Rivals.com Basketball Recruiting Analyst
With college basketball teams all across the country tipping off their practices a week from Friday, the weekend prior to "Midnight Madness" is a little bit slow on the visitor front. However, there are still some important road trippers this weekend, and Florida will be hosting an elite group. In Colorado Springs, Rivals.com is on hand as a large group of the nation's top players from 2015 and 2016 take part in the USA Basketball mini-camp.
Down in Gainesvile, Fla., Billy Donovan and the Gators will be hosting a very talented group of visitors while the football team plays host to LSU. Just like Kentucky, the Gators have a pair of top-10 prospects committed, and both power forward Chris Walker and point guard Kasey Hill will be on hand for their official visits. Joining them in an official capacity will be the No. 1 player in the class of 2013, Julius Randle. From the class of 2014, big timer Dakarai Johnson will be on hand, as will arguably the top player in the class of 2015, Karl Towns.
He won't visit this weekend, but Jabari Parker is going to trip to Gainesville as well. With the No. 2 player planning to visit, it looks as if only Florida will get official visits from the top two players in the class of 2013. It doesn't mean that either Randle or Parker will sign with UF, but it's impressive that Donovan and his staff were the only ones able to get them both on campus officially.
Syracuse will be looking to put its best foot forward with top-30 combo forward Tyler Roberson. The talented 6-foot-8 senior is multi-skilled and plays a style that fits what the Orange do. But there is stiff competition, and Roberson is no lock to stay in the East.
It's not a secret that Duke is in heavy pursuit of a big man. This weekend, the Bule Devils host one of the best in the country in five-star Austin Nichols. The springy and tough Nichols has been a key target of the Blue Devils for a while, and at this point it is looking more and more like they are in a dogfight with Tennessee to land the Memphis native.
Out in Big 12 country, Texas has a pretty important weekend. The Longhorns have been right in it with Memphis shooting guard JaJuan Johnson, and a great visit to Austin could be what it takes to move the needle in their direction. Also on campus is the hottest big man prospect in the country, Joel Embiid. The near seven-footer from Cameroon by way of Florida has seen his stock go white hot, and Rick Barnes and his staff have made him an absolute priority.
When it comes to evaluating high school basketball players, there isn't a better venue than the one USA Basketball mini-camps and tryouts provide. The camps are always full of high-level players, great coaching and a very organized plan of attack. Those who don't get with the program get weeded out quickly, and in general the kids play extremely hard.
This weekend, 45 or so of the nation's top players from the classes of 2015 and 2016 will make their way to Colorado Springs. For now, we've decided to wait on ranking the class of 2015; but we will soon be assigning four and five-star ratings to a select group of sophomores. Many of those under consideration will be in town.
In particular, the group of big men is looking very good. Diamond Stone, Ivan Raab, Elijah Thomas, Henry Ellenson, Thomas Bryant, Daniel Giddens and Stephen Zimmerman are all in that four/five-star conversation. The chance to see them battle against each other will tell us a lot about who is ready for prime time and who still needs work.
Not surprisingly, the scouting world is just beginning to become familiar with the class of 2016. So, this is a huge introduction for the freshmen expected to be on hand. The approach with players that young is to be a bit more cautious, but we won't be opposed to giving out some early star rankings to players who look to be that advanced.