INDIANAPOLIS - Friday at the Adidas Invitational saw the competition jump to an even higher level, as eliminations started with the beginning of bracket play. Rivals.com was all around Indianapolis, checking out some of the nation's most promising prospects from the Adidas circuit, including some talented rising sophomores.
Here are the top storylines from day three of the Invitational.
Don't mess with Texas
He might not be the most high-profile prospect in the always talented Lone Star State, but Lewisville (Texas) Hebron wing Tyler Williams can play some basketball.
The 6-foot-5 small forward was excellent for his Urban DWF team in a win over Team Adidas PA on Friday morning, proving that even though, as a 2015 prospect, he might be younger than the competition, he is capable of producing a memorable performance.
A long and athletic slasher who loves to play in attack mode, Williams tries to turn every offensive catch into a downhill drive to the rim. He's an aggressive finisher who can get through contact with either hand, and he is an efficient shooter from the foul line. Also a solid ball handler who can create for others and sees the floor well enough to pull up for a midrange jumper, Williams will best be used off the wing in the college game, where he can use two or three dribbles to find lanes to score.
As he gets older, Williams is going to have to add strength to become an elite player in Texas, and nationally, but he has all of the natural offensive instincts to become a Rivals150 type of prospect.
High-major programs have taken notice of Williams' talent as well. Schools including Houston, Iowa State and Ole Miss stopped by the game to check in on the rising junior.
One of the names that has had college coaches talking the most over the first few days of the event has been Jamal Aytes, a class of 2013 forward.
While most of his classmates are headed to college for summer school, or have announced that they will reclassify and attend prep school, Aytes is in a strange purgatory between the two. He said the one summer class that he is enrolled in at his high school will be enough for him to qualify academically for Division I college ball next season.
Over the next few days, however, Aytes isn't worried about summer school. He is more focused on manhandling his opponents on the court with his Dream Vision team.
A San Juan (Calif.) native, the 6-foot-6 combo forward blends a unique mix of skill, speed and overwhelming power on the court, making him a nearly impossible matchup for younger opponents. Aytes can handle the ball in the open court, but he likes to go into contact, where he is more comfortable pushing players around as he gets to the rim to finish. Also a well-above-average athlete, the incoming college freshman has a knack for the offensive glass, producing points in a hurry.
While he isn't necessarily in the best shape of all the players on the circuit, Aytes plays with a strong motor. His natural strength should translate immediately to the college level.
After the game, the Californian updated his recruitment, confirming that he plans on attending a Division I college next season.
"Right now, the two schools that I really talk with are BYU and Boston College," Aytes said. "We'll see if I end up at one of those two places, but I'll definitely be in college next year. This one summer class will have me all the way caught up."
Other high majors with a scholarship opening for next season are taking a notice of Aytes, as nearly every member of the Mountain West, West Coast Conference, Western Athletic Conference and Pac-12 was in the gym on Thursday and/or Friday to check out the unsigned senior.
Next in line
The class of 2016 is already being billed as a special group of prospects, often compared to the recently graduated, and superstar-filled, class of 2013.
In that class of rising high school sophomores, several of the top prospects are playing their summer ball on the Adidas circuit. On Friday, the most impressive of those prospects was Wilbraham & Monson (Mass.) Academy guard Mustapha Heron.
One of the more physically mature prospects in his class, the 6-foot-4 combo guard already looks like a college player on the court. He has wide and developed shoulders, a strong lower core and the mobility to move his feet despite his height. Heron is one of the biggest guards in his class, and playing up two age groups with the New England Playaz 17-and-under team, he is still as physical a guard as you'll see.
What separates Heron from other guards in his class, however, is his ability to combine that strength with skill. Capable as a ball handler or an off guard, Heron does an excellent job of staying in control on the offensive end. While we'd like to see him pick more spots to be aggressive, the rising sophomore does not make many mistakes with the ball, and he consistently sees the right decision.
An above-average shooter with a high, left-handed release, Heron can control a game as a scorer or a distributor, and he takes pride on the defensive end, where his strength becomes a big factor.
Heron claims early interest from Kansas State, Connecticut, Miami, Cincinnati and UCLA, but he says schools have told him that they will wait to offer him because of his age. Regardless of age, look for Heron to eventually project as a major factor once Rivals ranks the class of 2016.
Another class of 2016 star we got a chance to evaluate briefly on Friday was Canadian small forward Justin Jackson. A tall, wide and agile 6-foot-6 wing with big-time playmaking abilities, Jackson is a gifted and willing passer who can play under control at high speeds and loves to dish the ball off the bounce. Rivals.com had a chance to catch only a few minutes of Jackson's performance with his YAACE team, but the rising sophomore wing proved he is more than worthy of the lofty reputation he built after a strong fall showing at the John Lucas Midwest Elite Camp. Rumors of an eventual transition to American high school basketball are swirling with Jackson, but he remains enrolled at his Toronto (Ont.) school.
Throughout the first two days of the event, the Billups Elite team generated quite the buzz, emphatically defeating opponents and putting up big offensive numbers. On Friday, however, Billups Elite would be put to the test, as it drew an opening-round matchup with Dream Vision in bracket play. The Colorado-based team fought hard, and although it came up short, it proved it can compete with the best. One player who stood out for Billups Elite was class of 2014 small forward Ronnie Harrell. A 6-foot-6 rising senior at Denver (Colo.) East, Harrell is a long and lanky scorer with a smooth handle who loves to shoot off of dribble moves after changing direction. He's a good athlete who can get creative with the ball, and once he became more aggressive in the second half he really began to put pressure on the talented Dream Vision perimeter defense. Harrell will have to improve his shot selection and he desperately needs to add strength to become a major factor at the high-major level, but his natural scoring talent and upside make him a solid recruit for college basketball's highest level. Colorado, Wyoming, Gonzaga and Arizona State are among those involved in Harrell's recruitment.