College Basketball Recruiting: What Each 5-Star Proved in 2014 July Showcases
July is a loaded month for college basketball recruiting, as the championship tournaments of the major AAU circuits give prospects a chance to show what they can do when the stakes are highest.
Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) culminates in the Peach Jam in South Carolina, Under Armour’s Association gets its Finals in Georgia and Las Vegas hosts the Super 64 finale for Adidas’ Gauntlet. All three tourneys featured a share of the nation’s best high school talent, all hoping to excel in front of top college coaches.
One youngster who came through in spades is combo guard Isaiah Briscoe. The New Jersey native led a surprising championship run for his Playaz Basketball Club at the Peach Jam, posting some gaudy individual numbers along the way.
Herein, a closer look at how Briscoe helped himself this month, along with the July results—good and bad—for the rest of ESPN’s 5-star prospects in the class of 2015.
31. Luke Kennard
Luke Kennard was a no-show at the 2014 Peach Jam because his King James Shooting Stars didn’t make the field. It’s a fitting close to a lackluster season from the Ohio-based marksman, who was pretty much invisible even when his team was on the floor.
Kennard’s vaunted scoring deserted him in EYBL play, as he managed just 12.6 points per game to place second on his own team.
His absence from the Peach Jam only cemented the fact that he has far more room for improvement than his status as Ohio’s Mr. Basketball might suggest.
30. Charles Matthews
After an injury-plagued spring, Charles Matthews never got the chance to get on the court at the Nike Peach Jam, for which his Meanstreets squad failed to qualify.
It’s no great surprise that the Illinois-based club couldn’t make the field after top scorer Matthews missed half the EYBL season with a groin injury.
The Kentucky-bound shooting guard wasn’t all that impressive even before he was sidelined, so it’s far from a sure thing that he’d have made it to South Carolina even if he’d stayed healthy.
29. P.J. Dozier
Few players needed a strong AAU summer like P.J. Dozier, who missed all of his junior season of high school with an ACL tear.
The South Carolina native looked sharp at the UAA Finals, leading his Upward Stars to the second round of bracket play and pulling off some highlight-reel dunks in the process.
Dozier continues to show the versatile offensive game that put him in the 5-star conversation before his injury. Now that he’s assuaged the fears about his health, he looks ready to get back to challenging for the top spot in a still-fluid collection of wings in the 2015 class.
28. D.J. Hogg
A recurring storyline for many of the EYBL’s top perimeter scorers this season was their inability to knock down three-pointers on a consistent basis.
One of the few who dodged that particular roadblock was D.J. Hogg, who continued his impressive marksmanship right through the Peach Jam.
Hogg not only raised his scoring average to 18.6 points per game in South Carolina, but he buried 36.2 percent of his long-range tries in the process. The 6’7” forward also showed some much-needed flashes of rebounding ability, corralling 4.8 boards per contest.
27. Derrick Jones
His individual numbers weren’t eye-catching, but Derrick Jones got the results he wanted at the Under Armour Finals.
The lanky 6’6” forward led his We R 1 squad to the league’s championship in decisive fashion, with a 20-point win in the title game capping a blowout-filled tourney.
Jones himself showed off his talent for finishing at the rim in traffic, even as he spent large stretches of some easy wins on the bench.
He obviously knows how to avoid making the game harder than it needs to be, and that’s not always a given in a youngster asked to play a starring role.
26. Ray Smith
Ray Smith played a big part in getting Dream Vision to the Adidas Super 64. Unfortunately, he never got the chance to help his team succeed once it arrived in Las Vegas.
Smith suffered a torn ACL earlier this month, ending his summer in regrettable fashion. To his credit, the Arizona commit has kept his attitude positive, which can only help with the mental recovery once his knee heals.
25. Georgios Papagiannis
It’s tough to blame Georgios Papagiannis for missing the Peach Jam this year, though his Team Takeover squad certainly wished the 7-footer had been around. Still, the Greek import had a very good reason: He’s headed back to his home country on a pro contract.
