USA Basketball Sunday: Programs that should be excited
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The morning session at the USA Basketball Mini-Camp saw the classes of 2019 and 2021 paired together for drills before completing things with 40 minutes worth of scrimmages. Which college programs have room to be excited the most from what took place on Sunday?
The Jayhawks have checked a few of the boxes with its 2019 class already and while neither of their two commits are in Colorado Springs, where there is room to be excited for is in the what-can-be with two of its top targets in the frontcourt. There are not many more mature and polished forwards nationally than Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. Efficient and understanding of just what he does well, Robinson-Earl has been one of the more outgoing personalities all weekend and also one of the more productive ones thanks to his offensive diversity. Not to be outdone, Matt Hurt had some strong moments of his own on Sunday, throwing down impressive dunks in traffic and hitting timely jumpers from 22-feet and in. While neither has outwardly said that Kansas is the team to beat, the Jayhawks are in as good of a position with both of the five-stars that if they can lock down either of the two, another Big 12 title is more than attainable for the program based out of Lawrence.
There is a competitive DNA within the fabric that is Scottie Lewis cannot be understated where the now Florida bound wing is sure to make a name for himself in Gainesville immediately upon his enrollment. While he continues to polish his improving jumper, Lewis has remained one of the hardest playing players in camp all weekend long. This is not something new though, that is at least for those that have followed Lewis for the past few years. Never one to back away from the biggest of platforms, there is a storm brewing in Florida as the Gators have continued to accumulate elite talent all over the floor. Lewis is just the latest and it is his competitive demeanor that should make him a day one contributor for Mike White’s bunch and alongside Tre Mann, Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke and Keyontae Johnson, the Gators could make the claim that they will have the best underclassmen perimeter core in America a year from now.
Mike Hopkins worked wonders in his first full year as the head coach of Washington, taking his Huskies to the brink of an NCAA Tournament bid before coming up just a bit short. However, last year might have been just the tip of the iceberg for the Pac 12 program and there is more reason to be excited thanks to the ‘what-if’ factor here in Colorado Springs. Jaden McDaniels and Isaiah Stewart sit as the Huskies’ top targets in the 2019 class and while it remains an uphill battle for the five-star prospects, if UW can somehow eek out the commitment from either of the two, the reclamation project in Seattle will be fast-forwarded a few years. Stewart has arguably been the best player this weekend while McDaniels has not lacked for the ‘wow’ moments. Paolo Banchero, the native of the state whose parents each attended the school, has not struggled to impress where he is the most productive frontline player in his 2021 class. If Hopkins can attract such talents to his program, the reason for excitement will be ramped up tenfold.
Josiah James is the ultimate utility knife. He has been knocked in the past for an inconsistent jumper but through camp so far, he has shown the capacity to pose a perimeter threat from out of spot-up situations and has also converted on a number of mid-range pull-ups from off of the elbow portion on the floor. Capable of filling the box score, Josiah displays a strong and sturdy body and added alongside his developed skillset, he has everything in line to become the next face of the Tennessee basketball program. In line to be coached by Rick Barnes next year, James will be playing for someone that is known for his ability to get the best out of his players which is scary news for SEC foes where the Vols are no longer just enrolling competitive, chip on your shoulder type of prospects, but also ones that have the talent that blue bloods thirst for. Expect for James to be used in a variety of ways in Knoxville where he can play point guard on the offensive and guard some power forwards on the other side of the court.
Ohio State enters the new season with questions around the point guard position. Whether Luther Muhammad, CJ Jackson or Keyshawn Woods can fill such a void is still up for debate but what isn’t is just how valuable DJ Carton should be for the Buckeyes this time next year. A super-efficient lead guard out of Iowa, Carton is one of Chris Holtmann’s best wins on the recruiting trail to date and should have no issues making an imprint on the Big 10 program. Placed with a wealth of scorers and offensive weapons around him in Colorado Springs, Carton has bought solely into making others better and moving the basketball. It is this unselfish approach that will serve him well at the next level. Throwing out such talented pieces as Musa Jallow, EJ Liddell, Alonzo Gaffney, Kaleb Wesson and Kyle Young around him next year, Carton will have the chance to steady the ship in the backcourt and enable for the Buckeyes in hopes of returning to their first Final Four since the days of Greg Oden.