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Experts: Top 10 things to like about July recruiting period

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CBSSports.com college basketball writers Jeff Goodman, Gary Parrish and Jeff Borzello share what they are most looking forward to seeing in a typically busy July in basketball recruiting.

Outside of the actual college basketball season, July is the most important month of the season for colleges across the country. In the case of some coaches, it might even be more important to the future of their programs -- and their job security.

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The July live period -- two periods spanning a total of 20 days during the month -- is the only time college coaches are allowed to watch prospective recruits on the AAU circuit. There used to be another evaluation phase during April, but the NCAA has since eliminated that period.

As a result, every college coach -- and his assistants -- are out in full force during July, attending tournaments held in hotspots such as Las Vegas, Orlando and Los Angeles, as well as non-vacation destinations like Akron, Ohio, Reading, Pa., and Springfield, Mass.

The CBSSports.com team will also be on the circuit all month, spanning the country and keeping everyone informed on who's next in the world of college basketball. To prepare you for the month, three CBSSports.com writers present the 10 things they are each looking forward to in the upcoming four weeks:

Jeff Goodman, CBSSports.com Senior Writer

1. Who steps up and plays as if he wants to be the No. 1 player in America?

Andre Drummond certainly has the talent, but the effort is erratic. Isaiah Austin looks the part and Dajuan Coleman is a man-child. Maybe, in a class that will be known for its abundance of big men, it'll be a guard, Shabazz Muhammad, who steps up and takes hold of it.

2. Who does Kentucky wind up getting in the Class of 2012?

A year ago, we knew exactly who John Calipari and the Wildcats had zeroed-in on, but this year UK doesn't have any verbal commitments and we don't really know who will be a part of what is sure to be another big-time class. It'll be interesting to see who winds up pulling the trigger first for the Wildcats.

3. AAU Coach Watch: Who attracts unwanted attention?

Mitch Malone goes with the double-earpiece look on the sidelines, one guy last year wore a sombrero, Derrick Rose's older brother, Reggie, had to be escorted out of the gym a couple summers ago after getting into it with referees and a writer. You never know what you'll see from some of these guys on the AAU circuit.

4. How much has Jabari Parker improved?

He's considered the elite guy in the Class of 2013. The explosive 6-foot-8 wing out of Simeon High in Chicago has supposedly made a huge improvement since I saw him last summer. His top five are reportedly Duke, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan State and Washington.

5. Which coach winds up in the hospital this July?

A summer ago, it was West Virginia coach Bob Huggins who fell down in his hotel room and broke some ribs on a coffee table. There will be some sort of coaching incident again this summer -- and let's just hope it's not serious.

6. Which guards step up?

The Class of 2012 is heavy with big men and the guard crop is completely underwhelming. There is no clear-cut No. 1 point guard in the nation, but it'll be interesting to see who steps forward. The top candidates are: UNC-commit Marcus Paige, Indiana-bound Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell and Florida pledge Braxton Ogbueze. Maybe even Connecticut native Kris Dunn can make a late push.

7. Which coaches will kiss up to the NCAA enforcement ladies?

Several from the Basketball Focus Group will be out this summer -- and it's always interesting to see who schmoozes with them in gyms across the country, looking to protect themselves down the road.

8. Coach's outfits: Who alerts the fashion police?

Some coaches go with the Plain Jane look, you know the one -- sneakers, shorts and a T-shirt with the school name in large letters across their chest. But other guys mix it up. Leonard Hamilton could be mistaken for Josh Harrelson with his Jorts look, Andy Kennedy goes with the baggy shorts down past his knees, Bennie Selzer breaks out the Indiana candy-striped pants, Ed Cooley is infamous for his unique hat selection and Tennessee Tech assistant Russ Willemsen wrote his name on the back of his sneakers. John Calipari and Richard Pitino were even wearing the exact same sweatpants a couple years ago. Then you've got some guys who look as though they came to the gym directly from the bar. Don't worry -- we'll get some pictures.

9. Job watch: Which coaches will land gigs on the D-I bench?

Former Atlanta Celtics coach Korey McCray was hired by UCLA and Ben Howland proceeded to land a pledge from Jordan Adams. John Reese, the father of the top guards in the Class of 2012, J'Mychal Reese, has job offers from Texas A&M, Texas Tech and LSU -- and I'm hearing that Lorenzo Romar could offer Jabari Parker's brother a job in order to help secure the top player in '13.

