NCB On The Trail: Thomas Bryant

What do Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Arizona, Michigan State, Connecticut, Syracuse, Michigan, Ohio State, Louisville and North Carolina State have in common?

Yes, they’re all among the most prestigious college basketball programs in the country, but they’re also among the programs battling it out for the 10 remaining prospects left available in the ESPN 100, eight of whom are among the top 12 ranked players in the country.

They’re not alone either as Mississippi State, California, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, UNLV, Iowa State, St. John’s, Arkansas, Missouri, Ole Miss and Memphis are chasing prospects from the very same group.

The supply doesn’t come anywhere close to meeting the demand, and with literally every prospect in the bottom half of the ESPN 100 already off the board, the simple truth is that the programs that miss on these prospects will be left without many good options.

Kentucky is bound to get a couple more, and most likely Kansas too, but for some elite programs, the potential of coming up empty is especially daunting:

North Carolina

The Tar Heels own only one commitment, ESPN 100 power forward Luke Maye (No. 95). He plans to walk on next season and consequently didn’t sign a national letter of intent. Coach Roy Williams is still in the market for both Jaylen Brown (No. 2) and Brandon Ingram (No. 12), and with virtually the entire core of this year’s rotation expected to return, either could push North Carolina among the top programs in the country next year. That’s the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario isn’t just that they miss out on both, but that their lack of quality contingency plans becomes particularly costly should freshman Justin Jackson opt for a jump to the NBA. Worse yet, should the academic scandal and NCAA investigation motivate Marcus Paige and/or Kennedy Meeks to consider such a move, suddenly things would look very bleak for the Tar Heels.

videoNow that the rosters are set for the 38th annual McDonald’s All American Game -- featuring the top 24 senior high school basketball players in the country -- let's take a closer look at the East team and a few of the many strengths its players will bring when they take on the West team April 1 at United Center in Chicago (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).


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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The big news of the day didn’t necessarily happen on the court, but was instead a confirmation of Jeff Borzello’s report from last week as both Thon Maker and his guardian Ed Smith acknowledged a move to the class of 2015 was possible, and could potentially become official in the coming weeks.

Kentucky and Kansas are perceived to be the frontrunners for Maker’s services and John Calipari was front and center for Orangville’s (Canada) game. While Duke, UCLA, Missouri, and Indiana could all reportedly be in the mix as well, the potential still exists that Maker could bypass college altogether, moving back to 2015 only as a precursor to a post-graduate year before making an immediate jump to the 2016 NBA Draft.

As for his performance on the floor, Maker racked up 23 points and 11 rebounds but was largely not involved in the offense until the final minutes of the game. While his lack of touches never impacted his motor -- he ran the floor beautifully and rebounded out of his area all game -- he did force some things off the dribble at times, turning it over eight times as a result. Regardless of any inconsistencies in his performance, Maker’s sheer talent is downright staggering and almost immediately apparent even to an untrained eye.


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Recruiting Roundtable: Hoophall Classic preview 

January, 15, 2015
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The Hoophall Classic, a five-day event that features some of the nation's best high school teams and prospects, begins Thursday in Springfield, Massachusetts. Our experts discuss the biggest storylines heading into the action.


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Kansas finally got on the board in the 2015 class Thursday, when five-star forward Carlton Bragg announced his commitment to the Jayhawks (after initially saying Kentucky).

There probably wasn’t any real concern in Lawrence about the lack of commitments in the senior class, but there is a segment of the Jayhawks fan base that breathed a slight sigh of relief late last week.

Now, where does Kansas go from here?


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Last weekend, Kentucky had about 90 NBA scouts on its campus for a practice that was televised on ESPNU -- yet this weekend will feature an even bigger event for the Wildcats.

Friday brings Big Blue Madness to Lexington, where the Kentucky faithful will pack Rupp Arena for their first look at the 2014-15 edition of the Wildcats, the likely preseason No. 1 team in the country. More important, it is also the biggest recruiting weekend of the year for John Calipari and Kentucky. Seven five-star prospects from the classes of 2015 and 2016 are expected on campus this weekend, in addition to four-star commit Charles Matthews.

Calipari and his staff haven’t tried to downplay the event to the prospective recruits, either.

