NCB On The Trail: Terry Larrier

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Scouting the country each year I’ll not only see players’ skills, athletic ability and basketball IQ, but I’ll also witness their character along the way. This year’s class might not have any NBA superstars at the moment, but it will have difference-makers for the college game, both in the short term as well as those who will make a difference in time because of their character traits combined with their talent.

As we wrap up the Class of 2014, here are my five final thoughts:

1. The land of the giants

[+] EnlargeJahlil Okafor
AP Photo/The Sun News/Charles SlateDuke center signee Jahlil Okafor finishes the season as the nation's top prospect.
When you look at the top of a class it's so rare to have three post players sitting in the top three spots. Jahlil Okafor, who held the top spot for much of the season, finishes the season as the nation’s top prospect. The center from Chicago is a dominating presence in the paint. A Duke signee, Okafor led his high school team to a 4A state championship and was named the McDonalds Morgan Wooten player of the year.

He is special because he scores down low in the paint with his back to the basket. His combination of size, touch and fluid footwork is too much for one defender and when he doesn’t score, he attracts a double-team, which gives his team an advantage. He operates with patience and poise and when he reads the double-team he will accurately pass out to the open man. Defensively he guards the post and is improving at ball-screen defense as he is a barrier to the rim for his team.

Myles Turner, the nation’s No. 2 prospect, challenged hard for the No. 1 position and shows a big upside. Turner, who is uncommitted, is an elite shot-blocker and scores baskets with a soft touch and range. Cliff Alexander is going to be an absolute difference-maker for Kansas with his ability to rebound, finish and block shots, and he does it in an aggressive manner. Trey Lyles is one of the most skilled post players in this group and his future teammate at Kentucky Karl Towns Jr. has franchise skill-to-size ratio. Thomas Welsh is a fundamentally sound big who will anchor the middle at UCLA.

Conference realignment has had lasting implications on every major conference in college basketball, but the group that might have been affected more than anyone else were the mid-major schools.

Annual powerhouses like Xavier, Memphis, Butler, Temple and several others have now been elevated to “high-major” conferences, leaving a void for other mid-major programs to establish their recruiting superiority at their own level.

So after grading the ACC, American, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac 12, and SEC last week, it’s now time to examine the best of the rest. Grading mid-major classes can be subjective, meaning there’s a little bit of a curve in order to account for the fact that recruiting at this level is tougher than ever before given the unprecedented number of competing programs who can now leverage their high-major conference affiliation.

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Roundtable: Finding the best fit 

November, 18, 2013
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Recruiting is the lifeblood of any successful college basketball team, but recruiting doesn’t just mean assembling the most talented collection of prospects. It’s the process by which coaches build their rosters. Talent is certainly the foundation of that process, but only the first of several layers necessary. The rest of those layers are based on fit, fit with the coach, fit with the current personnel, and fit with that program’s style of play.

Ultimately, talent is the necessary requisite for success, but only when it is joined by the ideal fit does that prospect end up turning into a great player at the college level. With that in mind, here’s a look at whom our Recruiting Nation team dubs the best fits of this year’s early signing period.


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Smart, VCU sign four players

November, 15, 2013
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Two ESPN 100 prospects highlight VCU’s 2014 recruiting class which was announced on Thursday.

Head coach Shaka Smart and his staff received letters of intent from ESPN 100 SF Terry Larrier (Bronx, N.Y./The Phelps School) and ESPN 100 PF Mike Gilmore (Tallahassee, Fla./Rickards) along with four-star PG Jonathan Williams (Newark, N.J./St. Benedict's) and three-star PF Justin Tillman (Redford, Mich./Pershing).

“We're very excited about this group because all four young men possess the talent, drive and work ethic to be outstanding members of our team," Smart said. "It's a class that can contribute to a great deal of winning at VCU."

The early signing period arrives Wednesday, marking the first time 2014 prospects can officially sign their national letters of intent, turning previously unbinding verbal commitments into contractually binding scholarship agreements.

Here are 10 storylines to watch for during the eight-day signing period:

Jahlil Okafor
AP Photo/Damen Jackson via Triple Play New MediaJahlil Okafor is hoping to sign during the early signing period. Where will he end up?
1. Package-deal decision day
Word is that Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones are both hoping to sign during the early period, and that means the country’s biggest package deal should have a decision within days. All indications are that the duo still intends to go to school together, but the final destination has become unclear of late. Duke has long since been considered the front-runner, but there’s been growing chatter for Kansas, especially as it pertains to Okafor. Baylor is the dark horse, and while nobody seems to be talking about the Bears anymore, neither prospect has said they’re out of the running just yet.

