HOUSTON - While the July evaluation periods are now complete, the travel season continues. Friday, the Adidas Nations event kicked off in Houston and featured some of the very best high school, international and college basketball prospects. NBA superstar James Harden showed up to take in some of the action, and Zion Williamson, Quentin Grimes and a trio of SEC commits left the biggest impression from the day's activities.
ZION WILLIAMSON REMAINS DOMINANT
There has been a lot of discussion lately about five-star Zion Williamson and what exactly he is as a prospect. Is he an elite producer whose game will seamlessly translate to the next level, or is he just a dunking phenom that is little more than an athletic freak?
While he will have to improve his shot making and handles, Williamson has a ton of talent. The lefty was, once again, dominant on Friday evening as he kicked off the Adidas Nations event by converting on all 10 of his field goal tries. Last year at this event, he made his first 21 attempts from the field. While it may be difficult to top that this year, it does show that, even against the very best, Williamson continues to shine. He will have to keep developing his overall skillset but there is no way we can knock his efficiency, productivity and consistency.
QUENTIN GRIMES SHOWS GROWTH
Five-star guard Quentin Grimes recently cut his list to a group of seven consisting of Texas, Baylor, Texas A&M, Kansas, Arizona, Marquette and Kentucky. Despite the change in his recruitment, he played with no pressure on Friday evening. Grimes showed his athleticism, scoring and playmaking ability in an efficient manner.
Grimes was just about perfect as he knocked in five of his nine field goal tries, while dishing out four assists helping his team kick off the week with a win. He did miss four of his foul shot tries but it is refreshing seeing someone improve as some of his other elite classmates have either stalled or even regressed.
Grimes is in the argument for the best guard in the 2018 class and he did nothing but strengthen his claim on Friday.
NATE LASZEWSKI IS AN ELITE SHOOTER
Nate Laszewski was the top breakthrough performer during the third and final July evaluation period and, on Friday, the New England Playaz product showed just why. While he will never be a hulking big man that will score with his back to the rim, Laszewski really shines on the perimeter thanks to his jump shot.
North Carolina, Indiana, Wisconsin and Arizona are his most recent offers and it is not difficult to envision Laszewski contributing early at any of those program. He does have to get stronger but his shot making abilities are nearly elite. The four-star prospect knocked in four 3-point attempts on Friday and his ability to read a defense and get open for the perimeter try is already very polished.
Laszewski has solidified his status as one of the very best shooters in high school ball.
DAVID DUKE IS AN ULTRA-VERSATILE, COMPLETE GUARD
The recruitment of four-star David Duke has gone quiet. While he has been able to secure a host of college offers, his recruitment appears to be in somewhat of a holding pattern.
Friday night in Houston, Duke finished with 12 points but it was his defensive prowess that really shined through.
At this time 15 months ago, Duke held zero scholarship offers. Now, the Mass Rivals product has the opportunity to play at practically any program along the East Coast. The one thing that makes Duke so valuable is the fact that he makes everyone around him better and is also more than willing to guard the opponent's top scoring weapon.
Providence has gained the most steam of late with Duke, and it's not difficult to imagine him alongside travel teammate A.J. Reeves and former 2017 Rivals150 guard Makai Ashtob-Langford next year. That being said, other programs such as Villanova, Kansas, Florida and Virginia remain squarely in the mix.
OPTIMISM ABOUNDS IN THE SEC
The SEC, as a whole, has not been the best of basketball leagues over the past couple of years. Kentucky and Florida, and most recently, South Carolina, have carried the baton but a few others in the conference could be ready to take the next step based on the way they have been recruiting.
LSU, upon the hiring of Will Wade, have hit the ground running on the recruiting front. Locking down five-star guard Javonte Smart in June was stupendous work by the Tigers and while he is not an elite shooter or speedster, his production is always impressive. Smart kicked off the event Friday with a solid showing of 14 points and four assists off of 6-of-9 shooting performance. He should be a day one producer in Baton Rouge alongside incoming talent Tremont Waters.
Auburn could be on the cusp of a breakout this winter but if the Tigers fail to take that next step, E.J. Montgomery could be the guy to get the Tigers over the hump in 2018. A skilled and talented power forward, Montgomery played with a purpose in Houston. He knocked in seven of his 12 field goal tries, equating to 15 total points, while also logging six rebounds and three assists.
We talked extensively last week on the importance of Reggie Perry for the Mississippi State basketball program and he continued to back up that sentiment on Friday. While he is still learning what the best shot is to take and when to make the appropriate pass, the talent, versatility and physical tangibles are clearly in line with Perry. He did miss 11 of his 18 field goal attempts but still produced a complete stat line of 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists. He and Nick Weatherspoon could cause major headaches for opposing SEC coaching staffs beginning in the winter of 2018.