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It wasn’t even two months ago that we polled 12 of the top players in the ESPN 100 with two questions.

1. Who is the best player in the class of 2015?
2. Who would you most like to team with at the next level?

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Peach Jam Day 2 recap 

July, 18, 2014
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NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- The Nike Elite Youth Basketball League finals at the Peach Jam are arguably the No. 1 basketball event of the spring and summer club circuit. The Peach Jam features the teams with the 24 best records from the four-session Nike EYBL season. Here are some of the top performances from the action of the first full day.

Chris Clarke
2015, SF, 6-foot-5, 195 pounds
Travel Team: Boo Williams

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LeBron James Skills Academy wrap-up 

July, 13, 2014
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LAS VEGAS -- The LeBron James Skills Academy concluded on Saturday with an impressive North Carolina squad methodically putting away a talented Syracuse team 65-52 in the championship. North Carolina was a well-rounded team that received a number of stellar performances from the likes of Ivan Rabb, Aaron Falzon, Malik Monk, Jake Lindsey, Cassius Winston and Aaron Holiday.

Here were some of the standout performances and interesting storylines from the LeBron camp:

Intriguing matchup


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Accusations of academic scandal have hit North Carolina once again. This time it is specific to the men’s basketball program.

While the plot has only thickened since the first “Outside the Lines” report, what many now want to know is whether there will be any tangible impact on the product Roy Williams and UNC will put on the floor.

[+] EnlargeRoy Williams
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesHow will the accusations of academic fraud impact Roy Williams' ability to recruit his 2015 class? It's probably still too early to tell.
The simple truth is we don’t know yet. Should this spark another investigation or the NCAA deem it necessary to get involved, there could certainly be repercussions. Otherwise, while it’s something that Williams will have to deal with on the recruiting front, it’s likely not an insurmountable obstacle.

You could also make the argument that North Carolina’s 2015 recruiting class is now even more important than ever, as the Tar Heels will look to silence those critics who may be whispering of their demise from the shadows.

On the surface there aren’t many pieces to replace, as Desmond Hubert is the only scholarship player in the senior class. They do have additional scholarships available, however, and that could be important should Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, or incoming freshman Justin Jackson play well enough next season to warrant an early jump to the NBA.

From the looks of its early recruiting, North Carolina appears to be focusing on 10 players with hopes of bringing in a three-man class.


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Five 2015 classes off to fast starts 

June, 3, 2014
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As we turn our attention to the Class of 2015 and the newly released ESPN 100, here’s a look at five college basketball programs that have a head start on the 2015 recruiting trail:


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EYBL Session III recap 

May, 19, 2014
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HAMPTON, Va. -- The third installment of the 2014 Nike EYBL came to the Boo Williams Sports Complex this weekend. Here’s a look at some of the major storylines:


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Best of Dallas Nike EYBL 

May, 12, 2014
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FRISCO, Texas -- The second Nike EYBL session is in the books.

Let’s take a look at the event’s best players:

Best inside player

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What we learned from the HSNT 

April, 7, 2014
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NEW YORK -- The Dick's Sporting Goods High School National Tournament crowned a champion on Saturday at Madison Square Garden with a familiar name as Montverde Academy (Fla.) won its second straight title, this time 71-62 over Oak Hill Academy (Va.). Over the six-year history of this prestigious event, this was the deepest field of teams and the highest level of talent from top to bottom. Montverde came in ranked as the No. 1 high school team in the country and should walk away in that top spot when the polls are finalized.

As the final high school team event of the 2013-14 season, let's take a look at five things we learned from this year's tournament:


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#AskCoachB: Who will land Bryant?

February, 21, 2014
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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.
Bryant is a big-bodied power forward who is an excellent rebounder because of his mobility, effort and secure hands. What really makes this junior such a talent is his special set of ball skills. His jumper is accurate to the arc, and he will score in the paint with ease.

Bryant holds offers from schools such as Florida, Ohio State, Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia and many more. He is getting attention from most every major program.

He plays at Huntington Prep in West Virginia but hails from Rochester, N.Y.

I am going to give Syracuse the inside track for the No. 14 player in the Class of 2015.

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