LAS VEGAS -- The third and final evaluation period kicked off on Wednesday evening as Bishop Gorman High School was one of the spots to be. The Fab 48, hosting some of the very best talent that the nation has to provide, did not lack for standout performers as Kamaka Hepa, Anfernee Simons and Scottie Barnes each displayed just why they are highly lauded prospects, while it was Josh Phillips who is emerging as the next July breakout.
Alaska native taking off
Hepa has been a talked about name for the past few years. There has never been much argument over his talent level, but it is more about his background. Born and raised in Barrow, Alaska, Hepa and his father moved to Portland last year where his college recruitment hit the next level.
A 6-foot-8, skilled and multi-dimensional forward that can do a plethora of things, Hepa is beginning to see the end to his recruitment. On Wednesday evening, Shaka Smart, Dana Altman, Mike Hopkins, Jerrod Haase and assistants from USC, Gonzaga, Oklahoma each watched his opening night win. While no cut list has been made just yet, Hepa did tell Rivals that one will likely be made next month and that a group of four consisting of Gonzaga, Texas, USC and Washington, currently stands out.
Wherever he might land, not only is a high-major program gaining a high-major prospect, but also one that brings great versatility and one of the more unique stories that you're going to come across.
Simons shows he can score
The stage was set for a battle between top-50 guard Elijah Weaver and Anfernee Simons facing off against Jahvon Quinerly and Jalen Carey. Unfortunately, Weaver missed his initial flight to Las Vegas and Carey was unable to give it a go thanks to a minor injury. That didn't stop Simons, a top-35 guard committed to Louisville, from putting on a show.
Capable of scoring the ball in giant loads, Simons is primed to step in next year and produce for Rick Pitino's bunch. Without Weaver alongside of him Wednesday, the 6-foot-2 guard showed that he can not only score the ball, as he finished with 16 points, but also create for others.
Donovan Mitchell opted to head to the NBA earlier than expected, which has put even more pressure on Quentin Snider for the upcoming season. Once the fall of 2018 arrives, Snider will also be gone, which will leave ample number of minutes for Simons to inherit. I find it difficult to believe that he will not thrive in Pitino's playing style and become an all-conference caliber performer by his junior campaign at the latest.
Barnes is one to watch
Pitting Vernon Carey and Charles Bassey against each other to kick off the final live period enabled for a greater platform to be provided for each of their teammates. While Carey and his squad may have won the battle and the Nike Team Florida product was more productive at the end of the day, it was Scottie Barnes, a class of 2020 small forward, that stole the show with his defense, energy, and passing skills.
After helping the United States under-16 unit secure the gold medal in Argentina last month, Barnes has a new sense of confidence and the willingness to play hard on each possession. He had coaches talking all night long thanks to his versatility and know-how of where to be and what to do from there.
The guy that he reminds me of the most? Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Just like the former New Jersey phenom, Barnes' shot is his downfall, but with everything else, the NTF star shines. He is an absolute hustle chart connoisseur. He is going to be one of the more highly followed prospects in the coming years and it is safe to stay, labeling him as a five-star prospect is a no-brainer.
Phillips short offer list puzzling
The last week of the July evaluation periods is also one of the final chances that members of the 2018 class have at earning scholarship offers from schools that may not be able to see them during the high school season. Josh Phillips, running alongside Hepa, Bryce Hamilton and Gianni Hunt for the Belmont Shore gang, showed just why he is on the edge of a breakout.
A 6-foot-9 jumping jack of a power forward that runs around like he just drank three Red Bulls, Phillips isn't quite there just yet. However, he is explosive, doesn't give his opponent an inch around the basket and is capable of playing out of his area on the glass. After his game, I thought for sure he was going to rattle off a list of scholarship offers from some of the top power-conference schools on the west coast. His answers? He just received his first three last month and that just a few others are interested. Kudos to Portland, Portland State and Cal Baptist for jumping in first.
I don't get it entirely, but this Phillips' first travel ball season and with more eyes placed onto him this week, that limited recruitment of his is due to soar.
Who the coaches were watching
There was no shortage of high-profile college programs and their head coaches in the building as this is the final week for programs to make their push with their visibility at each of their top targets' games.
Jahvon Quinerly was watched by Jay Wright, Sean Miller, Haase, Kevin Willard and assistants from Virginia, UCLA and Kansas, these seven making up his final list.
Noah Locke was observed by Florida head coach Mike White and Xavier head coach Chris Mack, along with assistants from Virginia, Michigan, Maryland, Providence and Ohio State for his opening night session.
Vernon Carey, a top-five big man in 2019, had UNC head coach Roy Williams, Florida head coach Mike White, and assistants from Louisville, Florida State, Kentucky, Duke and Miami at his outing.
Head coaches from Arizona, Duke, Syracuse, Villanova, Kentucky, and Seton Hall, along with assistants from Kansas, Louisville, St. John's, UConn and Rutgers were at the game of five-star Team Rio 2019 products Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine.
Steve Prohm, Richard Pitino, and assistants from Marquette, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Duke were spotted watching Grassroots Sizzle 2020 guard Jalen Suggs.