10. Will Gary Parrish break out his Velcro kicks again?

Inquiring minds want to know whether he's finally learned how to tie his sneakers in the past 12 months.

Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com Senior Writer

1. Seeing Shaka Smart in a VCU shirt and Brad Stevens in a Butler shirt

I'm not one of those who believes coaches should be loyal in college basketball or that they owe anything to anybody other than themselves and their families. So you'll never hear me complain when a man parlays success at one level into a massive pay raise and bigger job at another. Whatever you think is best for you is fine with me. It's your life. But, that said, it's still nice to see that some men value personal happiness over money and television games, which is why it'll be nice to see Smart and Stevens on the circuit recruiting to the CAA and Horizon League.

2. Observing college campers run through drills and play pickup at the LeBron James Skill Academy

One of the best parts -- perhaps the best part -- of the LeBron James Skills Academy is that elite college players are invited to serve as counselors, and they run through drills and play pickup with each other (and King James himself) every afternoon. That's what led to Jordan Crawford's famous dunk on LeBron. I've seen James Harden and Stephen Curry and all sorts of college players come through, and I've seen them play with and against James and special visitor Chris Paul. It's always a blast, always a highlight. This year should be no different.

3. Finding a summer coach wearing a bluetooth and talking on the phone during a game

Summer coaches tend to get lumped together into a category featuring men who are either incompetent and/or involved for all the wrong reasons, but that's not fair. There are some good people working with kids in the summers. I've gotten to know many. But there's no denying the existence of clowns, and my favorite kinds of clowns are the ones who wear bluetooths and chat with friends during games. So funny. Can you imagine Mike Krzyzewski doing that? I mean, he won't even do halftime interviews.

4. Bumping into a college coach in a corner booth at the Playboy Club with a 21-year-old model

The major tournaments in Las Vegas bring every staff to Sin City and some of them, well, they're human, and it creates some awkward conversations when you bump into them in awkward situations. Mostly, you just try to look away unless the girl is super hot. Then you just try not to get caught staring.

5. Watching 17-year-old basketball players sneak out of their rooms and off into the Vegas night after playing three games in one day

There's nothing funnier than watching high school prospects walk past you at the blackjack table at 4 a.m. either on their way to trouble or returning from trouble. Not that I've ever been at a blackjack table in Vegas at 4 a.m. Or 8 a.m. Or noon.

6. The Peach Jam

Being in Vegas for six days is better than being in North Augusta, S.C., for four days (as long as you're not blowing your kid's college fund). But strictly in terms of basketball, there is no event better than the Peach Jam. Every relevant Nike-backed team is there, and there are games all day and night on four courts under one roof. There's no driving from one side of the desert to the other to see a game. You just get to the Riverview Park Activities Center as early as possible, grab a seat and sit still. The only issue, really, is finding an actual seat because all four little gyms are usually packed with college coaches, writers, family members, friends and agents.

7. The hospitality room at the Peach Jam

Heaven is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a fresh peach and a cup of sweet tea in the hospitality room at the Peach Jam. It's reserved for coaches, I think. But any media member worth his weight in off-the-record quotes can finagle his way in there. I always finagle my way in there.

8. A high-profile matchup of two stars

Some of my best memories from the July recruiting period involve great individual matchups -- Derrick Rose vs. O.J. Mayo in Las Vegas, Greg Oden vs. Derrick Caracter in New Jersey, etc. Those games are where memories are made and reputations are solidified. This summer, I'll take a rematch between elite centers Andre Drummond and Isaiah Austin, if possible, and hope Austin doesn't inexplicably launch 11 3-pointers again like he did earlier this year when matched against Drummond in California.

9. Seeing whether the ATM machines in Vegas have upped their daily withdrawal limits

If I had a dollar for every time I had to hand Jeff Goodman $500 because he exceeded his daily withdrawal limit, man, I might have $500. The guy is good at telling you exactly where every transfer is going. But he gambles about as well as Bobby Gonzalez stays composed.

10. Documenting the emergence of the next big thing

I remember when Harrison Barnes was a mostly unknown kid from Iowa whom the Iowa State staff hoped wouldn't blow up. As you know, he blew up at the LeBron James Skills Academy, I believe. Ever since he's been considered the elite of the elite. Somebody else will have a similar rise this summer. I can't wait to find out who it is.

