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July 30, 2012

Orlando AAU: What we learned

MORE: AAU: Randle breaks slump

ORLANDO, Fla. - The AAU season officially wrapped up on Monday afternoon in Orlando as the Arkansas Wings defeated Illinois Team NLP 54-29 in a dominant title game performance. After six full days of great basketball, Rivals.com has several thoughts to take away from the AAU National Championships.

Everything's bigger in Texas

Three of the top five players in the 2013 Rivals150, and the No. 26 overall prospect in the rankings, all were in attendance at the Orlando event, spread over two high-profile AAU teams. In addition to the lofty rankings the four prospects also had another thing in common: They're all natives of Texas. Shooting guard Aaron Harrison, point guard Andrew Harrison, power forward Julius Randle and shooting guard Matt Jones all stood out with their play at the nationals for either the Houston Defenders (twins) or the Texas Titans (Randle and Jones).

With Jones already being off the recruiting board as a Duke commitment, the focus of the coaches watching the two teams was on speculating where the other three prospects, all of whom are five-stars and top five overall players, might go to college.

Head coaches from Kentucky, North Carolina, Baylor, Ohio State, Kansas, Maryland and Louisville all attended multiple games of each prospect; and rumors on the circuit connected each school to each prospect at some point. The most interesting rumblings among the coaches was the rumor Randle and the Harrison twins could all choose John Calipari's "Big Blue" together.

Homecourt advantage

Few programs on the circuit had a better July than Florida's Each 1 Teach 1. After a strong run at the Nike Peach Jam, the Orlando-based squad made it to the round of 16 before falling in the Nationals. Even more impressive, this success was attained without the services of injured five-star 2014 center Dakari Johnson. Prospects such as 2014 guards Joel Berry and Kobe Eubanks, class of 2015 wing Kejuan Johnson, and another half-dozen Division I prospects all had memorable performances in July.

If one player had to be named the MVP for E1T1's July run it would have to be Berry. The general consensus among college coaches by the end of the event was that Berry is as elite of a point guard prospect as there is in the nation in 2014, and deserves to be mentioned with names such as Tyus Jones and Emmanuel Mudiay. He's a quiet player but a deadly offensive playmaker and competitor that has the rare ability to make his teammates better. Berry already holds offers from Florida, Florida State, Kansas, Miami and Ohio State.

No shortage of big bodies

It's tough to find quality big men no matter what level a school is. Fortunately for college coaches, there was no shortage of recruitable post players at the AAU National Championships. Throughout the week Rivals.com covered prospects such as Paschal Chukwu, Trayvon Reed, Jalen Lindsey, A.J. Davis, Jarquez Smith, Bobby Portis, Moses Kingsley and Damion Jones.

All of these talented big men have a few things in common; they're athletic, have long wingspans, play with high energy and haven't even come close to leveling out their talent. While all of them will need the typical extra development work that most college big men need when they first get to campus, this list could contain more than one future superstar. In particular it was the play of Reed and Portis that intrigued college coaches the most. Both show the beginnings of a nice offensive skillset and are high level competitors that will get physical in the paint. Portis is an Arkansas commit; while Reed has offers and interest from the entire nation, including North Carolina (whose head coach Roy Williams attended almost every one of Reed's games).

Finishing strong

The tournament was fielded with 17u teams (rising seniors), mostly made up of 2013 prospects. Some of the teams, however, consisted of some of the top 2013 prospects in the land. The Chris Paul All-Stars were one of those teams as they feature 2014 Rivals100 prospects Theo Pinson and Jaquel Richmond. Rivals.com tracked Pinson, a four-star shooting guard, and Pinson, a three-star point guard, over their last two tournaments; in which both of them have been consistent superstars for CP3.

The 6-foot-5 Pinson battled through injury to score more points than just about any other wing at the event over the course of the week. A smooth ballhandler with great size and good athleticism, Pinson is becoming more skilled by the day. Already pushing five-star status, Pinson is steadily improving and shows the high ceiling that could see him continue to ascend in the 2014 Rivals100. Ohio State, Louisville and North Carolina have already offered Pinson; who also lists interest from Kentucky and Duke.

Richmond, a high school and AAU teammate of Pinson's, currently checks into the rankings at No. 97, but he is due for a jump most likely when the update comes out. A pure point guard at 6-foot-1, Richmond is a shifty ballhandler with a competitive streak; and a floor general's mentality. The point guard already lists high major offers from Virginia, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Wake Forest and Oklahoma State; and expects more to come his way in August.

With their high level play and consistency, Pinson and Richmond proved that 2014 stars are capable of dominating competition a year older.



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