August 6, 2012

Mailbag: Where would Aussies rank?

MORE: Coming to America

With the July evaluation period over, Rivals.com national analyst Eric Bossi can take a step back -- and a breath -- and answer some reader questions in this week's basketball recruiting mailbag.

Australian ballers Ben Simmons and Dante Exum have made names for themselves this summer. Where would they rank in the classes of 2015 and 2014? -- Joe, Los Angeles

There is no question that Simmons and Exum -- who both attend the Australian Institute of Sport -- have made scouts, recruiters and coaches take notice.

Let's start with Simmons. At around 6-foot-8, Simmons is already pretty polished as a low post and perimeter scorer. He has excellent size, good athleticism and a high basketball acumen.

Watching him at the Pangos All-American camp in June, it was hard to come up with five prospects in the class of 2015 who would rank ahead of him if the level of play he showed in Long Beach is something he can do regularly.

Of course, Simmons is still very young, needs strength and has had very limited exposure in the United States so we need to see if he was a one hit wonder or a true potential phenom.

A class of 2014 prospect, Exum created a pretty sizeable buzz at the 17 and under world championships at the beginning of July. Then, the 6-foot-5 combo guard was very good at the Adidas Super 64 in Las Vegas and he replicated that effort at Adidas Nations (where Simmons shined as well). He's at least a four-star prospect and a very conservative estimate would put him into at least the top 50 -- if not a bit higher -- for the class of 2014 at this juncture.

It seems like there is a lot of buzz about Keita Bates-Diop lately. What's his game like and can Illinois keep him home? -- Randall, Chicago

The 6-foot-6 small forward from Illinois burst onto the national scene during the spring, and the class of 2014 four-star saw his stock rise even more during the month of July, thanks to his play with the Illinois Wolves.

A rangy wing with length and a pure shooting stroke, Bates-Diop really unlocked his inner beast in July. While showcasing what he can do from the perimeter, he also proved that he can be a ferocious competitor around the rim and an outstanding shot-blocker and rebounder for his size.

Traditionally, the Illini have done very well with the Wolves program.

However, there is a new coach in Champaign and surely continuing a strong relationship with the Wolves is very high on John Groce's to-do list.

The Illini have offered and it's a little early to formulate a list of favorites for Bates-Diop who has also garnered offers from programs such as Michigan, DePaul[/db], [tm]Purdue, Kansas State, Northwestern and others, to go along with more recent interest from Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio State, Marquette, Florida and Duke.

Could the Jerry Sandusky scandal and probation the Penn State football team is facing have a negative impact on their basketball recruiting? -- Conner, Pittsburgh

Rivals150 small forward Brandon Austin said in Las Vegas that his de-commitment from the Nittany Lions had nothing to do with the football program's troubles. Even if that de-commitment happened to come right before major sanctions were leveled against the football program. However, it's nave to think that the gridiron scandal isn't having at least some level of impact on the recruiting efforts of Pat Chambers and his staff.

At the very least, Chambers and his staff have to fight off the negative recruiting that is undoubtedly being done by other staffs and it's not like Penn State has been the subject of much good news in the national media.

At the end of the day, though, it's still too early to tell if there will be any tangible impact on the basketball program, but there's no question that Chambers and his staff will have to be proactive in separating the basketball program from the football program when looking to persuade recruits to make their way to Happy Valley.

What's up with Josh Hart? -- James, Herndon, Va.

A hard-nosed, four-star wing from Washington (D.C.) Sidwell Friends, Hart is one of those guys who accomplishes a lot with will and determination that match his skill level.

The 6-foot-5 wing recently cut his list down to a final seven of Arizona, Cincinnati, Memphis, Miami, Penn State, Rutgers and Villanova.

Hart is yet to claim any favorites in his recruitment and he's most likely to use the bulk of his official visits.

However, it's interesting to note that Villanova just announced the hiring of Doug Martin as an assistant. Along with being an assistant high school basketball coach in the D.C. area, Martin was a coach for the Team Takeover grassroots program that Hart has played for.

