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10 takeaways from recruiting trail during July evaluation period


The month of July is all about recruiting. It's when coaches identify prospects to build their rosters for the coming seasons.

At the same time, a lot more than recruiting goes on. Trends begin to develop, both in recruiting and at the college level. Coaches at all levels interact with one another, opinions are shared, gossip spreads.

After spending three weeks on the recruiting trail, here are some of the major talking points:

1. Will the July period ever be the same?

The biggest talking point was the impact of reported NCAA proposals. Is this the last time coaches can attend events like Peach Jam and Las Vegas?


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2 Related

The NCAA is expected to announce new legislation next week. Reported proposals would prevent college coaches from attending any grassroots events in July, including any Nike, Adidas or Under Armour event. Instead, the NCAA, in conjunction with USA basketball and the NBPA, would run regional camps with up to 2,500 players, and there would be two weekends in June where college coaches could go to high school team camps.

Recently, however, there have been reports of allowing one event run by the shoe companies at the start of the month and then running the regional camps later in July, while also still keeping the high school team camps.

We should know specifics soon, but it appears that July will be very different next year.

2. Nearly unanimous opposition from coaches to proposed changes

It's difficult to find coaches in favor of the proposed changes, even if the NABC was one of the groups that submitted a proposal. The biggest objection is that the aforementioned changes don't actually address any of the issues since the FBI investigation last September.

Banning coaches from attending grassroots events in July doesn't do anything to lessen the involvement of third parties, namely agents or runners. In fact, coaches will actually have to rely more heavily on third parties -- scouting services, AAU coaches, event operators -- in order to keep tabs on prospects when they're playing in uncertified events.

There is a positive: packet prices are likely to be less of a factor now. At grassroots events, whether it's sponsored by a shoe company or run independently, colleges have to buy a packet that contains rosters and phone numbers, which can cost hundreds of dollars.

In general, though, the changes don't benefit anyone involved. Players aren't helped if coaches are at fewer events. Coaches aren't helped by evaluating prospects in camp basketball instead of competitive games. Moreover, many coaches question the selection process for the camp. If coaches are expected to nominate players to be invited to camps, are they really going to nominate their targets so other schools can watch them?

Giving back one shoe company weekend is something of a compromise to appease all the parties, but it still doesn't address any actual issues.

3. Grassroots tournaments are better evaluation settings than camps

Camp basketball just isn't very good. It's unorganized, non-competitive and it generally doesn't provide a good evaluation setting.

Grassroots teams have been together for years. They practice together, know one another and have offensive sets and defensive principles. Camp teams will bring together players that don't know one another and are likely at varying levels of talent.

For example, the Nike Peach Jam can have 10 high-major players on the court at once. A camp with 2,500 kids could have one high-major player on each team, some Division II players, and then a mixture. It makes it much harder for college coaches to watch several targets in one setting, which will translate into less attention for players.

"I'm always a big fan of AAU. I think basketball needs AAU," five-star power forward Aidan Igiehon told ESPN at the Hoop Group Elite Camp in July. "I think [camps] limit the kid's recruiting because in a high-level game, you can get 30 offers. There's 30 coaches."

4. We need more games like Team Takeover vs. Compton Magic

Ever since the three major shoe companies -- Nike, Adidas and Under Armour -- started their own circuits, we rarely get to see the best teams from opposing circuits battle head-to-head. At the Fab 48 in Las Vegas last week, though, Team Takeover, which won the Nike Peach Jam, went head-to-head against Compton Magic, which won the Adidas Summer Championships.

imageEvan Mobley's Compton Magic was one of the standout teams in July. Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

Team Takeover had five-star senior Armando Bacot, five-star juniors Hunter Dickinson and Jeremy Roach, and Villanova commit Justin Moore.

Compton Magic had five-star seniors Onyeka Okongwu and Isaiah Mobley, both committed to USC, and Evan Mobley, the No. 1-ranked player in 2020.

Not surprisingly, it was one of the best games on the grassroots circuit in a long time. It was high-level competition with plenty of coaches and a great atmosphere. Compton Magic won in overtime, and could therefore stake a claim as the best grassroots team this month.

We need more of those bragging-rights battles.

5. Bronny James will be the biggest story in high school basketball

There was a small buzz surrounding Bronny James' first game in Las Vegas last week, but no wait to get into the gym. Once his father, LeBron James, walked into the gym, it became a madhouse.

Bronny's game later in the evening was canceled due to the large crowd, and the rest of his games that week were packed. LeBron moved from the crowd to the bench as the week went on, even taking part in layup lines before one game.

Here's the thing: Bronny is still only 13 years old. There were no college coaches in the gym for his games. As he gets older and becomes a recruitable athlete, not only will there be fans and media monitoring his games, but the biggest coaches in the sport will as well. Every game will be a scene.