2. Awaiting word from Alexander
We’re anticipating an announcement from Cliff Alexander, the nation’s third-ranked prospect. The 6-foot-8 big man took the nation by storm during the recent EYBL season and picked up offers from some of college basketball’s most prestigious programs in the process. Four of those remain in the hunt for his services. While Illinois and DePaul have been the perceived favorites, Kansas and Memphis are in the mix as well. Look for Alexander to trim one of those four off his list before his announcement -- and ultimately make his choice from a list of three final schools.

3. Early or late? That is the question
While Okafor, Jones, and Alexander are all expected to make their decisions in time to sign during the early signing period (that is, on or before Nov. 20), there is another group of prospects we still don’t know what to expect from. Justise Winslow just took his last visit, and he could be ready to decide. William Lee is another ESPN 100 prospect who could very well be ready in the coming days. Stanley Johnson was once targeting a January decision, but he now appears to be on the fence, as there has been mounting speculation that he could abandon those original plans in time to sign early.

4. What’s left for the spring?
With 87 players in the current ESPN 100 already committed and at least four more expected to make their decisions in time to sign early, we’re expecting over 90 percent of the current ESPN 100 to officially be off the board within the next 10 days. That’s an almost unprecedented percentage, leaving very little left on the table for the spring’s late signing period. The big prizes for those playing the waiting game are likely to be Myles Turner, Rashad Vaughn and JaQuan Lyle, along with any of the previously mentioned top prospects who ultimately decide against early signatures.

5. Care for a contingency plan
With so few prospects remaining on the board following this period, the major question is what happens to the programs that have gone the distance with top remaining prospects -- only to end up missing out on them. The best examples are Duke and Kansas. The Blue Devils and Jayhawks have gone head-to-head for Okafor and Jones and have passed on other talented guys as a result. Now they’re in a spot where the consequences of losing out on Okafor and Jones could be especially high, with no good contingency plans left on the board unless they’re able to score Turner, who isn’t likely to be excited about being perceived as anybody’s runner-up.

6. Competition for Kentucky
Kentucky currently has the top-ranked recruiting class in the country. If the Wildcats can hold on to that spot, it would be the fifth time in John Calipari’s six years in Lexington he has secured that distinction. The reality, however, is that it may be unlikely. And while Kentucky’s class is undeniably loaded, the 2014 group will be remembered as much for the guys who passed on the Wildcats -- Okafor, Alexander, Jones, Emmanuel Mudiay, Kelly Oubre and James Blackmon Jr. among others -- perhaps signaling a decline in what has been one of the most dominant recruiting periods for any program in recent history.

7. The Big East is back (or never left)
If this season's recruiting class is any indication, the demise of the Big East has been somewhat exaggerated. While conference realignment might have forever changed one of the country’s most historic conferences, it apparently has not done much to hurt the brand. Xavier, Seton Hall and Georgetown have all put together top-10 classes, and Marquette and Providence are not far behind. With five different programs among the top-20 classes in the country and a total of 15 ESPN 100 prospects having already popped for the Big East, the league is recruiting as well as any in the country.

8. What’s the Matta with this class?
Ohio State has the second-ranked recruiting class in the country, a group loaded with four ESPN 100 prospects and another big man who is just on the cusp of that list. Yet nobody seems to be talking about the Buckeyes. With so much attention being paid to the potential classes at Kansas, Duke and Kentucky, Ohio State has flown under the radar. The reality is that coach Thad Matta did his work early and did it well. D’Angelo Russell, Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate are all coming in next year, and Payton Dastrup is essentially joining the Class of 2016 after he takes a two-year Mormon mission. The Buckeyes have solidified their future as well as any program in America.

9. Talking about the Tar Heels
Roy Williams and North Carolina are in a similar situation. They have a trio of ESPN 100 prospects on board for next season, all ranked among the top 15 prospects in the country. However, because all three were already committed by last May, the Tar Heels haven’t been at the forefront of any recent recruiting headlines. It’s a mistake to sleep on them, though, as they have one of the country’s best scorers on the wing in Justin Jackson, a swingman with elite athleticism; an alpha-male mentality in Theo Pinson; and one of the most dependable point guards in the country in Joel Berry.

