NCB On The Trail: Riley LaChance

Conference play is upon us, and there are many freshmen who are playing at high levels and helping their teams win.

We know the household names by now: Jahlil Okafor, Myles Turner and Cliff Alexander, our top three players in the 2014 recruiting class, are getting plenty of attention. Other freshmen who are off to a great start are Stanley Johnson (Arizona) D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State) and Melo Trimble (Maryland), all McDonald’s All-Americans.

We rank, grade and evaluate the country's best high school prospects. With every class there is value, depth and the assumption that prospects will perform according to their rank and evaluation over time.

Below is a group of five freshmen who were not McDonald's All-Americans or ranked in our top 25, but are playing up to their top-100 billing. If you don’t know their names and their games, now is the perfect time to get acquainted.

Robert Johnson, Indiana
ESPN 100 rank: 47

We know that James Blackmon Jr. is leading the Big Ten in scoring, but the Hoosiers would not be where they are without Johnson. At 6-foot-3, Johnson is one of five players on Indiana shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range. He contributes to winning in many ways -- 9.5 points per game, 3.9 rebounds per game, 3 assists per game (second on team) but still has a few too many freshmen turnovers that need to be cleaned up. When I first watched him play in high school, it was his is poise and toughness that caught my attention. Now he brings those traits along with a strong work ethic.

Roundtable: Non-top 50 impact players 

February, 11, 2014
Freshmen have been the talk of this college basketball season, and while the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, and Julius Randle have all been as good as advertised, there have certainly been plenty of surprises as well.

Tyler Ennis rose up the rankings to the No. 20 spot in the final ESPN 100 of 2013, but few could have predicted that he would this good this early for Syracuse.

Then there are those like Texas’ Isaiah Taylor, Kansas State’s Marcus Foster, and Villanova’s Josh Hart, freshmen who have exceeded the prevailing expectations at the time of their signings and have made an immediate impact.

In some cases, these contributions can be more predictable than others, such as when there is an immediate opportunity or a particularly good fit with the program’s style of play. With that in mind, we asked our team of RecruitingNation experts to look ahead and identify one current ESPN 100 prospect outside of the top 50 who they believe can make a notable immediate contribution.

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2014 ESPN 100: 10 things to know 

January, 30, 2014

Here are 10 things to know about the updated 2014 ESPN 100 player rankings.

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Event showcases Wisconsin’s best 

December, 16, 2013
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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Vanderbilt reels in three four-star recruits

November, 13, 2013
Vanderbilt signed a three-player class on Wednesday, coach Kevin Stallings announced.

Leading the way for the Commodores is ESPN 100 PG Riley LaChance (Brookfield, Wisc./Brookfield Central) along with four-star SG Matthew Fisher-Davis (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Christian) and four-star PG Wade Baldwin (Hillsborough, N.J./St. Joseph).

"I'm very excited about the three young men that are signing with us," Stallings said in a press release. "All three are great kids from great families, and we're excited about the help that they'll bring to the perimeter of next year's team and really proud of my staff of going out and doing a good job landing these guys."

The Commodores are currently ranked No. 25 in's RecruitingNation Top 40.

Scout's take: Stanford lands big man 

October, 31, 2013
Stanford earned an important commitment Wednesday night, adding 6-foot-10 Michael Humphrey, who emerged as one of the West Coast’s biggest risers during the recent AAU and grassroots season.

Why he committed: Humphrey is an outstanding student, and academics played a big part in his recruitment throughout the process. Ultimately, it proved to be one of the deciding factors as he picked Stanford over Arizona, having previously eliminated UCLA, Vanderbilt and Notre Dame from his final five. The opportunity for an immediate opportunity also played a role, as there’s little doubt he’ll challenge for consistent rotation minutes as a freshman.

Michael Humphrey
Joel Francisco/ESPNMichael Humphrey is a skilled big man who should pay immediate dividends on the defensive end.
What he brings: He’s a late-blooming big man who hadn’t made a name for himself before this spring. He sprouted up physically during his junior year and is consequently still growing into his body, and potentially still growing period. He already has good mobility and agility for a player his size, along with an excellent motor. His most immediate contributions will be on the defensive end, where his feet and timing will allow him to be valuable blocking shots and defending pick-and-rolls.

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Notebook: Bruins host big visitor 

September, 20, 2013
Truth? It’s not a big campus visited weekend. Take a look at the pedestrian football schedule and you’ll see what I mean. However, there are a few stragglers on campus this weekend, some of which are crucial to a few programs this year and next.

