Rivals.com will release it's newest and freshest class of 2006 rankings this week and as the hoops team reviews their notes, it's important to look back at July. The summer is where reputations are made and where college coaches sit on the sidelines and baselines to evaluate the stars of tomorrow like Greg Oden.
Top dogs gather at the ABCD camp
The best of the best basketball prospects found their way to the Reebok ABCD camp in Teaneck, N.J. to start the busy July season and the best of the best played up to the expectations.
The nation's No. 1 player, Greg Oden, took on all challengers that came his way. The 7-footer took on guys like Derrick Caracter, his 2004 rival at the camp, and dominated the New Jersey native. California big man Alex Stepheson tried, too. So did Wayne Chism, who played Oden strong at the Real Deal on the Hill in April. Darrell Arthur couldn't do much, either.
Anyone that tried, didn't succeed. To the NBA scouts that were in the stands (guess they missed David Stern's statement that scouts and general managers would be no longer at the prep games), Oden will still be the most coveted prospect since LeBron. Some things never change.
While Oden, the top prospect from the class of 2006, did his thing, the argument could be made for O.J. Mayo as the top prospect in the country. The charismatic point guard from North College Hill High School in Cincinnati, led the camp in scoring for the majority of the week. He got everyone's top game and wasn't afraid of any challenges. As great as Oden was, the people came to see Mayo. They weren't disappointed.
Mayo did whatever he wanted until he met up with Paul Harris. The muscular do-everything prospect from Niagara Falls, N.Y. shut Mayo down and got into the enigmatic high school superstar's head. May had two made field goals. Harris was the reason. It may have been the single best defensive performance of the summer.
And what would a summer be with mentioning Bill Walker, Mayo's teammate and closest friend on the circuit. Walker takes athleticism to a whole new level. He makes Josh Smith, the NBA's reigning dunk champion and former ABCD superstar, look like a mediocre air artist. Twelve of Walker's 13 made field goals in the underclassmen game were dunks. And emphatic ones at that.
If you haven't seen Walker in action, do so before it costs too much to do so. Or just stroll into Farleigh Dickinson University's Rothman Center next July and see him for the last time at the ABCD camp.
With the top players in the class of 2006 and 2007 showing why they are considered amongst the nation's best, New Yorker Lance Stephenson wanted to join in the fun. The class of 2009 guard threw his name into the best of the best conversations. He showed that he could score at will and with a body that's far above the rest of his peers, Stephenson attacked the rim without any problems.
As good as he was throughout the week, he did have his challenges. His biggest challenge was Mayo and with fans from all five boroughs of New York in the house and with a field of college coaches watching, Stephenson was literally called out by Mayo and was challenged to go one-on-one in the game. The fans went crazy.
Mayo, the ever-present showman, had the young Brooklyn schoolboy on the wing and drained back-to-back NBA range three-pointers. Stephenson tried his best to come up with some plays of his own, and succeeded but teacher beat the student on this occasion.
While the top players in the class of 2009 are still yet to be determined, and should be considering they are rising freshmen, Stephenson has to be considered. As does Renardo Sidney, the 6-foot-8 do-it-all forward from Mississippi, who was named as one of the underclassmen all-star game MVPs.
On guard: Bayless, Lawson and Collins shine at Nike
Guard play usually dominates the shoe camps and at the Nike All-American camp that was certainly the case as some of the top backcourt prospects took to the hardwood.
Who is the best point guard in the country? That's been one of the great debates in the class of 2006. There is depth but is there that one major statement guy at the point? Two of the top candidates had a chance to play it out at the Nike camp.
Tywon Lawson, the future UNC floor general, took on Chicago native Sherron Collins. According to Rivals.com National Scout Jerry Meyer, both were "good but not great. Sometimes they were both trying to do too much."
Call it a draw then. Lawson, a 6-foot native of the D.C. area, is a scoring point. Collins, a 5-foot-10 super athlete that also shines on the baseball diamond, is a great passer and defender but also scores the ball at will. And with both players at or under 6-feet, the question is often asked, "Will they ever play in the NBA?" With their size, it leaves some major questions.
The match-up never fully materialized and did not live up to what it could have been. Both players went hard at each other and tried to one up their opponent. Each guy had 11 points. Perhaps their passing skills was the most impressive thing they displayed.
As Lawson and Collins took the senior spotlight, it was Jerryd Bayless, a 2007 guard from Arizona, that led the camp's most dominant team. Bayless mixed his great scoring with passes to guys like Brandan Wright and Ramar Smith.