There's been a lot of talk about the game of Abdul-Malik Abu up here in New England. Who is recruiting him and what's his game like? -- Mark, Boston

A native of the Boston area who is currently prepping at Kimball Union in New Hampshire, Abu is a rugged 6-foot-7 power forward who currently ranks No. 66 in the class of 2014.

He's powerfully built, rebounds in and out of his area, shows developing skills facing the basket and plays with a non-stop motor.

According to his summer coach Tyron Boswell of Experessions Elite, Abu's most recent offers came from Connecticut and Miami.

Previous to his latest offers, Maryland, West Virginia, Temple, Seton Hall, Boston College, Michigan State, Providence and UMass were among those to offer scholarships.

The top two point guards in the class of 2014 are generally considered to be Tyus Jones and Emmanuel Mudiay, can you compare and contrast their games? -- Derrick, Chapel Hill

Derrick, you are absolutely correct that Jones -- from Apple Valley (Minn.) High -- and Mudiay -- from Arlington (Texas) Grace Prep -- are the top two floor generals in the class of 2014. Both are five-star prospects who have proven that they can put the ball in the hole or get others involved, but they are also quite different.

The most glaring difference is that at 6-foot-4, Mudiay is much bigger than Jones, who checks in at a little over six feet.

Mudiay would also be considered the better run-and-jump athlete of the two and he's also a bit more natural and fluid in his play. He reads the pick and roll very well, shows immense potential as a defender and is cut out of the new-age point guard mold of big, athletic points who make their living getting to the rim.

While Mudiay enjoys the size advantage, Jones currently enjoys the advantage of skill level and overall basketball savvy. Jones alertly whips passes around the perimeter and has shown the ability to make those around him better. Like Mudiay, Jones is also very good in the pick-and-roll and instead of pure athleticism, he uses changes of speed and subtle fakes to create in pure 1-on-1 situations. Jones also holds the slight edge as a jump shooter.

At the end of the day, though, there is very little -- if any -- separation between the two as prospects and it's a matter of what a particular coach or analyst might prefer.

Currently ranked No. 5 (Jones) and No. 6 (Mudiay) nationally in 2014, the duo has created a pretty sizeable gap between themselves and any other point guards in their class.

Who are three sophomores I need to pay attention to? Do those guys just get ranked because a few of them play in the 17-under camps? -- Rob, Plano

Well, Ben Simmons was mentioned above and even though he's not expected on American soil for his sophomore year, he's definitely one to keep an eye on. For now, let's go with big men Ivan Rabb from Oakland and Diamond Stone from Milwaukee.

Keep in mind, this is no guarantee that these guys end up ranked No. 1 through No. 3, but they have each proven to be high level prospects at an early juncture.

The second part of the question is an excellent one. It's a big country and it's impossible to have seen as many rising sophomores as we will have seen by the time they graduate.

Because of that, those that have had the most visibility certainly get a benefit in a system where we rank the players that we have been able to evaluate in person.

That's why it's so important to keep in mind that any rankings of the rising sophomore class are very early and that they are going to change.

As each month goes by and we evaluate more players, the pool of potentially rankable players is growing.

Between that and the prospects still being very young with much development left, means that there is going to be plenty of change between now and August of 2014 when we are ranking these guys headed into their senior years.

Could you tell a difference in how hard the players got after it with college coaches around versus when they weren't around? -- Hank, Denver

I do think that players, in general at least, try to play harder when the coaches are watching them during the month of July.

It is especially noticeable with younger prospects who aren't as used to playing in front of two or three coaches, much less the giant crowds they sometimes see in the summer. However, sometimes it just isn't possible for them to play with all-out effort.

I think the biggest issues facing these kids and how hard they play is that they are tired by the end of the summer and often play too many games in a short period of time.

It's the nature of the beast, though. In order to get exposure, kids have to travel and play lots of games in short periods of times.

When dealing with teenagers, it's awfully tough to expect that they be performing with peak effort every time out.




 

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