NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- Heading into July, there was some debate about the consensus No. 1 player in the class of 2015. Some had Ivan Rabb, some had Diamond Stone, some even looked Malik Newman or the rising Jaylen Brown. I went with Ben Simmons, but I could listen to arguments.
Not anymore. After Thursday night's performance at the Nike Peach Jam, the answer is clear: Ben Simmons is the No. 1 player in the class of 2015.
"It's not close," one college coach said.
"He's Scottie Pippen," another one said.
Like a poor man's Scottie Pippen? On the greatest day of greatest days, he has a game that resembles Scottie Pippen's skillset?
Nope, he responded. Like Simmons can be an NBA all-star.
Simmons finished with 21 points, seven assists, four rebounds, while shooting 8 of 11 from the field and making all five of his free throws. It was a jam-packed gym, and Simmons stole the show, as his Each 1 Teach 1 team knocked off Harry Giles and Team CP3, 77-64.
It's impossible not to like the 6-foot-9 Simmons as a player. He made the transition from a combo forward that was mostly a four to a guy who can handle the ball, play on the wing -- and be a small forward at the next level. His passing ability is unbelievable, possessing outstanding vision and capable of making one-handed passes with either hand, passes off the dribble and passes out of traps and double-teams. He runs the floor extremely well, and is an adept finisher at the rim with either hand. Simmons can also knock down jumpers and beat defenders off the dribble.
Simply put, he's the total package, lacks glaring weaknesses -- and still has room to grow. The Australian might have locked up the No. 1 spot on Thursday.
Donovan Mitchell boosts stock this month
While the high-level head-to-head matchups were making waves down South, one player continued to rise up the charts.
Donovan Mitchell, a top-100 guard from Brewster Academy (N.H.), has been on a tear in July. He reportedly played well last week in Philadelphia, then dropped 28 points on Wednesday night at the Under Armour Finals in Suwanee, Ga. Mitchell followed that up on Thursday morning with another impressive performance, despite his jumper not falling consistently.
"I feel like I'm playing much better," Mitchell said. "All the hard work from the offseason is paying off. I just feel more confident and I'm not too hesitant about everything."
Mitchell injured his wrist last summer, and then showed flashes of his potential during the school season -- but now he's finally putting it all together.
Plenty of colleges are taking notice too, with Georgetown, Villanova, Florida State, Indiana, Memphis, South Florida and Louisville all extending offers recently.
"I just feel like I'm playing hard, and just playing my game," Mitchell said. "It just happens to be in front of the right people at the right time."
Providence, Boston College, Creighton, Iowa, Cincinnati and others have been on him for awhile, and they are still in the mix. Mitchell had planned to cut his list soon, but the new influx of interest has adjusted his timeline a bit.
Jaylen Brown makes his case in Atlanta
While Ben Simmons was doing his thing down in North Augusta, Jaylen Brown was showing why many people have him as a top-five player in the class of 2015.
In what was one of the best head-to-head matchups of the entire evaluation period, Brown was pitted against Josh Jackson, a lengthy wing player in the mix for the No. 1 spot in 2016.
And Brown really took care of business, scoring 10 early points and not looking back, finishing with 27 points and five rebounds despite his team losing. When Brown's outside shot is falling -- he hit four 3-pointers in the first half against Jackson -- he's very difficult to contain. His upper-body strength and athleticism make him a terror in transition, and a nightmare to guard when he's going to the basket. Throw in consistent outside shooting, and Brown can carry a team.
Jackson struggled for most of the first half, before settling down eventually finishing with 14 points, three rebounds and three assists. His shot wasn't falling and he had difficulties finishing at the rim, but Jackson's length and passing ability make him a very attractive prospect. Jayson Tatum is my No. 1 for 2016, but Jackson isn't too far behind.
Latest on Cheick Diallo
Cheick Diallo, one of the top-10 prospects in the class of 2015, is focused on five schools: Kansas, Kentucky, Iowa State, St. John's and Pittsburgh.
Other schools are trying to get involved, but it seems like that handful of colleges will be the ones truly in the mix going forward.
Diallo visited Kentucky recently, and no other visits are set in stone just yet. Sources have indicated that an Iowa State trip could be in the cards for the early fall, but that's still up in the air.
Kentucky really got involved once assistant coach Barry "Slice" Rohrssen came over from Pittsburgh, but the Wildcats could still have to make up ground to catch up with Kansas and Iowa State, as of now. Sources have said that the two Big 12 schools are in pole position for now.
A decision isn't on the books just yet, but Diallo has said in the past he might do it in December. Waiting until the spring wouldn't be a shock, though.