July 28, 2014

Mac Irvin Fire come home with title

RANKINGS: Class of 2014 - 2015 - 2016

LAS VEGAS -- Sunday was the final day of Las Vegas week and of July's three evaluation periods. Teams left in each tournament thinned out as champions were crowned at the Super 64, Fab 48 and the Las Vegas Classic. At the Las Vegas Classic, the Mac Irvin Fire outlasted Houston Hoops in a tight ballgame thanks to the late game play of star point guard Jalen Brunson. Five-star big man Stephen Zimmerman's Oakland Soldiers lost in the semis but he had a big day and has his official visits set.

Fire take home crown at Las Vegas Classic

By the time they took the floor to face the Houston Hoops in the finals of the Las Vegas Classic's top 17U division the Mac Irvin Fire had to have been exhausted. Having already played 11 games since their arrival in Vegas on Wednesday (seven in the LV Classic, three in The Eight and one in the Fab 48) their legs had logged a lot of minutes.

Watching them play, one would hardly know how much ball they had played during the week as they outlasted a determined Houston Hoops squad to win the title.

Big time players make big time plays when they matter most and that's exactly what five-star point guard Jalen Brunson did. With the game on the line the rising senior smoked some threes, used his hesitation dribble moves to get into the lane and he converted on some high level finishes and passes around the rim. Basically, he did exactly what you would hope a big time point guard prospect would do and helped to will his team to a victory while scoring 16 of his team high 20 points down the stretch.

Brunson was certainly far from a one man show.

In the first half, shooting guard Connor Cashaw -- Brunson's high school teammate at Lincolnshire (Ill.) Stevenson -- and small forward Isaiah Moss helped to keep the Fire alive. Both three-star prospects have helped their recruiting tremendously this summer as they have popped onto high major radars and they showed why. Cashaw used his tremendous mid range game and wiry strength to make things happen while Moss blended outside shooting.

Also coming up big at various times for the Fire were Rivals150 players Davon Dillard and Edward Morrow. A three-star small forward, Dillard made some key toughness plays on the perimeter and in transition while four-star Morrow did the same on thing on the interior and still had tremendous energy after a week of fighting bigger players in the post as a slightly undersized power forward.

Zimmerman sets five official visits

All summer long, five-star big man Stephen Zimmerman has been adjusting his game. First he had to adjust to a new team when he moved over to playing with the Oakland Soldiers. Then, as his body has added bulk he's had to adjust his game to fit his physical changes. Playing in his hometown on Sunday, it seemed to have all come together for him.

A seven-footer who has always had a high level of skill, Zimmerman used to be a thin and gangly kid who moved very fluidly in the open court. As a result he could play a lot facing the rim and played more of a finesse game. Now, he has added a lot of strength (though he still needs more) and because of that he has developed into a guy who can play more of a power game around the rim.

It has taken some time, but Zimmerman looked the most comfortable he has with his stronger frame and his adjusted game of playing more inside and out. During a tough semifinal loss to the Houston Hoops he sprayed in mid range jumpers, posted up, made terrific passes and cleaned up around the rim as a rebounder.

Zimmerman looked very much worthy of his top 10 status in the class of 2015 on Sunday and his family confirmed some news. He now has five official visits set and in place.

Zimmerman will first visit North Carolina on the weekend of October 4th. He will then visit Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA over the next three weekends before finishing up his official visits with a trip to Arizona on the weekend of November 7th. Hometown UNLV and Indiana also remain in the mix to land his services.

More Sunday notes from Vegas

In a month or so, Rivals.com will release our first rankings of the class of 2017. Most likely we will start with a top 25 but the odds that we make it out of the top ten before 6-foot-8 forward Jarred Vanderbilt makes an appearance are looking pretty slim. The rising sophomore has been impressive all spring and summer with the Houston Hoops but he really seemed to have hit his stride in Las Vegas. He has adjusted to the competition level, added a little strength and found his way as a very versatile combo forward. Despite being hobbled by a leg injury he was very active on the glass, scored some timely buckets and more than held his own. A few high major assistant coaches who were unfamiliar with him were totally blown away when they found out he is the class of 2017 given that they were trying to find out info about him to make him a 2015 target.

Look for point guard Jordan Ford to debut in the rankings for the class of 2016 when they are next updated. A scoring point guard from Folsom (Calif.) High, the three-star was outstanding for the Oakland Soldiers on Sunday. He loves to utilize the high ball screen and is very dangerous coming off that screen because he can pull up and make jumpers from between 15 and 20 feet and because he has the quickness to get all the way into the lane. Ford lacks strength right now, but the instincts and feel are all there. He told Rivals.com that he has early offers from UTEP, Gonzaga, Cal State Northridge, UC Irvine, UC Davis and Northern Arizona while California, Stanford and Boise State have upped their interest lately. More programs will be jumping into his recruitment soon enough.

Because of traffic and moving from one tournament to another, we didn't make it to the finals of the Fab 48's 17 and under platinum division game until right near the very end. DC Premier repeated as champions (though last year they were called the DC Assault) with a win over a cagey Louisiana Dynasty program. The hope had been to get another look at Jacob Evans of the Dynasty who had a tremendous week in Vegas. The Rivals150 wing validated his status all weekend long and angled for a bit of a bump up from his current spot of No. 144. He is a strong wing, plays the game with patience and can score as a jump shooter or physical driver. He helped himself tremendously in Vegas and deserved mention.

Another who will receive strong consideration for class of 2016 rankings is 6-foot-8 power forward Donovan Mitchell of California based Team Superstar. He is rail thin, but Mitchell can really run, has a little bit of an edge to the way he plays and he is a bouncy finisher around the rim. He looks like he will be the type of big who can face and drive to the hoop as well. The entire Pac 12 and the Mountain West are all watching his development very closely and he is right in the mix as a high end mid major to high major prospect.

The ATL Xpress' run in the Fab 48 16U division came to a close in the semifinal round. Center Chris Lewis has been a big name for them this summer and it was pretty easy to see why. A physically strong and tough big man who checks in at around 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds, Lewis can play rough and tumble around the hoop. While his strength is a major asset, he isn't just a bully out on the floor. He runs very well in transition, can stroke home elbow jumpers and is a good rebounder on both ends of the floor. He has sparked up a lot of interest in the Southeast with programs like Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Memphis and Miami.

Because there was so much ground to cover, the only way to watch the finals of the Super 64 was via DVR. Indiana Elite took home a well deserved title as Purdue commit Ryan Cline got extra hot from deep at the right time and they knocked off a talented Dream Vision squad. Rivals.com saw Indiana Elite in Vegas and the previous week in Southern California and was impressed each time by their team ball and selfless play. Individually, combo guard Kyle Guy was their most consistently productive player and he is a lock to enter the 2016 rankings when they get updated.


Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.




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