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Top five undervalued classes 

September, 19, 2013
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings landed a commitment from his second four-star prospect in as many weeks over the weekend when Matthew Fisher-Davis (Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Christian) joined Wade Baldwin (Hillsborough, N.J./St. Joseph).

With a pair of four-star prospects now on board in mid-September, Stallings’ class is considered good, but not great, by most national standards.

But the reality is that each school comes into the summer with different needs and priorities, and ultimately those objectives are tied to winning basketball games, not class rankings. Coaches consider fit, style, personnel, and a variety of other variables.

For Vanderbilt, that means looking for high-character guys who fit their system and culture. Given that approach, the Commodores are one of five schools off that couldn't hope to be off to a better start.

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Biancardi's Breakdown: Riley LaChance 

September, 16, 2013
When we first spotted him in the spring, ESPN 100 Riley LaChance's offers were from all mid-major programs. By way of strong performances with his Ray Allen select AAU team in the summer, LaChance's recruiting has skyrocketed to all of the power-six conferences. LaChance has taken official visits to Vanderbilt, and Creighton and plans to visit Baylor, Iowa and Minnesota soon.

Let’s break down his game and see what he does best and where he still needs to improve.

Athletic ability

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Notebook: Big weekend in Aggieland 

September, 13, 2013
Who’s that guy headed to Xavier? Buffalo? They landed a top-100 player? Plus who’s spending the weekend in College Station? All this and more as we empty the notebook.

Hanging with Johnny Football

[+] EnlargeJustise Winslow
Chris Williams/Icon SMIESPN 100 wing Justise Winslow is looking to visit Texas A&M this weekend and Florida next weekend.
The biggest football extravaganza this weekend takes us to College Station, Texas, where Johnny Football faces the best professional college team in the country, Alabama. Can you imagine how many recruits requested a campus visit that weekend?

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Analyzing recent ESPN 100 PG news 

August, 13, 2013

Reading through the typical recruiting jargon can be a difficult task, especially for the untrained eye, but suffice it to say that things aren’t always what they seem.

Some of the most misleading statements often include sayings like, "He has offers from," or "He chose school X over," or "He decommitted from," primarily because they consider only one side of the process.

The fact of the matter is that schools choose prospects as much as prospects choose schools, and the former is no less fluid than the latter.

What does that mean? It means that sometimes when a tweet or recruiting article says Player X committed to School Y over offers from Schools A, B, C and D, what it can really mean is that Schools A, B, C and D offered Player X at some point in the past, but are no longer recruiting him, so he decided to commit to School Y.

Now, why would a school suddenly stop recruiting a prospect? Because they suddenly realized he wasn't good enough? Possibly, but more likely it's because they have since received a commitment from, or feel like they are on the verge of a commitment from, someone else at the same position whom they hold in a little higher esteem.

So, with that in mind, we're going to rewind through a particularly busy few weeks in the national point guard market and make an attempt to translate the real story. Whether it was a prospect who made a commitment or cut his list, we'll tell you which schools are in, which are out, the real story behind whose decision it was, and the bottom line for each prospect. Then we'll circle back and tell you which two ESPN 100 point guards are still uncommitted and open to new suitors.

[+] EnlargeTyus Jones
AP Photo/Damen Jackson No. 1 PG Tyus Jones recently reaffirmed his desire to play college hoops with No. 1 overall recruit Jahlil Okafor.
News: Tyus Jones (Apple Valley, Minn./Apple Valley) reaffirms his intent to go to school with Jahlil Okafor (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young)
In: Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State
Out: Minnesota
Real story: Minnesota is still on Jones' list of seven, but the Gophers aren't on Okafor's list. That, in addition to the fact Richard Pitino and his staff could be seen prioritizing other targets this summer, is indication enough that Jones isn't likely to be staying home next season. The latest twist in the story is Okafor's AAU coach, Mike Irvin, going on record saying there is a great chance Duke lands Jones, while Okafor's camp has denied the Blue Devils are the leader for the package deal.
Bottom line: Jones and Okafor do want to go to school together, but they don't yet agree on where. Jones appears pretty set on Duke, but Okafor not quite as much at this point. ESPN 100 SF Justise Winslow (Houston/Saint John's) is also part of the conversation, making this potentially one of the biggest package deals in recent history.

