Now that the July evaluation period has come to a close, we have a chance to look back and see what stood out during the month.
What was the most memorable moment you saw in July?
Paul Biancardi: In the semifinals of the AAU Super Showcase, the BABC had a comfortable double-figure lead at the half vs. SYF Players. SYF made an outstanding comeback and had a 2-point lead with 2.3 seconds to go. BABC had to go the length of the floor and coach Leo Papile ran Jaylen Brantley (Springfield, Mass./Wilbraham & Monson), the team's best 3-point shooter, off a screen. With his momentum going toward half-court, Brantley caught the pass in the backcourt, took a couple of dribbles and from just about half-court hit the game-winner to have BABC advance to the finals.
Joel Francisco: After watching the Nike EYBL in Los Angeles, Ishmail Wainright (Raytown, Mo./Raytown South) was overshadowed by the likes of Shaq Goodwin (Decatur, Ga./Southwest Dekalb) and Jarnell Stokes (Memphis/Oak Hill). However, playing with the KC 76ers, Wainright was the catalyst in the 76ers' championship runs in the Las Vegas Fab 48 as well as in Anaheim, Calif., at the Double Pump Best of the Summer. Despite winning the MVP in both tournaments, his signature performance came against arguably the most gifted player in high school basketball, Jabari Parker (Chicago/Simeon). From the beginning, Wainright utilized his chiseled frame and lateral quickness to disrupt Parker's ability to get to the rim. While out on the perimeter, Wainright's pterodactyl-like length hindered Parker's ability to shoot over the top. Meanwhile, on the offensive end, Wainright displayed a tight handle and an innate ability to locate teammates off the bounce to thwart any Mac Irvin Fire comeback and thus advancing his team in the playoffs.
Mike LaPlante: Aside from watching the elite players compete in head-to-head matchups, one of my favorite things about the summer evaluation period is to see a relatively unknown player come into the period with little or no reputation and leave with high-major coaches in strong pursuit. Last year it was Pat Connaughton who came into July with Division II and low Division I offers and left with Big East programs fighting for his services. This year's attention-getter was Danrad "Chicken" Knowles (Houston/HCYA). He started the summer outside the ESPNU 100 and unknown to most programs, except in the Deep South, but his outstanding play on the circuit should see his recruitment intensify.
Reggie Rankin: The battle between the U17 Mac Irvin Fire and The Playaz at the Desert Duel Memorial Championship was a game of huge runs, with high-level players at almost every position led by Parker for Mac Irvin and Kyle Anderson (Fairview, N.J./St. Anthony) of The Playaz. Parker was sensational in the first half, hitting pick-and-pop 3s, dropping dimes and powerful above-the-rim finishes leading Mac Irvin to a 22-point halftime lead. In the second half, The Playaz got hot from beyond the arc as Anderson created off the dribble and made great plays with his IQ, vision and passing. Plus, he was able to get into the lane and use his great length to score at the rim. The Playaz also defended better in the second half and got a ton of second shots to come back and beat the Fire 70-62 in overtime, holding the Fire scoreless in the extra session.
Adam Finkelstein: This summer's signature performance doesn't belong to one individual player in my mind, but to one program. The Boston Amateur Basketball Club put together one of the most dominant months that the AAU world has seen in recent years, rivaling All-Ohio Red's superiority from the summer of '09. BABC won their "big three" this month, scoring national championships at AAU ninth-grade nationals and AAU 10th-grade nationals, while also taking the Nike EYBL title at the Peach Jam.
John Stovall: Nerlens Noel (Everett, Mass./The Tilton School) is the best shot-blocker and perhaps the best defensive force in the country, regardless of class. He is one of the players who can dominate a game without scoring a point. That was made very clear in BABC's win over the Oakland Soldiers in the semifinals of the Nike EYBL. Noel had a triple-double, scoring a modest 12 points in the game and a solid rebounding effort with 10 boards, but he really made his presence felt with 11 blocks. Those blocks still don't tell the story of how dominant he was. He changed or altered at least that many shots and affected the Soldiers' shooting even more. That game elevated Noel's profile even more in not only my mind but the minds of all of the coaches and scouts present in the gym.
Dave Telep: I received a call from one of the Texas Assault coaches when the brackets were released for the adidas Super 64. Texas Assault won last year's U16 division but was not given a slot in the main draw super pool for this year's U17 event. Big mistake. Marcus Smart (Flower Mound, Texas/Marcus) and his band of merry men went out and whacked the entire field at the Super 64, including a championship win over Dream Vision and Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas/Bishop Gorman).
This was an easy call. Smart will become a favorite of college basketball purists. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson would have loved to have played alongside him because he oozes winning and there's absolutely nothing that could get him caught up in hype. He went into the Super 64 with an enormous chip on his shoulder. In the end, it wasn't even fair. Smart's squad dominated each team that was thrown in its path to the championship, and Smart walked away with a championship trophy, an MVP award and the last laugh.
Paul Biancardi is the national director of basketball recruiting. Adam Finkelstein is a frequent contributor, both in player evaluations and event coverage. Joel Francisco is a recruiting coordinator and has been evaluating high school prospects for over 20 years. Michael LaPlante is a recruiting coordinator who has over 20 years of coaching and recruiting experience. Reggie Rankin, a recruiting coordinator, has coached in the Mid-American, American East, WAC, SEC, Big 12 and Atlantic 10 conferences over a span of 14 seasons. John Stovall, a recruiting coordinator, has worked as director of scouting for Prep Spotlight Scouting Service and magazine for 15 years. Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com.