Jeff Borzello, Eye on College Basketball recruiting analyst and blogger

1. Post players: What's the pecking order?

The class of 2012 is filled with talented big men, and it will be interesting to see how the pecking order stands after July. DaJuan Coleman, Andre Drummond, Isaiah Austin, Mitch McGary, Kaleb Tarczewski, Cameron Ridley and Brandon Ashley form the top tier of power forwards and centers, but don't be surprised to see someone else emerge and crash their party.

2. Does Adam Woodbury step up?

One candidate to become a five-star prospect is Woodbury, who steadily rose up the rankings in the spring and then cemented a spot for himself among the must-get prospects when he took MVP honors at the NBPA Top 100 camp. The lefty from Iowa has an unstoppable hook shot and also holds a 3.9 GPA -- it's difficult not to like him.

3. Team Takeover: Can anyone beat them?

The D.C.-based AAU program went undefeated in the prestigious Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, which pits 40 of the best Nike-affiliated travel teams against each other over the course of three tournaments. Throw in the fact that Takeover also won last summer's EYBL championship, and Keith Stevens' program will have a 27-game winning streak on the line when the EYBL finals at the Peach Jam get underway.

4. Watching coaches follow recruits. Or is it stalking?

As the month of July goes on, it's not hard to figure out which players have been prioritized by which schools. The head coach will be sitting front and center for nearly every one of that recruit's games, making sure he is seen by the player, his parents or his AAU coach. As a recruiting junkie, it's fun to watch to what extents coaches go to in order to be spotted by a priority recruit. Some get to a game noticeably early, some sit with their entire staff at a game, some get more creative. It will certainly be interesting to see what new tricks coaches have up their sleeves this year.

5. The continued Canadian infusion: Who's got next up North?

If last week's NBA draft were any indication, foreign-born players are crashing the professional ranks in droves nowadays. While European players aren't often seen on the AAU circuit, Canada has plenty of talent to hold its own. CIA Bounce is one of Nike's most talented teams, while Andrew Wiggins might be the best player in the class of 2014.

6. Rental cars: Who's driving what?

Most coaches driving from gym to gym on the AAU circuit go the typical route, renting a four-door sedan and not thinking twice. Xavier's Chris Mack went outside the box a couple of years ago, though, pulling up to an event behind the wheel of a yellow Lamborghini, complete with suicide doors. That's certainly one way to catch a recruit's eyes.

7. Breakout players: Who makes a name for himself?

Gary Parrish already discussed finding the next big thing, but this is more for guys who come out of nowhere -- literally nowhere -- and earn high-major scholarships. Guys like Jeremy Lamb, who broke out at the 2009 Peach Jam to earn offers from Kentucky and 30 other schools before choosing Connecticut. Prior to his performance there, Lamb had interest from VCU and other mid-majors in the region.

8. To see or be seen?

There is a dichotomy between different groups of coaches on the circuit. Some, like Kentucky's John Calipari, just need to be at a prospect's game so that the recruit sees them. They know which players they are targeting and are content to just make sure said player sees them. Others are still evaluating and working to find players. They are doing more than just attending games of prospective recruits; they are on the hunt for more players to pursue.

9. Return of Reebok: Can it poach talent from LeBron and Nike?

The Reebok ABCD camp used to be one of the biggest camps in the country, attracting the top talent from all over the country. As Nike -- and Adidas -- took over the travel team circuit, though, Reebok began to lose players and teams to the rival show companies. Last season, the brand was absent on the July circuit, shutting down its All-American Camp and Las Vegas tournament. This year, it will return with the Reebok Breakout Challenge in Philadelphia. It will be interesting to see if Reebok is able to poach talent from the LeBron James camp, the Adidas Invitational and even the Hoop Group Elite Camp. After all, the Reebok camp in Philly is where John Wall burst onto the scene and became a national name.

10. Grinders: Who goes the distance?

By the end of the month, everyone's exhausted. Players, coaches, scouts, writers -- I'm assuming even the handlers and runners are tired by then. The last couple days of July are filled with plenty of sloppy play and college coaches with bags under their eyes (if the coach is even there). However, there are always prospects still playing their hearts out, trying to make a lasting impression on the coaches in attendance. There are also coaches who won't head home until the last of their prospective recruits plays his final game of the month. Who is going to work the hardest this month?

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