NCB On The Trail: K.J. Lawson

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NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- The Peach Jam continues to be an event college coaches flock to so they can evaluate and recruit talent for their future rosters. This past weekend, many of the biggest stars on the high school circuit competed for the Nike EYBL championship at the Peach Jam, and the New Jersey Playaz walked away champions in the 17-and-under division.

With so much talent and so much on the line, here are my five takeaways from the event.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Kevin Durant Nike Skills Academies took place under the direction of former NBA player and coach John Lucas. NBA superstar Kevin Durant was on hand each day participating in scrimmages and giving guidance to the high school and college campers. This camp showed why the SG/SF positions in 2015 are maybe the most talented and deepest positions in the class. Many of these prospects own terrific positional size with some striking wing spans.

Who stood out the most during the event? Let's break it down:

Best at creating separation


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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.

Minneapolis Nike EYBL recap 

May, 25, 2014
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The fourth session of the Nike EYBL gave teams one more opportunity to add league wins and earn the right to participate in the Peach Jam that will crown a champion in July.

Check out some of the many terrific prospect performances we witnessed this weekend at the EYBL:


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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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Real Deal in the Rock's top performers 

April, 21, 2014
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Little Rock, Ark. -- The Real Deal in the Rock is in its 10th year as one of the top spring events in the country, bringing some of the nation’s top teams to the Deep South. Here are some of the players who stood out:

Best Surprise
Admon Gilder
6-3, 180, 2015, SG

Gilder is a supreme scorer. He consistently found ways to put the ball in the basket all weekend, culminating with a 28-point performance in the championship game. Gilder is a good shooter who can create off the bounce. He should be a high priority for Big 12 and SEC schools.


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Roundtable: Looking ahead to 2014 

December, 31, 2013
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As we close the door on 2013 and look forward to the year to come, there are a variety of things to look forward to in college basketball recruiting.

The potentially intriguing storylines and trends are perhaps best reflected in our team of Recruiting Nation experts, who seem to have their eyes set on something different heading into the new year.

Paul Biancardi: In the 2014 class, the point guard position is strong at the very top, but there is not a lot of depth or promise after some of the elite players.


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