10. Mid-major impact
A quick glance at the class rankings will show that the mid-majors are once again well-represented among this year’s top recruiting classes. San Diego State, VCU and UNLV have all asserted themselves as national recruiters. Steve Fisher’s four-man class is headlined by a trio of ESPN 100 products in Malik Pope, Trey Kell and Zylan Cheatham, while Terry Larrier and Mike Gilmore lead a similar four-man group for Shaka Smart and VCU. Dave Rice and the Rebels have one of the best incoming frontcourt tandems in the country in Goodluck Okonoboh and Dwayne Morgan.

VCU trending up in class rankings 

October, 2, 2013
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In the latest edition of the 2014 class rankings, there are three new additions (Vanderbilt, Miami and Michigan), while VCU, Xavier and Providence made big moves. Here's a look at one team making its move, one team that needs to pick it up, and what to watch for in the next week.

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Weekly Commitment Roundup

September, 20, 2013
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SEC
Kentucky
Tyler Ulis PG Matteson, Ill./Marian Catholic
HT: 5-9 WT: 150
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 8
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 38

Vanderbilt
Matthew Fisher-Davis SG Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Christian
HT: 6-5 WT: 175
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 28
Stars: 4

Texas A&M
Alex Robinson PG Arlington, Texas/Timberview
HT: 6-1 WT: 170
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 20
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 89

Big Ten
Purdue
Vincent Edwards SF Middletown, Ohio/Middletown
HT: 6-7 WT: 200
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 22
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 80

Big East
Georgetown
Paul White PF Chicago/Whitney Young
HT: 6-8 WT: 185
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 14
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 57

Seton Hall
Isaiah Whitehead SG Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln
HT: 6-4 WT: 195
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 10
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 35

ACC
Florida State
Josh Gray PG Houston/Odessa College (Juco)
HT: 6-1 WT: 175
Class of 2014

Virginia Tech
T.J. Lang SF Mobile, Ala./McGill-Toolen Catholic
HT: 6-7 WT: 195
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Virginia
Jack Salt C Auckland, New Zealand/Westlake
HT: 6-10
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Wake Forest
Rondale Watson SG Lewisburg, W.Va./Greenbrier East
HT: 6-3
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

American Athletic
Cincinnati
Quadri Moore C Linden, N.J./Linden
HT: 6-8 WT: 225
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 8
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 83

Gary Clark PF Clayton, N.C./Clayton
HT: 6-7 WT: 215
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 26
Stars: 4

Central Florida
Alex Owens PF Orlando, Fla./Oak Ridge
HT: 6-8 WT: 230
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: 9
Stars: 4
ESPN 60: 44

Corey Sanders PG Lakeland, Fla./IMG Academy
HT: 6-1 WT: 185
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 3

Atlantic 10
Virginia Commonwealth
Terry Larrier SF Bronx, N.Y./The Phelps School
HT: 6-7 WT: 200
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 15
Stars: 4
ESPN 100: 59

Richmond
Paul Friendshuh PF New Prague, Minn./New Prague
HT: 6-9 WT: 205
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Conference USA
Tulsa
Mitch Wilbekin PG Gainesville, Fla./The Rock School
HT: 6-1 WT: 160
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

UTEP
Trey Touchet SG Lafayette, La./St. Thomas More
HT: 6-2 WT: 175
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Middle Tennessee State
DeVante Jones SG Chicago/Southwest Tennessee C.C. (Juco)
HT: 5-11
Class of 2014

Mountain West
Boise State
David Wacker C Converse, Texas/Judson
HT: 6-9 WT: 235
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Air Force
Jacob Van PG Mansfield, Texas/Lake Ridge
HT: 6-2
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Southern Conference
Davidson
Rusty Reigel SG Charlotte, N.C./Charlotte Latin
HT: 6-2 WT: 190
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

Western Carolina
Alex Hicks PF Phenix City, Ala./Glenwood School
HT: 6-8 WT: 195
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

NEC
Mount St. Mary's
Troy Henderson SF Charlotte, N.C./Gaston Day School
HT: 6-6 WT: 175
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

St. Francis (Pa.)
Basil Thompson SF Philadelphia/Imhotep Institute
HT: 6-6 WT: 175
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

