NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- The July Evaluation Period consists of 15 days spread over three weeks during which college basketball coaches are allowed to attend NCAA-sanctioned events and watch many of the best high school prospects in the country.
It starts Wednesday at 5 p.m.
And the most prestigious event of the month happens here on the Georgia-South Carolina border -- specifically the Peach Jam that decides the Nike EYBL champion. Each day and night -- especially Thursday and Friday nights -- the four gyms inside the Riverview Park Activities Center will be filled to capacity as coaches, parents and fans observe future college and NBA stars getting up and down the court. It's a place where reputations are annually established, enhanced and, in some cases, damaged.
And when it's done there are still 10 more days left in the period.
So what questions are worth asking as things get underway?
Here are five:
1. Will Marvin Bagley secure his place atop the Class of 2018 rankings?
Bagley has been the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2018 basically since folks started ranking prospects in the Class of 2018, and there's little reason to think he'll relinquish that title this summer. But he could. And that's why Bagley needs to perform at a high level all July while Duke, Kentucky, Arizona, UCLA -- i.e., all of the big boys -- monitor each game in hopes of eventually securing a commitment from the 6-foot-10 forward who is explosive around the rim and also comfortable away from it. The left-hander projects as a one-and-done college star who could be the first pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here are some highlights worth checking out:
2. Will we see R.J. Barrett at all?
Barrett is the consensus top prospect in the Class of 2019 and. Team Canada's 6-8 wing finished with 38 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in the victory over the United States, then added 18 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in the gold medal game of the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Total stud. And yet it's likely he won't play this July at all.
In fact, that's the plan.
Barrett's Nike-affiliated summer team did not qualify for Peach Jam, you see. So there's no compelling reason for him to play this week when he was literally in Egypt on Sunday. And if he doesn't play this week, there's really no reason to play at all. Again, it's not like Barrett has anything to prove; he just destroyed some of the best 19 year olds in the world (even though he turned 17 only last month), and he already has standing scholarship offers from every relevant college program coached by men who think they have a chance to enroll him. So it makes the most sense for Barrett to relax and then decide if he wants to reclassify to 2018, which is reportedly possible and under consideration. And if he does reclassify, Barrett will immediately become the biggest threat to unseat Bagley as the top prospect in the Class of 2018.
3. Who will be the first top-10 2018 prospect to come off the board?
Last year at this time Mitchell Robinson had already committed to Western Kentucky -- meaning a top-10 Class of 2017 prospect was pledged somewhere when the July Evaluation Period began. That's not the case this year, though. The highest-rated Class of 2018 prospect currently committed is Jontay Porter -- whose father is employed by, and brother is enrolled at, Missouri. So, naturally, he's headed to Missouri. But the 13 players ahead of Porter -- and the five immediately behind him -- in 247 Sports' composite rankings all remain available. The first Signing Day is in November. And though it's now normal for multiple five-star prospects to delay their decisions until the Spring, history suggests a few will finalize their college plans in the coming months, perhaps even this month. So it'll be interesting to see which ones make big headlines first -- and then start recruiting classmates to join them wherever.
4. Will Ohio State benefit from the late coaching change?
5. Will Duke or Kentucky strike first?
The Blue Devils and Wildcats have secured the nation's top two recruiting classes in some order each of the past four years, and there's no real reason to think that'll change in 2018. But, at this point, neither school has a commitment from anybody.
So who will strike first?
Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?
Coach K or Coach Cal?
Per usual, they're recruiting a lot of the same prospects and, in the process, intensifying a rivalry established long ago. At least one of them is seriously involved with each of the top five players in the Class of 2018, according to 247 Sports' composite rankings. So, yeah, Duke and Kentucky are set to reload again. It's just a matter of time.