NCB On The Trail: Kevon Looney

McDonald's Game players to watch 

April, 2, 2014
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The basketball world will be watching the 37th annual McDonald’s All-American Game on Wednesday night (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET) from the United Center in Chicago.

The 24 players selected to participate have already received the greatest honor in high school basketball, but with practices having started, they’re quickly realizing that this week is as much about things to come as it is a celebration of their careers to date.

The game isn’t just a chance for these players to excite their future fan bases, but also to perform, in many cases for the first time in their career, in front of NBA scouts and front office personnel expected from all 30 teams. It all but ensures a competitive few days of action as the players are always anxious to make a good impression.

That type of environment is also ideal for our ESPN RecruitingNation staff as we take one of our final looks at the top players in the country before ultimately putting the Class of 2014 player rankings to bed. With that in mind, we asked our team of evaluators which player they were most interested in observing this week:


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UCLA is hot both on the court and in recruiting.

After a huge crosstown win against USC on Sunday, the Bruins landed ESPN 25 prospect Lonzo Ball (Chino Hills, Calif./Chino Hills High School.)

Why he committed:
When Steve Alford and his staff took the UCLA job, they immediately begin recruiting Ball, and now it's paid off. Ball was recently on an unofficial to UCLA when the Bruins pounded USC, and it only took a few days after that win for him to commit to the Bruins. Once Ball witnessed the up-tempo atmosphere of Alford’s offense, he felt that he would be a perfect fit in that system.


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Event showcases Wisconsin’s best 

December, 16, 2013
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MEQUON, Wis. -- The seventh annual NY2LA Sports Classic was held on Saturday at Homestead High. The event featured the best teams in Wisconsin and is the top high school event in the state. Here are some of the top performers and performances.


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UCLA lands ESPN 100 PF Bolden

December, 10, 2013
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After a slow start to the 2014 recruiting race, the Bruins appear to be finding their groove as they landed one of the nation's better unsigned prospects in 6-foot-8, 205-pound power forward Jonah Bolden (New South Wales, Australia/Findlay Prep).

The ESPN 100 recruit chose the Bruins over SMU, USC, Indiana, Louisville and Kentucky. The Bruins were seen as the favorite and it appeared to be only a matter of time before he chose to continue his career in Westwood, despite Larry Brown and SMU making a strong push.

Bolden is one of the better under-the-radar prospects in the country, but he was able to exhibit his talents in August at the adidas Nations event in California. The finesse 4-man is a willowy, skilled prospect with an intriguing skill set. He can face up his defender and either drain the 19-foot jump shot or display his underrated passing skills. He needs to get considerably stronger and much more assertive, especially in the paint, but his upside is quite impressive.

Steve Alford has a nice nucleus arriving in Westwood next season with the likes of ESPN 100 prospects Kevon Looney (Milwaukee/Hamilton) and Thomas Welsh (Los Angeles/Loyola), as well as skilled 5-man Gyorgy Goloman (Weston, Fla./The Sagemont School). Along with Bolden, this group will provide the Bruins with length, skill and savvy. If UCLA can somehow land a point guard, Alford will have all of his needs met for the 2014 class.

Roundtable: Signing period surprises 

November, 19, 2013
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Signing periods can sometimes be anti-climactic. Prospects have already made verbal commitments and so many times signing a National Letter of Intent is more ceremonial than it is newsworthy, but that certainly hasn’t been the case this year.

The Class of 2014 will be remembered for, among other things, having one of the most exciting early signing periods in recent memory. Whether it was a series of high profile prospects announcing their decisions live on ESPNU, other top prospects having a last minute change of heart, or others who have continued to leave us wondering as to whether or not they will ultimately sign early, this is a group that has collectively brought a variety of intriguing headlines.

With less than 48 hours now left in the early signing period, we asked each of our RecruitingNation experts to pinpoint their biggest surprise from the early signing period:

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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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Scout's take: Looney to UCLA 

October, 31, 2013
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Kevon Looney, the No. 11 player in the ESPN 100, picked UCLA on Thursday over Duke, Tennessee, Florida, Michigan State and Wisconsin.

Here’s a look at why he picked the Bruins and how the 6-foot-8, 190-pound power forward fits in with new coach Steve Alford.

[+] EnlargeKevon Looney
Kelly Kline/adidasESPN 100 power forward Kevon Looney will allow UCLA to run a more wide-open offense.
Why he committed: Looney committed to the Bruins for reasons on and off the court.

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Class rankings analysis: Oct. 30 

October, 30, 2013
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As we come down to the wire for basketball's early signing period in November, many of the best players in the nation have finished their visits and are ready to make their decisions. Here’s a look at how some of the recruiting classes are shaping up as we get closer to the signing period:

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We’ve been talking a lot about class rankings in recent weeks. North Carolina and Ohio State have both been in the lead at various points this year while strong finishes from Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and even Baylor could put them all in contention for the top spot before it’s all said and done.

With that in mind, we took a speculative look at those six programs, breaking down what they would likely need to get to the top of the mountain.

Duke
Probability of finishing on top: 45 percent

ESPN 100 SG Grayson Allen might be the only prospect currently in Mike Krzyzewski’s incoming recruiting class, but the Blue Devils have as many top prospects left on the board as anyone. They’ll host Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones this weekend, along with Justise Winslow, leading to speculation that they could be on the verge of a massive package deal. They also remain in the mix for Myles Turner, Kevon Looney and Reid Travis. If they land Okafor and Jones, they’ll have a good chance of finishing in front. If they can add Winslow, Looney or Travis, their chances will be even better. If they could ever put Okafor, Turner and Jones in the same group, the rest of the class would be gravy. Suddenly we’d be talking about one of the best recruiting classes ever.


