basketball Edit

Rivals Roundtable: Players who have impressed recently

This week in the Rivals Roundtable national analysts Eric Bossi, Corey Evans and Dan McDonald are discussing whose play has jumped off of their computer screens, who could be second-round steals in the NBA Draft and advice for prospects during a pandemic.

2020 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2021 Rankings: Rivals150 | Position

2022 Rankings: Top 75


1. Who, regardless of class, has impressed you the most watching streams of live events?

Matthew Cleveland
Matthew Cleveland (Courtesy of USA Basketball)

Bossi: The answer is 2021’s No. 25 player Matthew Cleveland of Atlanta (Ga.) Pace Academy. I know that Corey and Dan feel the same way. He was ridiculous last weekend. So, how about another name to spread the love some? Give me 2021 point guard Darius Johnson who I watched play in the Virtual Prospect Evaluation Series run by Team Parsons in Florida throughout June. A 6-foot-1 floor general who currently ranks just outside of the Rivals150, Johnson’s explosive playmaking and his ability to fill it up from deep really stood out to me. His play during the VPES earned him offers from Alabama, Florida, Georgetown and Providence.

Evans: Cleveland. The dude looked like the best player in America last week. While I will be watching him closely again over the next few days, what he did last weekend in Atlanta was nothing short of stupendous. Cleveland has always had the talent but there were questions regarding how well he could shoot the ball and his consistent ability to impact the game in the half-court; well, those were put to bed swiftly last weekend when he looked like a younger Paul Pierce. Cleveland is ascending quickly and is knocking on the status of a five-star ranking. Earlier this week he announced a final five of Florida State, Kansas, Michigan, N.C. State and Stanford.

McDonald: It’d be pretty hard to go against Cleveland on this one. His performance last Saturday for the Atlanta Celtics was pretty impressive. He’s always been a player who plays super hard and he’s always been really gifted finishing at the rim. But what was most encouraging last week is he looked taller and stronger and his jump shot looked the best it ever has. He looks like he really took advantage of a few months without games to work on his own craft.


2. We are still a long way from the NBA Draft, but who is your second-round steal?

Bossi: How about Colorado’s Tyler Bey? I get that if you like him as a four he’s somewhat undersized and that if you want him to play the wing there are perhaps questions about his perimeter skill. However, he did shoot around 40% from three (albeit on a limited number of attempts) as a junior and his skill has improved each year. What I love, though, is that he can defend multiple positions, is one of the best rebounders in the draft and is a continuously improving player who happily does the dirty work. If he keeps on this rate, I could see him carving a nice role in the NBA and proving to be a value pick in the second round.

Evans: It is crazy that the industry has grown so sour on Paul Reed. It was just in December after DePaul knocked off Texas Tech that the Blue Demons were being discussed as a top 25 team and that Reed was in lottery contention. DePaul then went on an awful slide to close out the season but to no fault of Reed’s. He averaged more than 15 points and 10 rebounds per game, and is maybe the most versatile defender in the draft (averaged close to three blocks and two steals per game, too). However, Reed is somewhere among the 40-50 range in the draft despite his consistency.

McDonald: I’m going to roll with Markus Howard from Marquette here. Size will be an issue, but the way he scores will always give him a chance. I could see him being a sparkplug off the bench in a role similar to what Louis Williams has been for 15 years now. He’s that gifted as a scorer.


3. What's the best piece of advice you could give to a prospect or their parents, coaches and mentors trying to help them land scholarships during very uncertain times?

Bossi: I get that many prospects, especially those in the class of 2021, are freaking out about the lack of spring and summer evaluation periods. Especially those who don’t have scholarship offers or those who are trying to move up a level in terms of their recruitment. Still, you can’t skip steps and you can’t pressure college coaches to offer. I’ve been inundated with calls from coaches that are growing tired of constantly being asked “so are you offering” within minutes of a first or second contact with a prospect and in many cases they are moving on from those who employ high pressure tactics to try and get offers. Create a highlight reel that showcases your complete game, send it out and have full game film ready to send as well. Then when you do speak with coaches, ask about their program, what they are looking for and sell how you could potentially fit.

Evans: Great question. I would say, create a Hudl page, rely on a school and/or travel coach’s network base, complete questionnaires on programs’ websites; really, do whatever it is possible to market yourself or child in a respectable manner. This uncertainty is all going to pass and hopefully there will be games to be evaluated but, in the meantime, have your grades in order and find a way to get better (incorporate stretching, find ways to sleep and eat better, work on your body and strength) so that when the ball is finally tipped, you can show that you made the most of an awful situation.

McDonald: PLEASE stop worrying about what position you play or what position you are labeled as by recruiting services and just worry about improving your overall skill level. I see so many 5’s that want to be 4’s and so many 4’s that want to be 3’s only because of their height. What it often leads to is players trying to do things they can’t do and they end up not playing as well. You can’t control how tall you are or what position your coach plays you at. What you can control is how hard you work every day on improving your skill level. Every player on the court in today’s game needs to be skilled, so worry more about that than anything else. If you can really play, the NBA will find you.