It was a great rebounding week for Bayless, too. He struggled at the NBA Players Association camp and didn't have quite the spring he's capable of. The Nike camp allowed him to show that this game is still amongst the best in the class of 2007.
The Nike camp was also the birthplace of the hot recruitment for Virginia forward Duke Crews. According to Meyer, the volume of coaches following Crews was higher than any other player in the field. It makes sense, Crews was outstanding in the non-evaluation period for Boo Williams. His list always was 20 schools long. However, after the Nike camp, his list included more offers.
Things are going to get real interesting with the 6-foot-7 springs for legs athlete. He could be the best player to come out of Bethel High School since Allen Iverson. Not bad company, eh?
Brandan Wright, a grizzled veteran of the Nike All-American experience, was one of the top prospect in the field. He stuck to what he does best, and that's dominating the paint on both sides of the floor.
All three of his top options - Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina - where shadowing him. Coach K, Tubby Smith and Roy Williams are all in there good with the five-star prospect from Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy.
Oftentimes when a player commits early, he doesn't get a chance to really gain some national notoriety. Florida State commitment John Kreft had a great July and it started at the Nike camp. People should know who the 7-footer is now. At the Nike camp, he started to show off his aggressive offensive style. He tries to dunk everything and has proven to be very successful. Kreft is one of the guys that should climb high in the newest Rivals.com basketball rankings.
adidas camp gives a glimpse to the future
With two weeks of non-stop hoops at the Suwanee Sports Academy, adidas had the right idea and used the same venue for all three of their boys events. The adidas Supertar camp kicked off their tour and it kicked off the busy month as well.
Top prospects like Javaris Crittenton and Wayne Ellington helped usher the summer in with a great preview of what's to expect in the ACC. The two big guards matched up in one of the best one-on-one performances of the summer.
Ellington, wrote Rivals.com analyst Tim Watts, "was hot early, mixing in a variety of long 3-pointers and strong drives to the basket, where he showed the ability to use his body to create contact and finish."
Perfection was a good way of describing Ellington. He hit his first eight shots and finished with 20 points in the first half, including four three-pointers. Ellington ended the day with 32 points on 12 of 15 shooting.
Crittenton, on the other hand, started a little slow, sinking just three of his first eight shots in the first half but the competitor that is in him came alive. He finished with 24 points and eight assists.
The two said they'll remember that game and the ACC has to be happy about that. Ellington will have a great backcourt mate in Lawson at UNC while Georgia Tech is still looking for some bookends for Crittenton to set up.
The camp setting is the best place to see Stanford bound big man Brook Lopez. The 6-foot-11 big man shines at the adidas camp and this year he showed off his extended offensive game.
Watts wrote that Lopez "improved offensive arsenal which includes his face-up jumper, right hand jumphook and a new and improved turnaround baseline jumper." Lopez's adidas showing started a great month for him and his teammates.
adidas will be a great camp next year because of the youth coming up the ranks. Michael Beasley is already one of the top players in the country and he showed that at the adidas venue. He's a bull inside, a dead-eye shooter from deep and an incredible competitor. He and Nolan Smith were named as the co-MVPs of the camp.
Xavier Gibson, a 6-foot-9 forward from Dothan, Ala., was the talk of the adidas Top Ten camp. The versatile big man from the class of 2008 had a solid Nike camp and followed it up with an even better showing at the adidas camp. Head coaches from Alabama, Georgia, Georgia Tech and others watched him closely.
Ohio State's recruiting started strong long before Greg Oden ever pledged his services to the Buckeyes. Center B.J. Mullens committed to OSU before he ever played a game of high school basketball. That kind of gamble for schools is a tough pill to swallow. You just never know what kind of player a kid can develop into.
Judging by the way Mullens played at the adidas camp, check off another big-timer for Thad Matta and his crew. Mullens is a fluid big man that fit in with the older players on every occasion. He'll be counted amongst the best players in the class of 2008.
Enjoying the luxury of sleeping in his own bed for the two week trek at Suwanee, Howard Thompkins of Lithonia, Georgia (Wesleyan High School), is the next elite big man to come from the Atlanta area. He's a quick and bouncy face up four with an array of moves. High-majors jumped on him early. Watch him sprout into an elite prospect.
Stay logged onto Rivals.com as we continue to recap the July period. On Tuesday, Justin Young will look back at the AAU tournaments in mid-month and breaks down the guys that truly impressed.