6. There's no clear-cut No. 1 player in 2019

There's always some sort of contrived debate about the No. 1 player in the class, but generally a consensus begins to form in the summer. R.J. Barrett and Marvin Bagley III immediately moved to No. 1 after reclassifying in 2017; Harry Giles was No. 1 for a couple years and returned there after recovering from injury; Ben Simmons was a mainstay at No. 1 for most of his high school career.

That's not the case with the 2019 class. James Wiseman is currently No. 1, but he doesn't have an overly tight grip on that spot. He went head-to-head against No. 2-ranked prospect Vernon Carey Jr. in July, and the two essentially played to a standstill. Wiseman finished with 23 points and nine rebounds, while Carey had 21 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and five blocks. Both players showed flashes of dominance in July, but need to be a bit more consistent.

Consistency has never been an issue for No. 3 Cole Anthony, the most productive guard in high school basketball. He might not possess the ceiling of some of the big men, though. Then there's No. 4 Jaden McDaniels, who has arguably the highest ceiling of anyone in the class.

imageJames Wiseman is widely considered to be choosing between Kentucky and Memphis. Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

7. Potential power shift coming to Los Angeles

Going back to the Compton Magic: The biggest takeaway from their win was how long and dominant their frontcourt was, especially on the defensive end. That's good news for USC. Five-star seniors Onyeka Okongwu and Isaiah Mobley have already committed to the Trojans, and junior Evan Mobley, the No. 1 player in the 2020 class, is favored to join them in the near-future.

That's not it, though. USC has the top-ranked recruiting class in 2019 right now, with four ESPN 100 prospects (Max Agbonkpolo and Drake London join Okongwu and Mobley). Some of the power shift on the West Coast occurred in the spring, when USC hired Eric Mobley as an assistant coach. Mobley was a coach in the Compton Magic AAU program, and is the father of Isaiah and Evan.

Combined with assistant coach David Grace -- another former Compton Magic coach and the best recruiter on the Bruins' staff -- leaving UCLA for California, and the recruiting tide has turned over the last couple months.

8. Penny Hardaway is making waves at Memphis

Five-star forward D.J. Jeffries decommitted from Kentucky on Monday. Jeffries played for Hardaway's AAU program last spring and summer, and his father admitted on radio on Tuesday that his presence at Memphis was a "big factor" in the decommitment.

Of course, Jeffries might not be a done deal for Memphis, but it's noteworthy either way. Jeffries' decision comes on the heels of a month where Hardaway was seen targeting a lot of big names. The biggest is No. 1 prospect James Wiseman, and it's clear Memphis is in a head-to-head battle with Kentucky for him.

The Tigers have emerged as a threat for top-10 prospect Matthew Hurt, with assistant coach Mike Miller the lead recruiter on him, and they are likely the favorite for five-star forward Trendon Watford, who visited Memphis' campus in June.

Memphis is suddenly a major factor on the recruiting trial.

9. The trend of former NBA players becoming college coaches continues to grow

One thing that stood out is the number of former NBA players becoming college coaches. There are the major stars: Penny Hardaway, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin. There's Avery Johnson at Alabama, Bobby Hurley at Arizona State, Dan Majerle at Grand Canyon, Terry Porter at Portland, Mike Dunleavy Sr. at Tulane. Damon Stoudamire worked his way up the ladder and became the head coach of Pacific. After 15 years in the NBA, Donyell Marshall worked at a handful of different spots before taking over at Central Connecticut State.

There are plenty of examples of this route not working -- Mark Price, Reggie Theus, Isiah Thomas, etc. -- but if a high-profile move works out like Penny, Ewing or Mullin, expect the trend to continue.

10. Another big-man-heavy group is coming to the 2020 NBA draft

Big men generally flock to the top of mock draft boards. Most NBA franchises would rather take a chance on a talented big man with potential than go for a point guard. June's NBA draft saw five big men in the first seven picks, with only three true college guards taken in the lottery.

There's only three guards ranked in the top 15 of the ESPN 100 for the 2018 class. The trend is continuing at the top of the rankings for 2019. Five of the top six players in the ESPN 100 are power forwards or centers -- Wiseman, Carey, McDaniels, Isaiah Stewart and Hurt -- and it doesn't look like many of them will drop anytime soon.

The other part of this is the lack of elite point guards at the top of rankings. The first point guard in the 2018 rankings clocked in at No. 16 (Darius Garland). In 2019, one can make the case that after Anthony at No. 3, there's not another true point guard until Josiah James at No. 22 or wherever Nico Mannion ends up after reclassifying from 2020. Once again, big men will rule draft boards.

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