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Monday, July 09, 2007

SI.com's Seth Davis' Hoop Thoughts "15 Stars of Tomorrow - Tyreke Evans, etc."

SI.com Seth Davis' Hoop Thoughts

Names to know
The skinny on 15 stars to be as recruiting heats up
Posted: Thursday July 5, 2007 1:27PM; Updated: Thursday July 5, 2007 2:50PM

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

For all the hullabaloo surrounding the news last fall that Nike was dismantling its All-America camp and Sonny Vaccaro was folding up his tent at the ABCD Camp, the summer evaluation period that begins on Friday will look an awful lot like the dozen or so summers that came before. There are still three main players in the sneaker game -- Nike, Adidas and Reebok -- and a player's schedule still depends mostly on which company is forking over cash and graft to that player's summer program. (Incidentally, while most of those summer teams are often characterized as "AAU teams," that is a misnomer since most of them in fact have no real relationship with the Amateur Athletic Union.)

The changes that did occur will be mostly cosmetic and will only affect the first week of events. Instead of holding its All-American camp in Indianapolis, Nike will stage the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio, during the first four days of the period. That gathering was preceded by a series of position camps around the country hosted by Nike athletes such as Steve Nash, Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant and Amare' Stoudemire, but because they occur before the evaluation period begins, college coaches may not attend. Instead of sponsoring Vaccaro's ABCD Camp in Teaneck, N.J., Reebok will have a similar event in Philadelphia. The rest of the calendar remains pretty much intact.

With a deft assist from recruiting maven Bob Gibbons, whose annual calendar of July events is the most indispensable document in the recruiting game, I've identified the most significant events in the adjoining sidebar. There are dozens of other lesser events going on around the country this month, and college coaches may only attend those that have been officially certified by the NCAA. If you'd like to see a complete list of NCAA-certified summer events, click here.

It's good to know the summer's main events, but what's really important is to know the summer's main players. I took a preseason tour in June to two outstanding events: the NBA Players Association Camp in Charlottesville, Va., and USA Basketball's Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs. Between those two events I got a chance to see nearly 150 of the top high school players in America. I've selected 15 players to highlight in advance of the recruiting whirlwind.

March Madness is all well and good, but real Hoop Thinkers like us know that July Madness is really where it's at. Only in this case, the big prize at the end is One Shining Scholarship. Herewith, my Fab Fifteen:

Farouq Aminu, 6-8, F, Norcross, Ga.
Summer team: Georgia Stars (Nike)
Schedule: LeBron Academy, AAU Super Showcase, AAU 19-and-unders
Skinny: Aminu is a highly ranked prospect who is currently deciding between Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, but in Colorado Springs he seemed a bit overmatched. Aminu moves very well for a player his size and he was one of the better-passing big men at the festival, but he struck me as a player who was not used to going up against guys his size or bigger. Even so, he is very bright and outgoing and I can see why so many experts anticipate he will thrive in a college setting.

Devin Ebanks, 6-8, F, Queens, N.Y.
Summer team: Team Takeover (Adidas)
Schedule: It Takes Five, Super 64
Skinny: Every kid growing up in Queens dreams of playing his college ball in ... Bloomington, Indiana? That's where Ebanks is headed next season, and the Hoosiers faithful will love what they're getting. Ebanks reminds me of a young Rudy Gay, but mentally he's ahead of where Gay was at this point. For example, the gold medal game at the USA Basketball Festival tipped off at 8:30 in the morning. Most of the players were barely awake when the game began, but Ebanks put himself through a hard warmup routine (he listened to an iPod as he went through the paces) and was the only guy ready to go when play started. As IU coach Kelvin Sampson likes to say, that shows he's got a little mud in his blood.

Tyreke Evans, 6-5, G, Aston, Pa.
Summer team: Team Final (Nike)
Schedule: LeBron Academy, Peach Jam, AAU 19-and-unders
Skinny: This is clearly the most exciting player in the senior class. Evans was a scoring machine in Colorado Springs (he averaged 29.8 points in five games), but he did most of his scoring with one-on-one moves. Often times he'd go one-on-five and still score. I thought it was a good sign that, when I asked Evans what he needed to improve on, he said he needed to learn to play a team game better. Louisville and Villanova have long been at the top of Evans' list, but considering the fact that William Wesley, the famed king of the hoops underworld, has taken a close interest in Tyreke, the smart money is on Memphis. That's the team coached by Worldwide Wes' good buddy, John Calipari.


Derrick Favors, 6-9, C, Atlanta
Summer team: Atlanta Celtics (Adidas)
Schedule: It Takes Five, Super 64.
Skinny: Favors may only be a junior, but he was the strongest inside player at the NBA camp. Like most kids his age he doesn't play as hard as he could all the time, but every time he gets the ball near the rim he finishes, no matter how many guys are hanging on him. It's rare to see a player that young with that strength and the toughness to use it.

JaMychal Green, 6-9, C, Montgomery, Ala.
Summer team: Alabama Challenge (Nike)
Schedule: Peach Jam, Super Showcase, and AAU 19-and-unders
Skinny: Green really shined at the NBA camp. He was especially pumped to go up against fellow big man Samardo Samuels, who found many of his shot attempts against Green being sent the other way. Besides being a force on defense, Green has an array of scoring moves in the paint, and his coach raved about his attitude. Green's recruitment is pretty wide open right now, but it's a pretty safe bet that he'll wind up somewhere in the SEC, most likely Alabama.

Jrue Holiday, 6-4, G, Chatsworth, Calif.
Summer team: Pump 'n Run (Adidas)
Schedule: It Takes Five, Super 64
Skinny: Holiday was the focus of one of the most intriguing recruiting battles of the summer before committing to UCLA on July 3. In my opinion the Bruins are getting the best point guard in the country. He's bigger than Brandon Jennings, which makes a difference, especially at the defensive end, and he's much more advanced when it comes to running a team.

