The first five days of the July Evaluation Period are behind us. I spent most of them at the Nike Peach Jam EYBL event in North Augusta, S.C. — where high school basketball’s top prospects competed in front of packed gyms featuring college basketball’s top coaches. Mike Krzyzewski. Roy Williams. Tom Izzo. Bill Self. Rick Pitino. John Calipari. Bob Huggins. Gregg Marshall. They all were there. And basically everybody else was too. It was a tremendous scene, as usual. Here are #FiveTakeaways from it:
1. Marvin Bagley III was the story for multiple reasons
Bagley, the top high school prospect in the world, was the circuit’s star heading into Peach Jam — and he did nothing to disappoint last week. The 6-foot-10 forward showed, game after game after game, why he’s such a unique talent and likely future NBA All-Star. So coaches, fans and media packed gyms each day and night to watch Bagley dominate inferior opponents.
And then Friday happened.
That’s when I, and others, reported that Bagley is trying to reclassify, graduate early and play college basketball this season. When asked about the report and whether his son is considering reclassifying, Bagley’s father, Marvin Bagley Jr., told FanRagSports, “You should probably ask CBS Sports. It seems like they know more than I know. That’s my answer — ask CBS Sports.”
For the purposes of this conversation, I am CBS Sports.
Thus, here’s my answer to the question: Yes, Bagley is trying to reclassify. And, I’m told, it is academically possible. But his desire isn’t strictly rooted in playing college basketball this season. More than that, he wants to make himself eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft, where he would immediately become the favorite to be the first overall pick ahead of Michael Porter Jr., DeAndre Ayton and Luka Doncic.
So will Bagley actually reclassify?
That remains to be seen. We should have clarity in the coming weeks.
But if the question is whether he’s trying to reclassify, the answer is … “Yes.” That’s the goal. And Bagley’s decision — he’s likely picking between Duke, USC and Arizona — will have an impact on preseason polls and make any of the three schools under serious consideration a legitimate Final Four favorite.
2. It’s weird to see coaches in new logos
I don’t usually attend NCAA-sanctioned events in the Spring. So Peach Jam is typically where I bump into coaches with new jobs for the first time, and it’s always strange initially. I saw Chris Holtmann in Ohio State gear. Brad Underwood in an Illinois shirt. John Groce in an Akron shirt. Archie Miller wearing Indiana. So on and so forth. And, speaking of Miller, he’s been busy since leaving Peach Jam. The first-year Hoosiers coach has secured three commitments from Class of 2018 prospects in a span of 20 hours. He got Race Thompson on Sunday, then Jerome Hunter and Damezi Anderson on Monday. That’s three top-100 prospects in two days. So now Indiana has a top-10 recruiting class set to sign in November.
3. Peach Jam is a great place to ‘discover’ prospects
Discover is the wrong word, obviously. But one of the byproducts of sitting in gyms watching, in some cases, six 17-and-under games in the same day is that you’re inevitably going to be impressed by a prospect you’ve never before seen or even heard of.
For me, that guy was Al-Amir Dawes.
I was sitting with ESPN’s Jeff Borzello when I noticed Dawes, as you can see from the above tweet. He’s a 6-1 combo guard from New Jersey ranked 162nd in the Class of 2019, according to 247 Sports, which is why he’s never been on my radar. (I’m mostly unfamiliar with sub-150 prospects.) But I’m interested to watch Dawes’ development over the next year. Kid just made plays all Peach Jam. Minnesota and Rutgers are among the schools that already have offered, for what it’s worth.
(Note: Another unheralded prospect I saw and liked is Michael Wang. He’s a 6-8 forward ranked 246th in the Class of 2018 who plays for a Californiateam alongside five-star prospect Bol Bol and four-star prospect Shareef O’Neal. At one point during a game Friday night, O’Neal’s father, Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, called Wang over, pointed at the player guarding Wang and told Wang to “bust his ass.” Next possession, Wang did indeed bust his defender’s ass and scored easily. To me, he looks like a nice stretch-four for the high-major level.)
4. The Oakland Soldiers won Peach Jam
Which teams win and lose at Peach Jam are of little importance me and most college coaches. We’re there to see prospects, not teams. But it does matter to the players participating because a real and significant championship is on the line. So it should be noted that the Oakland Soldiers won the event.
Kihei Clark, a three-star prospect committed to UC Davis, scored a team-high 18 points in Sunday’s title-game victory over Team Takeover. So that’s interesting — that a three-star prospect was named MVP of an event stacked with five-star prospects. But it’s also what makes the summer circuit cool. This month routinely puts little-known prospects on courts with nationally-known prospects, and sometimes the little-known prospects shine. This is an example of that, I suppose.
5. Team Penny should be favored next July
One of the biggest surprises at Peach was that Team Penny, arguably the event’s most talented squad, did not advance out of pool play for the first time in history. But go ahead and pencil in the Memphis-based program as next summer’s favorite.
Team Penny features four top-80 prospects from the Class of 2019 — James Wiseman (No. 3), D.J. Jeffries (No. 11), Chandler Lawson (No. 23) and Malcolm Dandridge (No. 79). Assuming they all return, this team — created by former NBA All-Star Penny Hardaway and coached by former Arkansas All-American Todd Day, both of whom are from Memphis — should be dominant and led by three possible future McDonald’s All-Americans next year. That’s why each of their games last week were attended by coaches from Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and most of the nation’s other top programs.