NCB On The Trail: Rashad Vaughn

Richard Pitino and his staff were intent on making a big splash upon arriving at Minnesota in April 2013.

Or at least they were obligated to try.

Tyus Jones, Rashad Vaughn and Reid Travis were all local five-star prospects. Pitino’s predecessor was let go in large part because of his lackluster reputation on the recruiting trail, so Pitino had no choice but to jump in feet first and try to catch the dozens of other programs that had been recruiting the trio for years.

The Jordan Brand Classic featured much of the nation’s top talent.

Obviously, a number of players operate at the same position. That said, each brings a different aspect at the spot. Let’s take a look at some of the best and break down how they are different and impactful.

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Who is the best high school basketball team in the country?

That question will be answered by the end of the weekend as the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament began Thursday at New York Christ The King High School.

Huntington (W.Va.) Prep was the first team to advance to Friday’s semifinal round after ESPN 100 guard JaQuan Lyle drilled a game-winning 3-pointer with two seconds left in a 65-63 victory. Oak Hill (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) followed suit in the second act, handling Charlotte (N.C.) Northside Christian 69-60.

Las Vegas Findlay Prep looked to be on the verge of pulling away early in the second half of the third quarterfinal, but Seattle Rainier Beach came storming back, ultimately cutting the deficit to two points before Findlay was able to hang on, 67-59.

In the nightcap, Kevin Boyle made a return to the tri-state area as his Montverde (Fla.) Academy squad handled Sagemont (Fla.) 81-63 in the most lopsided game of the day.

Top Performances

[+] EnlargeMontaque Gill-Caesar
Dave Telep/ESPN.comJunior forward Montaque Gill-Ceasar helped Huntington Prep outlast La Lumiere in the Dick's Sporting Goods tourney quarterfinals.
JaQuan Lyle, Huntington Prep
Point guard, Class of 2014
6-foot-5, 215 pounds
Committed to Oregon

The first 31.5 minutes are almost an afterthought following the dynamic way in which Lyle closed the game. While he’ll be remembered for the game-winning 3-pointer he hit from the top of the key with just two seconds left and a defender draped all over him, his play on the previous possession was just as important. Huntington was trailing by one when La Lumiere (Ind.) went into a zone, hoping to confuse Huntington. Instead, Huntington got the ball to Lyle at the high post and let him go to work. He spun into the lane, attracted three defenders and dumped the ball to Thomas Bryant for an easy dunk.

Montaque Gill-Ceasar, Huntington Prep
Small forward, Class of 2015
6-6, 215

The powerful wing might not have been the last-minute hero, but he was as efficient as anyone for Huntington. He made shots from behind the arc, moved well off the ball with curling screens and timely basket cuts and showed the versatility to bully smaller defenders on the block or score over top of them from the mid-range area. He’s a matchup nightmare because he’s so powerful for his position, but unlike most with his build, his offensive game isn’t just brute force. Therefore, almost everything he does translates to the next level.

Jalen Coleman, La Lumiere
Shooting guard, Class of 2015
6-2, 170

Coleman didn’t have his customary shooting performance, especially in the first half, but his response to that slow start was most impressive. Even when his shots weren’t falling, he was still scoring, in large part because he was able to mix up his attack, get into the paint and get himself easy points at the free-throw line. Later on, he made a pair of huge 3-point shots with the game on the line, the last of which would have been the game-winner had it not been for Lyle’s shot.

Caleb Martin & Cody Martin, Oak Hill
Small forwards, Class of 2014
6-7, 190 and 6-7, 205
Both signed with N.C. State

Northside Christian came out of the gates with a lot of defensive intensity to catch Oak Hill off guard, but both of the Martin brothers stepped up and were critical to their team’s ability to settle down and take control of the game. Caleb was the first to respond, showing his length and smooth open-floor game to get to the rim, then following that up with a 3-pointer to get his team going. Cody was forced to take over as the team’s primarily ball-handler, where he proved be a dependable decision-maker and a valuable distributor. He asserted himself on the glass, adding 17 points to his brother’s 18. Both were an efficient 7-for-12 from the floor.

Craig Victor II, Findlay Prep
Power forward, Class of 2014
6-7, 205
Signed with Arizona

With Horace Spencer and Derryck Thornton both out of the lineup with injury and Rashad Vaughn and Kelly Oubre shaking off the cobwebs following Wednesday’s McDonald’s All-American game in Chicago, Victor stepped up to lead Findlay on Thursday. He looked a step quicker than earlier this winter, both in getting off the floor to finish around the rim and facing up his defender. He was a menace on the offensive glass, showed his soft touch on several short jumpers and even made a couple of high-level passes on the interior.