Sacred Heart
Cane Broome PG East Hartford, Conn./St. Thomas More
HT: 6-0 WT: 160
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

MAC
Western Michigan
Drake Lamont C Plantation, Fla./American Heritage
HT: 6-9 WT: 200
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 39
Stars: 3

Ball State
Sean Sellers SF Greensburg, Ind./Greensburg
HT: 6-6 WT: 175
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: 2

Big South
Liberty
A.C. Reid SF Spring Branch, Texas/Smithson Valley
HT: 6-5 WT: 190
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

UNC-Asheville
Kevin Vannatta SG Columbus, Ohio/Upper Arlington
HT: 6-2
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Big Sky
Montana State
Ghassan Nehme SG Colorado Springs, Colo./Cheyenne Mountain
HT: 6-3 WT: 174
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Weber State
Hayden Hunter PG North Richland Hills, Texas/Richland
HT: 5-11
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Idaho State
Geno Luzcando PG Mount Pleasant, Utah/Wasatch Academy
HT: 6-3
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

America East
UMass-Lowell
Josh Gantz PF Grove City, Ohio/Bishop Ready
HT: 6-6 WT 185
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Dontavious Smith PF Springhill, La./North Webster
HT: 6-8
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Binghamton
John Schurman SG Manlius, N.Y./Fayetteville-Manlius
HT: 6-5
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Missouri Valley
Bradley
Donte Thomas SF South Holland, Ill./Thornwood
HT: 6-6
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Northern Iowa
Luke McDonnell PF Dubuque, Iowa/Dubuque Senior
HT: 6-8 WT: 200
Class of 2015
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

OVC
Murray State
JayQuan McCloud PG North Chicago, Ill./North Chicago Community
HT: 6-4 WT: 180
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Tennessee-Martin
Chris Clark SG Columbia, Mo./Hickman
HT: 6-3 WT: 175
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

SIU-Edwardsville
C.J. Carr PG Rock Island, Ill./Rock Island
HT: 5-6 WT: 145
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Horizon League
Oakland
Alek Frascone PG Washington Township, Mich./Eisenhower
HT: 6-0 WT: 150
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Summit League
South Dakota State
Mike Daum PF Kimball, Neb./Kimball
HT: 6-9
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Atlantic Sun
Florida Gulf Coast
Eric Moeller C St. Louis/Central Florida C.C. (Juco)
HT: 6-11 WT: 200
Class of 2014

Mercer
Demetre Rivers PF Goose Creek, S.C./Stratford
HT: 6-6
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Ivy League
Princeton
Alec Brennan PF Weston, Mass./Milton Academy
HT: 6-10 WT: 225
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 35
Stars: 3

Brown
Patrick Triplett PG St. Louis/Bayless Senior
HT: 6-4 WT: 200
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

WCC
Pepperdine
Nate Gehring C Waukee, Iowa/Waukee
HT: 6-10 WT: 220
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: 44
Stars: 3

MAAC
Quinnipiac
Ayron Hutton SG Virginia Beach, Va./Cape Henry
HT: 6-3
Class of 2014
Positional Rank: NA
Stars: Evaluation Pending

Top five undervalued classes 

September, 19, 2013
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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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ESPN 100 SF Larrier commits to VCU 

September, 16, 2013
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ESPN 100 SF Terry Larrier (Bronx, N.Y./Phelps School) made a verbal commitment to VCU on Monday night following his official visit this weekend. Larrier, ranked No. 59 overall and No. 15 among small forwards, was widely expected to choose between VCU and Connecticut, but was also considering Florida, Florida State, and Miami among others.

The commitment punctuates what was a breakout season on the spring and summer travel circuits, as Larrier came into his AAU season without a single high-major offer but ultimately wound up with his choice of BCS suitors after a strong showing with Team Scan on the EYBL circuit.


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Notebook: Rising PG likes Cardinal 

August, 23, 2013
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This week’s notebook is a sprint. We go coast to coast with the recruitment of Robert Cartwright and show you which prospect has a special affinity for Florida -- the state, not just the school.

Cartwright settles on favorite
If July was the month Robert Cartwright went from West Coast wonder to more of a national presence, then August wasn’t too bad either as he made good on a late invite to Chris Paul’s Point Guard Academy.

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Starting 5: Point guard debate 

August, 20, 2013
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Editor's note: Every week in "Starting 5," we'll roll out five stories, themes and nuggets from the basketball recruiting world to set the table with the stories that need to be told and give you a leg up on the watercooler conversations around the office.