Papagiannis has signed with Panathinaikos for the upcoming season in Greece. The deal comes with an option to return to the U.S. as soon as next year, but it seems likely to put an end to any college recruiting buzz for the big man.
24. Tyler Dorsey
Although Tyler Dorsey competed for Dream Vision during the Adidas Gauntlet regular season, he switched jerseys in favor of Belmont Shores prior to the Super 64.
The Californian star missed out on his team’s runner-up finish in Vegas, but he was staying busy across town at the Fab 48.
Unfortunately for Dorsey, his new team didn’t fare nearly as well as his previous one, falling in the second round of bracket play.
As for the combo guard himself, he turned in some strong individual performances—22 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals in a meeting with Jalen Brunson’s Mac Irvin Fire—even if his team couldn’t always back him up.
23. Justin Simon
Offensively, Justin Simon had a solid weekend at the Adidas Super 64. His 3.7 assists per game (while sharing the ball with fellow playmaker Paris Austin) were one of the top marks in the field.
The Arizona commit led his deep Dream Vision squad to the tournament final as well, though it did come up short against Indiana Elite.
The one real black mark on his weekend was getting torched by Ryan Cline in the title game, as he surrendered 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting to the Purdue-bound sniper.
22. Jalen Brunson
If it hadn’t been for Brunson, this year’s underachieving Mac Irvin Fire probably wouldn’t have made it as far as the Peach Jam. Unfortunately for the standout point guard, even he couldn’t do enough to keep his team in contention in the championship tourney.
Brunson’s squad slumped to a 2-3 finish and missed out on bracket play.
That disappointing finish came in spite of a sensational tournament from the young floor general, who racked up 20.8 points and 1.4 steals a game while tying for the Peach Jam lead with 6.6 assists per contest.
21. Tyler Davis
After a quiet EYBL season, Tyler Davis used the Peach Jam to announce that he deserves a spot among the top big men of 2015.
While many other low-post stars fizzled in South Carolina, Davis ignited for one of the tourney’s most impressive individual showings.
The leader of the fittingly named Texas Titans put on a show with 18.8 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game.
His team suffered just two losses on the weekend: to eventual runner-up Team Penny in pool play and eventual champion Playaz Basketball Club in the first round of bracket action.
20. Isaiah Briscoe
As one of many undersized 2-guard types in the 2015 class, Briscoe has a lot to gain by positioning himself as a future point guard. He secured some major leadership credentials at the Peach Jam, carrying his Playaz Basketball Club to the EYBL championship.
Briscoe’s individual performance featured not only 22.4 points per game (second-best in the Peach Jam field), but 3.8 assists per contest as well.
The 6’3” guard didn’t skimp on the physical play for which he’s often been celebrated, grabbing 6.0 rebounds per game for good measure.
19. Allonzo Trier
Allonzo Trier took advantage of the Peach Jam stage to demonstrate that we haven’t yet seen the best of him. Considering what he did in the EYBL’s regular season, that’s saying quite a bit.
Trier ran away with the scoring lead in the finals just as he’d done in the regular year, topping his own staggering 29.2 point-per-game effort by averaging 30.8 in South Carolina.
He handed tournament champion Playaz Basketball Club its only loss by pouring in 42 points in the last game of pool play.
18. Deyonta Davis
No team disappointed worse at the Peach Jam than Spiece Indy Heat. Deyonta Davis isn’t the only player to blame for the squad’s 1-4 pratfall, but he certainly didn’t manage to stop it.
The Michigan State-bound forward saw his production slip noticeably from its regular-season levels, though his 14.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game weren’t all that bad in absolute terms.
He did also make a surprising impact as a shot-blocker, swatting 2.8 attempts per game after barely making a dent in that category in the regular season.
17. Caleb Swanigan
Caleb Swanigan carries 275 pounds on his 6’8” frame, so it’s inevitable that he faces questions about his endurance. Those questions will be getting a bit louder after one of the EYBL’s best regular-season performers was rendered mortal at the Peach Jam.
Swanigan’s Spiece Indy Heat club had only two reserves in South Carolina, and a double-overtime contest in its second game left the whole team drained.
