|New SMU coach Larry Brown, who's 71, may be looking at a lot of late nights this month. (US Presswire)|
Outside of the few weeks between the end of the season and the NBA Draft early-entry deadline, it's been a pretty quiet three months in the college basketball world. That's about to change as we head into July recruiting.
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The July live period is always the busiest stretch on the AAU calendar. College coaches and assistants travel around the country attending tournaments and tracking their recruits. It's lost a little bit of its luster since the NCAA allowed coaches to watch AAU ball for two weeks in April, but it's still the most exciting three weeks on the recruiting calendar.
The CBSSports.com team also will make the rounds on the recruiting circuit this month, providing news, insights and analysis. Before they head out, Jeff Goodman, Gary Parrish and Jeff Borzello share the 10 things they're most looking forward to seeing while on their travels.
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1. Can another player join the "elite eight"? Eight players have separated themselves in the class of 2013: Jabari Parker, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Julius Randle, James Young, Kasey Hill, Aaron Gordon and Chris Walker. Several players are knocking at the door, though, led by quick point guard Anthony "Cat" Barber. Will a member of the second tier take the next step and join the cream of the crop?
2. Health of top prospects. Jabari Parker has struggled with a foot injury and is questionable to play in July; Aaron Gordon missed most of the AAU and camp season with an injury; and Jermaine Lawrence was injured in June. All three five-star players are primed for big-time matchups during the month of July; will they be able to participate?
3. Impact of the new calendar. Last year, there were two 10-day periods. This year, it's three five-day periods. Towards the end of July last year, it wasn't hard to see that many players – and coaches and writers – were exhausted. Will the new calendar change anything, in terms of fatigue? I think it will be worse, to be honest. The teams will be home for – maybe – two days before heading back on another five-day trip. Getting almost a full week between 10-day periods was nice.
4. Commitment dominoes. With restrictions on contact between coaches and recruits lifted in June, there has been plenty of headway made in the last three weeks when it comes to recruiting. Will we see an increase in commitments this month? Only one of the top 11 and seven of the top 31 players in 2013 have made commitments.
5. Which players are ready to break out? July always sees its fair share of guys who come out of nowhere to earn high-major scholarships. Jeremy Lamb's journey from mid-major prospect to lottery pick started in 2009 when he broke out at the Nike Peach Jam. Last year, Semaj Christon steamrolled his way into the conversation for best point guard in the country after a stud performance in July. Who's next?
6. Tournament wars. Nike and Adidas still control the travel team circuit for the most part, with the biggest events of the month falling under the umbrella of those two shoe companies. However, Under Armour and Hoop Group continue to make moves. Reebok returned last year and has a couple of good events. Moreover, independent tournaments like the Fab 48 and Hal Pastner's events will get quality teams.
7. Canadian dominance? Andrew Wiggins is the best high school basketball player in the country, and CIA Bounce might have been the best AAU team throughout the spring. Can the Canadian-based travel team win the Nike Peach Jam and have Wiggins solidify himself as the best in the game?
8. State-by-state talent. Looks like the Lonestar State is hoarding most of the talent in the class of 2013. Three of the top four players – Andrew Harrison, Julius Randle, Aaron Harrison – are from Texas, while No. 11 Keith Frazier, No. 19 Matt Jones, No. 27 Karviar Shepherd and No. 28 Jordan Mickey are also residents. Illinois can counter with three of the top 10 players regardless of class, in Jabari Parker and 2014 prospects Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander.
9. Robert Hubbs. Hubbs was one of the most talked-about players during the entire spring, shooting up the rankings. He's pushing for five-star status if he continues his stellar play, but he hasn't been a mainstay at the major shoe company tournaments since he plays for M33M Elite – not a Nike or Adidas team. Many people still haven't seen him, but will get a chance this month.
10a. What's off-court is almost as good as nonstop ball. We will get to see which coaches are driving which cars, which coaches are wearing stupid things to get attention – and which coaches start to get fatigued after a few days. Vegas kicks the off-court stuff to a new level, with casinos, clubs and the like. We're guaranteed to have plenty of stories. Also, seeing random AAU kids walking the strip at 3 a.m. is always fun.
10b. What I'm not looking forward to: My CBSSports.com colleagues Jeff Goodman, Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander parachuting in and ruining my flow. I'll have to deal with nonstop questions from that motley crew about this player and that player. Delightful stuff, I tell you.
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1. Jabari Parker vs. Andrew Wiggins. The top player from 2013 is slated to go against the top player from 2014 on Friday, July 20 at 12 p.m. on Court 3 at the Peach Jam in North Augusta, Ga. The question, though, becomes whether Parker, who is battling a foot injury, will be ready to go at the Peach Jam. He told CBSSports.com shortly after winning the gold medal on the U-17 team that he'll have the injury checked out upon his return home to Chicago and then decide if and when to play in July.
