The AAU Nationals, contested on nearly two dozen courts centered around ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla., provided a venue for a handful of final insights into the summer.
Memphis is flush with talent
Never say never, but it's going to take a serious program to lure Memphis coach Josh Pastner from the grips of the city of Memphis. Despite losing in the finals of the under-17 AAU Nationals and Nike Peach Jam, Memphis YOMCA is loaded, and it's U16 team won a championship at the Peach Jam. This year's headliner, big man Jarnell Stokes (Memphis/Oak Hill), is leaving after this summer, but trust us, the cupboard is not bare.
Nick King (Memphis/Central), Johnathan Williams III (Memphis/Southwind) and Austin Nichols (Memphis/Briarcrest) are just a handful of the juniors in town. Mix in Leron Black (Memphis/White Station) in the sophomore class and it's a safe bet Memphis YOMCA is in the midst of a strong run.
Under the radar, but garnering attention
There are so many teams competing at AAU Nationals that there's an entire buffet of talent to pick from. Although there wasn't a Pat Connaughton-type breakout this time around, here are a few prospects in the 2012 class bound to be nice collegiate players.
Landry Nnoko (Montverde, Fla./Montverde), C/PF
Marshall Wood (Rustburg, Va./Rustburg), SF
Tyrone Haughton (Miami, Fla./Dr. Drop), PF
Tyler Cavanaugh (Dewitt, N.Y./Jamesville Dewitt), PF
Josh Lemons (Cincinnati, Ohio/LaSalle), PG
Jarvis Haywood (Charlotte, N.C./Harding), SF/SG
All of them are going to be recruited at least at the mid-major level, while Nnoko, Wood, Haughton and Cavanaugh already are garnering high-level looks.
Jameel Warney (Roselle, N.J./Roselle Catholic) wasn't the biggest kid or best player at AAU Nationals, but he was one of the tougher competitors, and at 6-foot-7, his toughness is going to translate well. There's a market for prospects who display toughness, whether its at the high-major or mid-major level. Take Martavious Newby (Memphis/Booker T. Washington) for example. He is not a skilled player but he is a mid-to-high-major recruit who brings a football mentality to the floor. He's going to play in a BCS league or for an elite mid-level program in his area. Toughness is a skill, it translates and you know it when you see it.
Hill caps strong summer
The first week of the period was the high point for ESPNU 60 PG Kasey Hill (Eustis, Fla./Montverde) who was outstanding at the adidas Invitational. A week later, Las Vegas wasn't so kind to the junior. In Sin City, he was bitten by the turnover bug and frustration set in. At AAU Nationals, he got his groove back and distinguished himself as one of the best lead guards in his class. It was good to see him rebound in Orlando.
Change is needed
After 15 seasons of summer ball, I finally caved to the idea that the dual 10-day July periods are too long. Much of our recruiting team was posted up in Orlando since July 21, and that's a long time to be in one spot. Imagine playing in Las Vegas or another venue and then flying down to Florida to cap off the event; it's too much. At AAU Nationals, the strongest arguments to cut back the events were made by virtue of watching ragged play and tired players. No way colleges could properly evaluate prospects during the homestretch of the period. On the flip side, the coaches were equally as worn out.
In years past, kids were also tired, but this year was different. From April to July I'd venture to guess this group of kids played more AAU ball and traveled to more diverse locations to participate in more games than their peers of a decade ago. It's time to either limit the number of events kids can participate in or scale back July. From an evaluation standpoint, the college coaches realized the error of their ways when not so long ago they allowed the rules to change and didn't travel in April to see recruits in games. They now realize the spring, while not as important, lays the foundation for what they do in July. Change is needed and I think it's on the way.
Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.