Beach Ball/John Wall: Which programs should feel the best?
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C./RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Beach Ball Classic and John Wall Holiday Invitational in South and North Carolina were a great way to close out event coverage for 2019. Which college programs should be feeling the best about their commitments from the events?
Clemson has lost five of their last six games and needs to generate some positive momentum as the Tigers head into the new year. At least things are looking good on the recruiting front.
Their recruiting class only has two signees but still ranks in the top 35 nationally and a lot of that has to do with how good in-state catch P.J. Hall is. Hall is skilled, he is athletic, he is tough and he can play either the power forward or center positions in the ACC. His shooting, low post game and overall feel should allow him to make an immediate impact.
By the way, I saw Brad Brownell's other four-star signee, forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper, the week before in Las Vegas and he looked ready to step in and provide immediate minutes as well.
Clemson was also brought up by many recruits we spoke to during the swing through the Carolinas so there is hope out there.
I know some of you are shaking your head and thinking to yourself "Get out of town Bossi, of course Duke fans are feeling good about a class that is ranked No. 2 nationally."
I get that, but D.J. Steward is the first member of Duke's 2020 class that I have been able to see in person this winter and he was outstanding at the Beach Ball. His jumper continues to be a major weapon, he's tightening up his ball handling and decision making enough that he can spend some time at the point and he has stepped up the level of communicating and leading he does on the floor. It's the shooting and versatility that will be most valuable in Durham next season.
He's got some serious competition for the McDonald's All-American Game, but he'd be a very worthy choice.
Sheesh, it's been two days and I'm still buzzing from the performance that I saw Illinois bound point guard Andre Curbelo have at the Beach Ball. Yes, the 25 points, 19 rebounds and nine assists were impressive and so was the skill level displayed. But the energy and leadership he showed are what should have Brad Underwood and the Illini nation so excited.
Curbelo is a born leader who wills his teammates to play harder and execute and that he's able to do so naturally and without being over the top or a fake hustle guy is important. Let me see if I can properly frame what his energy can do. By the time he and his team took the floor I was watching my fifth game of the day and had been in the gym for over nine hours after making a near four hour drive that morning to make it to games. I was out of juice, limping to the finish line. By the time Curbelo was done, my entire energy had changed and I didn't want the day to end. If he does that for people watching, imagine the impact he could have on a program.
It hasn't quite been the season that Roy Williams and North Carolina were hoping for as they've battled injuries and difficulties scoring. At least help is on the way.
Caleb Love has looked like an impact player when I've seen him this season and in Raleigh at the John Wall, big man Day'Ron Sharpe looked ready to roll. Seriously, he looked good enough to me that he could step in and help the Heels at this very moment.
He's an ideal college five man. Not only is he strong and tough with great hands and touch, he can run and doesn't get too lost when he has to defend out in space.
Not only was Sharpe very good, but Puff Johnson looked like he was getting things on track. The wing has been struggling so far this season at HIllcrest Prep but at least during the game I saw at the John Wall he showed why he's so highly ranked and had easily his best game of the season by knocking down some shots and making some strong drives to the rim.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE
If there was a team that could be declared the "winner" of my trip to the Carolinas, it would be Kevin Keatts' North Carolina State squad. I was able to see three of the members of their sixth ranked 2020 class -- five-star Josh Hall and three-stars Shakeel Moore and Nick Farrar -- along with early 2021 commit Terquavion Smith. They all impressed.
The headliner of the group, Hall, is a legitimate NBA prospect who is different than most out there. He's a tall and lanky wing who can shoot but he's gotten more athletic and better at creating shots off the dribble so he doesn't settle for deep jumpers anymore. He's a big time, homegrown talent and an important score.
Moore is currently just outside of the Rivals150 and is making himself a case for inclusion. His shot looks good and there just aren't any better athletes than him at the point guard position. Farrar was a real eye-opener because he showed a bunch of skill as a shooter and faceup player that I'd not seen before. Checking on his progression through the year will be important.
As for Smith, he's another long, athletic and hard playing guard who will be able to press and run like Keatts wants to do.
The Pack have things rolling on the recruiting front.
I've seen some seriously good point guard performances already this winter and Odom's is right up near the top of them. It's easy to love his athleticism, his ability to pressure the ball on defense and the way he keeps everybody involved on the offensive end. But, it's all of the little things he does that make him so complete. You will often see him pulling teammates aside to discuss things, he's in constant communication with his coaches and he's efficient. Physically, he looks dedicated to being in top condition and all of those are valuable traits and a pretty clear sign that he's more mature in his approach than many of his classmates.