Rivals Roundtable: Wrapping up all of July's live action
The July evaluation periods are in the rear-view mirror, so Rivals.com analysts take one last look at what they saw during the most important month of basketball recruiting.
1. Which player helped himself most during the month of July?
ERIC BOSSI: I'm actually going to answer with two players. One who is already ranked and one who isn't. I'll start with four-star forward Nate Laszewski. A tall and smooth gunner from deep, he showed improved toughness and all-around game to go with his smooth shooting. His stock absolutely took off in Las Vegas as Indiana, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Wisconsin – where his sister is on the women's team – all offered based off of his play during July. Currently an unranked three-star, small forward Zion Griffin also stands out to me. A big-time vertical athlete with a dangerous southpaw jumper, he seemingly came out of nowhere considering he's from an area as heavily scouted as Chicago. Illinois and Iowa State are among the 15 or so schools that extended offers and I would expect more high-major offers to come.
COREY EVANS: While Nate Hinton, Talen Horton-Tucker and Jericole Hellems walked away from July as winners of the month, no one has seen their stock take such a giant bump than Aaron Henry. A wired-to-compete small forward that was, at one time, pigeonholed into the tweener 4-3 spot, Henry has since developed his skillset and become an even better athlete. Thanks to the heightened platform presented to him and the dwindling number of high-major prospects still on the board within his Midwest locale, Henry left July with more than a dozen high-major scholarship offers where, before it, boasted just one, that coming from the new staff at Butler.
KRYSTEN PEEK: Three-star small forward Samba Diallo played above his rank this past week in Las Vegas and definitely caught the attention of those watching him. Moving from Senegal to the U.S. two years ago, the long athletic wing is starting to find his stride. UMass, VCU and Rutgers have all offered with Virginia and West Virginia showing interest.
DAN MCDONALD: I feel like I mention his name every time I write now, but Nassir Little had a big month. His recruitment started to take off before the July recruiting periods started with offers from Arizona and Kansas coming in, but he only enhanced how badly those two schools and the other programs involved want him to sign with them in November. North Carolina came through with an offer on Monday and Duke has been in contact as well. From a rankings standpoint, he's likely due for a healthy bump at the next update because of his size, explosiveness and improved perimeter skills.
2. What's your favorite July memory?
ERIC BOSSI: Landing back home in Kansas City at the end of the month? No seriously, what I love about July is all of the NBA players who show up at events to either support or coach teams that they played for in high school or now serve as the benefactors. I'll never get tired of seeing Chris Paul show up to coach the CP3 team he funds, and it was fun to see Bradley Beal on the sidelines. But, there was one player who showed up and really stood out to me. That was Sacramento Kings shooting guard Buddy Hield, who I saw in Dallas supporting a team from the Bahamas. He wasn't concerned with coaching them, attaching his name to them or anything like that, he just wanted to ask coaches and scouts to watch them so they could maybe get the same chance he got as a high school player.
COREY EVANS: There was nothing better than seeing kids stand on the top step of the bleachers just to get a glimpse of Zion Williamson at the Upward Stars Center. While plenty of eyes were placed onto Williamson in Las Vegas during his showdown with five-star 2019 guard LaMelo Ball and also the show that is Lavar Ball, watching the SC Supreme stud kick off his final month of travel ball in his hometown of Spartanburg was a spectacle, to say the least. Williamson is already a household name nationally but in Spartanburg, he is a hero. The amount of attention placed upon him and his ability to navigate all of the heavy attention will be a lasting memory leaving an unforgettable July.
KRYSTEN PEEK: I have never seen anything like the circus for the LaMelo Ball vs. Zion Williamson game. As a videographer, I had to get there a game and a half before tip-off to secure a spot on the baseline. Even then I was fighting through crowds to get to the court. The game was delayed due to the fire marshal deeming the court overcapacity and a fire hazard and even adidas VIPs were sitting on the floor courtside because there weren't any seats left. LeBron James rolled up right before the game was supposed to start with 14 people, was met by a mob of fans outside who couldn't get in, and left. Yes, a grassroots basketball game so crazy that even LeBron thought it was best to not come in. Once warmups started it was all about Williamson. He knew what the fans wanted to see and he made layup lines look like an NBA Dunk Contest. The game itself was just okay but the atmosphere alone is something I will never forget and probably won't see for a long time. When I asked Zion the next day if the atmosphere was as electric as a player, he said, "most definitely. That's the craziest game I've ever played in."
DAN MCDONALD: Watching Emmitt Williams play was my favorite part of July. He's the type of player you never have to worry about giving everything he has. He's an elite athlete and capable of throwing down a highlight reel dunk at any time. Defensively, he's always contesting opposing players going up to finish and is one of the better rim protectors in the class despite only standing at about 6-foot-7. Whether it was trying to dunk on somebody or trying to block a dunk attempt, in the four or five games I watched, he never lost a battle at the rim. The fans of the school that signs him will quickly learn what a special player he is and will enjoy watching him as long as he is around.
3. Which underclassman that may still be a bit unknown do you expect to be a star in July 2018?
ERIC BOSSI: This answer is easy for me, Alonzo Gaffney. Yes, Gaffney is already ranked in 2019 but we've currently got him way too low as a three-star in the 100s. Unless he totally fooled all of us, the 6-foot-7 forward looks like a big-time player who will end up the subject of an intense recruiting battle. He can shoot, he has versatility and he's the kind of guy who is built for the way today's game is trending toward small ball. It's not surprising to me that Kansas, Louisville and Ohio State were among those to jump in with offers; this kid will be a big name sooner than later.
COREY EVANS: He is already ranked within the top 100 of the 2019 rankings but it is only a matter of time before things begin to ramp up for Patrick Williams. A legitimate 6-foot-7 shooting guard that can play all three perimeter positions, much of the nation has yet to see Williams at his best but by next summer, look for his stock to explode. Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Florida have already jumped in with offers but no one really has a clue as to just how good he is. He remains more of wait-and-see prospect now but before his senior summer finishes up, the entire nation will know that Williams is a priority, national prospect.
KRYSTEN PEEK: I was really impressed with 2020 guard Josh Christopher. In the two games I watched him play, he got more confident with his shot and started to find his teammates in transition consistently. Shaq was on the sidelines coaching and I think that alone helped elevate his game. Expect to see more from this guard in the next couple years. His older brother played at Cal so they're already involved. UNLV, Florida State, USC and Arizona have all offered early.
DAN MCDONALD: After watching him again in Orlando, Walker Kessler is a prospect I'm really excited to watch develop the next few years. He played on the 15-under Atlanta Celtics this year, which worked out well for him, but it didn't put him on a stage to be seen, and that's fine for now. He's a good player, but he's probably not quite ready to play up from a physical standpoint, as he's 6-foot-10 but very thin. As he continues to grow into his body and spends more time in the weight room, he could be somebody college coaches and scouts drool over next summer. He's a very good shooter and he's also very talented playing on the block. What I liked most is, despite lacking strength, he's not afraid of contact and conflict in the paint. I think he'll be in the five-star conversation a year from now in the 2020 class.