Swanigan’s performance suffered more than most, and without him overwhelming opposing centers, the squad limped to a 1-4 finish.
16. Antonio Blakeney
It’s hard to complain about Antonio Blakeney’s scoring ability. Even without a high-level three-point shot, the Florida-based guard lit up the Peach Jam (as he had done the EYBL in the regular season), scoring 20.8 points per game to tie for fifth in the field.
However, it’s also hard to find anything else that Blakeney has to offer a college team right now.
That concern came into sharp relief in Each 1 Teach 1’s bracket-play opener, when Blakeney struggled to score and his team, not coincidentally, got slaughtered by 17 points by Team Penny's high-powered offense.
15. Malachi Richardson
Team Final came back to earth at the Peach Jam after playing far over its head to the tune of a 14-2 regular season.
Malachi Richardson, though, was hardly to blame for the decline, as he kept up the same strong all-around effort that had led his squad to South Carolina.
Richardson not only led the roster in scoring with 15 points per game, but he was one of the top defenders in the tourney at 2.2 steals per contest.
The Syracuse commit also showed the kind of perimeter rebounding that will serve him well in Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone, grabbing 3.6 boards a game.
14. Carlton Bragg
His Ohio Basketball Club fell to eventual winner Indiana Elite in the quarterfinals, but Carlton Bragg still had time to put on a show at the Adidas Super 64.
Just as he had in the regular season, Bragg topped the tourney's rebounding charts in convincing fashion, grabbing 10.3 boards per game.
The 6’9” Clevelander also picked up his scoring in Vegas, climbing into the top 10 with 20.3 points per contest. He rounded out his weekend by playing some terrific defense, too: 2.2 blocks a game in this high-scoring field.
13. Chase Jeter
The remarkable thing about Chase Jeter’s Super 64 performance wasn’t that he piled up 24 points and 17 rebounds in the title game. The remarkable thing was that he clearly could have done even more.
Jeter’s mid-range jumper wasn’t at its best, and he left his share of offensive rebounds on the table as his Dream Vision squad lost the final to Indiana Elite.
Given the potential he’s already shown—including 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per contest for the tournament overall—it’s fair to say that the slender center’s future has rarely looked more promising.
12. Brandon Ingram
Another victim of eventual Adidas Super 64 champ Indiana Elite, Stackhouse Elite bowed out in the second round of bracket play in Vegas.
Considering that the North Carolina-based club had little in its favor besides Brandon Ingram, it was far from a bad showing.
The lanky Ingram outdid even his solid regular season, pouring in 21.5 points per game at the tournament. He also showed off an all-too-rare asset in a young forward by placing among the tourney’s most accurate foul shooters (.857).
11. Skal Labissiere
Skal Labissiere’s M33M team didn’t play in any of the top AAU leagues this season, competing instead in a slew of one-off tournaments such as the Las Vegas Classic.
The Haitian big man himself, recovering from a back injury, has turned in some solid efforts in the process, though the team has yet to make much of a splash.
Labissiere’s most notable matchup since the injury pitted him against Stephen Zimmerman’s Oakland Soldiers in Vegas. M33M came out on the wrong end, but its star shot-blocker showed improved offensive productivity against a fellow 7-footer.
10. Thomas Bryant
Thomas Bryant was one of the revelations of the Peach Jam. After a subpar regular-season performance in Cheick Diallo’s shadow, the scrappy power forward looked like a legitimate star in South Carolina.
Bryant’s individual numbers shot up to 16 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game for the tournament.
Only when he slumped in the semifinals did Playaz Basketball Club manage to knock his Team SCAN Cardinals out of the championship bracket.
9. Elijah Thomas
If Team Texas Elite had gotten the benefit of a full season of Elijah Thomas, the EYBL club would likely have made the Peach Jam.
As things played out, though, Thomas’ injured finger kept him sidelined for all but four regular-season minutes, a major factor in his team’s absence from the field in South Carolina.
The big man was back on the floor and scoring well in the Las Vegas Classic, but not all the news was good. As noted by one ESPN radio commentator, Thomas’ downtime has done no favors for his ability to haul his 250 pounds up and down the court.