Scotty Hopson, 6-6, F, Hopkinsville, Ky.
Summer team: Mid-State Ballers (no sponsor)
Schedule: LeBron Academy, AAU 19-and-unders
Skinny: Hopson may have been the player who raised his stock the most at the USA Basketball Festival. He's a dynamic swingman who jumps out of the gym and has both long-range and mid-range touch. (That mid-range game is a dying art, but Hopson is an artist at it.) Hopson has committed to Mississippi State, and I'm guessing that by the end of the summer he will have positioned himself to be a McDonald's All-American. He's that good.

Brandon Jennings, 6-foot, G, Los Angeles
Summer team: Belmont Shore (Reebok)
Schedule: Reebok U Camp, Big Time
Skinny: It's easy to see why Jennings, who committed to Arizona this spring after de-committing from USC, has generated so much buzz over the years. He's a super-quick, diminutive lefty, most often compared to Kenny Anderson. Still, Jennings has a lot to learn about being a floor general. He's one of those point guards who has to have the ball in his hands all the time, and it's obvious that he's used to taking whatever shot he wants. I'll say this about him, though: If he gets a good outlet pass or a long rebound, all he needs is a smidgen of daylight and he's gone.

Greg Monroe, 6-10, F, Gretna, La.
Summer team: Louisiana Select (Nike)
Schedule: LeBron Academy, Peach Jam, AAU 19-and-under
Skinny: If you read my column last week from Colorado Springs on Monroe, you know I consider him the best player in the class of '08. He was dominant at the festival, but given his laid-back nature I can see why people would question his intensity in lesser settings. Monroe appears to be the type of player who can play both up and down to his level of competition. For the most part he'll be going up against good competition this summer, so I'm confident he'll remain everybody's No. 1 prospect when it's all said and done. His recruitment is pretty wide open (look for Georgetown as a possible sleeper), but in the end I think LSU is going to be awfully tough to beat.

Delvon Roe, 6-7, F, Lakewood, Ohio
Summer team: King of the Court Shooting Stars (Nike)
Schedule: LeBron Academy, Main Event, AAU 19-and-unders
Skinny: I'm not quite ready to say that Roe is the best frontcourt player Tom Izzo has recruited to East Lansing, but it may not be too long before that becomes conventional wisdom. There's almost nothing this kid can't do. He has the size and athleticism to be a factor underneath, but he shoots and slashes like a two-guard. Roe was the leading scorer at the USA Basketball festival (30.3 ppg), and overall I thought he was the second-best player behind Monroe. The fact that Roe played so hard so consistently leads me to believe that he's the type of player who will work hard to make himself better.

Samardo Samuels, 6-9, F, Newark, N.J.
Summer team: Metro Hawks (Nike)
Schedule: LeBron Academy, Peach Jam, AAU 19-and-unders
Skinny: Samuels' decision to attend Louisville was the biggest commitment so far in the class of '08. He is definitely a hoss, but during the games I watched him play at the NBA camp he seemed disinterested, which I'm told is something of a pattern with him. However, I have seen him play inspired in the past, and I know how devastating he can be. Once he gets into good condition he'll be ready to make an impact in college.

Andrew Steele, 6-3, G, Birmingham, Ala.
Summer team: Alabama Challenge (Nike)
Schedule: Peach Jam, Super Showcase, and AAU 19-and-unders
Skinny: Steele's brother, Ron, is the starting point guard at Alabama, and from what I can tell Andrew is every bit as good, if not better, than his big bro. He can play either guard spot and does a great job jumping into the passing lanes on defense. All the coaches at the NBA Camp raved about his character, as well. He took the skills sessions seriously and answered every instruction with "yes, sir." Trust me, this kid is a gem.

Lance Stephenson, 6-5, G, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Summer team: Juice All-Stars (Adidas)
Schedule: It Takes Five, Super 64.
Skinny: When you're a precocious point guard at Lincoln High on Coney Island, you get scrutinized beginning at a young age. When I watched Stephenson play in Colorado Springs, I was impressed with how much bigger he has gotten. As one of the few juniors at the festival, Stephenson definitely showed that he belonged, but he was also the most immature player there. He carped at the refs, he chastised his teammates and he even had to sit out the first quarter of the gold medal game because he blew a curfew the night before. Stephenson clearly has the talent to be a big-time player, but like most juniors in high school he has a lot of growing up to do.

Elliott Williams, 6-4, G, Collierville, Tenn.
Summer team: M33M Magic (Adidas)
Schedule: Rbk U Camp, Super 64, Best of the Summer.
Skinny: Williams has been under the radar the past two years, but at this point the secret is out. He was originally discovered by Virginia coach Dave Leitao when he was a sophomore, but now Leitao has to fend off a number of schools, including Duke and Tennessee. An excellent student, Williams is a skinny, lefty combo guard with great quickness. I especially like the way he's always seeking to initiate the action.

Tyler Zeller, 7-1, C, Washington, Ind.
Summer team: Indiana Elite (Adidas)
Schedule: It Takes Five, Super 64, Best of the Summer.
Skinny: Tyler, whose older brother, Luke, is a rising junior at Notre Dame, is the most intriguing big man in the senior class. He is extremely tall and long, and, though he is rail-thin, he is quite skilled and runs extremely well for a player his size. There's none of that youthful awkwardness you often see in 7-foot teenagers. Tyler told me he is considering nine schools (including Notre Dame, Purdue and Indiana) but hopes to pare down the list in the next couple of months.

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