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Biancardi's Breakdown: Point guards 

August, 12, 2013
Without question, the most important position in basketball from a coach’s point of view is the point guard, and the success of any team lies with its floor leader.

During my coaching career, I have had the unbelievable good fortune to recruit and coach many outstanding point guards who played in the NBA (such as Howard Eisley at Boston College), as well as standouts in the college game (such as James “Scoonie” Penn at Boston College and Ohio State and DaShaun Wood at Wright State. Eisley had a 12-year NBA career, Penn was the Big East Rookie of the Year and Big Ten Player of the Year, and Wood was the Horizon League Player of the Year.

Below are 10 keys that are vital to being a great point guard, with a look at which prospects from the Class of 2014 best demonstrate each of those traits.

[+] EnlargeTyus Jones
Chris Williams/Icon SMITyus Jones, the nation's top PG, reminds us of Syracuse's Tyler Ennis for a variety of reasons.

1. Eliminate emotional fogs

Why it’s important: The ability to perform and always have your head in the game is the first part of being a floor general. To do what the coach wants and give the team what it needs all game long takes total concentration, but it’s what separates the good from the great point guards.

Who does it best:
Joel Berry: The UNC-bound floor general is battle-tested and tough-minded with a winning approach. His mentality is to always be dialed in, and he reacts to adversity extremely well. He never allows the previous possession to affect the next play, which is rare at such a young age.

Tyus Jones: The nation’s No. 1-ranked point guard is aware and alert to what’s going on throughout the course of a game and does not get caught up in one-on-one battles when defenders make him a priority. Once his attention to detail on the defensive end increases, watch out.

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Notebook: Potential pair for Providence 

August, 9, 2013
This week’s Friday recruiting notebook includes a look at a potential ESPN 100 package deal for Providence, handicapping the race for ESPN 100 point guard Kaleb Joseph, the final eight for No. 10 recruit Myles Turner, and plenty more recruiting news and notes.

Abdul Malik-Abu
Dave Telep/ESPNESPN 100 PF Abdul-Malik Abu is down to Providence, Florida, NC State and UConn.
Abu, Terrell and Providence?

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The best performers of July 

August, 2, 2013

In basketball recruiting, the July recruiting period is a chance for college coaches to zero in on their top targets. And for us here at RecruitingNation, it is likewise a chance to attend July’s biggest events and watch the nation’s top players.

To wrap up the hottest evaluation time of the year, let’s hand out some superlatives to the biggest standouts from the entire month of July.

Biggest difference-maker: Jahlil Okafor
When you play with and against older, more experienced competition and win a gold medal while being named to the all-tournament team, you make a massive difference. Okafor represented USA Basketball at the U19 World Championships in Prague at the beginning of the month and was one of only two high school prospects on the team (Justise Winslow was the other). Okafor impacts every game because you have to have a plan and then a back-up plan to stop him or at least contain him. He operates in the low post better than anyone in the 2014 class as he works for deep position and knows how to move his feet to gain an advantage. He can score with a jump hook or drop step, and he can and will also throw it back out of the post and reestablish himself for better position. If he’s on your team, the offense should go through him as much as possible.

[+] EnlargeMyles Turner
Courtesy of Kelly Kline/Under ArmourNo. 10 recruit Myles Turner continues to raise his stock and has almost every major program in the country after him.
Hottest prospect: Myles Turner

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Top 10 lessons learned in July 

July, 31, 2013

To understand what just happened in college basketball recruiting, let me use a golf analogy. In golf majors, Saturdays set the players up for the final round and determine the pairings for the homestretch.

In college basketball, the month of July is like that Saturday of a golf major. Coaches fly coast to coast, some to evaluate and others simply to babysit prospects. It’s a grueling 15 days on the road -- separated into three different five-day open evaluation periods -- and even the seasoned veterans will tell you that. Technology has made it easier to keep track of the recruits, but travel is travel, and so much time in different cities is rough on the bodies of the players and coaches.

Still, July remains the single most important month on the recruiting calendar. It sets the tone for in-home and official visits. It helps set up the final round and determines the pairings for the homestretch.

For the better part of July 6-28, I was on the road. Every day was something new and an opportunity to gather intelligence on players and pay attention to the world of college basketball recruiting. If you didn’t learn something daily, you weren’t doing your job.

Here are 10 key things I learned this month on the recruiting trail, from package deals to the loaded 2016 class and everything in between.

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