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#AskCoachB: What's the 'plan'?

October, 9, 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.



I see you are watching Recruiting Nation because you made reference to the "plan", which is how I describe the Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones recruiting situation. There are only three schools who can land Okafor and Jones and they are Baylor, Duke and Kansas, with Duke and Kansas being the favorites. Yes, whoever land this duo would have the best shot at being No. 1 in the class rankings.

Let's look at Kansas first: Today's commitment of ESPN’s No. 10 prospect Kelly Oubre to Kansas puts the Jayhawks in a viable position to land the nation's best class. If they do get Okafor and Jones it would then give the Jayhawks three top-10 players, including the No. 1 player in Okafor. Cliff Alexander was in attendance for “Late Night in the Phog” with Oubre, and the Jayhawks are also pursuing Myles Turner, Rashad Vaughn and JaQuan Lyle. Landing Okafor, Jones and one more of the prospects above would make Kansas No. 1.

As for the Duke Blue Devils, they already have No. 24 Grayson Allen, a sharpshooter from distance who plays with defensive toughness. If they land Okafor and Jones with Justise Winslow, it could make this group the nation's best. All three are visiting Duke on Oct. 25. Kevon Looney and Reid Travis are also still available, and both have shown great interest in Duke.

If Okafor and Jones shock the world and go to Baylor it could make things very interesting as far as the No. 1 class is concerned.

Kentucky is still in play for Okafor and many other top players such as Turner, Stanley Johnson, Winslow, James Blackmon Jr. and Devin Booker. I don't know if the Wildcats will have the No. 1 class when the smoke clears, but I do know it will be another stellar class for John Calipari.

Of course we have to crunch the numbers and use some analytics to determine our class rankings. When the musical chairs of recruiting stops and we actually see who goes where, then we can determine a winner.

Who'll end up with 2014's top class? 

October, 8, 2013
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With only eight of the top 20 prospects in the ESPN 100 currently committed and a number of high-profile national programs like Kentucky, Kansas and Duke all still looking to make their mark in the Class of 2014, there is still a huge amount of unpredictability with only five weeks before the early signing period.

With major dominoes like Jahlil Okafor, Myles Turner, Cliff Alexander and Tyus Jones all yet to drop, the only certainty is that there will be major movement to our ESPN class rankings before it’s all said and done.

With that in mind, we asked our team of experts to give their take on which team will end up on top when the smoke clears:

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#AskCoachB: Duke's backup plan

September, 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.



Already committed to Duke next year is Grayson Allen, who had a fantastic summer scoring the basketball and showing some defensive toughness. Looking to join him are a few names below who would be difference-makers to say the least.

Aside from courting the package deal of ESPN No. 1 Jahlil Okafor and the No. 1 PG Tyus Jones, the Blue Devils are heavily involved with other high-level players who fit their needs on the floor and their culture off the court. Big man Myles Turner, SF Justise Winslow, PF Kevon Looney, C Goodluck Okonoboh, and now PF Reid Travis are being pursued by Duke. With the departure of seniors Tyler Thornton, and Josh Hairston and the possibility of Jabari Parker or even Rasheed Sulaimon entering the NBA draft, depending on their season and how Duke does as a team, there is plenty of space on the Duke roster.

There is not another point guard in that group, as Quinn Cook will be at the controls in what would be his senior year, so Duke does not have a dire need at that position. Looking ahead, Coach K and staff will be immediately diving into the Class of 2015 for a point guard, which they might have to do even if Jones comes, because he could be a one-and-done player.

No program is tipping its hand as to where it stands, and Okafor and Jones have said they want to finish taking all of their visits and decide together some time in November. That is the plan, but in recruiting it could change at a moment's notice.

If Duke does not get Okafor and Jones, look for the Blue Devils to land a combination of three prospects in the above group and pass on a point guard this year.

Where will top prospects end up? 

September, 5, 2013
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With only 13 five-star prospects left on the board, all it takes is a quick glance down their recruiting lists to come to a quick conclusion: The vast majority are being recruited by a long list of the same schools. So when it’s all said and done, some of those schools are going to be left out in the cold.

Remaining 5-Star Prospects
[+] EnlargeTyus Jones
AP Photo/Damen Jackson Point guard Tyus Jones has visited Baylor and will see Kentucky, Kansas and Duke.
Jahlil Okafor (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young), 6-10, 265, C: He and Tyus Jones will visit Kansas and Duke in October after seeing Baylor together last weekend. They’ll visit Kentucky on separate dates because of scheduling conflicts. Okafor is also scheduled to see Arizona independently.


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Starting 5: Kuzma grows on Utes 

September, 3, 2013
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Each week, Starting 5 takes you on a tour of the recruiting landscape. It delves into topics, recruiting trends and stories. This edition focuses on the Utah Utes' recent run of commitments, emotional toughness in recruits and tells you what happened on last weekend's commitment spree.

Utah could have one in Kuzma

[+] EnlargeKyle Kuzma
Dave Telep/ESPN Kyle Kuzma grew six inches and became a bigger prospect. Utah noticed early.
The Utah Utes last weekend added a player that isn’t nationally known – yet – but is significant to the future of the program. Small forward Kyle Kuzma (Burton, Mich./Rise Academy) is one of those neat stories that manage to fly under the radar until that first breakout week on the scene in college. Consider yourself warned.

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Top 10 lessons learned at adidas Nations 

August, 7, 2013
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LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The adidas Nations event, which featured the world’s elite 18-and-under players representing teams from the United State, Africa, Australia, Latin America, Philippines and Russia, culminated with Monday’s championship game highlighted by 18 ESPN 100 prospects in action.

With so many elite players on display, there were plenty of lessons to be learned. Here are the top 10 things I learned:


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