The first evaluation period of July is in the rear-view mirror and the Rivals.com hoops staff offer their thoughts.
1. What's your No. 1 takeaway from the first July evaluation period?
Eric Bossi: I was really struck by how parity seems to have taken over this summer. For instance, I spent the majority of my time at the Peach Jam where the Oakland Soldiers won the championship. Unlike many years when teams full of star players dominated, the Peach Jam was marked by teams with solid pieces to go with a few really good players that did the damage. Sure, the Soldiers had a guy like top 30 Taeshon Cherry, but it was role guys such as guards James Akinjo, Kihei Clark and big man Amadou Sow that stepped up. My time at the UA Finals gave me the same impression and monitoring the adidas Gauntlet Finals from afar, it looked to be the case there as well.
Corey Evans: David McCormack is the most recruited, non-five-star prospect that the industry has seen in recent years. McCormack, thanks to his throwback abilities in the post, academic background, consistent progressions and the dearth of quality centers in his class, is a wanted man for the best programs nationally. During his afternoon session on Friday, head coaches from Texas, Oklahoma State, UCLA, California, Kansas, Duke, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Louisville were each on hand for the top-50 center, displaying just how wide-ranging his recruitment really is.
Dan McDonald: I really like the point guard class in 2018. Watching Tre Jones and Darius Garland at the Peach Jam and then seeing Jahvon Quinerly and Devon Dotson at Under Armour, there are some really good options out there. That's not even including Immanuel Quickley on the adidas circuit, who might be the best of the bunch. I can't wait to see which schools they end up at and see them at the next level.
Krysten Peek: The 2019 class is really talented and really deep. I saw four-star forward Carl Lewis play for the first time and he was dominant in the paint and ran the floor so well for a big man that it was almost shocking at times. Tyrese Maxey is another one from the 2019 class that has stepped it up recently. A lot of other guards that I talked to said he was one of the toughest competitors in the 17U division and he's playing up. Power forward Michael Christmas had a good showing playing for Boo Williams 16U team. One last player that stood out was Isaiah Stewart from City Rocks 17U team. At 6-foot-9, he holds his own in the lane with guys that are older than him and he was great on the boards.
2. Which college impressed you most with its presence?
Eric Bossi: Given the tough loss that Arkansas suffered when five-star Reggie Perry – who has since committed to Mississippi State – decommitted shortly before the start of July, I couldn't help but notice how much Mike Anderson and his staff seemed to be all over. The Hogs took a tough blow and had to scramble to figure out who would replace Perry in their 2018 recruiting class and it seemed like I saw multiple members of that staff at almost every game I attended. Now, the question is going to be who have they locked in on and that will reveal itself over these next couple of live periods. I think we'll see them start to lock in on frontcourt targets.
Corey Evans: I might be stepping outside of the lines here but the presence of South Carolina and Clemson at the games of five-star forward Zion Williamson is something worth noting. Going up against blueblood programs including Kentucky, UCLA, Duke, UNC and Kansas, the two in-state schools are not stepping off the gas pedal this summer in their pursuit of Williamson. There have been recent situations where the homestate school has defeated an upper echelon program but for USC or Clemson to beat a whole slew of them? Frank Martin and Brad Brownell will have to go all in, of which they showed in Spartanburg as they were present at his games with at least one assistant coach on their side.
Dan McDonald: For me, it seemed like every time I showed at a game Florida's Mike White and/or one of his assistants were there. Their targets were pretty evenly spread out among the three shoe company events, but he did a great job making sure he was visible as much as possible for his priority guys.
Krysten Peek: I was only at Peach Jam this past weekend and can only go by what I saw there and I saw Texas sitting courtside at a lot of games. Usually with the 16U games, only the assistant coaches are on hand to watch and evaluate the younger guys but Shaka Smart was at a couple of 16U games and impressed me a bit. Texas also rolled three coaches deep (plus Kevin Durant) to one of Keldon Johnson's games.
3. Which highly ranked player needs to step it the rest of this month?
Eric Bossi: I'll go with five-star power forward Nazreon Reid. The one thing that has been a constant with him is that you never quite know what you will get because his motor tends to run a bit hot and cold. When he's motivated and engaged, he's a serious problem to deal with because his size, man strength, skill as a passer, hands and all-around ability. However, when he coasts or appears disinterested, he can allow lesser players to get the better of him and it hurts his team's chances to win. During the spring, he looked highly motivated but he just didn't have that same snap in his step when I saw him in Atlanta. I'd love to see him turn it up and show everybody just how dominant he can be while considering Arizona, Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, North Carolina, Rutgers, Seton Hall and UCLA.
Corey Evans: It would be difficult to not appreciate Brock Cunningham and his toughness and skillset. The four-star forward has become known for putting up giant scoring numbers on the final box stat sheet but he does have to become less reliant on scoring the ball in order to produce. He is a much underrated playmaker with a good feel for the game and can become a volume rebounder, too. If Cunningham can rely less on having the ball but rather on affecting the game without scoring, his ranking should remain intact. Stanford, Oklahoma, Texas and a handful of others were each present at Cunningham’s games this past week in South Carolina.
Dan McDonald: Khavon Moore was a guy who dropped quite a bit in our most recent rankings. He was terrific on Friday when I saw him, but that doesn't completely make up for a disappointing spring for me. I'd like to see him continue playing at that level the rest of the month because he's as talented as almost anybody in the 2018 class.
Krysten Peek: Four-star power forward Jaylen Hoard, No. 29 in the 2018 class, had a pretty inconsistent tournament, scoring only four points in one game and 11 in another. I know everyone has off days but with coaches sitting on the sidelines, the stakes are higher and he's going to have to step up and eliminate those four- or 11-point games in the next two weeks.