8. Jaylen Brown
Jaylen Brown’s Game Elite squad got bounced quickly in Super 64 bracket play, but the Georgia-based club got another chance to make a statement in the showcase game of the Vegas tourney.
Facing top 2016 prospect Thon Maker and Team Loaded, Brown dominated with 32 points, 15 rebounds and four assists in an overtime victory.
The win capped a fine weekend for the athletic small forward, who scored a comparatively modest 20.8 points per game after finishing second in the regular season with 23.5.
He also showed off the defensive playmaking that elevates him above most of the wings in this class, grabbing five steals in the showcase game alone.
7. Cheick Diallo
Diallo had a great case for being the best regular-season player in the EYBL. At the Peach Jam, he had an equally strong case for being the biggest individual disappointment.
Diallo’s scoring average tumbled more than eight points to land at 10.4 per game in the championship tourney.
His rebounding and even his shot-blocking—the bread and butter for the physical 6’9” center—suffered in turn, and it’s an open question at this point whether the offensive development he appeared to be showing prior to the Peach Jam was just a mirage.
6. Stephen Zimmerman
In a 2015 class with plenty of high-level shot-blockers, Zimmerman is supposed to be the one who can also play great offense.
The Nevadan 7-footer had the shot-blocking part down cold at the Peach Jam (2.2 per game), but he left his offensive game back in the Pacific time zone.
Zimmerman shot just .429 from the floor, compiling an anemic combination of 9.4 points and 2.0 assists per contest. His subpar offense was the most obvious cause of the Oakland Soldiers’ early exit, as they fell in their first game of bracket play.
5. Henry Ellenson
Basketball is a team sport, and few stars were more aware of that fact this summer than Henry Ellenson. Despite the big man’s best efforts, his Playground Elite squad went 7-9 in EYBL action and missed the Peach Jam.
Considering that he averaged 18 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, Ellenson can scarcely be blamed for his team’s absence in South Carolina.
Still, it doesn’t help him any in his chase for the top of the recruiting rankings to have missed out on a chance to show his stuff against the amped-up competition at the Peach Jam.
4. Diamond Stone
Diamond Stone was the Under Armour Association’s best regular-season player by leaps and bounds. Even with the league’s most dominant big man, though, the Young Legends finished just 5-6, barely sneaking into the Finals in Georgia.
Having gotten his team that far, Stone did well to lead the overmatched squad to the Sweet 16, where it fell to the Jersey Shore Warriors.
On the flip side, the 6’9” center ran into some issues against taller foes (such as 7-footer Doral Moore, one of the many long-limbed shot-blockers in the class of 2015).
3. Malik Newman
Malik Newman left no doubt of his importance to the Jackson Tigers at the Peach Jam. Regrettably, that’s because an injured hand kept him from taking the floor in South Carolina.
Without their point producer in the backcourt, the Tigers (8-8 in the EYBL regular season) lost every game in the championship tournament. Newman had been the regular season’s second-leading scorer at 22.5 points per game.
2. Ben Simmons
Ben Simmons' 6’8”, 225-pound frame will let him play either forward spot at the college level.
The Australian standout has long since shown how dangerous a scorer and playmaker he can be, but his Peach Jam performance highlighted his ability to get his hands dirty.
Despite facing a field enriched in top-tier big men, Simmons raised his rebounding average from 6.1 to 9.0 per game in South Carolina.
Considering that the LSU commit still piled up 17.8 points, 3.8 assists and 1.8 steals per contest, it’s not as though playing a more physical game appeared to cost him elsewhere, either.
1. Ivan Rabb
Ivan Rabb’s Peach Jam performance would’ve been perfectly respectable for most other recruits, even other 5-stars. The fact that he’s at the very top of the rankings, though, makes his 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game look awfully ordinary.
Compounding the problem is the disappointing finish from his Oakland Soldiers, who bowed out in their first game of bracket play against a less-heralded Boo Williams team.
Rabb is still a high-level prospect, no question, but he’s shown very little this summer that makes him look like the best of the best in 2015.