NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- Odds are, unless you're a hardcore fan, you don't follow college basketball recruiting too closely. That's my impression, at least. So you probably don't know Mitchell Robinson from Davion Mitchell. And you might not realize the player once known as the "Shaq of the MAC" now has a son who's one of the 10 best prospects in the Class of 2017. And you likely have no idea that Creighton currently has a top-three recruiting class, according to 247 Sports.
But don't worry.
I'm here for you.
The always important July Evaluation Period starts today.
What does it mean?
What do you need to know?
Consider this a Guide to July College Basketball Recruiting For Dummies ...
WHAT IS THE JULY EVALUATION PERIOD?
It's actually three five-day periods. The first is July 6 - 10. The second is July 13 -17. The last is July 20-24. And, on these days, college coaches are allowed to evaluate prospects at NCAA-sanctioned events that originate all over the country. In other words, coaches travel from coast to coast, sit in gyms and watch high school prospects play against each other. It's where reputations are created and cemented. It's high-stakes hoops in the summer, if often poorly played.
SO THIS IS THE AAU BASKETBALL I ALWAYS HEAR ABOUT?
Not technically. But I understand why you'd think that given how so many people call "summer" basketball "AAU" basketball. Truth is, AAU is merely one organization that holds events in the summer. So calling all "summer" basketball "AAU" is like calling all "MMA" fighting "UFC." It's never made sense. But, yes, people still do it all the time. They shouldn't, though. That's my point.
WHAT'S THE BIGGEST EVENT THIS WEEK?
The Peach Jam. It's the best-run event every summer, frankly, because it consistently features the nation's top prospects competing under one roof at a place called the Riverview Park Activities Center. There are four courts. So there are four games going on at basically all times. Almost every high-major coach attends every year. I attend every year. I'm here again this week. And so are the top four players in the Class of 2017.
WHO ARE THE TOP FOUR PLAYERS IN THE CLASS OF 2017?
They are, according to 247 Sports, DeAndre Ayton, Mohamed Bamba, Michael Porter and Wendell Carter. None of them have publicly committed to a school yet. But Porter will end up at Washington because Lorenzo Romar recently hired Porter's father as an assistant. So bet that. And, if you're curious, 247 Sports currently projects Ayton -- a 7-foot forward who is the consensus top player in the class -- to land at Kansas while Bamba and Carter both eventually sign with Duke. Meantime, some believe fellow top-10 recruit Gary Trent Jr. -- the son of former Ohio star and "Shaq of the MAC" Gary Trent -- might package with Carter, meaning Duke is favored to at least enroll the prospects ranked second, third and 10th in the Class of 2017.
SO COACH K IS ROLLING, HUH?
Indeed, he is. The smart money has Duke securing the top recruiting class in the country for the second straight year -- and for the third time in four years. Per usual, Kentucky should be right there with the Blue Devils. Those two programs have finished first and second in recruiting rankings each of the past three years.
BUT WHICH SCHOOLS HAVE THE TOP CLASSES RIGHT NOW?
UCLA, Auburn, Creighton, Florida and Wisconsin, according to 247 Sports. But, remember, it's early -- proof being that only two top-25 recruits have committed to date. One is Mitchell Robinson. He's ranked ninth and committed to Western Kentucky. The other is Austin Wiley. He's ranked 15th and committed to Auburn.
WHO'S THE TOP GUY IN THE CLASS OF 2018?
Marvin Bagley. He'll be on the road this summer, too. And some have suggested the 6-10 forward is actually the best high school player in America right now, regardless of class. Arizona, Arizona State, Duke, Kentucky, Oregon and UCLA are the schools involved. You can expect that recruitment to get intense.
ANYTHING ELSE I NEED TO KNOW?
Not right now, honestly. But don't be surprised when you start seeing pictures of Bill Self and Tom Izzo and every other college coach sitting in random gyms over the next three weeks. They'll be in shorts and shirts and sneakers. They'll be talking and texting and evaluating. And, eventually, the nation's next batch of McDonald's All-Americans will start flying off the board, one after another. It'll all go down, for the most part, away from the bright lights and television cameras. But make no mistake, a future national championship team will be assembled, at least partly, based on performances displayed, and deals cut, at some point this July.