NCAA Recruiting: Summer Madness Isn’t Just For Free Agents

College basketball’s offseason evaluation period began today at 5 p.m., opening the floodgates for coaches to scatter around the country in order to scope out talent in the first of three “live” evaluating periods. This is when everyone from Coach K to Coach Cal is allowed to actually watch high school targets in person. For the next three weeks, coaching staffs will tackle perhaps the most critical time of the year for their programs, showing face in front of recruits and making their priorities on the grassroots circuits clear. July brings both an audition for up-and-coming players (it’s the span where they shoot up or down the national high school rankings) and a way for schools to make statements to back up their endless texting and phone calls to recruits. Here’s your guide to the annual summer craziness.

The Events:

Summer Live Period 1 (July 9-July 13)

The first live period is highlighted by shoe company camps, with Nike’s LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas this week (it’s why Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley have to court James there), the Reebok Breakout camp in Philly and the fledgling Adidas Unrivaled camp in Chicago. Smaller midlevel events will take place around the country, but the majority of top talent will leave their AAU teams and compete at these star-studded competitions, allowing coaches an easy way to see their top targets and lock in on new ones in the process. These camps feature drills, five-on-five competition and the opportunity for players to meet peers from around the country. Wonder why NBA players seem to love teaming up in free agency? It starts with this type of format.

Summer Live Period 2 (July 16-20):

Week two brings the most prestigious tournaments of the entire year to the south, with the Nike Peach Jam (Augusta, SC) and the brand-new UnderArmour Finals (Atlanta) bringing together the top teams under each shoe company’s banner for giant showcases. The Peach Jam has been regarded as the nation’s best AAU event for the past few years, but UnderArmour has fought admirably to keep pace. The two tournaments are just a few hours apart via drive, and will undoubtedly keep coaching staffs hanging around all week. Each tournament will bring together its top-performing teams from the spring circuit (Nike’s EYBL and the UnderArmour Association) for a high-profile series of well-organized games, eventually crowning a champion.

At the Peach Jam, look for Florida-based Each 1 Teach 1 to stage a defense of last year’s championship, led by Australian star forward and LSU commit Ben Simmons and fast-rising guard Antonio Blakeney, both members of the 2015 class. Also keep an eye on Seattle native Allonzo Trier, a rising senior guard who averaged a ridiculous 29.4 points in spring EYBL play with offers including Arizona, Kansas and Louisville.

The UnderArmour Finals—in its inaugural summer—will also have its share of top players from around the country, including 2015 Milwaukee blue-chip center Diamond Stone and freakishly athletic 2015 forward Derrick Jones of Philadelphia. UnderArmour has made a huge push on the grassroots scene, and will hope to match the success of Nike’s model with its own showcase and playoff tournament.

Summer Live Period 3 (July 23-27)
The final week of the circuit always gets crazy, as a high percentage of elite players and teams descend on Las Vegas for a gauntlet of different tournaments and showcase camps. Notably, Adidas’s marquee event, the Super 64 will go down that weekend along with the Las Vegas Fab 48 tournament (which houses way more than 48 teams). Adding intrigue to the mix this year is a USA Basketball developmental minicamp which will be open to coaches on July 25, sure to bring in the best of the best and an overwhelming number of Division I staffs. Across the country, Louisville will host the AAU Nationals and Super Showcase, another enormous event sure to feature top kids from the midwest, east coast and south regions.

Names to remember:

Ben Simmons (6-8 F, 2015, Each 1 Teach 1)

The Australian-born Simmons continues to make his case for the top overall spot in the 2015 class with an extremely versatile offensive game and advanced basketball IQ. He’ll continue on his quest for national stardom before heading to LSU next year.

Malik Newman (6-3 G, 2015 Jackson Tigers) and Diamond Stone (6-10 C, 2015, Young Legends)

Newman, perhaps the most talented scoring guard in the class, and Stone, the most dominant interior player, have made their intentions of teaming up in college well-known. Should they follow through, the tandem would instantly elevate a school’s recruiting class to the top of the rankings. UConn, Kentucky, Kansas, N.C. State and Miami are aggressively pursuing both.

Thon Maker (7-0 C, 2016, Team Loaded)

Another prodigious Australian talent, Maker brings unreal ability to run the floor, shoot from the perimeter and block shots as a center— though he’ll need to add a lot of weight down the road. There’s a chance he reclassifies as a rising senior, which would undoubtedly shake up the rankings and several teams’ priorities. His offers include Arizona, Duke, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky and Louisville.

Jaylen Brown (6-6 SF, 2015, Game Elite)

Hailing from the Atlanta area, Brown is a physical scoring forward and one of this year’s major stock risers thus far, making contributions on the AAU circuit and with USA Basketball. He can—and will—light it up.

Jalen Brunson (6-1 PG, 2015, Mac Irvin Fire)

Brunson is the best player in the talent-laded Chicagoland area and the top pure point guard in the 2015 class. He’s also the son of former NBA journeyman Rick Brunson. Equally adept as a scorer and passer, Brunson remains underrated by many scouts and should bolster his stock with continued success. Connecticut, Kansas, Michigan, Michigan State and Villanova are among the interested parties.

Doral Moore (7-0 C, 2015, Atlanta Xpress)

Another Georgia native, Moore blends legitimate 7-foot size and elite shot-blocking skills with a developing post game. He might have as much professional upside as any in the class if he puts it all together. He recently listed Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State and Texas as his top five.

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