb

NEW YORK -- The Under Armour Elite 24 game is loaded with ESPN Recruiting Nation ranked players from the classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017 and can be seen at 7 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPNU live from Pier 2 of Brooklyn Bridge Park. Let's take a look at five matchups that we are most excited to see.

POINT GUARDS

ESPN 100 No. 62 Jawun Evans 6-foot, 180 (Dallas, Texas/Justin F. Kimball) vs. ESPN 60 No. 9 Dennis Smith Jr. 6-1, 173 (Fayetteville, N.C./Trinity Christian School): In this all-important lead guard matchup, it will exciting to see who will run their team, push the ball and set the tone. Evans -- a great finisher for his size -- has blinding speed and quickness and can get teammates involved. Smith beats defenders off the bounce with ease and is a playmaker for himself or teammates. He is a highlight finisher on the break who can simply put the defense on its heels and create help situations all over the offensive end of the floor.

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Adidas Nations, one of the final team events of the summer, finished its four-day run on Monday. The talent included outstanding players in the United States to top global prospects. In the championship game, 2016 adidas U.S. Lillard defeated 2016 adidas U.S. Wall, 106-78. 2015 adidas U.S. Howard won the consolation over team Europe, 52-46.

My five takeaways


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Recruiting is a little bit like playing cards. You have to consider both your hand and your competition's before deciding how much you want to wager.

For high-profile college coaches, a scholarship offer is sometimes no more than a minimum wager to test the waters. Sean Miller is one head coach who tends to use his offers liberally, having extended 21 of them in the current 2015 class.

What’s undeniable is that once he decides he wants to go all-in, there aren’t many coaches who win more big hands. In fact, with Allonzo Trier becoming the latest ESPN 100 prospect to make an early commitment to Miller, you could argue that he has yet to miss on one of his top 2015 targets.

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AP Photo/The Augusta Chronicle, Sara CaldwellIf the Wildcats get a commitment from Ivan Rabb, they might end up with the best class in the country.
The Arizona Wildcats hold additional verbal commitments from two other five-star prospects in Justin Simon and Ray Smith. They also held a commitment from Tyler Dorsey up until last June, and while the origin of that split is debatable, the bottom line for Arizona was that they thought they could get better, and they did. They never stopped recruiting Trier and Isaiah Briscoe, even after Dorsey committed, and so ultimately they had a good hand but chose to double down and ended up winning big.

Now, that’s not to say that Arizona has their pick of all the best prospects in the country. Not at all. Only that Miller plays his hands especially well, analyzing not only the talent of the player but also his ties to the situation and those of his competition before deciding how much time and resources he wants to invest.

Chase Jeter is the perfect example. The five-star big man from Las Vegas committed to Duke on Monday night. Sure, Arizona would have loved to have him. They offered, actively recruited him, and even made his final six. But make no mistake about it, they were never all-in. They knew they weren’t getting him long before he went on national TV and had prioritized another big man much earlier in the process -- namely Ivan Rabb.

Rabb was not only the top-ranked prospect in the ESPN 100 heading into the July evaluation period, he was also a product of the same AAU program, the Oakland Soldiers, that has supplied Arizona with arguably the biggest recent pipeline in all of college basketball recruiting in recent years with Nick Johnson, Brandon Ashley, Aaron Gordon, and Stanley Johnson among others.

Now, Rabb is the last remaining target left on Arizona’s big board and the exclamation point that could punctuate what could ultimately be the nation’s No. 1 ranked recruiting class.

Oakland Soldiers program director Mark Olivier doesn’t know where Rabb will ultimately decide to go to college. Rabb is currently in Dubai with Team USA's U17 team and hasn’t given indication of any favorites or time frames. In fact, Rabb’s high school coach at Bishop O’Dowd, Lou Richie, is far more involved in his recruitment. One thing Olivier does expect though is that Rabb will make his own decision.

“I look at Ivan and I don’t think he’s that type of kid in that he’s going to go there because somebody else went there,” Olivier said.

Nevertheless, it would be only natural for the player who first began wearing a Soldiers uniform when he was in the 7th grade to want to follow so many of the players that he grew up admiring, especially Johnson, who took Rabb under his wing during last year’s EYBL season.


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LAS VEGAS -- The LeBron James Skills Academy concluded on Saturday with an impressive North Carolina squad methodically putting away a talented Syracuse team 65-52 in the championship. North Carolina was a well-rounded team that received a number of stellar performances from the likes of Ivan Rabb, Aaron Falzon, Malik Monk, Jake Lindsey, Cassius Winston and Aaron Holiday.

Here were some of the standout performances and interesting storylines from the LeBron camp:

Intriguing matchup


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LeBron James Skills Academy recap: Day 2 

July, 11, 2014
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Ivan Rabb, the No. 1 player in the ESPN 100, has had his moments at this camp. However, Ben Simmons is making a strong push for that spot as he has been clearly the best player after a couple of sessions. There is no player in the country who combines skill, savvy and athleticism like Simmons.

Most explosive

Malik Monk
2016, SG, 6-foot-3, 180 pounds


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Five burning questions: Arizona 

June, 20, 2014
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At this time last week, Arizona had two early verbal commitments in the Class of 2015 and two graduating seniors whose scholarships would need to be filled.

The Wildcats' work seemed to be done early. Except it wasn’t. Not even close.

Last weekend, ESPN 100 guard Tyler Dorsey decommitted from the Wildcats in a move that many had come to expect.

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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.

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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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After a long and detailed conversation about the nation’s best prospects, Ivan Rabb holds on to his No. 1 spot as we launch the new ESPN 100 for the Class of 2015.

Why he is No. 1: Many factors go into being tabbed the nation’s top prospect such as strong performance, consistent production and potential. At 6-foot-11 and 210 pounds, Rabb has all the physical markers to impact a game. Rabb has mobility and an enormous wing span (7-4). He utilizes those features along with speed and lateral quickness to protect the basket, outrun opponents and score the ball. It’s his efficiency that is impressive, as the majority of shots come inside the paint. After 16 games in the Elite Youth Basketball League, he had made more than 60 percent of his field-goal attempts, per GameChanger stats service.


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Five 2015 classes off to fast starts 

June, 3, 2014
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As we turn our attention to the Class of 2015 and the newly released ESPN 100, here’s a look at five college basketball programs that have a head start on the 2015 recruiting trail:


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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:

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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.

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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.

EYBL Session III recap 

May, 19, 2014
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HAMPTON, Va. -- The third installment of the 2014 Nike EYBL came to the Boo Williams Sports Complex this weekend. Here’s a look at some of the major storylines:


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Best of Dallas Nike EYBL 

May, 12, 2014
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FRISCO, Texas -- The second Nike EYBL session is in the books.

Let’s take a look at the event’s best players:

Best inside player

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Members of the Class of 2014 have (mostly) made their decisions. Which incoming freshmen should you get to know? Here is a look at the best rebounders -- and one name to know in 2015:

1. Jahlil Okafor, Duke
Okafor is as wide as a door and next to impossible to keep from a rebound that comes off the glass within reach of his suction-cup hands. Okafor is strong and physical and in the best shape I have seen him, and his motor is hitting on all cylinders.


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The Class of 2015 is in its early stages of development as new prospects are being recognized weekly and more established prospects are working to keep their reputations intact. May is a time to evaluate and analyze the nation's best. We will update our rankings in June after we get a thorough evaluation and find the emerging talent in this class.

With six months to go before the early signing period here is an early preview of the Class of 2015:


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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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