2. The phoniness between coaches. Especially between John Calipari and Rick Pitino, John Calipari and Jim Calhoun, and well, John Calipari and just about everyone not named Derek Kellogg, Tony Barbee and maybe Chucky Martin. I'm kidding -- sort of. It'll be interesting and entertaining to watch Calipari, who isn't exactly well liked by many coaches in the industry, and his interactions with his peers on the recruiting trail.
3. If Parker doesn't play at Peach Jam or in Vegas. Can someone else grab hold of the top spot in the rankings? Andrew Harrison? Julius Randle? I'm sticking with Parker, but I love Randle's toughness and tenacity.
4. Is Wiggins, the Canadian native, truly the best player regardless of class? The 6-foot-7 forward is the clear-cut No. 1 guy in the Class of 2014, but if he's better than Parker (the top guy in the 2013 class), doesn't that make him potentially the best player to come along since (gulp) LeBron?
5. What's off the beaten path? I've seen Mel Gibson playing roulette with what appeared to be a teenaged girl in the wee hours of the morning. I've seen Billy Donovan do his Ric Flair impression on the streets of Akron, watched Gary Parrish bring out the latest and finest of his Velcro sneaker collection. I've seen numerous brawls, witnessed a used car salesman from Memphis named Mark Goodfellow do the ultimate no-no and jump into the pit in a casino, and watched Renardo Sidney lose three games in one day. There's always something entertaining on the recruiting trail in the month of July. What about this month?
6. Commitment dominoes. Nearly all of the top players in the Class of 2013 remain uncommitted. In fact, the lone Top 10 guy that has chosen a school is Kasey Hill, who opted for Florida. With the new rules allowing unlimited communication/texting, will the dominos begin in July or will guys like Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, Chris Walker and the Harrison Twins wait until the fall?
7. Who is John Calipari focusing on in the Class of 2013? He got another star-studded class this year with the late addition of Nerlens Noel, but who will he get in this year's class -- and will it be No. 1 again? The Harrison twins? James Young? Julius Randle?
8. What will Brown do? Can new SMU coach Larry Brown fight through the urge to nod off and stay up for the late-night games in Vegas? Brown will turn 72 in September. My dad will turn 70 in a few months and he has a difficult time making it past 11 p.m. -- and often games in Vegas wind up pushing midnight. If he needs someone to tuck him in around 10 or so, Matt Norlander should be calling it a night around then as well.
9. Attire. My colleague, Jeff Borzello, always tries to look Pretty in Pink. Norlander is just a flat-out mess -- but he looks downright sharp next to Parrish. But it's the coaches who are more fun to critique as far as appearances go. Bob Huggins was in dire need of a pedicure last year; Jay Wright apparently stole the same man-purse Bobby Gonzalez had; and I once saw Calipari and Richard Pitino sitting next to one another wearing the exact same sweatpants. Buzz Williams has succumbed to letting his wife pick out his wardrobe -- and it's been a vast improvement.
10a. Rick Majerus on the recruiting trail? It's not gonna happen. I've been going out each and every July for more than a decade and have never, ever seen the veteran head coach out in July. Other guys that were never out towards the end of their career? John Chaney and Bob Knight.
10b. I can't wait to see Aquille Carr. The reason? The 5-foot-7 guard out of Baltimore, who is committed to Seton Hall, is supposedly the most exciting player in the entire class. Thus, the nickname "The Crime Stopper."
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1. Miller fallout. Will the number of visible agents and runners on the circuit decrease with news that the NCAA busted sports agent Andy Miller?
2. Players from banned teams. Can the players affected by the NCAA's ruling to ban four summer league teams -- among them five-star prospect Chris Walker of the Florida Rams -- find new teams and actually compete in a relevant way throughout the month?
3. Randle vs. Parker. Will Julius Randle be able to replace Jabari Parker as the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2013?
4. Gamblers-R-Us. Matt Norlander takes another shot at again costing the Pump Brothers hundreds of dollars at a blackjack table inside the Cosmopolitan by hitting a 13 against a bust card on third base. (True story.)
5. What happens in Vegas ... Which coach can throw the best party at the end of the month? (Smart money is on Pat Knight.)
6. NCAA no-no's. College coach and a parent of a recruit conducting an illegal visit in the back corner of a restaurant, casino or strip club.
7. Commitment dominoes. Which Top 10 prospect -- Aaron Gordon? Troy Williams? Somebody else? -- will be the first to pledge his allegiance to a college program?
8. College coaches on pay phones in hotel lobbies. Who uses pay phones in the year 2012? Answer: Just college coaches trying to keep calls to recruits off of their phone records, of course.
9. Prospects from Memphis. Which recruit -- Nick King? Austin Nichols? Jonathan Williams III? Markel Crawford? JaJuan Johnson? -- emerges as the top player from the city.
10. Twins test. Will the Harrison twins continue to fly higher than my favorite Division I twins of all-time -- UAB's Ronell and Donell Taylor?