Ben Simmons, Montverde Academy
Power forward, Class of 2015
6-9, 230
Committed to LSU

Simmons was a man among boys inside the paint, not only showing off his unmatched athleticism for a variety of explosive finishes and blocks but also showing some of his more subtle tools that don’t often get as much recognition. He impressed with his quick feet and interior reflexes, the soft hands to come up with deep catches (both low and high) and the ability to get easy points by beating opposing big men from rim to rim. Once he got going, he even stepped out to hit a corner 3-pointer. Simply put, Sagemont had nobody that could come close to providing the same type of physical presence and sheer talent inside.

Semifinal Preview

Oak Hill Academy vs. Findlay Prep, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Oak Hill received excellent production out of the Martin twins in the quarterfinals, and they’ll need that again Friday if they’re going to hold off Findlay’s one-two perimeter punch of Oubre and Vaughn. Findlay has almost no interior depth to work with, so it will need not only another big game for Victor, but help from Oubre on the glass as well. Ultimately, look for depth and tempo to become potential factors here, as Oak Hill will look to wear down a Findlay team that is currently playing with just seven players. Findlay will likely play quite a bit of zone to try to slow the game as much as possible.

Montverde Academy vs. Huntington Prep, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Montverde ran away in its quarterfinal matchup while pushing the pace at every opportunity, getting a lot of easy baskets in transition as a result. Transition defense is going to be key for Huntington, but just as importantly, it will need to take care of the ball offensively and not settle for contested jumpers that could lead to potential run-outs for Montverde. Two of the best junior big men in the country will be going head to head, as Bryant and Simmons will likely be matched up. Lyle and D'Angelo Russell will lead their respective teams on the perimeter.

McDonald's All-American superlatives 

April, 3, 2014

CHICAGO -- Wednesday marked the 37th Annual McDonald's All-American game featuring the top high school boys basketball players in the country. The game took place at the United Center, home of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls.

Best low-post player: Jahlil Okafor

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McDonald's game matchups to watch 

April, 1, 2014

CHICAGO -- The prestigious McDonald's All American Game annually brings together the best talent in high school basketball, all on one stage. Here are a few game matchups to watch for this year's star-studded event, which can be seen live on ESPN Wednesday night at 9:30 ET.

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When we analyze and evaluate the skill set of today's basketball player, we speak quite often about their ability to drive to the rim and finish as well as knocking down 3-point shots.

What has been forgotten and not emphasized enough from coaches and workout coaches is their middle game. The ability to score the ball inside the arc and before one gets to the rim in tight quarters is a true gift. I would love to see today's player really work on their middle game to be a more well-rounded scorer.

Let's take a look at which ESPN 100 prospects possess the all-important middle game in the senior class.

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Scout's take: Vaughn big for UNLV 

February, 11, 2014
The top-rated perimeter player left on the board, ESPN 100 No. 18 Rashad Vaughn, has committed to UNLV. After an official visit in November and many unofficial visits to the Thomas and Mack Center, he chose the Rebels on Tuesday over Iowa State, North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas.

Why he committed: Vaughn chose the Rebels because he saw a golden opportunity to take a program from good to great. UNLV is rich with history and tradition, and at times, has been the best team in the West. Vaughn wanted to go where he could not only help right away but be a difference maker. He will be a centerpiece to a team that also has two quality big men in the class as well as a strong returning roster.

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Best prospects still on the board 

February, 6, 2014
Myles Turner, Rashad Vaughn and JaQuan Lyle were the major unclaimed prizes to come out of November’s early signing period, but Vaughn’s expected decision this weekend will leave only two high-profile targets for many of the nation’s most prestigious college programs to battle over.

But the next best remaining prospect in the country might just be a guy that is both prohibited from being a part of the ESPN 100 as well as from talking to college coaches, albeit for very different reasons.

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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.

The top three undeclared seniors are Myles Turner, Rashad Vaughn and JaQuan Lyle.

Turner has only made one official visit so far and that has been to Ohio State. He and his family will be traveling to Oklahoma State this weekend for his second official visit. Other schools on his list are Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Texas.

Vaughn has been to UNLV and Iowa State on official visits and is planning to visit North Carolina on Feb. 15. He still has Kansas and Kentucky on his list.

Lyle is visiting Oregon this weekend and told me recently that he plans to visit Oklahoma State and Kansas.

Turner will be a real difference maker in college. Vaughn will come in and be a scoring machine, and Lyle will be able to use his instincts and strength to help a team right away. I believe they will all take their time with this decision. Some say Turner is waiting to see who departs for the NBA. It’s way too early to make a prediction on any of these recruiting races.

Healthy Rashad Vaughn gaining momentum

January, 22, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- It appeared as if nobody would stop Theo Pinson (Greensboro, N.C./Wesleyan Christian) on Monday afternoon. In a highly anticipated matchup between Wesleyan Christian and Findlay Prep at the Spalding HoopHall Classic, the No. 13-ranked player in the Class of 2014 scored in every manner possible. Pinson scored his team’s first 11 points and entered the locker room at halftime with a game-high 18.

