Adidas Gauntlet Finale: Thursday Observations
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The first full day of action at the Adidas Gauntlet Finale brought heavy attention to the top prospects in the 2018 and 2019 classes. While we outlined what coaches were seeing who on Thursday, a few other observations were picked up along the way. However, things begin and end with Zion Williamson, the top ticket seller in high school basketball.
ZION WILLIAMSON SELLS TICKETS
On Sundays, the people of Spartanburg pack the pews at their local churches. Every other day, the fellow inhabitants pack the bleachers at local high school gyms, all to get a glimpse of Zion Williamson. The local star turned superstar suited up twice on Thursday, kicking off his final travel month as it was a standing room only for the five-star forward.
Going up against a talented Team Knight unit, Williamson was tremendous down the stretch scoring 20 points in his team's second half comeback win. To end the evening, his SC Supreme bunch went down in defeat to an even more talented Game Elite team, though the highlight reel abilities from Williamson were on display throughout. Whether it was emphatic, track down shot blocks or impressive dunks through contact, the local product has all the tools to be a major matchup issue at the next level.
He does need to get into much better shape but getting back onto the floor for the first time since April due to a knee injury, there is no questioning the transcendent abilities from Williamson. People will flock to see him and so will the college coaches as John Calipari, Roy Williams, Brad Brownell and Frank Martin all took in his games on Thursday, where Coach K and Bill Self are expected in on Friday.
FAVORITE EMERGING FOR REGGIE PERRY?
Backing off of his nearly yearlong pledge to Arkansas two weeks ago, all eyes were on who might be in attendance for Reggie Perry on Thursday morning during his first travel ball game since opening his recruitment back up. A five-star power forward that has greatly improved his ball skills and shooting, Ben Howland, Mike Anderson and Leonard Hamilton each were courtside with an assistant to see the top-25 prospect.
Following his team's first win, Perry spoke limitedly on who was recruiting him. He wants to develop relationships better this time around compared to his time before committing to the Hogs last August. However, Perry also emphasized that he wanted to narrow down his list of schools in the coming weeks and could only note Kansas, Mississippi State and Florida State as the three schools that have been in touch. Another piece of info to note is that Perry made his way to FSU last month for an official visit, the only visit that he has taken since his decommitment from Arkansas. Could the Seminoles be the team to beat?
MATT BRADLEY IS A DAY-ONE LEADER
His team went down in defeat, but we would be doing a giant disservice if we didn't give Matt Bradley the proper dues following his morning session. A 6-foot-5, wired-to-compete wing who is committed to California, looks like one of the biggest heists of the 2018 class thus far.
Bradley, who is built like a linebacker, scored 30 points and brought down 15 rebounds. It is hard to imagine how he failed to hold one high-major scholarship offer until his California offer towards the end of May. A day one contributor that can be a leader for the new regime in Berkeley, Bradley does have to become a more reliable perimeter shooter, but his 15-feet and in game, production within various portions of the stat sheet and defensive tenacity is second to none, all of which should excite Cal fans.
WESTERN KENTUCKY AT IT AGAIN
It has been over three months since college coaches have been able to sit courtside and evaluate Charles Bassey. The second ranked prospect in the 2019 class, the near 7-footer is a mixture of toughness, length, strength and interior dominance, all of which he showed on Thursday. What was missing was the throng of college coaches at his game. Unlike with Williamson, seats were aplenty, as just one head coach was present for the elite center's game.
After reeling in the commitment of five-star center Mitchell Robinson last summer, could Western Kentucky head coach Rick Stansbury do it again? The only head coach on hand for Bassey, Stansbury has made a push of late for the five-star center and while there are no early favorites for him, it does seem like the Hilltoppers may have a say when the time comes for him to commit. Do not think that other prominent programs will not be in pursuit as Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, SMU and several others were on hand for his Yes II Success' team's win, but Robinson's commitment to WKU could just be the start to more dominant centers to the C-USA program.
NOAH KIRKWOOD'S VALUE
Many lined up to see top-100 guard Dwayne Cohill matchup with top-50 guard Luguentz Dort. Sure, each did a few productive things that only backed their cases as priority prospects, but the most eye-popping performance came from Noah Kirkwood. Standing at 6-foot-7 and displaying great versatility in the frontcourt, Kirkwood is the type of ballplayer that can play either forward position, produce in whatever role that he is placed into and also defend both near and away from the basket.
Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker, along with assistants from Yale and Penn were on hand for the Canadian. However, after a solid showing in Egypt at the FIBA Under-19 World Cup and with his play in South Carolina, Kirkwood's stock could take off. Heading to Northfield Mount Hermon this fall for his final year of prep basketball, Kirkwood is looking for the perfect mixture of academics and basketball. Heavily intrigued by what some of the Ivy League programs can offer, the Brookwood Bounce product also spoke highly on interest coming his way from Texas, Vanderbilt and Notre Dame, three programs that dispatched an assistant to his game on Thursday. With more showings like his first in South Carolina, the recruitment of Kirkwood may become even more crowded.