USAB U19 Tryouts: Ten programs feeling Zen
COLORADO SPRINGS -- It's time to wrap up USA Basketball's U19 team tryouts. There were many reasons for many programs to feel good, but based on the play of current college players in attendance and where teams might stand with one recruit or another, here's a look at ten programs who should be feeling a sense of zen based on the tryouts.
I guess you can't really classify Kira Lewis as a recruit for Alabama's new coach Nate Oats since he was already on campus in Tuscaloosa. But, considering he could have easily transferred, Lewis is far and away the most important recruit Oats has landed so far.
Based on my two days at tryouts, I would be surprised if Lewis was left off the team that heads to Greece. The guy looks like a legitimate contender for SEC Player of the Year as a sophomore because of his speed and ability to make things happen off of the dribble. He can also shoot. Bonus.
Based on what I saw in Colorado Springs I'm having some serious rankings remorse over us not putting Arizona bound Zeke Nnaji higher in the final rankings or at least leaving him as a five-star prospect. He just played "ok" when I saw him during his senior year but I should have trusted my gut more regarding his physical tools, skill and upside.
Nevertheless, here we are and it won't surprise me in the least bit if Nnaji ultimately ends up as the best prospect in a Wildcats class that includes McDonald's All-Americans Nico Mannion and Josh Green. He still has to be more physical in the paint, but Nnaji has blown up physically, is quite bouncy and has skill facing the rim.
Incoming freshman Anton Watson is another that I don't think we ranked quite high enough. He's tough, he can play the three and the four and he gets after it on both ends. He shot the ball very well in trials and considering we still have a few late reclassified players to work into the rankings, we may have to seriously consider adjusting Watson's (who finished at No. 52 overall) ranking some when we plug players in.
Also of note is that the Zags appear to be doing very well with five-star rising senior point guard Jalen Suggs. He's been there officially and word is that he is very, very serious about Gonzaga and that they might even be the team to beat at this point. Also of note is that they're going to get an official visit out of five-star Walker Kessler.
No, Kentucky didn't have any incoming or current players at the tryouts but word on the street has them making noise with some pretty big time 2020 targets.
Keep an eye on the Wildcats with No. 3 overall Jalen Green. The shooting guard deluxe has the Wildcats firmly in the mix and they've been chipping away at him and gaining ground.
Add in that they are in it for five-star point guard Sharife Cooper, gaining traction with five-star shooting guard Josh Christopher and in Cade Cunningham's final group and John Calipari can feel good about the direction his 2020 class could be headed.
I still think that Samuell Williamson will likely spend at least two years at Louisville but he could be a sneaky one and done candidate. Regardless, he sure backed up his status as a top 20 ranked, five-star prospect, in the class of 2019. This dude is an instant impact guy at a high level.
Also, four-star junior college wing Jayden Scrubb didn't make the first cut but he is one serious athlete with big upside. I'd place the Cardinals as the early favorite for him.
Another program who didn't have any current or inbound players at the tryouts, North Carolina should be feeling good about some targets, primarily Ziaire Williams. The Heels have put in some serious work with the super skilled 6-foot-8 wing and at least at this juncture I would consider them the team to beat.
They've caught top 35 guard Caleb Love's eye in a big way and are likely among the top 3-4 schools for five-star big man Walker Kessler who still needs to visit Chapel Hill. They also made Cade Cunningham's top 10.
I've long been a big fan of Oklahoma State's rising sophomore Isaac Likekele. Not only is a he a good player who has already outplayed his high school ranking, he's a big time leader and has charisma. Guys love playing with him and he loves working on his game. Cowboy fans should look for a huge step forward out of him next year and I think he's got an All-Big 12 type future.
Of course, the other news is that OSU isn't just in the top 10 for Cade Cunningham, they are very much in the mix for 2020's No. 2 player. Can they get the dynamic point guard? I don't know yet but I do feel they are legitimately among the early favorites.
Selection committee member Matt Painter had to have really liked what he saw in Colorado Springs. Current Boilermaker Trevion Williams made the first cut and has a legitimate shot to make the team and is looking to be in better condition than at the end of the season. That's huge for Purdue who is also very much in the thick of it for 2020 center Hunter Dickinson who was at the trials.
Most notable to me, though, was the play of Ethan Morton. I've always loved him as a pickup for Painter but we had no choice but to drop him a bit in the rankings after a poor spring showing on Nike's EYBL. However, I thought USA Basketball was a big bounce back for him and I'm glad we didn't totally sink him. His jumper looked better, he looked more confident and the playmaking ability was back after a springtime disappearance.
I was somewhat surprised that incoming freshman big man Onyeka Okongwu didn't make the first round of cuts. I thought the five-star looked explosive and ready to contribute right away for Andy Enfield at USC.
The real prize, though, is that you have to figure 2020's No. 1 player Evan Mobley eventually joins his assistant coach father (Eric Mobley) and McDonald's All-American brother (Isaiah Mobley) on campus. As far as I could see, he backed up his No. 1 in 2020 status and was the best big man in attendance (though Zeke Nnaji wasn't far behind). The Trojans could have a special front line in 2020-21.
Finally, Tony Bennett and Virginia were hit hard by NBA early entry but that's a small price to pay for winning a National Championship. Helping to ease the pain of backcourt players like Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy leaving early will be Casey Morsell. Simply put, that kid is much better than I had realized.
He's tough, he's skilled and he was shooting the cover off of the ball. He's a two way player that is ready to play major minutes in the ACC right now and is likely ranked at least 10-15 spots too low at this point. He's another we may have to consider a rankings adjustment for.