Senior Writer

July Look Ahead: Recruiting whirlwind begins


AKRON, Ohio -- The woman at the counter at the Marriott property a few miles from the mansion LeBron James owns doesn't much care where this city's most famous resident will play next season, or at least she's tired of talking about it. That's what she told me when I checked in late Monday. I see her point, I guess. But either way, I'm not here for that.

Am I intrigued by it?

Of course.

Tom Izzo gets back on the recruiting trail after flirting with the NBA. (Getty Images)  
Tom Izzo gets back on the recruiting trail after flirting with the NBA. (Getty Images)  
But I'm not in Akron for LeBron James as much as I'm in Akron for the LeBron James Skills Academy that marks the beginning of the July recruiting period that keeps college coaches, college prospects and college basketball writers on the road for much of the month. It's 20 days of airports and rental cars, 20 days of long hours in gyms and late nights in whatever places serve late. It's something almost everybody looks forward to at the beginning but grows tired of by the end, myself included. But we're still at the beginning right now. So let me tell you what I'm looking forward to in this July recruiting period.

Let's call it the July Look Ahead.

July events I'll attend

1. LeBron James Skills Academy/King City Classic: One of the best parts of the LeBron James Skills Academy is that college players are invited to serve as counselors to the elite prospects, and the counselors play against each other every afternoon and night. Among the college players attending this week are Duke teammates Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, Florida teammates Vernon Macklin and Chandler Parsons, and two different people with the exact same name (Georgetown's Chris Wright and Dayton's Chris Wright). The college players have played pickup against pros like LeBron James and Chris Paul in years past, and they did so again Monday night. That's the concept that led to the Jordan-Crawford-dunked-on-King-James controversy last July. With any luck, something similar will go down this week.

2. Nike Peach Jam: The only bad thing about this year's LeBron James Skills Academy is that it's happening while many Class of 2011 standouts -- including future Kentucky teammates Michael Gilchrist and Marquis Teague -- are in Germany playing in the FIBA Under-17 World Championship. That means I'll actually get my first look of the summer at some elite prospects next week at the Nike Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C. The Peach Jam is annually July's best event. My guess is that this year will be the same.

3. Las Vegas tournaments: I won't lie. The best part about the end-of-July summer tournaments in Las Vegas is that they are in Las Vegas. By the time they start on July 22, I've usually seen everybody I want to see at least three times. But there is no better place to network and get one-on-one time with coaches than Las Vegas, and that the one-on-one time usually comes at a blackjack table only makes it better (until some stupid coach takes the dealer's bust card).

My top five prospects heading into July

1. Michael Gilchrist

Position: Wing
Height: 6-feet-7
State: New Jersey
College: Kentucky

2. Austin Rivers

Position: Guard
Height: 6-3
State: Florida
College: Undecided

3. Quincy Miller

Position: Forward
Height: 6-9
State: North Carolina
College: Undecided

4. Brad Beal

Position: Guard
Height: 6-4
State: Missouri
College: Florida

5. Marquise Teague

Position: Guard
Height: 6-1
State: Indiana
College: Kentucky

Four things I can't wait to see this July

1. Rakeem Christmas block a shot

Comment: Christmas reportedly had just an OK high school season, which is disappointing. But I remember seeing him last summer and loving him. And if the talented big man is anything like what I remember, the coaches fighting over his commitment are wise to fight and fight hard.

2. John Calipari and Lorenzo Romar sit in the same gym

Comment: Enes Kanter and Terrence Jones are the two Class of 2010 prospects who were committed to Washington before committing to Kentucky, and don't think for a second that Romar isn't bothered by how or why it happened. He'll never say it publicly, but he'll think it privately. So that's why it'll be interesting to see what happens when Romar and Calipari inevitably find themselves crossing paths or sitting in the same gym evaluating prospects. It's likely nothing will happen because coaches -- except for former crazy coach Bobby Gonzalez -- typically don't confront each other. But I love awkward moments even if they're silently awkward, which is why I hope I'm present when Calipari and Romar are in each other's presence.

3. Tom Izzo evaluate 15-year-olds

Comment: I'm glad Izzo turned down the Cavs to remain at Michigan State because I cover college basketball and I like covering Izzo. But there will be a point this month when Izzo realizes he rejected $6 million a year to likely coach the best player in the world so that he could sit in gyms all day watching kids turn the ball over while ridiculous figures pose as coaches, and it's going to drive him nuts. It won't mean Izzo made the wrong decision, of course. But if he's human, he won't be able to help but wonder if he did.

4. A summer coach latch on to a future star and lie about his intentions

Comment: Remember when I wrote about John Wall's relationship with Brian Clifton two years ago, when I reported that Clifton was a former agent and predicted he would benefit financially when Wall turned pro even though Clifton, Wall's summer coach at the time, assured me over and over again that he wouldn't? Well, Clifton is now the president of something called the Pindar Management Group, and he's representing Wall, negotiating deals and making money off of last month's top pick in the NBA Draft, just as I suspected. What this development shows is that though some people are in summer basketball for the right reasons, lots, like Clifton, are exactly what they seem. Rest assured, the next Clifton will be out there this summer trying to connect with a promising 16-year-old for reasons that are less than pure. If I find him, I'll write about him. If he lies, I'll call him a liar.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.

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