NCB On The Trail: Trey Lyles

As ESPN.com's countdown of the top college basketball coaches continues, here’s a look at the recruiting philosophy of Kentucky’s John Calipari:

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If you want an indication of how valued big men are in college basketball today, consider this:

Eighteen months ago, Columbia was the only Division I school heavily recruiting 6-foot-9 forward Sean Obi. On Monday night, after one season at Rice, Obi announced he would transfer to Duke, where he will have three seasons of eligibility beginning in 2015-16.

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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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The Jordan Brand Classic was played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Friday.

This game is always filled with future NBA talent and usually has the No. 1 pick in a future NBA draft.

Twenty-two of the country's elite players went head to head for likely the last time before they meet again in college. There were so many impressive plays and highlights, so let's take a look at what we learned from the event.


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The Jordan Brand Classic features the best talent high school basketball has to offer. Here are some of the most intriguing potential matchups in this terrific annual event, which airs Friday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Tyus Jones (Duke) vs. Tyler Ulis (Kentucky)

This matchup will be the battle for who can get the most assists. Both are terrific pass-first point guards who can play fast or slow. They can make open shots in order to keep the defense honest, and their decision-making on the offensive end of the floor is excellent, as well. Ulis can apply more heat on the ball defensively, while Jones is stronger and the better finisher in heavy traffic. It will be interesting to see who makes the fewest mistakes with the ball and who will win the assist category as Jones and Ulis push each other on both ends of the floor.


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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.


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In order to return to the NCAA tournament, a team needs contributions from both returning players and incoming recruits. Here's a look at Kentucky and its chances of dancing again in 2015.

Quick references:
2013-14 roster
2014 recruiting

Possible 2014-15 starting five:
G: Andrew Harrison
G: Aaron Harrison
F: Alex Poythress
F: Trey Lyles
C: Willie Cauley-Stein/Dakari Johnson


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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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video Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.

What a tough question to answer, as not only are Trey Lyles (Indianapolis/Arsenal Tech) and James Blackmon Jr. (Marion, Ind./Marion) the two best players in the state of Indiana, but two of the better players in the nation. Both have fathers who were great players in their time, and they are competitive players who have helped their high school teams win.

If I had to choose, I would take Lyles, with the reason being that his combination of size (6-foot-10, 255 pounds) and mobility with skill is rare. Along with that is his basketball IQ and desire to work at his craft, which are also rare in today's young prospects. His ability to score and pass against a set defense with outstanding hands and footwork is what separates him from his peers. He will thrive at Kentucky.

Blackmon is a great guard now and will only continue to improve in the future as he plays alongside other high-level players. Right now he is the focal point from an opponent's defense, but at Indiana that will change. He makes shots from anywhere on the floor with range and accuracy. He will have an outstanding career at Indiana.

#AskCoachB: Projecting Kentucky

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video Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.
Kentucky has the nation's No. 2 recruiting class. And this class, put together by John Calipari, is different than his past ones.

This bunch is highly ranked, with size and talent, but the difference is that this class has more skill on an individual and collective basis than in years past.

All four signees were recently named McDonald's All-Americans.

At 5-foot-9, Tyler Ulis (Matteson, Ill./Marian Catholic) might be the smallest point guard Calipari has ever coached, and he will be the best pure point guard he has ever landed. All his other great leaders were scoring guards with size, athletic ability and the mindset to score first and pass second. Ulis is just the opposite.

Devin Booker (Moss Point, Miss./Moss Point) is an outstanding long-range open shooter.

Trey Lyles (Indianapolis/Arsenal Technical) and Karl Towns (Metuchen, N.J./St. Joseph) can score inside and outside the paint, which allows them to play a high-low game. Both big men can pass against a set defense, which speaks volumes of their instincts for the game.

Of course, there will be a huge learning curve, as there is with every freshman group.

Who will decide to stay another season at Kentucky? It's never easy to figure out this early. But I would say the obvious ones are Marcus Lee, Dakari Johnson and Alex Poythress.

Who's leaving? Chad Ford has Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein and James Young all in the first round on his Big Board Insider. The Harrison twins are playing much better, but it remains to be seen where they project in the draft.
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The most successful recruiters are the ones with both a philosophy and a strategy.

They analyze their rosters, the competition and style of play in order to systematically build the most comprehensive team possible.

But as the old saying goes, even the best laid schemes often go awry, so flexibility and adaptability become equally imperative to long-term recruiting success.

That can be especially true during the college season, when a number of factors can change the course of a team’s plans.

Sometimes a team evolves in ways in which their coaches didn’t project, one player develops more than expected while another’s learning curve is less. And so that program needs to bring in a different position player than they once thought.

Most often, recruiting needs evolve according to turnover within the roster. Transfers are the most obvious example, but for many of the nation’s most prestigious programs, it’s the ramifications of the NBA draft that become especially hard to project.

With that in mind, here is a look at five programs whose recruiting needs now look much different than they did at the beginning of the season:


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2014 ESPN 100: 10 things to know 

January, 30, 2014
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Here are 10 things to know about the updated 2014 ESPN 100 player rankings.


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Video: 2014 McDonald’s Boys’ West roster

January, 29, 2014
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Matt Schick and national recruiting director Paul Biancardi announce the West roster for the McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago. Headlining the West are the nation’s No. 2 small forward, No. 2 power forward and No. 1 overall recruit.

The McDonald's All American Game is annually the nation's most prestigious high school basketball all-star event. The rosters have been announced for the Class of 2014, and this year's game will once again be played at the United Center in Chicago and will air live on ESPN on April 2.

Here's a deeper look at five exciting matchups we'll see in the 2014 contest.

1. The battle of the giants
Jahlil Okafor (West) vs. Myles Turner (East)


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Mustang Madness recap 

January, 13, 2014
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The inaugural Mustang Madness held at the new McCracken County High School in Paducah, Ky., was quite a success. The tournament is run by the same crew that puts together the famous Marshall County Hoopfest.

[+] EnlargeCliff Alexander
AP Photo/Damen Jackson/Triple Play New MediaCliff Alexander is ranked No. 3 in the ESPN 100.
Beast of the East
Cliff Alexander (Chicago/Curie)
2014, PF/C, 6-foot-9, 240 pounds
Signed with: Kansas
The big fella was his normal, dominant self in Curie’s victory over Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph, scoring 25 points. There is no more athletic and productive insider in the country. He has a solid touch and should be able to become an effective face-up player in time. He reminds me of a young Amare Stoudamire.

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