This week we look at three point guards using different lenses, what plans KU has for Late Night in the Phog, the recruiting revivals at UConn and Minnesota plus reduced lists from bigs Paul White and Makinde London.


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This week wasn’t quite as busy as last week in the Northeast region, but there was still plenty of action. Here’s a look at a few commitments that have gone down in the last seven days:

• Robert Morris landed a commitment from Jamesville-Dewitt (N.Y.) guard Jafar Kinsey, a quick, attacking style guard. A combo guard with a college ready driving game, Kinsey gets wherever he wants on the floor and also has the potential to become a very good defender at the next level.

• Albany added a commitment from Christian Brothers Academy (N.Y.) big man Greg Stire. The local product is tough and rugged, defends the post and has a solid motor. He’ll be solid but unspectacular offensively and able to contribute some both around the rim and facing the basket.

• Fairleigh Dickinson landed a late commitment in the Class of 2013 from Canisius (N.Y.) guard/forward Matt MacDonald. The 6-foot-3 swingman is a master role player who will bring toughness and leadership to the FDU locker room. He’s also a gym rat who has worked his way into a consistent shooter over the years.

And here’s a look at some of the notable offers and visits to come across the wire this week:

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Miami stays hot, lands ESPN 100 PG 

August, 7, 2013
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The reconstruction of the Miami Hurricanes’ backcourt is complete -- at least as far as the 2014 recruiting class is concerned. ESPN 100 point guard Ja'Quan Newton (Philadelphia/Neumann-Goretti) committed to the Hurricanes on Wednesday after considering Minnesota, Oregon, Texas A&M and UCLA.

Newton is the second Miami commitment in the last three days after shooting guard James Palmer (Washington, D.C./St. John’s) picked the Hurricanes on Monday. In addition, ESPN 100 combo guard Adonys Henriquez (Orlando, Fla./Orlando Christian Prep) pledged last December.

[+] EnlargeJaquan Newton
Kelly Kline/Under ArmourESPN 100 point guard Ja'Quan Newton committed to Miami over Minnesota, Oregon, Texas A&M and UCLA.
With three talented perimeter players, including a pair of ESPN 100 prospects, Miami moves into the 2014 class rankings at No. 6.

Newton, who is ranked No. 67 overall in the Class of 2014, will take his official visit to Miami on Sept. 14.

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Best of the 2013 Nike Peach Jam 

July, 15, 2013
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NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- The Nike Peach Jam, which took place this past Thursday through Sunday, is widely considered the No. 1 high school hoops event of the summer. It pits the best Nike-sponsored travel teams against each other in a winner-take-all tournament format. There are 40 travel teams that compete throughout the spring in the Nike EYBL (Elite Youth Basketball League) and the 24 squads with the best records make the Peach Jam, which serves as the EYBL “playoffs.”

This year’s Peach Jam once again showcased an incredible amount of high-level talent and only fueled the debate over the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014 between AAU teammates Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander. Here’s a look at the best performances, including the top prospects in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 classes, the guys who played the hardest, the biggest sleepers and more.

Best in 2014


Jahlil Okafor
AP Photo/Damen Jackson via Triple Play New MediaDuke commit Jahlil Okafor is out to show once and for all that he is the nation's top prospect.
Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young)
2014, C, 6-11, 275
Travel Team: Mac Irvin Fire

The reigning No. 1 player in the 2014 class did nothing to take away from that ranking at the Peach Jam. He was dominant at times and averaged almost 17 points and 10 rebounds per game for the tournament. The big fella takes control of the paint offensively and is a future one-and-done player.

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Best of the LeBron camp Day 3 

July, 9, 2013
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LAS VEGAS -- The third and final day of the LeBron James Skills Academy wrapped up on Monday with Florida beating Duke, 59-53, in the finals of the playoff bracket. Speedy PG Lourawls Nairn (Bel Aire, Kan./Sunrise Academy), rugged post Angel Delgado (Northfield, Mass./Redemption Academy) and versatile wing Boubacar Moungoro (Bradenton, Fla./IMG Academy) led the way for the winners, while Duke received an outstanding all-around performance from bully ball connoisseur Isaiah Briscoe (Newark, N.J./St. Benedicts).

Here are some superlatives from the final day of the elite skills academy.

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