Then Rashad Vaughn (Golden Valley, Minn./Las Vegas Findlay Prep) took over.

[+] EnlargeRashad Vaughn
Courtesy of Kelly Kline/Under ArmourRashad Vaughn (right), a top-10 recruit in the 2014 class, has done well to come back from his knee injury.
Begging for the defensive assignment, Vaughn convinced Findlay head coach Jerome Williams to let him guard the North Carolina commit for the game’s final 20 minutes.

“Theo came out hot -- red hot -- in the first half,” Williams said. “In the locker room, Rashad was mad. He was the first one saying, ‘I want to guard him, coach. Give him to me. I don’t want to look at this no more.’ That’s why he started the second half, and rightfully so.”

It paid major dividends as Vaughn’s defensive prowess limited Pinson to five second-half points en route to a lopsided 73-44 Findlay win. Pinson appeared flustered down the stretch as the long-armed Vaughn wouldn’t allow any easy looks or drives to the hoop.

“I just put the handcuffs on him,” Vaughn said after the game. Vaughn, the No. 17 player in the Class of 2014, scored 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting in 22 minutes of action. He showed the long range coveted by many high-major programs and explosiveness to get to the basket.

The performance was particularly impressive considering the circumstances. It was Vaughn’s first game back from a knee injury that kept him out of the last six games. According to Williams, Vaughn had missed nearly two months and just returned to practice this week.

The initial plan was to ease him into a game environment, but when Pinson started heating up, Vaughn decided there was no time to tiptoe back into action.

"I felt a little winded, but not like I should have been,” he said. “Coach put us through a hard practice yesterday. I felt like I got a lot of my wind back. I thought I played well on the defensive end, shot well … I just felt the confidence coming back more and more.”

While Vaughn’s game returns to form, his recruitment continues to heat up.

Vaughn is currently the second-highest ranked uncommitted prospect in the 2014 class behind Myles Turner (Bedford, Texas/Trinity). He said he’s considering Iowa State, Kansas, North Carolina, UNLV and Kentucky. Wildcats head coach John Calipari and assistant Orlando Antigua watched much of Monday’s game from seats behind one of the hoops, and Vaughn admitted he noticed their presence.

He said he has a visit for North Carolina already set for next month. A trip to Kentucky, while not 100 percent, is also in the works. He hopes to make a college decision by late February or early March.

“I’ve got relationships with all the coaches,” Vaughn said. “It’s really about where I fit in and where I can get better as a player.”

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The third and final day of national competition at the Spalding Hoophall Classic brought a fitting end to what was another first class event from the Basketball Hall of Fame and Springfield College. Here’s a look at the top performers during Monday’s five-game slate:

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ESPN 100 Vaughn set to return 

January, 18, 2014

ESPN 100 shooting guard Rashad Vaughn (Golden Valley, Minn./Las Vegas Findlay Prep) said Friday night at the Flyin’ to the Hoop event that he plans to return to action next week after nursing a sore right knee.

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Roundtable: Spalding Hoophall Classic 

January, 14, 2014
Held each year during the Martin Luther King Day holiday weekend, the Spalding Hoophall Classic annually is one of the best high school basketball events of the year. Many of the nation’s top teams and individual prospects are converging on the birthplace of basketball in Springfield, Mass.

ESPN will again have wide-ranging coverage, with daily recaps and analysis from our Recruiting Nation team. Four games will be televised live Monday on ESPNU.

With such a wide variety of intriguing storylines set to play out in the next five days, here’s a look at what our experts are most looking forward to this weekend:

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Roundtable: Best event of holiday season 

December, 10, 2013
Jahlil Okafor, Mike Krzyzewski, Tyus JonesGetty Images, USA TODAY Sports, AP PhotoBefore they become teammates at Duke under Mike Krzyzewski, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones will face off on Thursday in a game televised on ESPN2.

The holiday season is a busy time for college basketball recruiters. About a month into the season, and only a couple of weeks removed from the early signing period, recruiting lists tend to be regenerated as coaches learn new things about their team and move on to new prospects.

Combine that with a variety of holiday events that feature several teams in a single location, coupled with a temporary pause in many college schedules for final exams, the next couple of weeks could very possibly be the busiest recruiting period of the high school season, and those tournaments continue past the holiday season.

With coaches out in full force, we asked our team at RecruitingNation what they were most looking forward to in the coming weeks:

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Biancardi's Breakdown: Rashad Vaughn 

December, 9, 2013
Shooting guard Rashad Vaughn (Golden Valley, Minn./Findlay College Prep), the No. 17 player in the ESPN 100, is being hotly pursued by several programs. The 6-foot-6, 200-pound prospect already has made two official visits (to Iowa State and UNLV) and recently set up a visit to North Carolina for Feb. 15, when the Tar Heels play Pittsburgh. For his final two visits, he is likely to choose among Arizona, Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky and Minnesota.

Let's break down the game of one of the top shooting guards in the country:

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